Check out our independent editorial review of the best crm software for sales professionals, including use cases for each option.
Check out our guide on CRM software, which gives you an entire overview of the topic. At the bottom, you'll also find a complete list of our CRM articles.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a sales tool that organizes data, optimizes workflows, and manages your pipeline of leads and prospects. To help you choose, implement, and use the right one, this article provides a high-level overview of the entire topic, directing you to in-depth articles on the major concepts of CRM software. Use this article as your guide to becoming a CRM power user for you and your team
With CRM software, you can manage contact data, set up sales pipelines for lead nurturing, and coordinate lead generation campaigns. The data your CRM collects allows you to generate detailed reports and build dashboards that continuously track your sales progress. You can also automate processes like data entry, client outreach, and sales forecasting – which gives you and your staff more time to focus on generating revenue and building meaningful relationships.
There are four broad types of CRM software to choose from:
To select the right type of CRM software, think about your business’s current pain points and overall goals. For example, if eliminating cross-department silioing is something your company could be doing better, a collaborative CRM would be a logical choice, whereas a marketing CRM would be suitable if you want to enhance your inbound and lead generation strategies.
Of course, there is the possibility that your business could benefit from the qualities of more than one type of CRM. In that instance, opt for a CRM with a mix of core features that adequately address your company’s most essential needs. We’ll go into further detail about choosing the right CRM software for your business later in this article.
The CRM software market is flush with options, but the best ones include a robust set of core features to help businesses effectively organize contact data, map sales processes, and automate tasks. (We’ll further explore CRM features later in this article.) The best CRMs are also reasonably priced and generally easy to implement and use. Most CRMs offer a range of prices based on features and are either free or cost about $50 per user, per month.
With average costs and core features in mind, check out the five best CRM software options:
All five of these CRMs include a free trial and/or a free-for-life platform. Most CRM software offers a way for users to try their software for free – whether it’s a demo, a trial, or a stripped-down version of the core platform.
Small-to-medium businesses can find free or low-cost CRMs with basic core functions with the option to pay for premium upgrades as they scale. Meanwhile, enterprise-level CRMs are feature-loaded and often require businesses to request a quote first. Also, some industry-specific CRM software, such as those for real estate and finance, tend to cost more due to niche features and advanced data encryption that may be required for compliance.
Aside from giving businesses a way to store essential data and streamline tasks, CRM software comes with a plethora of additional benefits that’ll allow sales, marketing, and customer service teams cultivate and maintain meaningful client relationships. CRMs also aid business owners and other leadership personnel in making informed decisions that’ll improve their bottom line.
Implementing CRM software can improve your business in the following ways:
Note that the above is not an exhaustive list. As we mentioned earlier, in selecting the best type of CRM software for your business it’s important to look at your company’s specific pain points. The right CRM will be able to accommodate the unique needs of your staff and your customers.
CRM software features are among the most crucial criteria to consider in evaluating your CRM choices because you’ll want something that provides you and your employees with the resources they need to succeed. When evaluating CRM options for your team or business, take a close look at the various tools and functions each software offers to see how they’ll contribute to your company’s goals and overall mission.
The top CRM software features fall into these three categories:
Note that advanced CRM features and/or industry-specific features tend to cost a premium and are typically most useful for large and enterprise companies with sizable client bases that regularly handle large volumes of data. Core CRM features, as well as marketing CRM features, should suit businesses of any size.
The CRM software you choose will heavily influence the success of your CRM implementation. While it may be tempting to select the cheapest or most feature-laden option, choosing the right CRM for your team or company requires plenty of careful planning. Otherwise, you run the risk of dumping money into a tool that your team leads and reps can’t effectively use.
Here are six steps you can take to select the right CRM software for your business:
Expect the process of choosing a CRM to take several weeks, as you’ll want to ensure the software you choose is the best fit for your business. Once you have a software vendor locked in, it’s time to implement the CRM across your team or company.
CRM implementation is the process of installing a CRM software for a team or business. Developing a solid CRM implementation strategy will yield high user adoption rates, more efficient employees, and an increase in revenue. For maximum effectiveness, follow this nine-point CRM implementation process:
This nine-point plan will require a significant investment of resources, money, and time. However, it’s your company’s best chance to secure a CRM that will be well-received and effectively utilized – which in turn will increase growth, sales, and productivity.
That depends on the complexity of the CRM software itself plus the innate technical knowledge of the user. Some CRMs tend to have steeper learning curves than others – particularly if they have a lot of customizable elements and advanced features. However, access to proper training plus a well-built library of self-serve reference materials will translate to a successful effort in acclimating your intended end users, regardless of if they're tech savvy.
Customer-centric industries like retail and hospitality should consider adopting a CRM in order to strengthen existing client relationships and usher in new patrons. Meanwhile, those in the financial services or healthcare industries should think about implementing a CRM to keep sensitive user information secure and orderly.
Industry-specific CRMs will give those businesses a competitive edge in their respective industries, but any organization seeking a way to streamline workflow and organize data will benefit from using CRM software.
Possible drawbacks of CRM software include increased operating fees, poor user adoption rates, and occasional technical issues. However, such issues can be largely mitigated by executing a solid CRM implementation strategy and choosing a software vendor with quality user support plus a robust knowledge base.
Although small businesses may be able to use spreadsheets and calendars when they’re first starting out, they’ll eventually outgrow those tools. The sooner a small business adopts a CRM software solution, the easier it will be to scale as their client base grows and profit margins expand. Fortunately, there are several excellent free CRM software options cost-conscious small business owners can use until they’re ready to upgrade to something more substantial.
Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, CRM software is a dynamic sales tool that can go a long way in helping your staff become more organized and efficient – provided you have a firm grasp of what your company needs to succeed. Selecting the right CRM software and executing an effective implementation strategy will yield an increase in productivity, growth, and revenue for your business.