Customer relationship management (CRM) software offers various tools to help businesses improve their relationships and interactions with prospects and customers. We’ve identified the 12 most essential features and functionalities small businesses should look for when evaluating CRM software in order to make the most of your investment. These are:
- Contact management: Used to record, track, and manage the details of your business contacts.
- Account management: Helps you streamline complex sales processes through automation and keep track of your contact interactions.
- Reporting and dashboards: Provides you with routine summary reports of sales figures or sales representative performance.
- Sales automation: Automates repetitive tasks and aspects of your sales process to save time, including data organization, outgoing calls, and follow-up campaigns.
- Customer database: Organizes customer data and manages your company’s interaction with them.
- Lead management: Helps sales teams organize and prioritize leads to ensure they pursue the right contacts and customers.
- Email marketing: Allows you to communicate with your leads and customers using either individual emails or bulk messages and track the results of your email campaigns.
- Sales forecasting: Generates predictions for upcoming sales or revenue based on past and present data and trends.
- Document management: Collects, uploads, stores, and shares files and documents in a centralized location that all relevant team members can easily access.
- Cross-platform compatibility: Allows you to run your CRM on various platforms, including desktop and mobile.
- Customizations: Lets you create unique fields for reporting or business-specific pipeline stages.
- Integrations: Syncs your data with third-party apps and tools to extend the capabilities of your CRM.
Here’s a closer look at how these features benefit your business with examples from some of the best CRM software for small businesses:
1. Contact Management
Contact management is one of the core features of CRM software, allowing you to create, store, track, and organize information about your prospects, leads, and customers. Details include names, addresses, contact numbers, social media accounts, and company details. While you can use a simple spreadsheet to store the information, a CRM system makes it easier for multiple users or departments to access them at any time.
The contact management feature is especially useful for sales representatives who need an overview of their lead before starting a meeting. They can simply pull up the contact entry from the CRM and note the important details to personalize their interactions. This makes the customer feel valued and helps improve the overall customer experience.
Zoho CRM’s contact management features:
- Multichannel engagement allows you to communicate with prospects and customers via email, live chat, and phone
- Two-way help desk software integration syncs customer tickets with relevant sales data and allows your support team to provide consistent customer support
- Email analytics gives you insights on the best time to send emails, open rates, and which templates receives more responses
- One-click native dialer allows you to make outgoing calls directly from within your CRM
- Meeting logs
- Social tab helps you manage customer engagement on Facebook and Twitter
To learn more about contact management features and services, check our guide to the best contact management software.
2. Account Management
Account management is a collective post-sales process that focuses on nurturing client relationships, retaining business, and developing opportunities. Incorporating account management features in a CRM enables you to manage multiple contacts and define accounts and territories. It also helps you calculate the potential value of each business account.
The account management feature is crucial in extending the sales process after a transaction is closed. It helps you monitor different metrics to determine an account’s health and track conversations to understand if your customer is satisfied with your product or service. Then, you use that information to address their needs and find an opportunity to upsell or offer an upgrade.
Salesforce Essentials’ account management features:
- Complete view of your customers’ activities and communications from a single place
- Opportunity management feature allows you to track all details of your deals, including stages, quotes, and products
- Monitor tasks and customer engagement
Read our guide to the best account management software to determine which tool works best for your business.
3. Reporting & Dashboards
CRM reports and dashboards provide users with the data and metrics they need to strengthen customer relationships. They typically include an overview of sales activities, new leads, sales pipelines, and key performance indicators (KPIs). These data are presented through visualization tools, such as charts and graphs.
CRM reporting tools help you make more efficient business decisions based on reliable, real-time data. This data helps spot business trends and identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you can use compiled data to track your marketing campaigns and determine at which touchpoints your customers are most engaged. This way, you can pinpoint when to offer deals or solutions based on where they are in their customer journey.
4. Sales Automation
Sales automation eliminates manual and repetitive steps in the sales process to close deals faster. You can automate some of the tasks, including appointment scheduling, sending personalized emails, workflows, pipeline management, and follow-up activities. Automating the sales process increases your team’s productivity, ensures that no responsibility falls through the cracks, and improves customer satisfaction by reducing response times.
When a deal is moved to the next stage, the CRM’s sales automation feature works by creating follow-up tasks and moving ownership of that stage to another team member. It also automatically creates sales deals each time you add a new contact. For example, if you want to set a meeting with a prospect, you can simply send them a link to your calendar to choose the most convenient time slot for them.
Pipedrive’s sales automation features:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered sales assistant gives you personalized tips and automation recommendations
- Automate repetitive tasks to streamline sales process
- Automate personalized email sending during specific pipeline stages to help you save time and focus on high-priority tasks
- Smart Contact Data feature lets you prequalify leads with a single click
Our guide to the best sales automation software provides you with a rundown of the top tools you can use to enhance your sales process.
5. Customer Database
A customer database helps businesses organize meaningful customer data and manage interactions. It allows you to access sales and marketing data from a single place. This CRM feature also streamlines data search, storage, import, and export. The content of this database includes your customer’s personal information, the source of leads, points of contact with the customer, purchase history, and levels of engagement.
You can use the stored data to uncover your customers’ preferences, identify your top customers, and gauge your sales performance. The reports generated by your CRM system are based on all the collected data, which are then stored in the customer database.
HubSpot’s customer database features:
- Create up to 1,000,000 contact and company records
- Send emails, make outbound calls, log sales activities, schedule appointments, and add deals directly from the contacts tab
- Gmail and Outlook integrations automatically log outgoing emails within the contact record
We have compiled a list of the best customer database software. Check out this article to find out which solution is the best fit for your business.
6. Lead Management
Lead management is the systematic process of capturing leads (potential customers), monitoring their activities and behavior, qualifying them, and nurturing them with the right amount of attention to convert them into business opportunities.
A CRM solution’s lead management feature helps businesses organize and prioritize their leads to prevent missed follow-ups and improve engagement.
The lead management process starts with the automatic capture of lead data in your CRM system. The software then tracks the activities and behavior of that lead, including the web pages they visit and the conversations you have with them. After that, the leads are distributed to relevant salespeople or departments, depending on their location, interests, and other factors you define.
The lead qualification and scoring process starts once your company gets in contact with your lead. In this stage, leads are checked to determine which ones are worth pursuing. Those that show interest in your product or service are passed on to the lead nurturing cycle, where they receive multichannel engagement via email, text messages, or social media. Once they become sales-ready, they are passed on to the sales management team.
Browse through our guide to the best lead management software to learn which option can best help you optimize the use of the lead data you collect.
7. Email Marketing
A CRM solution with email marketing capabilities allows you to send individual or mass emails to your leads and customers from within your CRM system. It also offers email templates, email automation, and email campaign monitoring features. The emails sent out are personalized based on the customer data gathered by your CRM and their position in the sales funnel. This creates better customer engagement and drives higher profits.
There are standalone email marketing software options available, such as Mailchimp, but they can also be integrated with CRM software to maximize the use of customer data. The CRM app syncs lead and customer information with other systems. Then, it sends automated alerts for scheduled calls or follow-up emails.
To discover which solution offers the best mass emailing features for your business needs, check out our guide on the top CRM software for email marketing.
8. Sales Forecasting
A sales forecast predicts when sales opportunities will be closed on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. It also allows businesses to spot potential problems based on an ongoing trend and mitigate them. Most modern CRM companies leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to comb through massive amounts of data and create recommendations and predictions based on the available information.
Freshsales has an AI-powered assistant called Freddy Insights that recognizes patterns in customer behavior and sales trends. It also generates data-backed revenue forecasts and gives suggestions on how you can best communicate with your leads and customers. Forecasts motivate your team to put in extra effort if they appear to be lagging behind their quotes. It can also serve as a basis for hiring additional staff if there is an increasing trend in opportunities.
9. Document Management
CRM software’s document management feature helps you capture, store, track, and share electronic documents. These may include proposals, contracts, and digital scans of your business files. This feature also allows relevant team members or departments to access the documents from a centralized location without exiting the CRM app.
With a built-in document management feature in a CRM, you no longer need to scan documents and share them with other team members manually. You can also customize who has access to specific files and who is authorized to modify them. This feature enables faster response times and improves employee efficiency because customer data can be easily retrieved from your CRM.
10. Cross-platform Compatibility
Cross-platform compatibility is essential because most businesses run their devices on various operating systems. Therefore, when looking for CRM software, it is best to choose cloud-based apps that support several operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. The availability of iOS and Android apps is also key, especially for sales teams with many remote and field workers who need to access their CRM from mobile devices.
A CRM solution like Daylite is highly recommended for businesses that exclusively use Apple devices. This app runs natively on macOS and iOS and has deep integration with Apple’s Mail, Calendar, and Reminders.
Every CRM offers a different set of customization options. However, the most important ones are your sales cycle, lead scoring variables, opportunities, and types of contact details you save. Most CRM software allows you to add new or alter existing features to make the program a better fit for your business needs. Customization also covers sales and marketing tools or modules that you can turn on and off, depending on your specific business needs.
If you provide marketing services or resell third-party solutions to other companies, we recommend looking at our guide to white-label CRM software to see which provider offers the best package for you. This type of CRM is highly customizable and can be configured to fit the needs of your customers.
Bitrix24 is a great choice for consultants, companies, and digital agencies looking for a low-cost white-label CRM solution to add to their own products. It offers a partner program that allows you to earn 50% in profit commission from subscriptions and 100% from value-added services.
For those looking for free or low-cost CRM solutions that are also highly customizable, open source CRM software is a good choice.
A CRM integration is the seamless connection between your CRM app and third-party software. These connections help extend the capabilities of your CRM software and allow you to address gaps in its features. For example, when you integrate your CRM with Trello, any changes you make in one app will be automatically updated in the other one. Some CRM solutions allow you to integrate dozens of apps, while others have limitations to the number of integrations.
There are many types of CRM available in the market, and each one offers a different combination of features and functionality. When choosing a CRM software for your business, it is important to compare its capabilities against your company’s budget and business needs.
If you are looking for a CRM with robust features and affordable plans, Freshsales is the best choice for small businesses. It offers sales, marketing, and customer service plans for every business size. You can also sign up for a 21-day free trial to learn how its features can benefit your business.