This article is part of a larger series on CRM.
Operational customer relationship management (CRM) software is equipped with enablement and productivity features to help sales teams boost efficiency, organization, and collaboration. The best products include intuitive communication, appointment scheduling, automation, resource storage, and reporting tools at an affordable price. After evaluating dozens of products, we’ve identified the best operational CRM systems for small business:
- Best operational CRM with a built-in phone system: Freshsales
- Great for managing projects in your CRM: Bitrix24
- Excellent for streamlining your sales process: Pipedrive
- Solid operational CRM software for Google teams: Copper CRM
- Best free operational CRM system: ClickUp
- Best for tracking sales productivity: Salesforce Sales Cloud
- Excellent option for managing leads: Insightly CRM
Best Operational CRM Systems Compared
*Based on annual billing; monthly billing is also available for slightly higher rates.
Pro tip: Businesses of all sizes, including startups and micro-sized companies, can benefit from a CRM system to store contacts, track deals, and manage leads. In addition to these operational CRM examples, see which providers made our list of the best CRM software for small business.
Freshsales: Best Telephone System
- Expensive profile data enrichment features that keep contact records up to date automatically
- Custom modules to tailor CRM apps specifically for your unique operation require Enterprise plan
- Collaboration tools like deal teams and automated lead or account assignment are not available on Growth plan
- You need a built-in phone system for your CRM: Of all the CRM features offered by Freshsales, none are more notable than the free built-in telephone system. This productivity tool allows users to place, receive, track, and transfer calls from the same system—allowing reps to conduct outreach and support clients without leaving the interface.
- You sell business-to-business (B2B): Freshsales sets itself apart as one of the best CRMs for B2B teams. Users ensure they have access to the right information for their day-to-day with robust account management and deal tracking tools. The platform also offers other useful features commonly used in B2B sales, such as appointment scheduling, quote and invoice generation, lead scoring, and contact profile enrichment.
- You need more affordable data management features: Solid data management capabilities allow easy access to up-to-date information for reps to sell, assist clients, and do their job more efficiently. One issue with Freshsales is that certain data management tools, like auto-profile enrichment, automated CRM record assignment, and data duplication, require the Pro plan or above.
- Alternative: Pipedrive, overall, has more cost-friendly data management features with auto-record assignment and data duplicate merge on the Essentials plan and automated enrichment on the Advanced plan.
- You want a free CRM to design operational-specific modules: One of the best ways to help reps stay efficient is by having applications and tools that meet your specific operational, industry, and organizational culture needs. While Freshsales does offer customizable CRM modules, those features are not available until the Enterprise plan for $69 per user, monthly.
- Alternative: ClickUp has the most cost-friendly system and application customization options that start tailoring boards, processes, and data field properties for free to meet any business requirement.
Freshsales Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-user monthly breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. Freshsales offers a 21-day free trial and optional paid add-ons for additional workflow automations and phone credits starting at $5.
Our Expert Opinion
Freshsales is an advanced operational CRM that lets businesses streamline communication efforts and stay up to date on their client and lead activity. We like the free-option availability that gives users no-cost access to features like the built-in phone, account management module, deal tracking, and automated workflows. This CRM is not only a great productivity tool, but also highly intuitive and easy to learn.
Interested in learning more? Our Freshsales review gives you all the details you need before making a purchase decision.
Bitrix24: Best for Streamlining Sales Projects
- Some poor usability ratings; requires a learning curve to operate
- Quick record conversions, such as deal-to-quote or lead-to-deal functions, require the Standard plan
- Sales and marketing automation gets relatively expensive
- You want to manage projects in your CRM: Bitrix24 is a unique CRM system that includes a built-in project management module for teams to collaborate and track progress on client deliverables, long-term sales initiatives, and other special projects. This capability is great for all-around productivity as you can track to-do lists, assign tasks to other users, and plan projects that ultimately streamline a sales operation.
- You need free operational CRM tools: Bitrix24 is one of the best free CRM systems as it offers no-cost project management and ecommerce tools as well as unlimited user access. The Free plan also includes unlimited contact records and a unique proactive CRM tool. This pools current leads and deals in the pipeline, converts them into activities, and prioritizes a to-do list based on pipeline status, task urgency, and pending deadlines.
- You prefer a simpler CRM product: Bitrix24’s biggest downside is product usability. The interface is complex and clunky, and many of the features demand a steep learning curve to operate.
- Alternative: Freshsales is our favorite simple CRM product focusing on operational needs and team productivity.
- You need cost-friendly automation: CRM automation is huge for a sales operation as it puts repetitive tasks such as data entry, task creation, and follow-up emails on autopilot. This lets reps put efforts toward other tasks and focus on relationship building. The automation tools in Bitrix24, unfortunately, are expensive—starting at $49 per month for deal trigger automation and $199 for complex process automation building.
- Alternative: Freshsales is the best option for cost-friendly automation—offering it on the Growth plan, which is free for three users, then $15 per user, per month after three.
Bitrix24 Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-month breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. Bitrix24 offers a 30-day free trial on paid plans.
Our Expert Opinion
As an operations improvement platform, Bitrix24 offers unique capabilities other products cannot, such as project management, proactive sales planning, and workflow automation across various business functions. Though the paid plans get expensive, the free-forever option is equipped with the tools your team needs to thrive.
Between the project management module and thorough productivity tools, Bitrix24 is one of the ultimate operational CRMs. Check out our expert Bitrix24 review to see if it’s right for you.
Pipedrive: Best for Sales Process Management
- No free plan
- Does not support omnichannel engagement options
- Relatively expensive workflow automation
- You need to streamline your sales process: There is no more critical process in your operation than the sales process. It often takes a long time to fulfill, yet it’s required to generate leads and get them through the pipeline as a closed deal. Pipedrive is the best option for sales process optimization thanks to its robust deal, lead, and proposal management tools that allow you to automate, track, and streamline those activities.
- You want to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) in your operation: AI is a major productivity enhancer as it uses machine learning (ML) to analyze data for insights and complete tasks for you. Pipedrive includes its AI Sales Assistant on its Essentials plan, which gives users performance-improving tips, updates on tasks they need to complete, and offers notifications for sales events like lead and deal progress.
- You need a free operational CRM system: Despite not being a particularly expensive CRM, Pipedrive does not offer any sort of free-forever plan to its users.
- Alternative: ClickUp and Bitrix24 are great free alternatives for enhancing a sales operation.
- You want affordable automation tools: Automating sales tasks and workflows is essential to productivity optimization. Unfortunately, as an operational CRM, Pipedrive cannot offer these until the Advanced plan for $24.90 per user, monthly.
- Alternative: We recommend Freshsales as the most affordable CRM, as its workflow automation tools are free for up to three users.
Pipedrive Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-user monthly breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. Paid plans include a 14-day free trial.
Our Expert Opinion
Pipedrive is the ultimate CRM system if getting deals quickly through the pipeline is your main priority. It includes advanced productivity tools, including Smart Docs, which auto-adds contact data to proposals to send and track. There’s also Smart Contact, which automatically enriches your lead information with up-to-date data, plus the AI Sales Assistant, which gives users tips, notifications, and task lists.
Before making a purchase decision, read our Pipedrive review for complete insights on pricing, features, integrations, and user reviews to see if it’s right for your business.
Copper CRM: Best Integrations With Google
- No free plan
- Expensive lead scoring and automation tools
- Lacks crucial operational tools like payment processing, project management, and a phone system
- You want to access your CRM from Google: Copper is a Google CRM system built to feel like Google apps and seamlessly integrate with tools like Gmail, Contacts, Drive, Calendar, and Sheets. What makes it especially unique, however, is the Chrome Extension, where users can access the CRM system from Gmail or Calendar to view, pull, or update data records without having to leave their main resource pages.
- You need solid collaboration features: Copper has some of the best team collaboration features of any provider on this list—a vital feature for sales operations. These include easy-to-use note tracking in CRM records to keep team members updated, user mentions and comments, and file sharing from the CRM. You can also manage tasks to-do lists and assign tasks to your colleagues.
- You need affordable lead scoring: In terms of staying productive, lead scoring is useful as it lets reps focus on worthwhile opportunities that meet lead qualification standards like customer profile or engagement history. Copper, unfortunately, has expensive lead scoring tools that start at $99 per user, monthly.
- Alternative: Freshsales includes lead scoring through its artificial intelligence (AI) Freddy tool starting on the Growth plan for free.
- You want payment processing with your CRM: Invoicing and payment processing from the CRM let you collect sales revenue without having to leave your sales CRM interface, saving time trying to flag down payments. Copper lacks both of those capabilities—limiting users to viewing invoice data from an accounting platform like Xero and QuickBooks from a CRM record.
- Alternative: Bitrix24 is the best operational CRM with quote generation, invoicing, and payment processing through third-party integrations.
Copper Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-user monthly breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. Copper comes with a 14-day free trial.
Our Expert Opinion
Assuming they use Google, there’s no question Copper can convert an inefficient team into an operational powerhouse. Between the Chrome extension, integration with Google Workspace apps, workflow automation, and task management tools, users of all technical levels can boost their day-to-day productivity. We also can’t overlook the solid collaboration tools that facilitate communication between your team and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
Read our in-depth Copper CRM review to ensure you make the most informed CRM purchase decision.
ClickUp: Best Free CRM for Operations
- Not a traditional CRM system; users must customize their boards to meet their needs
- Not ideal for product ease of use
- Limited number of workspaces and active automations allowed on the Free plan
- You need a free operational CRM system: ClickUp has a robust free plan that supports unlimited users and excellent productivity-enhancing tools. These include work management on lists, board, table and calendar views, file sharing, up to 100 monthly automations, and task checklists with priority statuses. There’s also time tracking, and a sprints tool sets automations between tasks and teams for tight deadlines.
- You prefer a less non-traditional CRM: ClickUp isn’t a typical CRM, but a CRM alternative. It’s a work management tool that lets you tailor boards, work processes (like a deal pipeline), and data records to meet unique operational requirements. Some users prefer a spreadsheet-style and multi-view format that gives teams the flexibility to oversee various other business functions like marketing, service, and special projects.
- You are used to traditional CRMs: We don’t recommend ClickUp for CRM veterans who have been using traditional products for a while. It would be an adjustment to have to create your own boards and processes and operate a work management software for sales activities.
- Alternative: Freshsales and Pipedrive are the best traditional operational CRM systems.
- You prioritize the user experience in your software: ClickUp, due to its many modular options and tools, gets a poor usability rating regarding system navigation.
- Alternative: Copper is a great alternative for Google teams, while Freshsales is an overall intuitive CRM system.
ClickUp Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-user monthly breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. ClickUp comes with a 14-day free trial.
Our Expert Opinion
There’s certainly a place in the world for non-traditional CRM products like ClickUp. As many users like the alternative options, ClickUp is the ultimate solution for a complete business management tool that has infinite viewing options on sales leads, projects, deals, or any other item you need to track. The value stems from its comprehensive use cases and the fact that it’s highly affordable—even offering a robust free-forever plan.
Salesforce: Best for Operational Reporting & Analytics
- No free plan and paid plans get expensive
- The built-in tools and data management features require a learning curve
- Workflow automation requires Enterprise plan
- You want to gather advanced insights on your sales operation: Salesforce is the most powerful operations CRM in terms of analytics tools. The higher-tier plans use the Einstein artificial intelligence (AI) tool to run sales forecasts, lead scores, and gather account and opportunity insights. Salesforce also has a pipeline inspection feature that gives a complete view of sales process health, risky deals, and major changes.
- You need access to industry-specific tools: Salesforce’s popularity and CRM market share have allowed it to build partnerships with thousands of tools for direct integration and build many native apps. Most notable are the industry-specific integrations in areas like insurance, healthcare, manufacturing, and IT. This makes it a great option if you need to connect industry apps to your CRM to maintain data across systems.
- You are a startup business: Those just starting out and on a tight budget should not adopt Salesforce due to its high costs. There’s no free plan and subscriptions start at $25 per user, monthly.
- Alternative: Freshsales is a great option with free and affordable plans, while ClickUp is an excellent CRM alternative with free and scalable paid plans.
- You need a simple CRM: Salesforce is advanced software that takes a steep learning curve before figuring out how to use many of the features—not ideal for first-time CRM users.
- Alternative: Freshsales and Copper are the two best operational CRMs for product usability.
Salesforce Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per user, per month breakdown. Monthly billing is not available. Salesforce offers a 30-day free trial.
Our Expert Opinion
Salesforce is a great option for small businesses interested in leveraging advanced automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and analytics tools. The system can support sales, marketing, and service functions and integrate with tons of external tools to expand the product’s capabilities further. The operational boost from Salesforce is through its reporting and pipeline inspection features that give sales managers the insights they need for data-backed decision-making.
Check out our expert Salesforce review for full details on features and use cases.
Insightly: Best for Lead Tracking
- Marketing and customer service modules require a separate software product for an additional cost
- No longer offers a free option and relatively expensive all-around
- Quotes, price books, and products management require the Enterprise plan
- You want to streamline lead management: Insightly has some of the best lead management features that let you optimize the entire journey. This includes web-to-lead CRM capture, lead qualification, activity and deal tracking, and lead assignment that automates routing to sales reps. There’s also a unique relationship-linking capability that lets you indicate network or hierarchy connections between contacts and companies.
- You need built-in project management: Like Bitrix24 and ClickUp, you can use Insightly to manage internal and client projects. It includes a built-in project management system for tracking key milestones and automating repeatable processes and tasks within projects. There’s even the option to one-click convert a won sales opportunity into a project.
- You need cost-friendly quoting: For many sales teams, like insurance agencies, trade contractors, and business consultants, quoting is a significant bottleneck in the sales process. Unfortunately, while Insightly does have quote management capabilities to create and send cost estimates from the CRM, it requires the expensive Enterprise plan.
- Alternative: Freshsales begins offering quote generation tools on its Growth plan, which is free for three users.
- You want to expand your CRM use cases: Insightly mostly has sales features like lead management, deal tracking, and project management. Customer service and marketing tools are not included and require separate native products for an added price.
- Alternative: Bitrix24 gives a wider range of business use cases, including sales, marketing, service, HR, projects, and ecommerce management.
Insightly Pricing Plan & Overview*
*Pricing is based on annual billing on a per-user monthly breakdown. Monthly billing is available for a higher cost. Insightly offers a 14-day free trial on paid plans.
Our Expert Opinion
Insightly is an especially useful CRM for operations for project-based businesses that have longer sales cycles, like cybersecurity consultants, home renovation businesses, and marketing agencies. It has both solid lead management tools to help generate, qualify, and track opportunities, and built-in project management to deliver the service once the deal is closed. It also has a great mobile app for maintaining the day-to-day sales requirements while on the go.
Use our in-depth Insightly CRM review for the complete picture of features and integrations to see if it’s right for you.
How We Evaluated the Best Operational CRM Systems
To determine the best CRM for operations, we evaluated crucial product features for enhancing and tracking productivity in a sales team that can better enable success. Workflow automation, time tracking on tasks, built-in payment processing, and solid data management tools, for example, are some of the useful operational CRM tools. We also wanted to see the provider offer affordable subscription plans and quality customer support to its users.
The tabs below offer insight into our evaluation process of the best operations CRMs:
25% of Overall Score
The most important criteria were the features meant to improve and optimize a sales operation. This includes things like advanced workflow automation, task management, communication capabilities to engage team members and customers, and accessibility to sales resources like data and sales materials. Additionally, payment processing, time tracking, and process control tools are useful for managing an operation.
20% of Overall Score
We evaluated the overall affordability of each CRM in terms of free plan availability and scalable pricing options businesses could afford as they grow. We also looked at the cost specifically for the operational sales tools and flexibility for billing options on a monthly, annual, or bi-annual basis.
20% of Overall Score
We looked at overall features crucial to any CRM system, regardless of its primary use case. For example, mobile capabilities allow users to access their data while on the go and robust customization lets businesses tailor their CRM to meet their unique operational needs. We also evaluated reporting and analytics tools and the range of integration options available for the platforms.
20% of Overall Score
Expert score took into account what actual users say about each product according to online reviews to supplement our firsthand experience with each product. This looked into things like how intuitive users felt the product was to operate, the perceived value return for the cost paid, and how useful the features were in meeting their CRM objectives.
15% of Overall Score
Customer support prevents poor user experiences while using any of these operations systems and, therefore, was an evaluation category. This looked at channel support options via phone, live chat, and email and the service hours of availability. We also considered the self-service and help center resources like product tutorials and forums.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Operational CRMs are specifically meant to improve processes and productivity in a sales team. It’ll include tools designed to meet those objectives, such as workflow and task automation, communication features, and team collaboration tools for file sharing and lead assignment. These products will also be equipped with reporting and tracking capabilities to help monitor pipeline health, deal progress, and time spent on specific tasks.
Yes. Many CRMs include payment processing as a feature through integrations with third-party tools like Authorize.net, Stripe, and QuickBooks. This is useful for managing revenue collection from your sales systems so you can track clients, send invoices, and essentially manage payments from the same interface.
An operational CRM software is used by sales teams to facilitate collaboration, boost productivity, automate tasks, and optimize their sales process. It’s also used by managers to pull reports and insights on activity, deals, and pipeline health. While Freshsales had the highest score thanks to its affordability and built-in phone, other products could be a better fit if you need project management modules, cost-friendly data tools, or expanded business use cases.