CRM software can be just what a growing small to mid-sized business (SMB) needs. If you want to make the most of your sales pipeline, then customer relationship management software allows your firm to monitor customer interactions, track deal progress, and analyze financial performance.
From marketing automation to advanced analytics, CRM tools include a range of features tailored toward small business buyers. Most of the providers that offer CRM solutions allow a free trial of their products. Some even offer ‘free-for-life’ versions of their products.
Paid-for versions of these cloud-based CRM tools come with increasingly advanced features and allow SMBs to manage a large number of sales contacts. Here are some of the main CRM solutions available to SMBs.
The pandemic has made staying in touch with happy customers more of a problem than ever, and that’ll likely continue in the age of hybrid work. The way your sales staff communicates with customers, and even more importantly how your customers want to communicate with them, is going to change permanently.
That means many businesses are going to have client communication problems and therefore, potential revenue and marketing troubles, too. If you’re looking at that scenario, then you need the best customer relationship management ( CRM software) system you can find. To help, we’ve tested and compared 17 of the top players, though only 10 made the list this time around.
A CRM’s value is much more than simply maintaining a customer list for contact tracking. These services also track every interaction your staff has with any given customer and provide a means of measuring those touchpoints.
This can include everything from the customer’s initial purchase to their support history all the way to what the conversation was about during that last lunch they had with your regional sales rep.
But more than just a bucket for comments, CRMs also store this information safely and where they can track, analyze, and surface the data when it’s needed.
What Is CRM Software?
CRM is more than initiating contact with potential leads. It involves nurturing contacts and building loyalty while maintaining a dynamic repository of contact information and client history. Making this information accessible for collaborative teams and piping it out to other business software solutions via smart integrations is the logical next step.
User experience (UX) has become more important than ever, and being able to efficiently manage a businesses’ relationship with customers through the entire sales and after-sales process is a key consideration.
For small to midsize businesses (SMBs) trying to emulate CRM functionality on a large and unwieldy spreadsheet could lead to a lot of confusion and redundancy. CRM software are easier to use than spreadsheets, they also do more than contain user and contact information because they can dynamically create calendar events and set reminders.
CRM software often integrates messaging and phone calling functionality, usually with recorded conversations that can be used to track and document customer sentiment and better insights.
A good CRM solution records your customers’ contact information and remembers the details of your relationship and every interaction—whether by phone or email and nowadays across other channels such as social media or even your customer help desk.
Capsule CRM describes itself as “Simple yet powerful CRM”. That’s a big plus for SMBs that are looking to give their sales teams the benefits of CRM software without an overly technical approach. What’s more, the company says it has spent the past 12 months developing new features, including for filtering, nofications and reports.
Capsule CRM software makes it easy to track and trace opportunities and a starter version of the CRM solution, with basic features for up to two users and room for 250 sales contacts, is available for free. Both the Professional version of the software ($18 per user per month), which allows 50,000 sales contacts and 10GB storage per user, and the Teams version of the software ($36 per user per month), which allows 100,000 sales contacts and 20GB storage per user, can be trialed free for 30 days.
Capsule CRM includes straightforward contact management features, allowing sales staff to segment their audiences. The CRM solution includes strong customization and personalization. Advanced sales reporting is an additional feature in the Teams version.
Salesmate CRM boasts that it powers 4,000 sales teams across 70 countries, and its software offers an intuitive approach to customer relationship management. The company says its smart features use analytics and integrations to save your business time at all stages of the sales cycle. Salesmate CRM intergates with more than 700 business apps. It can be trialed free for 15 days.
The Starter subscription for Salesmate CRM costs $12 per month on an annual basis and the price rises to $15 per month if you pay monthly. The same is true for the Growth plan, which is a version of the CRM solution that is set up for growing teams — subscription costs here are $24 per month on an annual subscription and $30 per month if you pay monthly.
Salesmate refreshes its offering regularly. It recently made what it refers to as “small but valuable updates” that aim to increase sales team efficiency. Customers can benefit from smoother ways to deal with both emails and chat. If you want to learn more about how to make the most of Salesmate CRM, you can also join a weekly product webinar.
Salesmate CRM offers strong features for sales pipeline and contact management. The Growth version of the software also includes some unique elements. These features include goal management for tracking the sales pipeline; email reminders, schedulers and metrics; and custom reports and analytics for checking sales results.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a broad suite of cloud-based tools. The software giant offers versions of the tool for all manner of departments, from sales through to commerce and HR.
When it comes to CRM, Microsoft says Dynamics 365 can help sales and marketing teams to create seamless customer experiences through marketing automation, shared data, and connected business processes. Microsoft says Dynamics 365 for CRM works as a customizable, flexible service. SMBs can choose a stand-alone application to meet the needs of a specific line of business, or use multiple CRM tools.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 boasts some big-name customers and the tool is highly rated by market analysts, including Gartner, which positions Microsoft in the Leaders Quadrant of its CRM Magic Quadrant. Microsoft also understands how the world of work changed recently, and has made it possible for anyone in an organization to view and collaborate on Dynamics 365 records within the Teams platform.
Microsoft offers a huge range of pricing options that vary according to business function and number of users. Price per month for the Dynamics 365 app starts from $65 for the first sales professional user; subsequent sales users can expect to pay $20.
From lead generation to scoring and conversion, Zoho says its CRM software allows SMB sales teams to focus their efforts remotely on the hottest leads. The cloud-based CRM is maintained by Zoho, rather than being run on-premise. And instead of requiring many customizations, Zoho says SMBs can dive into its CRM software quickly.
The company says it boasts more than 50 million users for its products globally, with Zoho CRM used by a global network of more than 250,000 businesses in 180 countries. The company offers a 15-day trial and a free edition of its CRM product for up to three users. Standard pricing starts at $14 per user per month, if billed annually.
Nucleus Research has named Zoho as a leader in the CRM Technology space, recognizing its ability to drive long-term value for businesses. Gartner, meanwhile, has named Zoho CRM as a visionary for its robust solution, exceptional customer experience, and increased market presence.
Features include, Sales Force Automation, which allows staff to automate routine sales, marketing, and support functions, and SalesSignals, which sends customer-facing teams real-time notifications when a customer interacts with your company on social media. Zoho CRM works with other popular products, including G Suite, Office 365, MailChimp, and Dropbox.
One of the key benefits of using Salesforce is that you’re using a popular, well-known product. The firm refers to researcher IDC, who suggests Salesforce is the “world’s most trusted solution and #1 CRM”. Over 150,000 companies, both big and small, use Salesforce.
Salesforce’s CRM platform gives users across all departments — including marketing, sales, commerce, and service — a single, shared view of every customer. Salesforce offers a number of pricing options to SMBs. It’s Essentials package, which is good for up to 10 users, is an all-in-one sales and support app that costs $25 per user per month, if billed annually.
Its Sales Professional and Service Professional solutions both cost $75 per user per month, if billed annually. The top option — Pardot Growth — offers a suite of marketing automation tools for any size team. The cost here is $1,250 a month, billed annually, for up to 10,000 contacts.
Agile CRM says there are three top reasons to use its product: it’s all-in-one, next-generation, and affordable. The all-in-one nature of Agile CRM allows SMBs to manage sales, marketing, and service in one platform. One of the key benefits of Agile CRM is its Marketing Automation capability, allowing firms to run multiple campaigns in a timely manner.
The next-generation definition of Agile CRM comes from the fact it’s a cloud-based service that the software firm says is “trusted” by more than 15,000 customers. As for the third main reason to choose Agile CRM — affordability — then the tool is free for up to 10 users. Development work continues: Agile CRM says it has added 20-plus applications to the service during the past few years.
The Free edition of Agile CRM, which is good for up to 10 users, can hold up to 50,000 contacts and includes email tracking. It’s Starter product — offering email campaigns, analytics, and marketing automation — is $8.99 per user per month, so long as you sign up to a two-year deal. Monthly payment costs for Starter are $14.99. It’s Regular (from $29.99 per month) and Enterprise products (from $47.99 per month) offer increasingly advanced features.
One of ConvergeHub’s core values as an organization is helping small businesses grow — so the company should be well-suited to the CRM software demands of SMBs. ConvergeHub’s cloud-based tool allows SMBs to manage sales, marketing, service, and billing from one platform.
The company draws attention to its enterprise-grade features, including security. It’s a scalable platform based on more tham 900,000 lines of code that includes advanced features, around sales pipeline management and workflow automation, that will help SMBs to keep track of deals in a secure manner.
CovergeHub Starter is priced at $9 per user per month, if billed annually ($11 quarterly). The Pro edition is $29 per user per month, if billed annually ($35 quarterly), while Premium is $59 annually ($65 quarterly). Like other specialists, it also offers a free trial – this time for 14 days.
SugarCRM believes its software allows sales teams to deliver more meaningful experiences. As well as awards from major publications, SugarCRM suggests proof of its success is the fact its Net Promotor Score ranks higher than its major competitors. The company was also recently named a leader in the 2021 Nucleus Research CRM Value Matrix.
Sugar CRM offers a range of plans for marketing, sales, and service teams. Professional starts at $52 per user per month, which is billed annually and for three users minimum. Sugar is designed to meet the needs of fast-growing small businesses. The firms’ other plans range from $85 per user per month and include a range of additional features, such as advanced workflow, SQL reporting, and accelerated support services.
The company says more than two million users in 120 countries are using SugarCRM to — in the company’s words — “fuel extraordinary customer experiences”. Those experiences are powered by the firm’s commitment to innovation, including the delivery of AI-based predictive insights, which is a feature that has been expanded during 2020 and 2021.
Pipedrive started in 2010 and claims to have created “the first CRM platform made for salespeople, by salespeople”. Pipedrive’s visual sales pipeline prompts staff to take action. Data-led reporting, meanwhile, gives a view of both scheduled and completed activities. With backing from Vista Equity Partners, the company continues to invest in product innovation.
Pipedrive says its CRM software is used by more than 95,000 companies in 179 countries around the world. Reference customers like the ability to customize data fields and workflow, and it’s well-designed interface. The company also boasts 93% customer satisfaction rates.
Like other providers, Pipedrive offers a free trial. Prices start from $12.50 per user per month, billed annually, for Pipedrive Essentials. The Advanced plan starts at $24.90 per user per month, billed annually.
Founders Girish Mathrubootham and Shan Krishnasamy begin work on creating a user-focused cloud-based customer service software in 2010. The company launched its Freshsales CRM product in 2016. Today’s version – known as Freshworks CRM – allows sales teams to use AI-based lead scoring, phone, email, and activity capture.
More than 40,000 customers use Freshworks, from smaller to larger enterprises, including Dyson and Best Western. The company says robust data-security and privacy practices form an integral part of its product-engineering and service-delivery principles.
Freshworks CRM comes in various flavors. For smaller teams, its Growth product starts from $29 per user per month, billed annually. The Pro product — which offers multiple views on sales piplelines and aims to help sales teams boost their efficiency — starts from $59 per user per month, billed annually. The company also offers a 21-day free trial.
When it comes to CRM software for SMBs, Vtiger offers something very different. Vtiger CRM is a complete open-source CRM application with one key bonus: SMBs do not have to pay for commercial licenses. That’s a potential boon for cost-conscious small business owners.
Vtiger is proving a popular option for firms in all sectors. The provider says there have been more than five million downloads of its open-source CRM software. With in-depth features and thousands of developers working on the product, Vtiger CRM offers a marketplace with hundreds of plugins.
More than 400,000 businesses use Vtiger. The company’s Pilot edition, which holds up to 3,000 records, is free forever. For SMBs that want the benefits of continuous updates and software support, there’s also the paid-for Vtiger CRM versions. Prices for the One Professional version, which includes multiple sales pipelines, start at $30 per user per month, billed annually ($42 monthly).
If your company is a big Google user, then cloud-based Copper offers a distinct advantage: it’s a CRM application that intergates with Google Workspace and Chrome. Integration with key productivity apps, such as Google Calendar and Gmail, means your team can manage all their contacts, deals, and files from a single location.
After a free 14-day trial, paid-for packages start with Basic — which is for up to three users — and is priced at $25 per user per month, billed annually ($29 monthly). Professional — which offers more tracking, automation, and reporting functions for growing SMBs — is priced at $59 per user per month, billed annually.
As well as Google Workspace integration, Copper includes strong sales productivity features, such as lead, contact, and opportunity management.
Really Simple Systems says its CRM software is designed specifically for SMBs and includes everything you need to manage business-to-business sales and marketing. Really Simple Systems boats 3,000-plus customers from a diverse range of sectors, from the British Red Cross to technology and engineering firms.
Really Simple Systems’ Salesforce-automation feature gives SMBs visibility of its sales team’s pipelines. All versions of Really Simple Systems CRM come with contact management and custom reports. The amount of storage available to your business varies depending on the package you select.
The company says its Free tier offers everything an SMB needs to get going with CRM — although you’re limited to two users. Growing SMBs can opt for the Starter package, which is priced at $14 per user per month, billed annually. Professional, which offers advanced features, comes in at $30 per user per month, billed annually. Key features include two-way email integration, custom settings, user permission levels, and quotations.
With more than 1.5 million users globally, SMBs can use Insightly to create multi-step business processes with workflow automation. Built-in business intelligence allows users to create data visualizations and monitor the sales pipeline. New automation features, released in 2020, make it easier for businesses of all sizes to execute integrated and measurable marketing campaigns.
More than 25,000 organizations use Insightly, from SMBs through to household names, such as Bloomberg, Sanofi, and Bosch. Like other CRM applications, Insightly offers a ‘no-frills’ plan where two users at a small business can manage sales and contacts for free.
Insightly Plus, which includes 100 custom email templates and 10GB file storage, starts at $29 per user per month, billed annually ($35 monthly). Insightly Professional, which offers more features for finding and managing leads and full access to the firm’s business intelligence platform, is priced at $49 per user per month, billed annually ($59 monthly).
Sage is one of the big players in the cloud software market, offering a range of applications for business functions. Sage CRM is a platform for small businesses to manage various elements of their customer relationships. SMBs can choose from fully integrated CRM or pick Sage Sales, Marketing, and Service modules to suit their business needs.
Sage says the aim of its CRM software is to help SMBs make informed business decisions. It expects sales and marketing professionals to use its data-led cloud software to help identify leads and opportunities. SMBs can send email campaigns in MailChimp and track their success with Sage CRM.
There’s very little in terms of pricing on the Sage web site. The company says it’s keen for interested SMBs to get in contact to find out more about its deals.
Ease of Use and Support
CRM software must be intuitive or you’ll never want to use it. Make a note of how many clicks it takes to conduct a basic task and how easy or difficult it is to find the features you need. Beyond being easy to use, CRM software should be able to manage user error. For example, if you try to conduct a task on the wrong screen or input the wrong data, then the best software will identify your error and suggest the right way to do it. On the other hand, poorly designed software will either let you make the error unchecked or will throw up an unhelpful error message.
One way to figure out if CRM software is really easy to use is by training others on how to use it. If you get stuck while training someone else, then that’s worth noting. Think about the time it will take to get your team up to speed and whether or not it’s worth that investment.
Finally, when you run into problems, whether it’s a software bug or a problem using a feature, you’ll need a responsive support team. Verify what type of support is included with your subscription and the hours of availability. If available, read through the support documentation, FAQs, and other self-service help (options include blog entries, public knowledge bases, and even online training videos). If there aren’t any self-service options, then consider that you’ll have to contact support whenever you get stuck. That said, you should contact support while you’re trying out software and make a note of the response time. Ask a lot of questions; this will also help you familiarize yourself with the product. CRM software is complicated, but support shouldn’t be.
And watch out for gaps in the support plan. Many of these solutions, especially the SaaS entries, have tiered, subscription-based pricing. That often means different levels of support depending on the subscription you choose. If your business process requires access to the CRM on weekends, for example, then make sure you’ve got access to support during those hours.
If I already use one of the above CRM suppliers for another area of software provision, should I use them for CRM, too?
It’s always tempting to stick with what you know. If you’ve got a strong partnership with a provider, and a good relationship with an account manager at that company, then it’s easy and convenient to bolt on additional CRM services. This account manager might also be able to give you a good deal.
It’s also worth noting that some of the world’s biggest software firms are players in the CRM market, such as Microsoft and Salesfore, as well as a whole host of niche operators. But bigger doesn’t necesarilly mean better. If you’re making your first moves into CRM software, then it makes sense to tread carefully. As you can see above, the different providers offer a range of features with all kinds of integration options, so it makes sense to shop around.
Should I focus on the companies that offer the best automation and AI features?
The marketing hype around data analytics means it’s easy to think of automation and AI as the most important features for a CRM product, or maybe any application full-stop. However, caution should be the watchword here. IT decision makers regularly moan that providers are making the most of the hype around big data, with some suggestions that tools are often badged as AI and automation tools when – in reality – they’re nowhere near as exciting.
Be wary of the hype. Analyse the CRM products and ask for a deonstration of the data-led features. Get some of your end users to test these features, too – if it works for them, it’s likely to work for your business and its customers.
Where’s the CRM software marketplace going next?
With competition intensifying and increased global uncertainty, Gartner suggests treating customers well is more important than ever. The analyst says CRM systems will play a crucial role in this process, so expect to see a big focus on technologies that allow companies to deliver personalized experiences based and a high level of customer insight.
Researcher Forrester says AI and automation will continue to improve CRM outcomes. AI-fueled CRM guides agents through the right actions and provides them with insights to help customers. Forrester also expects big data to power hyper-personalization through CRM. Customers expect engagement, tailored to their history, preferences, context, and intent – and that’s where future CRM services will use data to help companies succeed.
How did we choose these CRM solutions?
Having searched the market for some of the key providers in the market, we’ve used our expert knowledge to find the CRM services that are best-suited to SMBs – and the features they include.
Which CRM software is right for you?
Think carefully about what features your business needs. SMB CRM offerings vary from the cheap (or even free) to the more expensive, with ever-increasing levels of support and/or automation. Most providers offer free trials, and most can be upgraded to allow for more users and customer records, with increased storage size and features, when the business need arises. As with all technology purchases, don’t buy CRM as a solution looking for a problem. Before you make the plunge, work out what your end users need and scope out the available services.