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The Best CRM Software of 2022

By
Nadia Reckmann
,
business.com Contributing Writer
| Updated
Jun 16, 2022

This buying guide includes our best picks for CRM software and tips for purchasing the right CRM solution for your small business.
Best for ERP Capabilities
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Part of NetSuite business ecosystem
Built-in financial management
Extensive native integrations
Best for Sales and Marketing Integration
Sales and marketing hub integration
Built-in marketing campaigns
Free sales and marketing templates
Best for Sales Managers
In-depth reports
Lead auto-assignment
Team-specific sales workflows
Best Mobile CRM
Mobile access to desktop features
Mobile sales dashboards
Conversational AI assistant
Best for Growing Businesses
Extensive customization
Industry-specific add-ons
Extensive support materials
This buying guide includes our best picks for CRM software and tips for purchasing the right CRM solution for your small business.

Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions help sales teams manage leads, log communications and build campaigns. While such systems were once used exclusively by enterprises with thousands of dollars to spend on software products, the proliferation of affordable SaaS systems has opened the CRM world to small and midsize businesses. Low-cost CRMs lack some of the features more expensive solutions offer, but they are typically easy to implement and manage.

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How We Decided
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Compare Our Best Picks

CRM software Best for Editor's score Starting price Free trial for paid plans Email features Cloud document storage Mobile app Free plan Support API
Salesforce Growing businesses 9.4/10 $25 per user per month 14 days Bulk send, templates, tracking 1GB Yes No Basic technical support, 24/7 support for additional fee Yes (costs extra on lower-tier plans)
Freshsales Sales managers 9.3/10 $15 per user per month 21 days Automation, templates, analytics None on Free plan, 2GB on Growth plan Yes Yes 24/5 email, chat, phone Yes
Keap Sales automation 9.4/10 $129 per user per month 14 days Segmentation, templates, automation, analytics 10GB Yes No 24/7 email, chat, phone (U.S.-based) Yes
monday.com Customization 9.4/10 Free 14 days Templates, native integration, templates, tracking 500MB on Free plan, 5GB on Standard plan Yes Yes (up to 2 users) 24/7 email support Yes
Zoho CRM Mobile 9.4/10 $14 per user per month 15 days Bulk send, templates, insights, priority notifications 1GB Yes Yes (up to 3 users) 24/5 email, chat, phone Yes
Oracle NetSuite CRM ERP capabilities 9.2/10 Custom quote 14 days Automation, target lists, personalization 10GB Yes No 24/7 phone, technical support Yes
Zendesk Sell Cross-departmental collaboration 9.1/10 $19 per user per month 14 days Bulk send, tracking, templates, risk notifications 2GB Yes No 8/5 email, phone, chat Yes
HubSpot CRM Sales and marketing integration 9.3/10 Free 14 days Scheduling, templates, tracking, analytics 5 documents for free Yes Yes Knowledge base only on Free plan, email and chat on Starter plan Yes
SugarCRM Renewal management 9.2/10 $49 per user per month 7 days Automation, notifications, templates 7GB Yes No 8/5 phone, chat Yes
Insightly Project management 9.1/10 $29 per user per month 14 days Bulk send, scheduling, templates, tracking 200MB on Free plan, 10GB on Plus plan Yes Yes (up to 2 users) Email Yes
Pipedrive Visual sales pipeline 9.4/10 $14.90 per user per month 14 days Bulk send, scheduling, tracking, templates 2GB Yes No 24/7 chat Yes

Our Reviews

Oracle NetSuite CRM: Best CRM Software for ERP Capabilities

This CRM integrates with NetSuite's ERP platform, enhancing the CRM tools with financial management functionality.
Partners, resellers and customers can interact with the platform directly, reducing the external workload for your sales team.
It isn't available as a stand-alone CRM and requires a larger NetSuite subscription.
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Oracle NetSuite CRM is a top-notch solution for companies needing a way to track their customers' entire buying journey, from lead acquisition and deal management to order fulfillment and post-sale support. Easily integrated with NetSuite's enterprise resource planning (ERP) module, the platform brings together sales, marketing, customer success and accounting functionality, allowing users to manage all customer-related processes in one place.

Editor's score: 9.2/10

NetSuite CRM's campaign management tools track and analyze your marketing efforts based on purchase trends, demographics, response patterns and other data points. You can also deliver targeted messages using email and direct mail templates, manage additional activities (e.g., events and phone-based outreach in a single platform), and track all team efforts in real time.

Additionally, you can build custom reports to measure personalized KPIs, assess marketing benchmarks like website visitors and use standard reports to monitor customer service efforts such as customer purchase trends, call volume and overall customer satisfaction. We like how the software lets you review individual and team performance with a side-by-side comparison of expected results versus actual data.

The partner relationship management features help users track all partner-related sales and marketing efforts like joint campaigns, sales forecasting and partner commissions. We found that the online portal makes it easy for resellers and partners to place and manage orders directly, without the need to go through your sales team.

Read Oracle NetSuite CRM Review

HubSpot CRM: Best CRM Software for Sales and Marketing Integration

HubSpot enhances its CRM functionality with free email marketing, website tracking and lead generation tools.
Integration with Marketing Hub unlocks marketing automation, custom sales and marketing reports, and collaboration tools.
There is a big pricing jump from the free to paid plans.

HubSpot offers independent contractors and owners of tiny businesses easy entry into a CRM solution. Further, it offers users a wealth of training resources in its online library, including learning guides, invoice templates, email signatures and marketing plan template generators.

Editor's score: 9.3/10

HubSpot CRM's pipeline management and deal tracking tools keep everyone on the same page to avoid duplication of efforts or, worse, no action at all. Automatic profile enrichment adds publicly available data to contact records to give agents additional customer information. Live chat functionality, email templates, click-to-call in-app dialing and a meeting scheduler help sales agents engage with leads and customers in their preferred channel. Sales Hub's premium plans unlock access to documents, chat and email auto-assignment, as well as automated task workflows. However, to access sales automation, forecasting, teams, custom reports and layouts, users need to upgrade to the pricier Professional plan. 

HubSpot's CRM suite brings together the best of marketing, sales, customer service, CMS and operations features, providing a full view of the customer journey. Users can start by capturing leads through beautifully designed landing pages and forms, and then contacting them with personalized emails built using one of the numerous templates. The sales team can then follow up the moment they open the emails and easily convert them into leads and opportunities in the CRM. The customer success team can access contacts' details and latest associated activity to efficiently resolve any issues and provide the best possible experience. 

HubSpot's integration with Airwallex, a fintech platform, allows its CRM users to access Airwallex's payment collection capabilities to better track payments and sales cash flow. Airwallex plans to add more features in the near future to better integrate with the HubSpot ecosystem.    

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Freshworks CRM: Best CRM Software for Sales Managers

Freshsales gives sales managers access to in-depth reports and custom dashboards with AI-powered insights.
You can create custom automations and determine auto-assignment rules for leads and calls.
Contact profile data enrichment and advanced customization options are available only on top-tier plans.

Freshsales CRM from Freshworks makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to attract, manage, close and nurture leads. It offers an intuitive user interface, expansive feature set, visual deal pipelines and intelligent workflow automation. Freshsales is designed to help your business manage your sales without juggling multiple platforms.

Editor's score: 9.3/10

We were impressed with Freshsales' robust analytics features, as it allows sales managers to create visual dashboards and get detailed insights on their team's performance and recent sales activities. Freshsales' AI tool, Freddy, provides in-depth reports and tailored recommendations to improve your sales strategy. Freddy uses predictive lead scoring to highlight the most promising leads and opportunities, and can flag deals that are stalled and require extra attention.

Freshsales also offers a built-in chat and phone solution. Sales reps can initiate a call straight from the app, review and add notes, record calls for future reference and training, and add custom greetings and voicemail messages for a personal touch. Freshsales' communication features complement other productivity tools like automated workflows and automatic lead routing.

Freshsales also offers a CRM platform specifically for e-commerce businesses. The Freshsales CRM for e-commerce is designed to assist digital retailers in engaging customers on modern messaging channels, such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Apple Business. It integrates with e-commerce platforms and packages marketing automation, multichannel campaigns, and conversational sales and support into one platform.

Read Freshworks CRM Review

Zoho CRM: Best Mobile CRM Software

Zoho CRM supports growing businesses without charging a lot for its higher plans.
Zoho CRM's mobile app closely mirrors its desktop version and offers enhanced reporting features and conversational AI.
All plans except the highest one come with only 1GB of free file storage.

Zoho CRM is an affordable, easy-to-use and uncluttered CRM solution for small businesses whose sales reps work in the field and need reliable smartphone access to a CRM that closely mirrors the desktop CRM experience. On top of offering standard contact and deal management features, Zoho CRM's mobile app includes access to sales analytics dashboards, scheduled tasks, customer notes and files, and collaboration tools to keep in touch with colleagues. New and modified data syncs across both platforms, so information is always up to date, no matter where it's viewed.

Editor's score: 9.4/10

We found that users can easily navigate to their next meeting and that the optional business card scanner app can import contacts directly into the CRM's database. The mobile app also comes with a conversational AI assistant that reduces the need for manual data entry, accelerating the sales process while on the go.

Zoho CRM offers users lots of functionality at a competitive price point. It is easy to implement, intuitive to use and inexpensive to adopt. While the customization options aren't as extensive as those of other CRMs, there are still many ways to tailor Zoho to meet your needs. Zoho also offers a bevy of click-to-install extensions through the Zoho Marketplace. The easy adoption process makes it possible for businesses to build a custom CRM solution without the help of a developer. Zoho CRM is a comprehensive solution that's ideal for nearly every small business. It has a decent price point and provides good support to customers.

Read Zoho CRM Review

Salesforce CRM: Best CRM Software for Growing Businesses

Salesforce has multiple options and features to accommodate businesses of all sizes.
Salesforce is a good option for heavily regulated businesses, such as those in the healthcare and finance industries.
The initial custom setup requires sufficient IT skills and time.

With nearly 20% of the market share, Salesforce is the name that first comes to mind when you mention CRM solutions. The sheer number of features, third-party integrations and add-on options makes this CRM ideal for growing businesses with diverse and evolving needs. Once implementation is complete, Salesforce offers users a beautifully designed product that's speedy, powerful and highly customizable.

Editor's score: 9.4/10

We like how it allows sales managers to set up comprehensive reports for key CRM metrics, automate workflows and modify almost all aspects so that the CRM can grow together with your team. The software giant is increasingly acquiring smaller companies and regularly rolls out new and improved features, so if you're looking to compete with enterprise-level businesses, Salesforce has you covered.

Salesforce includes an end-to-end loyalty management platform. The loyalty management features are designed for both B2B and B2C businesses that want to enhance their CRM with the power of Salesforce Customer 360. This isn't something all CRMs include. The platform allows you to create loyalty tiers for customers, each with its own benefits.

Salesforce also offers a set of Sales Cloud integrations that allow users to send customers' Salesforce records to Slack to ensure an informed conversation. Currently, Salesforce is in the process of acquiring Troops.ai, a leading Slackbot for sales teams, which will integrate with both Slack and Salesforce platforms and provide intelligent real-time alerts to improve overall sales velocity, visibility and collaboration across teams.This will be a nice value add to the platform.

Read Salesforce CRM Review

monday.com Sales CRM: Best CRM Software for Customization

Monday.com offers fully customizable dashboards, email templates, forms, quotes and widgets.
You can create custom workflows through modifiable formulas.
The Free and Basic plans have no email functionality.

Each business has its own particular sales process, and it's essential for the chosen CRM software to reflect that. Monday.com allows users to customize everything from lead scoring rules and labels to visual dashboards and pipelines, ensuring that the final product meets the business's needs.

Editor's score: 9.4/10

The company offers dozens of ready-made templates in a range of categories, including sales, marketing, office operations and even real estate, so you can follow through on your strategy with minimal delays and disruptions. Each dashboard can be populated with custom widgets that display timelines, pending tasks and key performance indicators (KPIs) that are relevant to your specific process.

To help you build a truly tailored solution, monday.com integrates with dozens of popular business apps, including Slack, Zoom, Google Calendar and Microsoft Teams. IT teams can use Zapier or monday.com's native API for further customization. We were impressed with how sales managers can create custom workflows to trigger automated emails and notifications, advance deals, and update contact information. Monday.com offers a comprehensive set of CRM features that facilitate cross-team collaboration and help companies stay on top of customer commitments even after the sale is closed.

Monday.com's WorkForms allows you to create custom online forms to streamline data collection. With WorkForms, you can easily create forms for any website, such as order, request or feedback forms. This allows you to simplify your data collection process and ensure that you are collecting information that is relevant to your sales strategy. You can sync WorkForms to monday.com boards for an easier, more organized workflow.

Read monday.com Sales CRM Review

Pipedrive CRM: Best CRM Software With a Visual Sales Pipeline

The visual pipelines are well designed and thoughtfully laid out.
Pipedrive can be set up in just a few minutes.
Most email features aren't available on the entry-level plan.

Pipedrive's visual sales pipeline provides an overview of deals and stages at a glance, making it easy to see where you should focus your attention. The pipeline is fully customizable, so there's no need to rework your sales process. You can also easily update it on the fly as your needs change. We like how you can create pipelines for individual agents or teams, and use Pipedrive's powerful filters to organize data by rep, deal stage and more.

Editor's score: 9.4/10

Easy-to-use rule-based triggers automate workflows and free your sales teams from repetitive tasks that might otherwise get overlooked by busy agents. Pipedrive's AI-powered sales assistant will make recommendations for your workflows based on past performance, which isn't something all CRMs offer. The sales assistant generates reports and progress updates so managers can gauge the success of current sales strategies.

All of Pipedrive's service plans support unlimited contacts and their associated deals, activities and communication histories. Pipedrive's email marketing platform, Campaigns by Pipedrive, seamlessly integrates with the CRM. You can choose from a selection of email templates or create a custom one with a visual drag-and-drop builder. Thanks to the CRM sync, the platform allows users to segment recipients for highly targeted campaigns, and an AI-powered analytics tool offers a deep dive into the campaign's performance.

Pipedrive's messaging inbox includes strategic integrations with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and DocuSign. The WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger integrations allow you to communicate with customers and leads from these apps directly through your pipeline's dashboard. The addition of DocuSign grants you the ability to create, send, sign and organize your sales documents. With Pipedrive's messaging inbox, you can add lead contacts into the CRM, automatically store conversation histories, give shared access to lead conversations with your team, and organize all of your conversations.

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Zendesk: Best CRM Software for Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Zendesk Sell is ideal for businesses with busy customer support teams.
Its collaboration tools keep teams up to date on the latest changes no matter where they're located.
The user interface isn't as intuitive as those we saw in other CRMs.

Sales teams that collaborate with other teams and departments should consider Zendesk Sell. Its basic service plan includes a document repository, calendar integration, email tracking, call recording, reporting, prebuilt sales dashboards and customizable sales pipelines, making Zendesk Sell a good choice for small teams or startups. Plan upgrades, such as advanced call analytics, sales forecasting tools, call logs and scripts, task automation, and additional cloud storage space, offer incrementally more functionality.

Editor's score: 9.1/10

However, Zendesk Sell's standout collaboration features help keep teams across the company on track and on target. Leads are segmented and filtered into smart lists to support your sales efforts, while marketing teams use custom email templates and email tracking tools to engage new and existing customers. We found it helpful how Zendesk Sell integrates with Zendesk Support, offering a 360-degree view of the customer journey and providing both teams with sufficient and relevant information to deliver the best possible client experience. Zendesk Sell users can even proactively open support tickets from within the sales platform, ensuring seamless and speedy collaboration. 

Zendesk Sell's collaboration tools are designed to enhance productivity and improve cross-team workflows and communication. Its robust features allow teams across the organization to work together seamlessly, no matter which service plan a company chooses.

 

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Keap CRM: Best CRM Software for Sales Automation

You can choose from numerous automation templates.
You can create custom advanced automation workflows in a visual drag-and-drop builder.
Keap's pricing is steep for startups and very small businesses.

Keap is a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution with built-in marketing, sales and e-commerce tools. The CRM software requires minimal setup and can be used out of the box, or it can be customized to fit your company's specific needs.

Editor's score: 9.4/10

Keap's true power lies in its automation capabilities. You and your team members can set up straightforward trigger workflows to follow up with leads, send automated reminders and notifications, and create and update deals based on the set conditions. For those who want to create more advanced workflows with alternate decision paths and delay timers, Keap offers a visual drag-and-drop builder. You can then test the created automations, ensuring they work as intended.

Keap also provides excellent e-commerce features. You can use it to create customer invoices, process single or recurring payments, and link transaction details with individual customers or organizations. Revenue and payment analytics provide insight into cash flow and track weekly and monthly activity to monitor overall growth. Additional CRM reports track daily, weekly and monthly sales for easy performance comparisons over time.

We like how Keap offers 60-minute webinars for new customers who want to learn more about its features, like lead capture and automation, and Keap has an extensive self-service knowledge base. There's also a user community, where you can troubleshoot issues, and you can get 24/7 chat support from Keap's customer service team.

Read Keap CRM Review

SugarCRM: Best CRM Software for Renewal Management

SugarCRM offers a built-in renewals console for subscription-based businesses.
The software automatically generates renewable opportunities from closed deals.
The lowest service plan only allows up to five users, requiring a minimum of three.

SugarCRM offers comprehensive contact, account and deal management; sales forecasting; quotes; reporting; and collaboration tools. Its top-tier plans also come with AI-powered lead scoring, advanced automation, data enrichment and native add-ons. However, SugarCRM is particularly useful for subscription-based businesses. Its built-in renewals console, which is available on all pricing plans, offers a great way to automate and streamline renewal management. The renewals dashboard allows sales reps to quickly see the status of the current quarter's renewal pipeline, review top revenue line items, access individual opportunities and their likelihood of closing, and catch up on open tasks. To minimize manual tasks and save your sales team some valuable time, SugarCRM automatically generates opportunities from closed deals with renewable items and adds them to the relevant pipeline.

Editor's score: 9.2/10

You can easily customize SugarCRM to fit your company's needs. Frontline users can modify fields, page layouts or entire modules to suit their workflow. Admins and designated users with more technical experience can change core features, like forecast builders and opportunity trackers. Along with a complete record of all customer interactions, the system makes AI-based predictions on future behavior. The same AI tool also analyzes relationships between people, events and places to help agents decide where to focus their sales efforts.

SugarCRM is available as a cloud-based solution, but consider its on-premises system, especially if you want greater control over your data and the ability to customize the CRM. The on-premises choice is best for teams with unique sales processes, highly regulated companies with specific security needs, and businesses that anticipate the need for frequent upgrades.

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Insightly: Best CRM Software for Project Management

All Insightly plans include project management and delivery tools.
You can set up custom project dashboards and workflow automations.
Common CRM features like lead scoring and email scheduling are only available on high-tier plans.

When it comes to building client relationships, winning a deal is just the beginning. 

Insightly's comprehensive project management features allow users to successfully manage post-sales activities and effortlessly convert won opportunities into projects. We were impressed with how users can review key project information and latest activities, track milestones, schedule and manage tasks, and create events and sync them to their work calendars. To minimize manual data entry, Insightly allows you to set up custom task workflows for each pipeline stage, so whenever the project moves ahead, the relevant tasks are automatically assigned to designated team members. Insightly's project management features are also accessible through its mobile app.   

Editor's score: 9.1/10    

Insightly's automation features help you create workflows to ensure nothing slips through the cracks to derail an otherwise positive customer experience. Automatic social profile enrichment adds social data to contact records and identifies potential relationships between existing contacts in the database. The system detects duplicated information automatically to ensure sales teams always have clean data, and it allows batch edits to records. Companies can automate several sales process steps, such as creating and updating records, sending emails, and generating tasks. Insightly automatically syncs to external business systems already in place.

You can have confidence in Insightly's up-to-the-minute analytics and metrics, allowing you and your team managers to make rapid decisions and adapt sales strategies instantly. Insightly's CRM is designed to manage every aspect of customer engagement, from initial contact to post-sale projects, helping build long-lasting client relationships. 

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Costs of CRM Software

There is a world of CRM pricing options for small businesses to explore. There are free and inexpensive CRMs, which are best for small teams and microbusinesses, that often offer upgrades as needed. There are also heavy-duty CRM platforms that are priced higher and offer more functionality, flexibility and scalability.

The amount you spend on CRM software should help your business achieve the perfect balance between your current needs, your potential future needs and what you can afford. Most cloud-based services list the price per user per month but bill annually, while most on-premises software products have a one-time per-user fee. Some software companies further complicate pricing by offering add-on products and services, storage upgrades, mandatory training and implementation fees, and automatic upgrades.

Make sure you fully understand the pricing structure of any CRM product before making your decision. Also, specifically ask about automatic upgrades, storage limits and user limits.

Here's our mini guide to give you a sense of the general price range of CRM software:

  • Inexpensive cloud CRM systems often have a free version for up to 10 or so team members. Usually, entry-level paid subscriptions begin at around $15 per user per month.
  • Midrange cloud CRM subscriptions tend to run from $20 to $40 per user per month. These systems generally meet most small business users' needs. If ultralight solutions aren't working for you, step up to this level.
  • Enterprise-level cloud CRM products are available for about $50 to $150 per user per month. These systems often offer higher levels of customization, more features, and personalized customer support or training services.
  • High-end cloud CRM subscriptions can cost upward of $250 per user per month, but such services are unnecessary for most SMBs.
  • Client-hosted CRM software can cost you well over $900 per user per month. On-premises systems offer more control but also require a significant upfront investment, as well as technical knowledge and skill to maintain.

TipTip: Consider how many of your team members need access to the CRM. The fewer users you need to onboard, the less expensive and easier to implement the CRM will be.

Buying Guide

Which CRM Features Do You Need?

CRMs run the gamut from lightweight services intended for quick and easy customer relationships and lead management to powerhouse systems with integrated e-commerce solutions and advanced analytics.

While many small business owners worry that they'll sign up for a product that doesn't offer enough functionality later, these concerns are often overblown. Higher tiers of service and add-on features are nearly always available. Also, while more CRM features and functionality may seem inherently better, too many options within a system can be overwhelming, as they can extend the implementation process and make it more complicated and expensive.

If you already know what you're looking for but want to narrow down your options, ask yourself and your team these questions:

  • Should we have workflows with built-in multilevel approvals?
  • Will we need to email clients directly from the CRM? What sales tools do we need?
  • Do we want software we can use immediately after setup, or do we want to do lots of customization ourselves? If we do want to customize the system, how much API access do we want?
  • Who will be the primary software admins, and what is their comfort level in that role?
  • How much are we willing to spend, either per user or on an annual basis?

In addition to your answers to those questions, list the integrations you need (including proprietary legacy software, if applicable) and ask the CRM company how you'd achieve such integrations with its software before you choose a product. For example, in some CRM systems, integration with an outside solution is as simple as clicking a few boxes; in others, you must use a third-party tool (like Zapier) to click your way through the integration. Some even require hands-on coding to make integrations happen.

It's important to understand which key functions a CRM should offer so you get the most out of the program. Here are some of the most important features:

Automation

You want to use a program that automatically executes actions based on data in the program. For example, when a customer fills out a form, your CRM should automatically send the message to the appropriate sales representative. After the message is received, the CRM should send a notification that the message was received or opened. Workflow automation takes the tiny details and extra work off your plate and allows your sales tasks to run smoothly.

Reporting Tools

Reports help you understand how well your sales and marketing efforts are paying off. Information like the number of leads or sales you get within a certain time frame or how many outbound calls your team has placed can help you improve your processes. Moreover, it allows you to make more informed decisions about your company.

Customer Data Management

Understanding your customer is a big part of your business's success, and customer data management features help you organize that information. Well-organized, easily accessible data on current and potential customers can help you build better relationships, which ultimately has a positive effect on your business.

Customization

When a program is customizable, you can pick the features you want in your package and arrange your dashboards, reports, extensions and plugins to your liking. This flexible workflow creates a comfortable user experience for you and your team.

Integrations

Third-party integrations connect your CRM software to other programs you use, which saves you from having to switch between apps and manually input data you've already stored in other software.

Bottom LineBottom Line: To determine the features you need in a CRM, list what you want to do with it. Never adopt technology just because it's current or common, but because it solves a specific problem. If you cannot outline in detail what you want to do with your future CRM system and why you want to adopt one in the first place, you may not be ready to implement it.

How to Choose a CRM

1. Define your budget.

CRM costs range from free to hundreds of dollars per month for enterprise-level solutions. Determining your budget before you begin researching your options saves time by eliminating CRMs that are too expensive, plus it keeps you from making an impulse purchase.

2. Write a feature list.

Review the basic CRM feature list above, then determine the additional functionality you need to support your sales processes and strategies. Note which tools and features are deal-breakers and which ones would be nice to have but aren't mission-critical.

3. Ask around.

Your business network is a great place to get referrals from current CRM users. Ask your colleagues what they like most and least about their CRM.

4. Research the market.

Visit several business advice websites for an overview of popular CRMs, pricing and features. Trade associations and membership organizations related to your industry are also great places to learn about solutions designed specifically for your type of business.

5. Check out reviews.

Be sure to read a variety of user reviews about each CRM you're considering. Look for patterns in their comments to learn their pain points and standout features from people who use them every day.

6. Try out your favorites.

Most popular CRM vendors offer free trials as a hands-on way to get to know their products. Try as many as you can to develop a good understanding of their capabilities and how they compare to one another, and don't hesitate to ask questions.

TipTip: Free trials may highlight a CRM's best features only. Try all of the tools you may need, not just the most prominent ones.

7. Make your selection.

When you're confident you've done your due diligence, it's time to make a final decision. Before you pull out the checkbook, be sure to negotiate the price. Most CRM software for small businesses has set pricing based on features and the number of users, but it never hurts to ask.

Benefits of CRM Software

A major benefit of using CRM software is to gain an understanding of what your customers want from your business. This keeps you from wasting time guessing what their needs are.

A CRM system gives you the tools to organize all of your customer data in one place. It ensures you have a full picture of your current and potential customers, their needs, and detailed records of what you have discussed with them in the past.

CRM software is a great way to strengthen those consumer relationships and personalize the way you market to them. It is also a big help to your marketing, sales and customer service teams, letting them organize customer data more efficiently and move through their sales tasks quickly. 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software FAQs

What is the estimated time frame to implement a CRM solution?

Ideally, implementing a CRM should be fast, but several factors may prolong the process, like how well your team adapts to the program, how much you want it to integrate with other programs you use and how much data you need to transfer into the software. Depending on the system, implementation can take anywhere from six weeks to four months, and training can take up to two weeks.

What is the difference between marketing automation and a CRM platform?

With marketing automation, users can schedule and manage marketing campaigns, like email campaigns and business-to-consumer interaction. A CRM platform is more of a database and contains information on your customers, like how long they've been working with your company, their purchase records, phone conversations and records of their email correspondence with your sales or customer service representatives. Some CRM platforms offer marketing automation options. 

What are examples of CRM software?

Any tech solution or program that assists businesses with their client management and communication is considered a CRM. Leaders in the CRM software industry include Salesforce, Zoho, HubSpot and SugarCRM.

Why is CRM software important for a small business?

Incorporating CRM software into your business is vital to your company's consumer relationships. It allows you to personalize the way you market to your clients, it tracks communications with your clients and it provides tools to organize the data efficiently. Building customer connections is key to the growth of your business, so it's important to have a system in place to develop and manage those relationships. 

What does CRM offer to marketing, sales and customer service teams?

A CRM helps your sales and customer service teams enter contact information about your customers and track their interactions with your business. Additionally, it can help your marketing team manage marketing campaigns and find sales opportunities.

What type of customer information is being collected?

In a CRM system, the information from customers includes phone numbers and addresses. Some systems record phone conversations, allow for discussion notes and track follow-up appointments. A CRM also provides marketing, sales and customer service information, like targeted marketing campaigns and customer insights. 

What steps should your sales team follow when a lead is assigned to them?

When a lead is assigned to your sales team, research the person or business to assess whether they're a worthy sales prospect. This is how you should prioritize your leads. Then, if the lead is a business, find the person within it who will make the final decision about buying your product or service. Schedule a meeting with the appropriate individual and discuss what your prospect is looking for to see if you can fill a need for them.

What is a CRM implementation process?

The CRM implementation process happens when the platform you choose is ready to install. The process includes setting up the software with your company's preferences and transferring the information you may have in a different CRM solution. Additionally, you want to make sure the CRM integrates properly with any other programs it will interact with, such as your email marketing service, social media networks, online calendars, business phone system and customer success software.

The final stage of the implementation process is properly training all of your employees in how the CRM platform works. If the actual users don't understand all the ins and outs of the software, the CRM will never show its true worth. It is critical to spend the necessary time getting every one of your employees who will be using the platform up to speed on how it works.

After the CRM has been up and running for a few weeks, you should revisit how it is operating to make sure it is meeting all of your needs and your employees are comfortable with it, and then address any trouble spots.

How do you build good relationships with customers using your CRM?

Make sure your CRM is storing all of the key data points on your customers. This will allow you to tailor all your interactions to their specific needs. Customers want to feel special; they don't want the companies they work with to treat them as just another sale. A CRM allows you to make sure you remember previous conversations, have all of the relevant contact information and know where each customer is in the sales funnel. This means that the next time you connect with a customer, you can focus on the next steps without revisiting information that has already been explained.

You can also set your CRM to remind you when it is time to connect with a potential customer. For example, if you tell a contact you are going to call them in three weeks, instead of just adding it to your calendar, you can have your CRM send you reminders or set tasks so you can reach out to them when promised.

Is Google Analytics a CRM?

No, Google Analytics is not a CRM; it is a web analytics tool that helps businesses assess the effectiveness of their marketing efforts and understand their customers' behavior. It provides data associated with consumers' online activity and interaction with your brand, product or service. A CRM can use the information gathered from Google Analytics, though, to assist your company's marketing efforts.

How many types of CRM software are there?

There are five kinds of CRM software. Here are the key points that separate each type:

  1. Operational CRMs help you market to your audience based on the data you collect from the software.
  2. Analytical CRMs provide business foresight through customer data.
  3. Collaborative CRMs allow you to share customer information interdepartmentally (e.g., between your customer service department and your sales team) based on customer interactions.
  4. Campaign management CRMs are often described as both analytical and operational systems. These solutions are ideal for assisting with sales and marketing campaigns based on collected client data.
  5. Strategic CRMs integrate with other apps, such as Mailchimp, to run marketing campaigns. These systems use collected customer data to inform business decisions about how to execute marketing campaigns.

What to Expect in 2022

CRM software has become more critical than ever for remote teams in 2022. In fact, Fortune Business Insights projected a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% from 2022 to 2029 for the industry. The CRM market was valued at $57.83 billion in 2021 and will only continue to grow and benefit from the changing work environment in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last few years, we've seen more companies pivot to a work-from-home model, and organization is an integral part of that adjustment. CRMs have been helping employees transition from the corporate office to the home office, and the industry will continue to benefit because of this.

According to CRM giant Salesforce, the future of CRM software involves further alignment of sales, marketing and operations around common goals informed by advanced analytics. In 2022, the focus will be on self-service CRMs to improve the customer experience. A Salesforce report found that 65% of customers prefer self-service to resolve simple matters.

Lisa McGreevy contributed to the writing and research in this guide.

Nadia Reckmann
business.com Contributing Writer
During her years as a professional business writer, Nadia Reckmann has written hundreds of articles with a focus on SMB strategy, operations, technology, and tools that are essential for business success. In addition to that, she creates content that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their marketing techniques, sales performance, and communication strategy. She also writes about CRM and other essential business software, team and project management, and productivity.
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