These days, the science of selling has become ever more sophisticated. There’s still room for artistry, but the truth is, investing in an integrated digital tool—i.e. a sales CRM—is pretty much now indispensable.
This type of CRM manages the entire sales cycle. That includes sales leads, sales processes, and sales teams.
Customer relationship management platforms offer features like automation and workflow management tools, which are geared to make your sales team more effective with fewer resources.
Why use sales CRM?
With a good CRM on your side, your sales people can stay on the same page, no matter how geographically spread out they are, and sales activities can be streamlined in one place for best practice and full visibility. It’s all about having documentation of everything that you’ve done, what you’re doing, and what you want to do, without adding any extra effort.
You’ll sell smarter and breathe easier.
Sales reps will see the benefits of having a sales tool that handles pipeline management for today’s complex sales processes, and makes your sales goals clear and accessible to everyone on the team. When properly implemented throughout your business, a CRM will absolutely, positively increase sales.
It’s no secret that CRM software has long had a rep for being complicated, pricey, and, at times, demoralizingly ugly. But this is, thankfully, now an outdated perception.
New wave SaaS CRM systems provide user-friendly, small business targeted functionality with both cloud and on-premise data solutions. The CRM market grew 15.6% in 2018 as adoption continues to rise among SMBs. Increased competition has upped the ante for vendors to deliver better products.
Advanced features like marketing automation, sales force automation, and sales forecasting, previously available only to enterprise-level organizations, can now be had on-the-cheap with a reasonably low learning curve. And most vendors now offer an Android and Apple iOS mobile app for CRM on-the-go. Everyone in sales knows that timing is everything, so being able to access contact information, track leads, and close deals anywhere is a truly invaluable feature to have.
Basic features of a sales CRM
In general, CRMs streamline and improve the sales process, marketing campaigns, and customer service (not to mention customer interactions in general). They do this by rationalizing and simplifying workflow, building a sales pipeline, automating tasks, and analyzing data.
If your particular concern is sales, you’ll definitely be seeking a CRM that manages your customer-facing voice, chat, social media, and email touchpoints in one place. Doing so results in improved efficiency throughout your business, and dramatically increased visibility on your team’s performance, your customer base, and the market at large.
Sales automation sorts information across channels and rationalizes your workflow. Sales inventory tracking gets rid of a lot of manual data entry, and agent performance tracking tools incentivize best practice, helps schedule team members, and plan for busy periods.
A sales CRM lets you better identify a sales lead with lead tracking and other tools that offer visibility on all available sales opportunities.
Lead management and contact management features aggregate information across channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, telephone, website chat, and email. That gives you easy visibility on who’s who in relation to your business, and where they’re at in the sales cycle. You’ll be able to nurture leads with personalized, relevant information over time, building up an individual rapport and brand visibility to win loyal customers.
Accounts management tools automatically put client information in one place for easy access, including their activity, pending deals, associated contacts, and payment status.
Quotation management lets you generate quick quotes and keep track of those already in play. This is super useful for forecasting sales, addressing your business’s overall production and operational needs, and segmenting customers and leads to further refine your sales funnel.
Opportunity management allows you to spot potential sales as they develop, providing you with the ability to respond and capitalize right away while proposal management tools keep track of projects, quotes, letters, contracts, and messages.
Check out tour top 15 sales CRM solutions below.
15 best sales CRM
Salesforce offers a customizable CRM app with deep, well-developed tools for sales processes and team collaboration and many integrations. This is a robust system, allowing Sales managers and sales teams to build up very complex task management systems. Salesforce automates many tedious tasks and decision-making processes out of the workday.
Definitely has a real learning curve, although this is in part mitigated by the vendor’s comprehensive, well-designed ‘Trailhead’ lessons. No offline functionality.
Salesforce is an absolute behemoth of a company, and their scale appears to have had some negative repercussions on support, ie. the CRM’s help desk is not always super responsive. Support staff turnover makes it hard to build long-term, working relationships with specific support team members who know your company.
- Essentials plan for all-in-one sales and support is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Professional plan offering complete CRM for any size team is $75 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Enteprise plan offering deeply customizable sales CRM for your business is $150 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Unlimited plan for “unlimited CRM power and support” is $300 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 14-day free trial is available for all plans.
Voice, SMS, pipeline view, reporting, and email marketing (including custom email sequencing) in one place.
Close offers pre-recorded voicemail, an excellent time-saving feature for sales reps, and a predictive dialing feature allows reps to auto-dial multiple numbers to improve sales agent productivity. Close also offers many useful integrations with other platforms, including Mailchimp, Zendesk, Facebook, and Zapier.
Bulk data importing of CSV files will often produce duplicate leads, requiring you to do some manual clean-up.
- Start plan is $29.75 per user/per month billed annually, and $35 per user/per month billed monthly.
- Basic plan is $55.25 per user/per month billed annually, and $65 per user/per month billed monthly.
- Professional plan is $80.75 per user/per month billed annually, and $95 per user/per month billed monthly.
- Business plan is $123.75 per user/per month billed annually, and $145 per user/per month billed monthly.
Full-featured sales CRM with automation features. Stick your appointment calendar online and Agile CRM will automate all your upcoming voice calls and follow-ups.
Keep everything humming along with a 360-degree view of contacts, project management with drag-and-drop functionality, reporting, and timeline capabilities. Attach documents to deals, companies, contacts, and emails in-app.
Price increases dramatically between versions, which can be jarring and/or a deal-breaker as your company scales. Agile CRM does not offer a ton of customization options.
- Free version available for up to 10 users.
- Starter version is $8.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
- Regular version is $29.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
- Enterprise version is $47.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
HubSpot is a major name in the world of CRM and offers a free platform with basic features. It handles the basics of the sales process, with lead management and cross-channel tracking of customer interactions. Zapier integration allows you to share information across apps like Slack and Google Sheets.
The paid Sales Hub add-on for the CRM ups the ante considerably, with AI assistance, deeper prospect insights, and high-end automation.
HubSpot CRM’s customization options are limited, which may be an issue if you’re doing something particularly niche.
- HubSpot CRM is free, and the number of users is unlimited.
- Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub add-on packages are $50 each per user/per month, billed monthly.
- HubSpot CMS starts at $300 per month, billed monthly.
- All-inclusive Starter Growth Suite starts at $113 per user/per month, billed monthly.
Social media-savvy CRM with workflow automation and lead management tools. Integrates with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ so you can engage leads right on-time across several channels.
Zoho CRM offers a free version for up to two users. Zoho’s Standard package provides advanced sales forecasting and KPI tracking. The top-tier Enterprise version adds tools like stage-by-stage sales funnel tracking and customizable data comparisons with segmentation of teams, users, regions, and much more.
For sales reps who rely on one-on-one engagement and building up a rapport, the lack of individual email tracking and individual lead notifications can be an issue.
- Free version is available for up to three users and is targeted at home businesses.
- Standard version is $12 per user/per month, billed annually
- Enterprise version is $35 per user/per month, billed annually.
Copper’s email integration with Gmail is deep, so if you use G Suite all day, every day, that’s super helpful. A highly visual, well-designed sales pipeline lets you manage leads throughout the qualification process. Contacts can be accessed via email, voice, and text in-app, and voice transcription in-app lets you take notes on the fly.
Weekly pipeline progression reports offer improvements in team communication and workflow, while custom filters and alerts keep you on top of the most important deals.
Unfortunately, you can’t attach files to emails you send in Copper, so you have to switch over to Gmail for that. Tutorials are not always sufficient for troubleshooting. There’s definitely a learning curve, which can come as a surprise given how user-friendly the product appears at first.
- Basic plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Business plan is $119 per user/per month, billed annually.
Copper offers a 14-day free trial for all plans.
Zendesk Sell is a salesforce automation software that helps bring sales and service teams together for overall enhanced customer experience. Sales automation gives sales reps the space to focus on the more important things. With Sell, you can set triggers when you get a new lead, qualified deal, or incoming deal. Everyone on the team gets a heads up and the opportunity to analyze and collaborate, so there are fewer meetings and confusion.
You can use Sell for prospecting, deal-making, and improving customer retention and conversions with timely sales interventions and follow-ups. Lead prioritization capabilities and tools like funnel tracking, custom lead forms, customizable lists, communication templates, conversion rate tracking, and channel optimization make it easy to gain context on leads.
Other perks of this sales CRM software include a simple and intuitive consumer-grade user interface and a #1 rated mobile sales application.
Some users have reported a slow loading time and mistakes in automated data entry. The price point may be a bit high for a startup or small business.
Map customer journeys to get your messaging right, and automate complex business processes like lead routing quote review and approval with drag-and-drop flowchart. Real-time push notifications are very handy for keeping on top of tasks and client updates.
GPS native mobile device integration allows you to seamlessly navigate to client locations. Features offline sync for those travel moments when you don’t have Wi-Fi or data.
SugarCRM requires you to have at least 10 people on your team to use it, so this CRM might not make the most sense for smaller teams or startups. Moderate learning curve means you’ll need to take time out to learn the platform properly.
- Sugar Professional plan is $40 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually.
- Sugar Enterprise plan is $65 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually.
- Sugar Serve plan is $80 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually.
- Sugar Sell plan is $80 per user/per month (10 user minimum), billed annually.
- Sugar Market plan is $1,000 (unlimited users, 10,000 contacts per month), billed annually.
A free trial is available for all plans. After answering a few questions on the vendor website, you’ll be assigned the version of SugarCRM that best matches your business needs.
A visual, easy-to-use tool focused on the sales process and tracking contacts. Lets you build multiple sales pipelines and customize stages for niche product and service contexts. Syncs cross-channel information and eliminates repetitive admin tasks.
Users of Pipedrive’s Essential plan can use Smart Email BCC to sync emails to Pipedrive. Users of the Advanced, Professional, and Enterprise plans will gain access to an in-app inbox, and more sophisticated, automatic email sync compatible with everything from Gmail to QQ Mail.
A Chrome extension allows you to use it as a full-fledged Gmail CRM. With its customer, resource and timeline filters and overview capabilities, it can also be used as a project management tool.
The Zapier integration is a bit complicated to get up and running.
Pipedrive is available at four feature levels.
- The Essential plan is $12.50 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 billed monthly.
- The Advanced plan is $24.90 per user/per month billed annually, and $29 billed monthly.
- The Professional plan is $49.90 per user/per month billed annually, and $59 billed monthly.
- The Enterprise plan is $99 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 14-day free trial is available for the Essential, Advanced, and Professional plans.
Insightly integrates with G Suite and Microsoft Office 365, so Excel, Outlook, and Gmail integrations are all covered.
For those in the business of selling, the CRM tool offers a highly streamlined sales pipeline integration between features, including contact management, customer data, and lead tracking. It’s easy to assign work to team members with to-do lists.
Business intelligence (BI) features (powered by Microsoft Power BI) are potentially very useful CRM features. BI collects historical and real-time data within your CRM platform, ensuring you have the info you need to boost sales performance (i.e. accurate, observable data on sales trends and metrics). Insightly builds its BI into dashboards in a visual, simple way.
Two-way sync for Google Calendar can sometimes be glitchy. Custom fields for contacts are limited to 25, which is ample for some people but could be an issue for users who have very complex sales processes and business needs. The user interface is a bit dated.
- Plus is $29 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Professional is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Enterprise is $99 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 14-day free trial is available for the Plus and Professional plans.
Freshsales is the CRM component of the comprehensive Freshworks 360 customer engagement suite. Its sales tools are good for monitoring deals, minimizing tedious manual data entry, running sales email campaigns, and bumping up sales productivity.
Lead capture automatically takes leads from emails and sticks them in your CRM. Lead scoring allows you to monitor and sort people out, find out who’s most likely to convert, and go after the right deals. There’s also a voice phone module built into the platform with auto-dialing, call recording, and call routing.
The process of filtering tasks in order to focus on key contacts is somewhat cumbersome. Some users gripe that customer support can occasionally be slow to resolve issues.
Freshsales is available at 4 feature levels.
- Blossom plan for small teams is $12 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Garden plan for growing teams is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Estate plan for large teams is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Forest plan for enterprises is $79 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 21-day free trial is available for all Freshsales plans.
Full-featured sales CRM with pipeline management, reporting, sales tracking, sales cycle management, and marketing tools. Built-in voice, chat, email, and video allows you to reach out to leads over the right channel anytime.
Quickly create and send invoices in multiple currencies to close deals on time. Bitrix24 can also be used for sales force training. You can build unlimited course pages with audio and video files and add formal onboarding tools like an employee handbook.Total sales force management lets you plan business trips and employee leave, and generally get all your scheduling in order.
User interface is not always the most intuitive, and the app has been known to lag occasionally. Customization options are limited, which may be an issue for niche businesses.
- Free starter business tool suite for up to 12 users.
- CRM+ plan is $69 per month for up to 6 users.
- Project+ plan is $69 per month for up to 24 users.
- Standard plan is $99 per month for up to 50 users.
- Professional plan is $199 per month for unlimited number of users.
The prices above are for the cloud-based version. On-premise solutions are also available.
Cross-channel ‘softphone’ sales platform with voice, video, call center, and messaging features. It’s not a CRM in and of itself, but rather a lightweight-yet-powerful tool that integrates with more broad featured CRM platforms like Zendesk and Salesforce. The platform also offers native integration with G Suite.
The CRM’s real-time sentiment analysis generates a customer satisfaction score while in conversation. Real-time coaching floats in the background with automated feedback for the sales agent, including pricing, features, and competitor offering information.
One of Dialpad’s most exciting (and eminently useful) features is VoiceAI, a form of advanced AI analytics that uses speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) technology. This handy tool automatically generates an accurate transcription of all your sales calls in real-time. It also provides insights into the most important parts of the call, generating Smart Notes.
The CRM comes with lots of product updates, which can be a little disorienting. Occasional latency issues with VoIP and dropped calls.
- Standard plan is $15 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Pro plan is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Enterprise plan pricing is made in consultation with the Dialpad.
- Fast Free Program for VC-backed startups offers 10 seats for life, for free (must apply through Dialpad and meet their requirements).
A 14-day free trial is available for the Standard and Pro plans.
Less Annoying CRM
Small business targeted CRM with well-designed standard features like pipeline management, lead tracking, and follow-up notifications. Sales force automation is effective and time-saving. Excellent value for money. There are vendor-built integrations for apps like Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Mailchimp, and third-party integrations for many others.
If you enter more than 50,000 contacts, the CRM begins to get bogged down (the vendor doesn’t recommend going above this figure). Also, the app sends you notifications by SMS or email but can’t send them natively in-app, which is a bit odd.
LACRM offers a risk-free, 30-day free trial for its only pricing plan.
Contact management and sales pipeline platform tailored for small businesses, freelancers and self-employed individuals, and e-commerce.
Lets you build a robust lead database by importing spreadsheets, scanning business cards, and shifting contacts from other CRM. Beyond lead generation, it allows you to customize fields and contact info for your specific business processes.
Keap has many features, which ups the learning curve. It’s slightly expensive for individuals and lean startup teams on a tight budget. The number of integrations with other apps is small.
- Grow plan is $49 per user/per month.
- Pro plan is $149 per user/per month.
- Infusionsoft plan is $199 per user/per month.
A free trial is available for the Grow and Pro plans.
Getting sold on a CRM for sales
It’s important to address what your specific business needs are before you commit to a paid sales CRM solution: Do you do a lot of cold calling and want to revise your selling script in-depth, preferably with the help of AI and advanced analytics? Are you most concerned about building a customized sales pipeline for your niche product? Is social media your main avenue of communications and sales? These are all things to keep in mind when shopping for a sales CRM.
There may be no ‘best CRM software’, but there’s something out there for pretty much every need, niche or not. The first step towards realizing the right fit is figuring out the problem you want to solve. Good luck out there!