With mission-critical functionality, it’s clear why customer relationship management software (CRM) has become one of the most widely-adopted solutions in business IT. By 2025, CRM is projected to hit more than $80 billion in revenue, likely increasing its lead as the largest software market.
Thanks to a wave of cloud and mobile innovations, this broad category has expanded far beyond sales into other job functions and industries like financial services, real estate, and nonprofit.
Companies are expected to upgrade and adopt new CRM software to keep up with a renewed focus on targeting the right customer and retaining them for the long term — jobs traditionally managed by sales and marketing. It’s no coincidence that these departments are expected to be the top two software spending areas for 2022.
As the CRM software market has become more crowded in the race to build bigger-better-faster CRM and integrated tools, it’s harder than ever to choose the right CRM system for your team. CRM tool systems are rapidly changing to encompass more business-critical features and make managing sales, marketing, and customer success easier than ever.
The market can feel overwhelming to any buyer, but we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll look at primary CRM categories, industry specializations, top CRM software, and current technology trends impacting the CRM market today and in the future.
If you’re ready to start browsing the best CRM systems, complete the form on the right side of this page. We’ll provide you with a CRM software list containing recommendations based on your company’s needs.
Customer relationship management 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.
CRM software tracks relationships with customers, manages key sales and marketing processes, and helps teams deliver efficient service to customers. Advanced CRM platforms automate customer data collection and apply insights via custom filters and advanced algorithms.
Sales teams improve pipelines using CRM technology with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning features that analyze contact data and give sales teams focused business intelligence. They perform sales and pipeline management, inform sales automation, prioritize and answer support tickets, and smooth internal collaboration.
By using the customer information database, CRM tools analyze customer behavior and sales processes to directly improve revenue.
Small and medium businesses (SMBs) and single business departments are best served by standalone CRM systems with integrations to other software-as-a-service (SaaS) products. The most successful teams research vendors with API or native connections with email marketing software, social media marketing tools, and web conferencing software.
While CRM solutions provide powerful features for businesses of all sizes, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software or marketing automation software options support several departments and may be a better option for some multinational, enterprise, and growing companies.
CRM platforms contain powerful tools that give companies an insight into the buying habits and critical needs of their audience. Savvy teams translate these customer data points into actions that result in increased revenue, shortened sales pipelines, and personalized marketing.
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Customer relationship management software is used by organizations to manage their sales, marketing, and customer service efforts. Most are either cloud-based or on-site, and no matter which type you choose, CRM software is designed to streamline and simplify the process of handling customers and prospects. It can be a valuable asset to companies of any size and industry.
CRM software solutions can often support multiple languages, sales channels, and sales models. It is commonly integrated with financial software, HR software, and order processing software. CRMs also provide context and insight into deals and customer requests. And companies can track and plan customer interactions to make the entire sales funnel intentional. As a result, customers benefit from the constant tracking of their information and increased responsiveness from the company.
CRM software typically offers these features:
The most advanced CRM platforms serve multiple business units with contract management, project management, document management, sales goal planning and tracking, invoicing and billing, sales performance and activity monitoring, and campaign mapping and analytics.
No matter what industry you’re in, you probably need a customer relationship management system to organize and track your company’s contacts and conversations throughout the sales cycle.
The CRM tool market is full of great software, from bigger players like SAP CRM and Zoho CRM to more up-and-coming names like Agile CRM, Apptivo CRM, Freshsales CRM, Insightly CRM, Sage CRM, and Streak CRM. And if you’re looking for the best free CRM, try the well-known Hubspot CRM to see if it offers what you need.
We’ve highlighted several of the best solutions in the CRM tools list below to help you get a sense of what the market offers and to help you make a faster decision. For a free, custom list of CRM options based on your individual needs, use our Product Selection Tool on the right side of this page.
Check out this video for an overview of some of these top CRM products:
CRM tools that form the foundation of a business often provide many feature sets that support user behaviors outside of the core sales, marketing, and customer service roles. The most useful CRM systems will include all of these features, either as a native tool or as a direct integration with an outside service.
Contact management tools capture and store a contact’s information for easy follow-up later. At the most basic level, these features act like an address book, where salespeople and internal stakeholders can add names, email addresses, and physical addresses for important contacts.
A good CRM software will allow you to classify your contact as a lead, customer, prospect, or custom classification.
The most advanced contact management tools will automatically capture contact information when a salesperson interacts with someone on a chat tool, via social media, or through email. These tools require integrated tooling, but they can be useful to save time and effort to keep the CRM up to date.
Sales, client success, customer support, and marketing should all be in the habit of sharing documents and sales assets amongst departments, but often these assets get siloed. This results in out-of-date or inaccurate sales tools and can ultimately hurt your bottom line.
A CRM should contain a centralized source of truth where your teams can upload, update, and share documents from a single location.
Calendar tools help salespeople quickly see when they could fit in a quick call with a new prospect, when they need to follow up with existing clients, and when they might be able to fit in a couple of outreach emails.
Automated calendar tools — either within the CRM or via API integration — can give salespeople more control over their calendars while spending less time actually putting meetings on their calendars.
These tools read the salesperson’s calendar and provide slots for customers and prospects to sign up according to their own schedule. Calendar integration features save hundreds of email responses with proposed times on both sides and give customers the control to ask for a meeting that fits their timeline.
Your team communicates with customers in a ton of ways: messaging, email, chatbots, direct mail, video calls, and social media. A good CRM will give your company the avenues to connect with customers and contacts in a way that reduces friction and quickens responses.
While not all CRM solutions will include all communication tools, most will give you email integrations and some form of instant messaging integration with tools like Slack, Skype, or Microsoft Teams.
Advanced CRM software will include their own chatbot tools, support for individualized video emails, and direct integrations with all of the social media tools you need to effectively communicate with your customers.
Nothing kills a sale faster than missing a meeting. A CRM software that includes notifications and alerts can prompt sales and customer-focused teams to reach out, follow up, and get to meetings on time.
These tools can also work as reminders for sales teams to update the day’s contacts, build out quarterly reports, and pretty much any task your team may need a little nudge to get started on.
With a full book of business, your customer teams may be swamped with tasks to manage, so a good CRM will also include basic task management tools. These features often mirror project management software, but will include sales and client-specific tools to help sales teams close deals and customer teams retain clients.
Look for task lists with notifications, pipeline tools that mimic Kanban boards, and to-do lists that automatically generate reminders.
The best CRM software solutions should include pipeline and lead management tools to help you take more meetings and close more deals. Even a basic platform like the Hubspot CRM will let you set the contact’s stage in the buyer’s journey and report on the number of contacts that live in each of those stages, so you can better understand how your sales funnel works.
The most complex and advanced pipeline tools integrate marketing automation features that help you move customers through the sales funnel. These tools may include content distribution, direct outreach, or automated follow-up features.
Also, these tools will perform automatic lead scoring and notify sales teams when a lead is ready for a personalized outreach.
Sales reps have not traditionally been tied to desks, but their freedom has expanded more than ever as CRM software has improved for mobile use. If your sales team is constantly on the move, your company might also want to look into a CRM system specifically designed for mobile use.
In industries where sales reps go to the clients — not vice versa — mobile CRM tools are instrumental in organizing and updating leads and client data, connecting salespeople with management, and optimizing daily operations. Real estate, merchant services, and energy/utilities commonly use mobile CRM since their employees are rarely in the office.
Many companies find it helpful to tether social media access with back-end programs, so reps can not only reach out to clients and know what they’re saying, but also respond with targeted marketing or business responses, like recommending a product via email or completing a service request.
Top CRM software companies like Salesforce and Oracle have added social listening and other social features to their existing products, but lightweight, standalone products still exist that can provide these services as well.
You can learn more details and product recommendations for social CRM tools on our overview page, or you can complete the form on the right side of this page to get fast, free CRM recommendations based on your needs.
Speaking of mobile sales teams, mapping software can make the difference between closing deals or sitting in traffic hoping to make it to an appointment on time. Most modern sales mapping tools will locate current and potential customers on a digital map where sales managers can assign territories and suggest sales routes, and reps can find potential leads on the fly.
Combined with geolocating services and mobile access apps, sales mapping software often includes tools that give field reps the freedom to file contracts and line up deals from the road without checking in at the office every night. These tools save reps on gas money, commuting time, and paperwork. Find sales mapping software included as a feature of a full-service CRM solution or as stand-alone sales enablement software.
Customer experience management offers a new, more customer-centric engagement approach to relationships. In this approach, it is a company’s responsibility — not the customer’s — to reach out with new opportunities and ways the customer can deepen their experience with the company.
Interactions are focused on catering to the needs and questions of customers and take place on social media, web sites, instant messaging, email, and even SMS. To stay head of this growing trend, look for a solution that will help you stay connected to customers across a number of different channels and track customer interactions throughout their lifecycle instead of simply focusing on the sales pipeline.
Building off the trends of integrating social media and customer experience management tools, many CRMs look to fully encompass a company’s customer relationship by enabling connections through all customer channels, including phone, email, social media, in-person customer interactions, and live chat. Keeping all of this data in one place where it can be easily tracked and analyzed is crucial to a higher sales conversion rate.
Because they monitor and incorporate information from so many sectors, omnichannel CRM solutions bring together the sales, marketing, and customer support teams over data in ways that previously seemed impossible.
This greater cooperation between teams and proliferation of data can be found in AI and automation-enhanced CRMs, many of which integrate directly with marketing automation or ERP tools that aggregate data and transform it for business use.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and workflow automation have surpassed being just a trend and are now fully making contributions to the software market in general and CRMs in particular. These three technology advances serve to augment and remove much of the manual work sales reps have traditionally performed in the administrative side of their jobs.
Updating contact records, finding new leads in networks, remembering to follow up with prospects, and analyzing sales for trends can all be handled by sales automation, AI, or machine learning — and much faster and better than busy humans can manage. CRM solutions that incorporate AI capabilities, such as Zoho CRM, leave human sales reps free to focus on the customer interactions that drive revenue growth.
Customer relationship management software has changed the way companies do business because of the numerous benefits it offers. It’s made remote work easier through mobile features and SaaS offerings, while AI and customer experience management have improved the quality of each customer interaction. Here’s a breakdown of some key benefits that CRMs can lead to:
By helping you to meet customers anywhere they are, both in person and on the internet, CRM systems will help your team gather more leads than ever before. You might also find that you are able to convert a greater percentage of leads than you did previously due to the efficiency and better customer relations offered by the CRM.
With a sales CRM, your team will be able to segment customers, personalize the sales pitch, and respond swiftly when issues arise — and that’s just scratching the surface. If your company has been fielding a lot of customer complaints lately, choosing an integrated CRM can make every customer interaction smoother for them as well as your internal employees.
That improved customer service often leads to another benefit: better customer retention. Not only does this mean that your customers are happier, it also allows your sales team to focus their efforts on the highest value leads instead of trying to chase down every potential customer to fuel an exhausting cycle of turnover.
By using workflow automation to take over many rote data entry tasks and streamlining other sales work, an integrated CRM solution will improve your team’s efficiency and productivity over time. There will likely be a learning curve during the implementation and training phase, but expect to see your team become more efficient as they adjust to the new software.
Better customer service, improved customer retention, and increased efficiency all add up to one thing: more sales in the long run. It’s true that CRM systems often require an up-front investment, particularly if you pick a model with a lot of bells and whistles. But if you pick the right CRM and fully take advantage of its features, it’s very likely you will see your sales numbers trend up over time.
CRMs also make it easier for your sales team to collaborate on the back end, thanks to communication tools, team calendars, and other features. Whether your team needs to transition a customer to a different rep or ask a supervisor a quick question, CRM systems make working as a team seamless.
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Not every business needs the exact same CRM — otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many players in the market — and navigating the many different feature options can get overwhelming fast. Here are eight essential considerations you should take into account as you narrow down your CRM options:
CRM platforms are adding features all the time, so if you need a basic package, this might not narrow down your options all that much. However, if you need a very niche feature or a very advanced one — such as cutting-edge AI — that can help you make a decision fast.
If you already have legacy systems in place that the CRM will need to integrate with, then that will potentially narrow your options quite a bit. On the other hand, if you’re looking to replace some legacy systems with an all-in-one CRM, you’ll want to prioritize more robust, feature-rich options such as Zoho CRM or SAP CRM.
Options for accessing your CRM include a web-based application on desktop computers, a mobile CRM app on your smartphone, and an onsite server. Many CRMs offer some level of access for all three options, but not all are created equal. For instance, if mobile access is important to your company, then make sure that the CRM has a mobile app with a great UI and speedy load times.
We know that it’s hard to predict the future, but doing a little forecasting now can help prevent an expensive and difficult CRM switch later down the line. Take some time to think about where your team or business is going and how their needs might change in the future and whether or not the CRMs you are considering will meet those changing needs.
For example, a smaller, entry-level option such as the free Hubspot CRM may not be able to keep up if you expect your team to experience explosive growth over the next couple of years.
Many CRMs will work okay for most companies — but very small and very large teams have vastly different needs from mid-size companies. If you work for a small business or a global enterprise-level company, your needs will probably look quite different.
We’ll actually dive more into those edge cases in the next section, so if you work for a small business or global enterprise, make sure to read that to learn more about the features available to you.
Every CRM has some type of learning curve, some more so than others. A super complicated, cutting-edge CRM is not a great choice for a sales team that is still married to manually entering data into spreadsheets.
Keep in mind that CRM platforms offer varying levels of support in terms of both training and troubleshooting. If you are at a global company that does business around the clock, a CRM system that doesn’t offer 24/7 support may be a deal breaker for you.
Some CRM software solutions are better suited to certain industries than others. In the last section of this guide, we offer CRM options for common industries, including nonprofits, real estate, and healthcare, so you can learn more about our top picks.
While there are many kinds of CRM systems designed for enterprise use, they are all intended to serve large-scale business needs across a variety of departments. Enterprise platforms typically have numerous integrated features, the ability to add features by purchasing apps and add-ons, and/or the ability to custom-design new features by using a developer toolkit.
Enterprise CRMs help teams improve contact management through a set of predetermined channels — both inbound and outbound — and sales automation to nurture old and new customer relationships.
Enterprise CRM software also provides powerful tools for data analysis and insight, which can help managers take massive amounts of stored data, make sense of it, and put it to work. In large companies where customer data can be stored in vast databases and translated into predictive customer journeys and interactions, it’s crucial to have CRM software for transforming information into strategy. During your CRM comparison, look for products that include built-in reporting or sales forecasting analytics.
For companies interested in extending the value of their data, enterprise CRM systems often include AI and machine learning tools that augment reporting and analytics and give sales reps actionable steps to improve processes and close more deals.
Ready to find your next enterprise-ready CRM system? Complete the form on the right side of this page to get fast, free recommendations, or call a TechnologyAdvisor today at 877.702.2082 for a shortlist of the top CRM software for your company’s needs.
A market full of “mega vendors” like Salesforce and Oracle can be intimidating to small businesses that work in niche industries or have limited budgets. Some of these businesses simply can’t afford a product like Oracle. Others find the large feature sets of enterprise CRMs too complicated or unnecessary for their business needs.
Luckily, there are innovative vendors that offer impressive CRM systems built specifically for these businesses. From industry-specific (retail, nonprofit, real estate, financial services) to less complicated and more affordable platforms, there are lots of contenders in the market for the best CRM tools for small businesses.
And as the CRM market expands, the race to attract the most SMB software subscribers means that those CRM solutions often include some highly advanced features once only found in enterprise tools. Look for workflow automation, detailed reporting, and straightforward integrations to popular third-party software within SMB CRM systems.
If you’re ready to find the right CRM for your small business, complete the form on the right side of this page to enter your requirements. We’ll send you a curated CRM tools list of custom recommendations to simplify your search.
While many organizations choose their CRM software based on size or price, some industries have more customized needs. Industry-specific CRM systems include specialized features built to ease customer relations and speed work for companies with strict regulatory requirements or unique customer demands.
Nonprofit organizations have specific needs for member management and donor relations that demand specialized tools to manage lists and outreach. Nonprofit CRM solutions are specialized to cater to the requirements of nonprofit organizations who are looking to sustain membership and grow their donor books.
When looking for the best nonprofit CRM software, consider platforms that include email marketing, social integrations, and artificial intelligence. These tools are perfect for increasing donor engagement, managing current and prospective donor lists, and analyzing organizational improvements.
Traditional CRM solutions can work for nonprofits, especially if they give users the flexibility to define custom categories or tags for leads and prospects. However, they often don’t include the right features for a price that fits within a nonprofit operating budget.
Donorsnap is simple to learn, easy to use, and affordable for Nonprofits of any size. Its flexibility and shallow learning curve allow it to grow and change alongside the constantly shifting whims of the nonprofit world. Donorsnap has demonstrated its flexibility by growing with Malaika Early Learning Center, the nonprofit it was initially developed for in the first place.
Donorsnap is easy to integrate into any nonprofit operation, and its low price makes it affordable no matter how thin an organization’s margins are.
Ready for custom recommendations on the best CRM tool for your nonprofit? Complete the form on the right side of this page for a list of vendors who meet your organization’s requirements.
A financial services CRM organizes contacts and provides insight into sales pipelines for financial services outlets including insurance, banks, and investment firms. Since many financial organizations don’t directly provide products to consumers but rather work as third-party connections, the top CRM software for financial services helps sales representatives grow their clients’ portfolios, take on new business, and create networks of clients within these restrictions.
Financial services companies operate under strict government regulations concerning the privacy and security of their clients’ personal data. Plus, they need to keep detailed records for audits and investigations. The best CRM tool for financial services will include security features, document management for contracts and tax forms, and integrated analytics that help reps build relationships and keep records safe.
IPipeline is best suited for financial enterprises and mid-sized financial businesses. Built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform, iPipeline will be familiar enough to learn easily and specialized enough to ease the prospecting, management, and sales aspects of running a successful financial service. IPipeline users will find themselves skipping past common CMR implementation pitfalls, making it easier to work into an enterprise than many alternatives. Familiarity with Microsoft Outlook also eases the iPipeline learning curve. Some of the most useful iPipline features include agency recruiting and management automation, streamlined sales support, and marketing campaign tracking.
Real estate CRM software helps real estate agents and brokers manage the complicated relationships between property owners, sellers, buyers, lenders, banks, brokers, and lawyers. With property as the product, real estate CRM solutions help agents track relationships through the sometimes lengthy and difficult process of finding, contracting, and closing deals in the housing and commercial real estate sectors.
A solid real estate CRM will provide contact management, contract and document management, sales pipeline visibility, and task automation. It should also include or integrate with marketing tools, like email marketing.
Many real estate agents use their CRM as a central hub to track and manage both incidental and ongoing relationships with buyers and sellers as well as third-party vendors. Connections to other sales enablement and support tools are vital with real estate CRM systems as well.
Insightly has an increased focus on ease of use and responsive customer support, making staff onboarding a breeze. The comprehensive onboarding process prepares real estate agents for Insightly’s streamlined CRM tools. Contacts and leads connected are constantly updated and easy to retrieve. Insightly also offers limited project management features for agents in fast-paced environments in the form of to-do lists. The sales world moves quickly in real estate, so the abiity to quickly jot down and organize project tasks within the system is a massive boon, especially when resources are lean in the mid to small-sized agencies Insightly was built to service.
Field service management software helps those in the construction, utilities, and service sectors organize their relationships with a widely-dispersed customer base and field technicians who are constantly on the move. Nearly 80% of all field service management software includes some form of CRM software.
Depending on industry or company needs, some companies might adopt an FSM or ERP software that does not include CRM capabilities. In these cases, the company should look for a CRM that integrates closely with their FSM dispatch, work order, and inventory software.
CRM solutions that work for field service organizations include features like mapping, quote management, invoicing and billing, and mobile CRM apps. Some big-name CRMs like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics have FSM-specific extensions and capabilities — but may be overkill for small teams with tighter budgets.
Small teams may fare better by customizing a small business CRM that integrates with their other field service technology or adopt a full-service FSM software that includes CRM features.
Microsoft Field Service is familiar, intuitive, and easy to implement. Its suite of tools is quite robust, incorporating state-of-the-art routing and scheduling functionality, along with in-built advanced work process automation. Since this is a Microsoft product, the premium software is well-rounded enough to fit into a field service outfit without becoming a bloated product. It also offers “no-code” customization, meaning that on-the-fly customization comes quickly and easily no matter your coding skill. Any large to medium-sized field service management enterprise, especially if your enterprise is already familiar with Microsoft Dynamics.
Commonly known as patient management and medical practice management software, healthcare CRM software is on the rise among modern healthcare groups that adopt sales and marketing techniques long used by businesses to stay relevant in a highly competitive marketplace.
Healthcare CRM will include many of the standard tools like contact management, billing, purchasing habits, and network records. Normally, it will also include features unique to the needs and regulatory compliance inherent in healthcare. Look for HIPAA-compliant databases and security features, user-friendly patient portals, and billing tools ready-made for insurance inquiries.
CureMD not only provides a practical CRM service, it bundles that with an electronic health record (EHR) service along with practice management and billing services. CureMD’s acts as a one-stop-shop for healthcare practices of any size and speciality. CureMD is built to be flexible enough for small practices and scalable enough to support large medical groups with only a little training up front.
CureMD is outfitted with the tools to set up a patient portal with self-serve environments. CureMD allows patients to register for care, message their professionals, request appointments, and review test results. CureMD, most importatnly, is HIPAA, Meaningful Use, and PQRS certified.
Now that you have a better picture of some specific applications and vendors, it’s time to choose one for your business. Luckily, TechnologyAdvice has already done the hard part for you.
When you use our product selection tool on the right side of this page, you’ll find organized information and reviews on 100+ different CRM software vendors. We’ll help you connect with the right CRM solution for your business according to the features you value most.