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Customer relationship management (CRM) software stores, organizes, and analyzes business contact and customer information. Within the CRM platform, sales, marketing, and customer service teams automate the collection and organization of customer, lead, partner, and key business relationship data.
The processes and systems that help improve a business’s relationships with their contacts may also be called customer relationship management.
Which brings us to this list. Below are some of the top CRM providers in the market, each with unique features and functions that make them best suited to various use cases. While not exhaustive, the details below should help guide your research.
A big league name in the space, HubSpot has been a “household” name for sales and marketing teams for roughly two decades. And much like Salesforce, there are numerous key selling points for the platform, not the least of which is the way it puts sales, marketing, and website management in a single toolbelt.For now, though, we’d like to highlight an equally critical, but much less celebrated part of their software: the way it integrates into nearly everything. Companies that use HubSpot are hard-pressed to find a software tool they’re using elsewhere in the organization that doesn’t already have plug-and-play interoperability with HubSpot.
Over time, HubSpot has significantly expanded its integration capabilities, moving from a marketing-focused tool to a comprehensive CRM platform. This evolution is reflected in its impressive score of 89.29/100 for contact management and sales pipeline features, indicating a mature and well-rounded product.
All other features aside, the available integrations make Hubspot hard to beat for any team bringing a backpack full of other SaaS solutions to the table.
Zoho CRM is part of a larger platform that includes HR, accounting, operations, and more, placing it in a similar bracket to NetSuite. It’s accomplished this while still maintaining low overhead costs, thanks to its remote-first work environment.
That prioritization of decentralized collaboration carries over to their suite of software solutions, including their CRM. With features and tools comparable to its peers in this list, but with the added bonus of designing the platform to function across time zones and national boundaries.
The software is tailored to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes, with a free plan and no contract requirement. Its pricing structure is competitive, offering value for money and reflecting an understanding of diverse business models.
Zoho CRM’s interface is intuitive, scoring a 75/100 in design, and it supports a mild learning curve, ensuring new users can quickly adapt. The platform’s customizability is a standout feature, allowing businesses to tailor the CRM to their unique processes.
In terms of product design, Zoho CRM has been crafted with the user in mind, offering a balance between functionality and simplicity. This balance is critical for user adoption and long-term engagement with the platform.
Zoho has consistently incorporated user feedback to improve its offerings, demonstrating a commitment to growth and improvement that benefits its users directly.
Shape CRM has carved a niche for itself by offering highly customizable solutions tailored to various industries. Originating as a tool to simplify complex business processes, it has evolved to include features like AI lead scoring and bi-directional texting. The platform is lauded for its scalability and extensive features.
Recently, they’ve added bulk texting capabilities and enhanced payment options, further streamlining business communication and transactions. However, the cost could be a consideration for smaller enterprises.
One of the few gripes I have about Shape is its pricing structure. At $99/month if billed annually, it is on the higher end per user. However, the platform does include about everything a sales team needs. A tiered pricing structure in the future could fix this, allowing customers to choose their optimal level features for the price.
Pipedrive is also a bit of an oddity in the CRM and sales software space, in all the best ways. Pipedrive is designed to help teams make the most of their leads, and focus on the ones most likely to convert. It does this through a variety of non-conventional CRM capabilities, including AI analytics, intelligence software, and prescriptive data insights.
The interface is also carefully crafted to present the most relevant information in a visual, easy-to-digest manner. Properly implemented, Pipedrive can dramatically reduce the number of leads that slip through the cracks, and the number of dead ends chased by sales staff.
Recent additions include improved AI analytics and more third-party integrations.
Salesforce CRM has been a titan in the enterprise arena for years, and it has largely gained its clout on merit. Its comprehensive suite of features, scalability, and innovative approach to customer relationship management all serve to make it a strong contender in the space.
While Salesforce’s comprehensive features and customization options are a boon for many large-scale businesses, they can also present a steep learning curve for new users. The platform’s depth, which allows for extensive tailoring, may require significant training and expertise to navigate effectively. This could lead to additional costs for organizations in terms of time and resources spent on training.
Integration capabilities are a strong point for Salesforce, offering connections with a multitude of business applications. Yet, this interconnectedness can sometimes lead to complexity, particularly when managing and troubleshooting integrations across various systems.
The user experience is generally user-friendly and is regularly updated to introduce new functionalities. Nonetheless, some users may find the frequent updates challenging to keep up with, potentially disrupting workflows as teams adapt to new features.
Salesforce’s AI enhancements with Einstein and mobile experience improvements are commendable, positioning the platform at the forefront of innovation, but remember the cost associated with accessing these cutting-edge tools should be considered.
Rounding out the 4-star range on our list is NetSuite CRM from Oracle. If that name sounds familiar, it should: NetSuite was an internet pioneer back when the internet still ran on dial-up. These days, the brand (now owned by Oracle) continues to offer advanced software and digital technology solutions to businesses around the world.
NetSuite is noteworthy for numerous reasons, but above all else, they are a comprehensive solution. The CRM portion is only a fraction of the platform—the suite handles enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounting and financials, inventory tracking, and more. Organizations looking to use a single system to manage and optimize their entire business infrastructure need look no further.
The overall design of Oracle NetSuite CRM also focuses on providing a comprehensive view of the customer lifecycle. While its interface and usability score moderately, the CRM’s strength lies in its ability to offer a 360-degree view of customers, integrating sales, customer service, and marketing effectively.
This evolution into a comprehensive ecosystem addresses the growing need for interconnected business systems, offering a more efficient and unified approach to managing various business processes.
That said, its greatest strength is also its biggest caveat. NetSuite is a package deal. Signing up for the CRM (or any individual business function) means signing up for the whole platform, so it works best for brands that stand to benefit from an entire workflow overhaul.
Insightly might be a brand name you’re unfamiliar with, but rest assured, it has a quiver of features that’s just as full as some of the bigger names on this list. Automation options, project management, and plentiful integration options are just the beginning. What’s not a common bragging right is their robust analytics and reporting capabilities.
In many ways, Insightly doubles as business intelligence, providing extensive flexibility and functionality regarding data discovery and scrubbing; organizing and visualization; powerful analytics insights; and intuitive reporting options.
In recent years, Insightly has even enhanced its reporting and analytics features, focusing on providing more customizable reporting options and integrating AI-driven insights.
However, compared to competitors like Salesforce or Oracle NetSuite, Insightly’s advanced features like AI analytics and VOIP capabilities could be further developed. While it offers a solid foundation in CRM functionalities, expanding these advanced features could enhance its appeal to larger businesses or those with more complex CRM needs.
Nevertheless, for teams that want to dig deep into the data, find and leverage customer trends, and otherwise prove the value that the sales pipeline has to offer the organization as a whole, Insightly should be at the top of the shortlist.
Keap CRM is a bit of an oddity in this list. While it’s fully capable of providing top-tier service to larger brands the way Salesforce or Hubspot might, its positioning tends to focus more heavily on solopreneurs and other small businesses.
To be fair, these are often the professionals who need the most support to keep their sales pipelines flowing. Certain “hats” have to be worn in every business—accounts receivable, sales, marketing, operations, logistics, project management, etc.—even when that business is a business of one. The fewer the heads there are in the crew, the more hats on a single head.
Keap aims to help these professionals by giving them somewhere else to put some of those hats, so to speak. Via robust sales, marketing, and financial automation tools, Keap streamlines some of the most difficult, tedious, and repetitious parts of the sales lifecycle.
Solopreneurs especially tend to be specialists in their product, with non-billable tasks being secondary skills at best. Keap gives these individuals and teams a way to get back to the work they do best, and rest easy about the duties that stress them out the most.
While Keap excels in many areas, it could further strengthen its position against competitors by enhancing its AI analytics and AI chatbot functionalities. These improvements would provide even more sophisticated tools for businesses to analyze data and engage with customers, keeping pace with the evolving trends of competitors.
Copper excels in seamless pipeline management, offering a visually appealing and intuitive platform to track progress and manage sales goals. Its robust automated data entry feature expedites processes, eliminating the hassle of manual inputs. The platform shines in lead and opportunity management, ensuring no prospect falls by the wayside. With its firm foothold in Google’s ecosystem, Copper CRM stands as a paragon of integration, streamlining operations in a way that feels native to Gmail and Google Workspace users. A true champion for CRM automation and user convenience.
To place higher on the list, it could further enhance its competitive edge by improving its AI analytics and AI chatbot functionalities. These advancements would provide businesses with more sophisticated tools for data analysis and customer engagement.
This vendor may come as a bit of a surprise, as ClickUp is primarily known as a project management platform. That reputation is well earned (and why it takes the title it does in this list). ClickUp also has a CRM platform, one that fills many of the needs discussed here.
ClickUp’s foray into CRM features is a recent development, evolving from its core strength in task and project management.
ClickUp already has a noteworthy share of the PM market, and picking up the CRM module can amplify the amount of benefit those teams get out of the vendor. Seeing as most other major brands in the PM space cost significantly more, it’s an excellent way to get powerful software tools without paying enterprise-level subscription fees.
While ClickUp offers excellent task management and customization, its CRM features could benefit from more advanced sales tracking and marketing automation tools. Enhancing these aspects would make ClickUp a more comprehensive solution for businesses looking for an all-in-one platform for project management and customer relationship management.
With a low per-user cost, and intuitive functionality, it’s a perfect choice for teams that don’t have complex criteria for a CRM or sales software vendor to meet.
If you’re looking to deploy quickly, onboard staff with minimal training, and want to limit your cloud software overhead, Less Annoying CRM fits the bill. And while the list of available customizations and pre-built integrations is smaller than other CRMs in this list, there are no contracts or limitations, making this CRM a strong choice for up-and-coming brands.
Learn more about the best Simple CRM options here.
While there are certainly software solutions that are objectively “bad,” the majority of options in any given vertical will be valued by how well they satisfy the intended use case. Trying to apply the tool outside the parameters it was designed for may fail to meet expectations, but that does not necessarily mean the software itself is of poor quality. It’s just a bad match.
Below are some core areas of concern for CRM consumers to consider when shopping around to help them find a tool that aligns with their needs.
For CRM tools, the most foundational functionality is that of collecting and organizing contact information. At the very least, it needs to be a step up from simply dumping leads into a spreadsheet only to immediately be forgotten. Spreadsheets have their place, but they aren’t optimized for automation or to serve as living records. If a CRM can’t improve on manual data entry, manual data scrubbing, and manual retrieval, then it’s just Excel with extra steps.
Contact management features in CRM and sales software, it should be noted, vary widely from system to system. But the common upgrades to functionality will likely look familiar to anyone who’s been using digital devices in the past two decades:
By now, nearly everyone is familiar with the “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes” line spoken to customers calling in to a business for support. Having a record of customer/client/lead interactions can be indispensable. And not just for maintaining excellent service, either.
Using recorded calls, chats, and other communication, businesses can achieve a multitude of important objectives, including:
If benefits like these factor into your CRM and sales software choices, then be aware that some software includes functionality to support it, while some does not.
Implementing new software systems can be difficult, and onboarding users only becomes more problematic when the system doesn’t play well with existing solutions in the workflow.
Some CRMs are built as part of a larger platform of business solutions, and are intended to be used as a holistic unit. This is a bit of a trade-off, and some cost-benefit evaluations will be needed to determine if a complete workflow overhaul will net positive or negative returns for the trouble.
However, if maintaining the stability and functionality of other systems is of equal importance, then finding a CRM that can integrate with them successfully. Depending on what integrations are needed, there may be plug-ins or add-ons available already to users of the tool.
For less common integrations, some more code-heavy API customization may be necessary. In these cases, it’s a good idea to ask which side of the client-vendor partnership will be building the integration.
What should be avoided is the addition of a CRM that only further complicates workflows and requires additional manual processes to hold the system together.
Marketing automation is a specific example of the integration concerns above, but it merits its own spot on this list due to the amount of overlap between marketing and sales efforts. Like other sales-adjacent functions, there are a lot of advantages to having the CRM trigger automatic tasks such as sending confirmation emails, email nurture campaigns, and more.
Worst-case scenario, similar to what’s mentioned above, is that the new CRM complicates already existing processes, rather than integrating or replacing them. If your CRM or sales software adds another step in the process of, for example, sending outreach emails because staff members have to manually dig for contact info in the database, that’s a net loss.
At the very least, the CRM should leave any existing processes intact and unhindered. Most likely, however, your organization will benefit from some form of integration, or a CRM that includes marketing automation features natively.
Next in line for important functions in the sales process that may or may not be handled by sales team members are financials, such as quotes, invoices, and other AP/AR responsibilities. The same philosophy applies here as above. If an all-in-one solution upgrades your workflow, prioritize that aspect in your research.
If integration will suffice, then double-check with vendors for the specific platforms you need to be interoperable. Even if your current process is efficient enough currently, be sure that the CRM doesn’t create additional headaches for anyone in the workflow.
Cybersecurity is, arguably, a priority for every organization (or, at least it should be). Some verticals deal with higher risk than others, however, and may need additional security protocols for their CRM to protect themselves or even to comply with industry mandates.
This is one that may require consulting with IT, InfoSec, or other I&O staff in the organization. Many of the technical details that factor into whether or not a CRM is sufficiently secure may be outside the expertise of anyone without a background in computer systems, and it’s not one to leave to chance.
Check with internal SMEs, and leverage their experience to further vet your shortlist of CRMs. It may even be worthwhile to have a 3rd-party vendor risk assessment done for any that meet all other criteria, just to cover your bases.
This list of supplemental functions that might be relevant would be pretty long if it were comprehensive. All-in-one systems, analytics and reporting, ease of use, pipeline management, and many more might fit here. Many of these have been touched on above, and others are likely known quantities already.
So instead, this part of the list will finish with one final consideration: project management.
Organizations that have, until now, used less formalized workflow processes may not realize how much of an upgrade a well-designed project management strategy can be. As teams grow, workloads become heavier, and processes become more intricate and complex, tracking things on paper proves a substantial challenge.
With effective implementation, project management tools can provide visibility and accountability across the board. Better still, it can help staff achieve greater levels of autonomy by giving them the tools needed to stay organized and on top of their responsibilities.
Some CRM and sales software tools include project management (PM) features in their toolset, while others can integrate with popular platforms via APIs. Either way, for any team larger than a handful of employees, it’s worth discussing the potential value a CRM with PM enablement might bring to the table.
Picking the right software, let alone the right CRM and sales software, is a far cry from guesswork. It takes extensive research and vetting of available options, which can drag the process out for weeks or months.