Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps sales teams manage and organize leads, prospects, and current customers to help sales teams make sure nothing slips through the cracks. It includes tools like contact management, advanced reporting, and lead prioritization. Costs ranging from free to more than $100 per month, depending on the CRM provider and its features.
The right CRM software solution for your business depends on several factors, including your budget, the size of your team, and what features you want. Here are some of the best CRMs for small businesses on the market today with a range of features and price points to fit most every need.
Top CRM Software for Small Business
You can also learn more about other providers and how they stack up by visiting our CRM reviews page.
What Is CRM Software?
CRM software is commonly used by sales teams, consultants, and professionals to track tasks and activities related to the sales process. Some sales pros use it to capture leads from website visits, cold calling, or other prospecting ventures. Others use it to manage pipeline stages or store customer and lead information for future reference. Most CRM software is filled with robust tools to organize every aspect of the sales cycle.
CRM software works by creating a singular storage environment for all data related to leads, prospects, and existing customers. Sales agents can access the software from their desktop computer or, in many cases, their mobile devices. Once logged into the CRM software, users can manage customer information, check pipeline stages, and more.
While shopping for CRM software, it’s important to keep in mind that some sales tools on the market offer similar features to CRM platform. However, these tools aren’t quite up to the job of managing the granular customer details sales teams need.
Examples of sales tools that aren’t customer relationship management software include:
- Email marketing and management: Sales tools like Mailchimp are great for creating and sending email campaigns to targeted customers. While they do help manage contacts and email preferences, they don’t manage leads generated by those sent messages efficiently, which is why many email management platforms integrate with CRM software.
- Marketing automation: While some CRM software and marketing automation platforms have overlapping features, marketing automation software providers like Marketo are chiefly designed to help sales teams generate and nurture leads. CRMs are best for managing the long-term sales cycle once you’ve converted a lead to a customer.
- Content management: Although it’s easy to confuse a CRM with a content management system (CMS), the two have vastly different uses. A CMS platform like Squarespace is a sales tool for creating, storing and publishing website content and digital assets that are used to generate customer interest.
There are several types of sales tools and platforms on the market to help target leads and nurture prospects. However, CRM software is the gold standard for managing those leads once they become customers. In fact, 64% of today’s sales professionals use CRMs to help meet their team’s strategic goals.
Types of CRM Software
Customer relationship management software offers a range of functionality that can be adapted for almost any sales environment. However, some types of CRMs offer specific tools or features built with certain kinds of job types or industries in mind.
Common types of job-related CRM include:
- Project management CRM: This is best for sales teams and professionals that create projects for customers after closing the sale. Key features include milestone tracking, task reminders, and opportunity-to-project conversion.
- Ecommerce CRM: These customer relationship management solutions help ecommerce businesses manage price lists, inventory, and returns processing as well as offering standard CRM functionality. Ecommerce CRM is ideal for retail outlets as well as solopreneurs that sell and ship products.
- Telesales CRM: Organizations and consultants that gain sales primarily via inbound and outbound calling use this type of solution to make, track, and log calls directly from the CRM. They typically include a built-in voice-over-Internet-provider (VoIP) business phone system in addition to traditional CRM features.
In addition to job- or role-related CRM software, some solutions are created specifically for certain industries, such as:
- Real estate: CRMs built for real estate agents and agencies feature tools like video email, cloud storage for housing contracts and other documents, and the ability to search public social profiles to learn more about a lead. Many also integrate with popular real estate services like Realtor.com and Zillow for a greater range of lead capture.
- Call centers: CRM call center software combines customer relationship management tools with a VoIP business phone system that’s designed to handle the large call volumes of contact and call centers. They often integrate with customer service solutions like help desk software.
- Financial advisors: CRM solutions for financial advisors include financial planning tools in companion with customer relationship management features. These include industry-specific offerings like compliance and audit tools, advanced data security, and integration with services like Envestnet and Docusign.
CRM Software Features & Functionality
CRM software features vary widely from basic tools to track lead and customer interaction to robust processes that follow leads through every granular stage of the sales cycle from prospect to returning customer. When shopping for a CRM, it’s useful to assess ahead of time what you expect from your customer relationship management system so that you don’t pay for features you don’t need.
Common CRM features include:
- Lead qualification: Determining right away whether a lead has a good potential to convert to a customer keeps agents from spending time on prospects that aren’t likely to pan out.
- Sales forecasting: These tools help agents visualize opportunities throughout the sales process and calculate which ones have the best chance of closing as well as how much revenue they may generate. Indeed, studies show CRMs can increase forecast accuracy by 42%.
- Sales pipeline tracking: This feature offers a high-level look at the entire sales process by stage to determine how well teams are performing.
- Social media integration: Connecting your CRM to social channels allows companies to find new leads based on brand mention as well as pull data from a prospect or customer’s social media accounts.
- Mobile device access: Remote workers and field agents alike need the ability to access the CRM from anywhere using their mobile device to gather the most up-to-date customer information. This feature is so vital that the mobile CRM market is expected to grow to $15 billion worldwide over 2018 figures.
The Real Cost of CRM Software
Customer relationship management software costs range from free to hundreds of dollars per month, depending on the provider and the types of features it offers. Free or very low-cost solutions are no-frills platforms that may be limited in the number of users it supports or features it includes. These are best for solo business owners and small teams on tight budgets.
High-end CRM software contains myriad features, from advanced customization options to comprehensive business phone systems. Pricing for these CRMs can run as high as several hundreds of dollars per month and are usually used by enterprise-level organizations with budgets to match.
Mid-range CRM software solutions are more moderately priced, ranging from $20 to $80 per user, per month. They contain enough features and tools to accommodate most sales teams and small businesses.
However, the cost of ownership of a CRM doesn’t always end when the bill of sale is paid. There can be additional costs managers, and business owners should keep in mind when considering the total cost of a CRM software solution.
- Internet: The most popular CRM solutions today are hosted in the cloud and require a stable internet connection to access.
- Cellphone plans: Many CRMs offer companion mobile apps so that sales agents can access the system while away from their desk or on business travel from their company-provided smartphones.
- Monthly or yearly subscription fees: Providers that offer cloud-hosted CRMs typically charge monthly or yearly fees in exchange for system management and maintenance.
- Information technology (IT) support: Organizations that prefer to host the CRM system themselves need to factor in the cost of IT personnel to keep it running smoothly.
- Training: Employees need to be trained on the CRM to get the most out of it. Costs of worker downtime and, if needed, onsite trainers, add to the total cost of ownership.
- Add-ons: Many CRMs offer add-ons like 24-hour customer support or premium features that can add up quickly.
The advertised cost of a CRM may show only part of the picture, with maintenance costs, phone service, and more adding to the bottom line. The good news is most CRM providers will work with you to find a solution that meets your team’s needs and budget.
Benefits of CRM Software
Before customer relationship management software was available, sales teams kept their contact records in Rolodexes and customer information in filing cabinets. Although it’s still possible to organize and manage leads, prospects, customers, a busy sales pipeline, and all the other essential data that sales teams generate, why bother? The benefits of using CRM software are too numerous to overlook.
- Central location for customer information: CRM software is a central repository with customer notes that agents can update in real-time, keeping the whole team instantly informed.
- Accessible anywhere: With cloud-hosted CRM software, remote teams and agents working their territory can access customer information from anywhere through a smartphone app or internet connection on their laptop.
- Scalable: CRM software scales easily to grow with your team and business needs. Managers merely need to click a few buttons on the platform’s online dashboard to add new users instantly.
- Smooth integration with other business apps: Most CRM software connects smoothly with other popular sales tools like email tracking and help desk platforms.
How to Create a CRM Software Strategy
Once you select the right customer relationship management solution for your team’s needs, it’s important to create a CRM strategy to ensure its implementation and use lines up with your sales goals. Failure to take this step could lead to a reduced return on your software investment, which could be as high as $8.71 for every dollar spent.
Developing a solid CRM strategy is a multi-step process that begins with understanding your company’s guiding principles and overall business strategy. You’ll then want to take a look at what you expect from the customer journey and establish your sales process. For a deep dive into the whole approach, check out our step-by-step guide to creating a CRM software strategy.
Defining a CRM Process
Creating a CRM software strategy focuses on the sales agent but defining a CRM process shifts the focus squarely to the customer. It helps agents nurture leads into customers and identifies the best ways to engage prospects. Think of the CRM process as the roadmap for growing relationships and the CRM software strategy as the place to document the journey.
Similar to creating a software strategy, defining a CRM process is a multistep process. The first step is to connect with new leads and prospects to identify their potential to become a customer. You’ll want to monitor your sales opportunities and take the time to understand your customers’ needs and desires. To learn how to implement this process for your team, take a look at our guide on how to define a CRM process.
Customer relationship management solutions come in dozens of variations and a range of price points. Sales teams can’t afford to be without the valuable information they provide, from reporting tools and workflow automation to agent performance tracking.
Companies wanting a CRM with superior features, is easy to use, and comes at price points for every budget should check out Freshsales. Freshsales offers a basic free plan with support for unlimited users and three paid options from $12 to $49 per user, per month, and is ideal for sales teams on a tight budget that can scale with them as they grow. Head to the website to sign up for a forever-free plan or to request a free demo.