In our independent editorial review of retail CRM solutions, learn about the top options along with their primary use cases.
Operational CRMs are software that streamline day-to-day business operations across sales, marketing, customer service, and back office teams by automating administrative, non-revenue-generating tasks. The top options include features for automation as well as project management, lead nurturing, and general internal and external communications. To help you choose the right CRM, we reviewed a range of options and determined the best ones and their use cases.
The top six operational CRM solutions include:
We reviewed the best operational CRM solutions based on six primary weighted criteria consisting of specific subcriteria. We assigned criteria scores for each CRM and then totaled the scores, determining a winner in each category as well as the overall best operational CRM option. Finally, we assigned a primary use case to each CRM that made our list.
Note: All per-user prices are based on an annual subscription unless otherwise noted.
Overall, we found Freshsales to be the best operational CRM for its mix of pricing and features. All options on our list provide a solid blend of standard functionality with features specific to operational CRMs — for a deeper analysis of each CRM, read our case-by-case evaluations below.
Sales-focused CRM offering the ability to set up workflows that eliminate repetitive tasks.
Price Range: Free to $69 per user, per month (21-day free trial)
Freshworks' Freshsales is an easy-to-navigate, powerful CRM with a free version and upgrades. Its best operational feature is its workflow automation — this is included in the paid tiers and allows you to create rules that trigger automated responses to certain actions and save you time on tedious, repetitive responsibilities. Via these workflows, you can automatically send emails, create and assign tasks, qualify leads, update contact records, and more.
Freshsales is a great option for sales-focused teams and is our top-rated CRM in general, but its marketing features are lacking. If you're looking for an operational CRM that will provide workflow automations to your marketing team as well, check out Zoho CRM.
Easy-to-use, visual CRM with affordable levels and the ability to add on certain advanced operational features.
Price Range: $14.90 to $99 per user, per month (14-day free trial)
Pipedrive is an intuitive sales CRM with a visual drag-and-drop pipeline plus tools to seamlessly progress leads through it. While each tier includes a strong set of features, what makes Pipedrive unique is its option to pay for custom add-ons to streamline your operations. These advanced add-ons include LeadBooster for lead generation, Web Visitors for site visitor tracking, Campaigns for email marketing, and Smart Docs for document management and e-signatures.
Although Pipedrive's affordable tiers and optional add-ons allow you to pay for what you need, it doesn't offer a free tier. If this is important to you, think about going with Freshsales for a free sales alternative or HubSpot CRM for robust free marketing and sales features.
Affordable version of the revered Salesforce CRM that still offers customizable, detailed reports and dashboards.
Price Range: $25 per user, per month (14-day free trial)
Salesforce Essentials is the most affordable tier within the well-known Salesforce Sales Cloud platform. With Essentials, you can track detailed CRM metrics via its advanced reporting — start with their template reports, then customize them to reflect the most important info to your business. Make these real-time reports highly visual by transforming them into clear, interactive graphs and charts and adding them to specific dashboards for your team to use on demand.
Because Salesforce Essentials is the lowest Sales Cloud tier, it might not include all the features you need. In this case, consider Freshsales instead, which offers a substantial amount of affordable sales features.
Sales and marketing CRM with the ability to automate financial tasks and standardize related documents.
Price Range: Free to $52 per user, per month (15- to 30-day free trial)
Zoho CRM is a sales and marketing CRM with a free version for small teams plus upgrades for growth. In terms of operations, it excels particularly with the invoicing and billing automations offered in its Professional tier. These allow you to automatically generate an invoice when a deal closes as well as manage vendors, create quotes, and track inventory. You can also easily follow current customers' history, invoices, and renewal dates to keep up with subscriptions.
Zoho CRM offers useful sales and marketing tools plus a QuickBooks CRM integration for even more billing features, but some people struggle with its user interface. For a more intuitive CRM that also focuses on both sales and marketing, check out HubSpot CRM.
Free CRM for sales, marketing, service, and operations that also offers the ability to upgrade for more features.
Price Range: Free to $1,200 per month (Sales Hub)
HubSpot CRM is a free CRM that supports unlimited users and offers a solid amount of features to cut down on administrative tasks. You can set up the platform to autofill contact records with form data and website activity, personalize a command center that hosts your tasks, meetings, and lead details in one place, and more. Upgrade to Sales Hub for advanced versions of these basic operational features plus access to more features like sales automations.
HubSpot's paid tiers include a specific amount of users, so small teams might find them to be too pricey. In this case, consider Freshsales (for sales) or Zoho CRM (for sales and marketing) instead, which also have robust free versions but charge a per-user price for upgrades.
Sales CRM with strong project-related features helping you close deals and then deliver your product or service on time.
Price Range: Free to $99 per user, per month (14-day free trial)
Insightly is a leading sales-focused CRM with robust project management and delivery features. You can customize a pipeline with your sales process stages and move deals along, tracking tasks and milestones along the way. After winning a deal, seamlessly transfer it to a separate project pipeline to ensure you deliver on your promises. You can even track internal projects to ensure that everyone at your organization follows the same processes.
Insightly's sales and project management features make it an especially useful CRM, but it can seem clunky when compared to other options. If you're mostly interested in a CRM's sales tools, explore a more straightforward sales CRM like Freshsales.
The operations-specific features below are offered by the top operational CRMs:
Save time on tedious, repetitive tasks by setting up trigger rules within the CRM. These rules tell the software to automatically perform an action when a specific thing happens (e.g., generate an invoice when a deal closes) or simply at a certain cadence (e.g., create a reminder to contact a lead one month before their subscription expires).
Perform lead nurturing tasks (e.g., conduct sales calls, give a live demo or presentation, draft a business proposal) and email or live chat with leads. Keeping in touch with leads in this way enables you to intentionally answer their questions, collect their information, and get them interested enough to buy.
Launch social media and/or email campaigns at specific times, then automatically score and route leads who engage with the campaign and show interest. You can also segment your audiences so only certain potential customers see the campaign.
During and after closing a deal, keep track of your promised project so you deliver your product or service on time. This feature is great for maintaining relationships with your new and existing customers alike.
Operational CRMs take it one step further than more general types of CRM software by focusing on tasks and activities that drive day-to-day operations. Business processes like sales, marketing, and customer support are all fundamental aspects of operations, but it’s important to find a solution that meets your specific needs. Whether that’s integrating with social media, transitioning your business to the cloud, or anything in between, there’s a package that’s right for you.