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Best CRM Software of 2022

By
Jeff Hale
,
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
| Updated
Jun 23, 2022

We've examined the best customer relationship management services for small businesses. Check out our reviews to find the right program for you.
Best for Small Businesses
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Evolves with small businesses
Has a great entry-level plan
Manages sales and support
Best for Project Management
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Unlimited boards
Easy-to-use automations
24/7 customer support for all plans
Best for E-commerce
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ERP platform
Many native integrations
Extensive customization
Best for Visual Sales Pipelines
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Helpful data visualizations
Easy setup
Low entry-level pricing
Best for Communications
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VoIP phone service
Outbound email campaigns
Powerful AI-driven insights
We've examined the best customer relationship management services for small businesses. Check out our reviews to find the right program for you.

The Best CRM Software of 2022


  • Businesses use CRM software to engage and build connections with leads and clients.
  • CRM software can be hosted in the cloud or on-premises, depending on which company and service package you choose.
  • CRM software helps sales teams and other companies manage their customers' data.
  • This article is for small business owners interested in learning about the best CRM software and what to look for in a CRM.

When choosing customer relationship management (CRM) software for your business, there are multiple factors to consider, including cost, features, setup and integrations. Since there are so many options on the market, we've researched and analyzed many of the leading platforms to determine the ones we think are best for various business needs. We arrived at our best picks after looking at a number of factors, including how much each CRM costs, how simple it is to use, the tools it offers your sales and marketing teams, and how well it integrates with other popular business applications. Continue reading to learn more about our recommendations, as well as important things to consider when you choose your CRM software.

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Compare Our Best Picks

CRM software Editor's score Best use case Starting monthly price Free trial Customer support Mobile access Minimum seat requirements? Contract terms
monday.com Sales CRM 95 Project management $0-$16 per user 14 days 24/7 email and chat Android and iOS Yes Monthly and annual
Salesforce 95 Small businesses $25 per user 14-30 days 24/7 phone support with Premier plan Android and iOS No Mostly annual
Keap 94 Ease of use $129 ($29 for each additional user) 14 days 24/7 chat; 25/7 phone support Android and iOS Yes Monthly and annual
Freshsales 94 Communications $15-$69 per user 21 days 24/5 phone, email and chat Android and iOS No Monthly and annual
Oracle NetSuite 93 E-commerce Custom quote 14 days 24/7 email and chat Android and iOS N/A Monthly and annual
HubSpot 92 Integrations $45 per user 14 days 24/7 email and chat Android and iOS Yes Monthly and annual
Zoho 92 Remote/hybrid teams $0-$52 per user 30 days 24/7 phone and email with Enterprise plan Android and iOS No Monthly and annual
Zendesk 90 Complete customer lifecycle $19-$99 per user 30 days Phone, email and chat during business hours Android and iOS No Annual
Pipedrive 88 Visual sales pipeline $14-$99 per user 30 days 24/7 email and chat Android and iOS No Monthly and annual
Insightly 86 Customization $0-$99 per user 14 days 24/7 email and limited phone Android and iOS No Monthly and annual
SugarCRM 85 Automation $49-$85 per user 7 days Varies by plan Android and iOS Yes Monthly and annual
Sage N/A Customer support Custom quote 30 days Web form and appointment by request Android and iOS No Monthly and annual
Quickbase N/A Cross-platform Integrations $600 30 days Email (response time of 1 business day) Android and iOS No Monthly and annual

Our Reviews

Salesforce CRM: Best CRM Software for Small Businesses

Salesforce has the largest selection of targeted CRM products and customizable solutions to fit any business in any industry.
The modern sales features let you leverage the power of social media engagement to gain leads and drive sales.
Most Salesforce CRM plans require an annual commitment.
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When it comes to CRM providers, Salesforce is known as an industry leader and offers a popular essentials-level platform that's ideal for small and growing businesses. For those ready to level up and delve more deeply into CRM capabilities, Salesforce offers a vast set of tailor-made solutions for sales, marketing and customer service teams.

Editor's score: 95/100

Navigating the dashboard is easy with its intuitive and customizable organization, making it effortless to stay on task while working through a specific project or nurturing a new lead. More advanced tools like forecasting and AI-powered assistants can be added to business packages as your company and customer requirements evolve over time. Guided learning tools offer a long list of tips for smooth operation for even the newest users.

With one of the industry's largest third-party app marketplaces, Salesforce has integration capabilities for an impressive amount of platforms. Whether it's Mailchimp, QuickBooks, Dropbox or Google Workspace, Salesforce can help you integrate and streamline whatever you need to accomplish your sales and service goals. Small businesses will benefit from the workflow builder, helping to easily automate every task your team performs repeatedly. The Salesforce mobile app is also designed for ease of use, mirroring the Salesforce desktop experience with room to be customized for employees with different roles.

The Essentials plan, which is optimal for many small businesses, is $25 per user per month and has a maximum of 10 users. With this plan, small teams will enjoy big-team features like lead management, web-to-lead capture, mass email, campaign management, email templates, case management and five lightning flow automation processes. The Professional plan is $75 per user per month and features custom applications and collaborative forecasting. The Enterprise plan is $150 per user per month, and the Unlimited plan is $300 per user per month. Each plan level offers additional key features that can expand your businesses CRM capabilities as your contact lists and revenue grow.

Read Salesforce CRM Review

monday.com Sales CRM: Best CRM Software for Project Management

Building and implementing timesaving automations is very easy with the premade templates.
All plans include the same 24/7 customer support by email and phone.
Automations are limited by number of actions each month.
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For businesses with seemingly endless sales tasks and complex ventures, monday.com Sales CRM offers a great solution for project management. The core work management platform provides key timesaving and organizational capabilities. Monday.com Sales CRM customers enjoy easy-to-use interfaces and unlimited boards to organize projects. Whether you need a custom dashboard for specific communication needs or you want to delve into analysis with customer data visualization tools, monday.com Sales CRM offers intuitive technology to support your success. The core work management platform stands out in its intentional design and ability to run and scale to any workflow.

Editor's score: 95/100

Not only is monday.com Sales CRM a user-friendly platform optimized for project management, but it is also highly customizable. Customers can set up and integrate notification systems with communications platforms like Slack, eliminating the need for regular status update meetings by automatically alerting team members when a project or task is ready for further action. Additionally, all plans include unlimited boards to organize projects and contacts. With monday.com Sales CRM’s simple trigger and action templates, you can easily build any number of timesaving automations without any complicated tasks or coding involved. You can save time and increase productivity with a centralized source of data that can automatically log sent emails, maintain a record of customer interactions and help you prioritize your sales opportunities.

Monday.com Sales CRM has a free limited individual plan with two free seats, 5GB of storage and over 200 templates. Prices for the Basic and Standard plans range from $8 to $16 per user per month when billed annually. For large-scale operations in need of highly advanced automations, analytics, integration and security, monday.com Sales CRM offers the Enterprise plan, but you will have to contact the sales team for a custom quote. Students and nonprofit organizations utilizing monday.com Sales CRM may qualify for discounted or free access, and all annual subscribers are eligible to save up to 18% on plans.

Read monday.com Sales CRM Review

NetSuite CRM: Best CRM for E-commerce

Built on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, NetSuite is a truly unified, all-in-one commerce solution for sales, marketing and operations.
NetSuite is among the most customizable CRM platforms available.
You will have to purchase the full ERP platform to use any of the CRM's available features and tools.
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Midsize e-commerce companies that rely on repeat business from their customers need a CRM platform that will help them better understand their customers' shopping habits. Oracle's NetSuite is a cloud-based ERP platform with CRM capabilities that is well suited for business owners who want to provide the best customer experience possible. The CRM module helps companies obtain maximum value from each client interaction at every touchpoint. NetSuite organizes, automates and synchronizes your customer interactions across different departments, including marketing, sales, customer service and technical support. That means any employee can engage in a conversation with any customer as if they have been the main point of contact with all necessary context since the initial interaction.

Editor's score: 93/100

With NetSuite's dashboard, you get a 360-degree view of your customer data and a clear view of what's being accomplished across your customer-facing departments. The dashboard features key performance indicators, active campaigns, new leads, monthly data analysis and other helpful tools. NetSuite's marketing automation is available for campaigns on multiple channels with forecasting tools that predict deal outcomes and help you stay on top of business goals. The mobile app allows for seamless work from any internet-connected device, and its native shipping integration can help handle the tedious work of labeling and shipping.

Pricing for Oracle's NetSuite CRM module is only available upon request, but most small and midsize businesses should expect the monthly cost to be a few thousand dollars. Many NetSuite CRM customers choose to bundle NetSuite with other Oracle services to achieve a lower total cost per user. While the unknown pricing may be a drawback to some, Oracle has software solutions for businesses of all sizes, and it is worth the effort to get a price quote if you're looking for an all-in-one solution.

Read NetSuite CRM Review

PipeDrive: Best CRM Software for Visual Sales Pipelines

Pipedrive is easy to set up and use, even for teams without dedicated IT staff to assist with implementation.
You can make better decisions faster with Pipedrive's easy-to-understand data visualizations.
You're limited in the number of open deals you can have running through your sales pipelines.
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For businesses in need of a powerful visual sales pipeline with at-a-glance information and data visualizations, Pipedrive is a great CRM solution. Its visual tools make it easy to understand each opportunity, while the drag-and-drop interface helps team members easily respond to the mission-critical tasks highlighted on the dashboard. With customizable pipelines and fields, you can optimize your existing workflow systems and improve processes across departments. And with a powerful mobile app, Pipedrive also helps you engage with customers and team members on the go.

Editor's score: 88/100

Pipedrive is easy to set up, even without a dedicated IT staff, and its visual features are designed to enhance the efficacy of sales performance, reporting tools, automation of workflows and communication tracking. With a native messaging inbox, you can automatically save interaction history to help Pipedrive deliver valuable information about sales strategy. Pipedrive's AI tool picks up on key opportunities for improvement with performance recommendations and suggested tasks. It calculates your average conversion rate so you know how many new leads to get and which activities to complete to meet your nearest targets. Real-time reports show if you're on track, giving you time to adjust course if needed and providing timely coaching to maximize your sales strategies. 

Pipedrive offers its customers a 30-day free trial with full access and no credit card required. At $14 per user per month when billed annually, Pipedrive's Essential plan provides 24/7 support and over 275 integrations. The Advanced plan, priced at $24 per user per month, includes additional workflow automations and email capabilities. At $49 per user per month, the Professional plan features in-depth forecasting and one-click calling. Pipedrive's most comprehensive plan, the Enterprise plan, costs $99 per user per month and adds unlimited feature use, user permissions and visibility settings. 

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Freshsales CRM: Best CRM Software for Communications

Each plan includes Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone capabilities that can save money by allowing you to cut out other service providers.
You can run complex outbound email campaigns from this CRM.
Some automated activities, like bot sessions, are restricted with each plan and may require you to purchase added sessions each month.
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Freshsales CRM software is both intuitive and adaptable, offering built-in tools designed to optimize communications and understand customers better. The powerful AI assistant, Freddy, is designed to help you develop a more comprehensive understanding of your customers based on historical sales data, activities and engagement. Freshworks also has a basic built-in VoIP phone service with toll-free local numbers available for purchase in over 90 countries and calling ability from any device.

Editor's score: 94/100

Once you have your pipelines, workflows and forecasting tools in place, Freshsales makes it easier to better understand and serve your customers targeted products and services. From within the platform, you can run personalized bulk email marketing campaigns, manage deals, predict deal performance, forecast revenue and strategically engage with prospects. Your Freshsales CRM can also automatically build your prospects' contact profiles, spot rotten deals and reawaken cold leads that still have potential.

While all three of paid Freshsales plans include everything necessary for successful sales and marketing, the Pro and Enterprise plans offer standout features that make Freshsales such a desirable CRM platform. Freshsales offers a free plan and a 21-day free trial for any account. The lowest-cost plan, Growth, is listed at $15 per month and includes up to five sales sequences and 250 personalized bulk emails per day. The Pro plan provides double the sales sequences and greatly increases the daily email limit for $39 per user per month. For advanced sales needs at larger companies, the Enterprise plan is available for $69 per user per month with 25 sales sequences and 5,000 personalized bulk emails each day.

Read Freshsales CRM Review

Keap CRM: Best CRM Software for Ease of Use

Keap has easy-to-use e-commerce features for billing and invoicing.
You can access more than 2,500 software integrations to streamline nearly any business process or workflow.
Keap uses contact-based pricing, which will mean additional expenses for teams with more than 10,000 contacts.
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With its user-friendly interface and simple setup, Keap is an appealing tool for businesses engaging with CRM software for the first time. Keap is designed to help its users learn quickly without assuming its customers are CRM experts. The all-in-one CRM platform stores all customer activity in a centralized space and automatically adds all customer interactions to grow your team's ability to sell and offer support efficiently. Right from the dashboard, your team can text, email, book appointments, process purchases and add invoices with just one click. To make building your business easier, Keap intuitively automates contact management from activities across multiple platforms.

Editor's score: 94/100

Keap can be set up in just 20 minutes in small business scenarios, and all customers are provided with a dedicated support manager to ensure successful use of the software. Truly designed to grow your business, Keap provides premade and customizable templates for new pipelines and helpful video guides explaining the software's capabilities. Without any coding experience, you can trigger automated actions to help turn leads into sales. And for efficient navigation, you can organize information chronologically or through a category view. Keap also offers user-friendly analytics and support for revenue trends, email marketing performance and list growth.

Not only is Keap uniquely suited to first-time users, its pricing structure is also different from those of other CRM software providers. Using a contact-based pricing structure, Keap offers two main plans: Pro and Max. When billed annually, the Pro plan starts at $139 per month for two user seats, and the Max plan starts at $199 per month for three user seats. Both plans include a limited number of contacts, but with a higher monthly base, the platform can easily handle more than 25,000 contacts. The company also offers a 14-day free trial.

Read Keap CRM Review

Zoho CRM: Best CRM Software for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Your out-of-office team can get real-time notifications when customers interact with your business.
Zoho's easy-to-use automations can save your team time on repetitive tasks and improve your sales processes.
Only Enterprise subscribers have access to the AI-powered tools.
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For teams on the go and in different locations, Zoho CRM enables remote workforces to accomplish more together. Zoho is designed to increase leads, accelerate sales and accurately measure performance with ease and efficiency. Zia, the AI-powered assistant, predicts leads and deals, identifies potential customers for conversion, and helps large sales teams focus their efforts with user-friendly guidance. Zoho is also an appealing option for remote workforces with its gamification features that encourage friendly competition. Every lead, call and deal can be made into a trophy that generates a competitive and encouraging sales atmosphere, no matter where your team members are located.

Editor's score: 92/100

With Zoho, it's easy to build a custom and user-friendly platform with hundreds of available integrations and a flexible dashboard. Helpful tools like the Feeds notification module are easily accessible and can be universally highlighted across all team members' dashboards. Other helpful tools include SalesSignals, which tracks customer interactions across various channels and notifies team members with valuable and time-sensitive potential leads to act on quickly.

Zoho offers four pricing plans: Standard, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. According to the software provider, the Enterprise plan is the most popular; it costs $40 per user per month when billed annually. It features the helpful Zia AI, a customer journey command center, Canvas visual CRM, a mobile software development kit and multiuser portals. The Standard plan is priced at $14 per user per month, and the most advanced plan, Ultimate, is $52 per user per month.

Read Zoho CRM Review

HubSpot CRM: Best CRM Software for Integrations

HubSpot's free plan is perfect for new businesses looking for a simple platform for sales, marketing and service.
HubSpot has one of the best libraries of primarily free integrations, with over 1,000 popular software applications.
HubSpot's minimum seat requirements may keep its upper-tier plans out of reach for smaller businesses.
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With thousands of integration capabilities featured in the new Operations Hub, HubSpot is a great option for sales teams looking to improve their performance by centralizing data from various software providers. Customers can easily connect third-party tools to sync and clean customer data while automating business processes to assist the efficiency of your team. Once you have integrated your other software platforms, your HubSpot CRM tracks sales funnel metrics, activity insights, productivity and performance across your sales activities. 

Editor's score: 92/100

HubSpot integrations also help businesses centralize lead information in one place. Every interaction with a lead, no matter the platform on which the communication took place, is stored in a tidy timeline so you will always know exactly where a conversation left off the next time you or any other team member picks it up. By syncing with Gmail, Outlook and social media platforms, HubSpot captures virtually every customer interaction and makes it easy to track and use. 

HubSpot offers a forever-free plan with more than 90 report templates available for customized dashboards, but its paid CRM solution adds customer report builders so you can access precise data and fine-tune report results. If your small business is looking to integrate and centralize your sales operations, HubSpot's free plan may be ideal. The basic paid plan for two users has a variety of appealing features, including a meeting scheduler and simple automation tools.  

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Zendesk: Best CRM Software for Complete Customer Life Cycle

Zendesk is especially well suited as a customer service CRM to manage your post-sale activities and renewals.
Zendesk offers a suite of collaboration tools to keep team members actively engaged and working together from any office location.
The home dashboard doesn't have the most user-friendly navigation of the CRMs we've reviewed.
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Zendesk offers unique native integration and customer services products to provide support through a full customer life cycle. Customer experiences that extend beyond the sales team require everyone to be on the same page. Zendesk Sell maximizes collaboration across departments, allowing teams across sales, marketing and support to work together with the same centralized data and goals. This CRM provider unifies data from multiple customer touchpoints, preventing different departments from duplicated communications or missing context. This is incredibly valuable for businesses with complex customer profiles and long-term relationships. For example, your support team can stay in the loop throughout the customer's journey across marketing and sales with Zendesk Support. 

Editor's score: 90/100

Zendesk's smart lists also help sales teams segment customers and filter leads, enabling marketing teams to monitor customer engagements and develop effective communications. This is just one way Zendesk's CRM solution supports accurate forecasting and management with full visibility into sales processes. Whether you are using the basic plan or an upper-level plan, you'll be able to provide high-level customer support with all of the current and historical information you need at a glance. 

Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs are best suited for Zendesk's entry-level plan. It includes core CRM features, basic reports and customizable sales pipelines. For those in need of sales forecasting, advanced call analytics and ample document storage space, Zendesk Sell's upper-level plans offer an appealing solution at a competitive price. Role-based permissions and other customizable settings give administrators granular control over data access within the CRM along with unlimited email templates to help teams streamline email marketing activities. 

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Quickbase: Best CRM Software for Cross-Platform Integrations

Quickbase allows you to build a CRM to your exact specifications.
It's adaptable to changing business needs, no matter how broad.
This system requires much more technical aptitude than a prebuilt CRM solution would.

Despite the large number of CRM software on the market, some small business owners find that nothing is quite the right fit. Enter Quickbase, a downloadable CRM template that you can use to design a seamlessly integrated CRM.

Quickbase is a "low-code" solution, meaning most of the heavy lifting is done for you, but it still requires some coding knowledge to create the finished product. Quickbase isn't the right CRM for everyone, but developers will recognize the value of a low-code app that can be ready for rollout in weeks instead of months. Tweaks and changes to the system are made in a sandbox environment, so there's often no need to take the entire CRM system offline for updates. Some components can be changed with no downtime at all.

Once live, Quickbase behaves like a traditional CRM. It includes drag-and-drop workflow automations, file attachment space, business app integration, reports and other common CRM tools. Each service plan includes access to a library with hundreds of sample apps worth browsing. Quickbase isn't as feature-rich as prebuilt solutions, but many businesses consider that an advantage. A flexible CRM gives you the option to include the features you want without paying extra for features you don't need. Quickbase starts at $600 per month when billed annually.

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Sage CRM: Best CRM Software for Customer Support

Bundling sales and support tools into a single platform keeps your software costs down and centralizes important customer data.
Simultaneous access to sales and service history provides a total picture of a customer's journey.
You have to call a sales rep to learn about Sage's CRM pricing.

Providing a superior customer experience doesn't stop when you close a sale. You must continue to nurture your customer relationships and respond quickly when issues arise. Sage CRM's customer service tools can help your employees provide support and monitor resolutions without leaving the CRM platform. Team collaboration features provide metrics on case histories and resolution times to help you identify service gaps, and reporting tools let you create comprehensive visual charts and reports.

Sage CRM includes a central repository to capture common issues and their solutions. You can add solutions as you go or store reviewed and preapproved solutions in the knowledge base for consistency and faster case resolutions. Alternatively, or in tandem, you can create a web self-service portal that helps your customers resolve their own issues, reducing the burden on your support team.

A wealth of additional CRM features support the customer experience from the initial point of contact to the close of the sale. Automated workflows and lead routing ensure your salespeople interact with customers at the right time, while forecasting and reporting tools analyze everything from customer behavior to sales strategies. Sage CRM also has a collection of features to help you manage multichannel marketing campaigns and support targeted marketing efforts.

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SugarCRM: Best CRM Software for Midsize Businesses

Add-on modules for sales, service, marketing and more make SugarCRM a platform that can grow with your business needs.
All three sales plans have tools for intelligent pipeline management and forecasting.
The entry-level Essentials plan has a relatively low seat cap of just five users.

For businesses of all sizes, keeping up with a fast-paced and evolving sales environment can be a challenge. SugarCRM has designed its software with automation in mind, and its AI-powered predictions and lead conversations help teams operate more effectively and efficiently in a digital landscape. While its add-on modules enhance its automation capabilities, SugarCRM's fixed core features work to maximize productivity without any customizations. Reports and dashboard summaries help you access the information gathered by SugarCRM's automated features through a centralized overview. The AI system develops a complete history of a customer's journey and predicts outcomes with impressive accuracy to help businesses stay on top of monthly, quarterly and annual goals. 

Editor's score: 85/100

Sugar Market, the marketing automation module that can be combined with the Sell tool, helps businesses attract more visitors and gain visibility. It's easy to cultivate leads with multistep nurture campaigns and conversion-focused emails along with CRM tools. Intuitive drag-and-drop page builders help users leverage the power of Sugar Market and reduce repetitive tasks. 

Most small business owners will likely be satisfied with the features and functions of SugarCRM's entry-level Essentials Sell plan. However, if your business has more advanced needs, including intelligent lead or opportunity prioritization, the Advanced plan with additional add-ons and AI-powered capabilities can increase efficiency immensely. SugarCRM's upper-tier tier plans feature tools like expanded customer support, cloud storage and advanced workflows. When billed annually, the basic tier plan, called Sell, starts at $49 per user per month with a three-user minimum. The Serve plan allows businesses to create better experiences for customers at key moments and starts at $80 per month. Next, the Enterprise plan starts at $85 per month and gives businesses maximum control over their CRM operations. FInally, the fourth and highest-level plan, Market, starts at $1,000 per month for 10,000 contacts and helps businesses align their strategies and operations on a global scale.

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Insightly: Best CRM Software for Customization

Insightly's easy-to-build personalized dashboards give your team members access to the data they need in their roles.
Insightly uses a flexible record-linking system to give teams better context for complex customer relationships.
Customer support is limited to email communications on the entry-level plan.

Offering a unique and highly useful relationship-linking feature, Insightly CRM gives customers extra control over their sales operations. For small teams without the ability to manage all the details of sales processes, Insightly offers a dynamic and easily customizable solution. Admins and reps can build their ideal personal dashboards to highlight particular contexts, metrics and workflows. While AI and predictive tools are available only with the most expensive plans, all of Insightly's service plans allow you to create specific rules for common events that trigger actions within the sales process. 

Editor's score: 86/100

Tracking metrics and key performance indicators is different for every business, and Insightly enables the customization of both reports and processes to fit any business in any industry. The highest-level plan gives customers the ability to create and specifically define entire workflows around a single event. These customization features can save a significant amount of time and relieve team members from monotonous low-productivity tasks. With complete workflow automation, custom validation rules, dynamic page layouts and configurable webhooks, Insightly offers impressive automation abilities with a fully featured plan.

Insightly CRM offers three distinct plans. The lowest-level plan, starting at $29 per month, allows you to work from any device and includes Slack integration with the AI bot to keep your team up to date on new leads and internal communication. The Professional plan priced at $49 per month helps businesses identify and manage leads with customizable real-time insight cards and additional integrations. For $99 per month, the Enterprise plan takes your CRM capabilities to the next level with stronger customer relationships, connections to any application and the ability to easily provide custom quotes for complex and customizable products.

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CRM Costs

Most CRM software is priced on a per-person per-month basis. Many companies opt for annual billing to simplify the payment process and save money. (Most services reduce the per-month price if you pay annually rather than monthly.) With that in mind, these are the general pricing tiers you can expect:

  • $10 to $15: Inexpensive CRM products are a great option for tiny businesses with modest needs, and many services charge only $10 to $15 per user per month. Affordable systems like these don't usually require much in-house tech support to implement. If you want a fast solution with minimal hassle, this price range is a great place to find one. Just make sure the storage options meet your needs; low-cost CRM software usually caps the number of customer records you can store.

  • $20 to $40: For additional features and a broader range of integrations with third-party systems, a CRM in the range of $20 to $40 per user per month will likely meet your needs. The majority of CRM software we reviewed falls into this price range because it's designed to meet the needs of the SMB set. As you peruse options in this price range, check for limitations on the number of supported users and storage caps that could force you to upgrade to higher-priced plans.

  • $50 to $75: CRM software that falls between $50 and $75 per user per month is typically intended for enterprise use. Such systems often include options to integrate with legacy systems and allow greater customization than other CRM software. As powerful as they are, systems like these are not necessary for most small businesses.

  • $250 or more: High-end CRM systems often provide extensive training, customization and implementation services with the software. Another reason for the steep cost of these solutions is that they are not cloud services; instead, they can be hosted locally, which is a boon for organizations with unique security needs.

Did you know?Did you know?: Most CRM services offer free trial periods for new customers, so you can test-drive the system of your choice without the risk of sinking money into a product that ultimately doesn't work for you.

CRM Features

When you seek a CRM program, it's important to know what you need. Here are common features you'll find in CRM systems so you can decide which ones would best serve your business's needs.

Workflow Automation

Workflow automation is the basis of how your system moves and the automatic actions within the software. For example, you could set the software to automatically send a message to a sales representative whenever a customer fills out a form on your website. This feature moves certain procedures and data along within your program, minimizing your workload and taking care of the tiny details of your team's sales and marketing tasks.

Reporting

CRM reports break down your sales and marketing data to help you better understand and analyze leads, customers' buying behaviors, the number of outbound calls your team makes, and other important marketing metrics. Some CRM software offer more report types than others – with some allowing you to tailor your own reporting metrics – and more ways to view the data, such as in bar graphs or pie charts.

Customer Data Management

Understanding your customers is the first step in running a successful business. Customer data management tools allow you to organize data on customers clearly, helping you improve customer relationships.

Customization

Making your CRM your own will reduce the learning curve of using it and ensure it provides the information you need. When a program is customizable, you can pick the features you want and mold your contact fields, dashboard, reports, extensions and plugins to best support your needs and budget.

Third-Party Integrations

Third-party CRM integrations provide a wider range of tools to use within your system. You can connect your CRM to programs with features the CRM may not have, such as your email marketing or accounting software. This saves you from manually entering data you already have in another program, constantly flipping between apps and spending money on additional tools for your CRM. [Related article: How CRMs Streamline Email Marketing]

TipTip: To ensure you get the most out of your CRM system, outline what you're looking for and need before buying. This will keep you from overpaying for features you'll never use.

How to Choose CRM Software

1. Set a budget.

CRM costs range from free to upward of $1,000 per month, so it's best to set your budget before you start shopping. It's easier to narrow down your options by eliminating CRM software outside your price range before you drill down into feature sets and service plans.

2. Make a feature list.

The number of tools and functions in even the most basic CRM system can be overwhelming. For clarity, list the CRM features you must have and the features that would be nice to have but aren't crucial. This is a good time to get feedback from other people in your company who will use the CRM. They may recommend features you hadn't thought of or eliminate ones you thought they would need.

3. Gather referrals from businesses like yours.

In a crowded sales technology market, choosing the right CRM can be daunting.  Recommendations from people who understand the needs of your industry from the inside are invaluable.

4. Assess the current market.

The CRM space changes rapidly as technology improves, so high-profile solutions you've heard of in the past may no longer be the best choice. Small business advice websites and trade publications are the best way to see what's currently popular – and what's not.

5. Read reviews.

As your list of CRM candidates grows, take the time to read any user reviews you come across. You'll gain more insight as to how individual solutions perform in the real world than you will by reading about them on the vendors' websites.

6. Test your top choices.

At this point, you'll have a sense of which CRM software has the most potential, so take each one of these contenders for a test drive. Most companies offer free trials, so try as many as you can before spending money on a permanent solution. Sales reps are usually eager to answer any questions you have or show you a demo of their product, but remember that it's their job to present their CRM in the best light possible, so using the software yourself is the best way to test it.

7. Make your decision.

Once you've done your due diligence, it's time to make a final selection. It may take a while to work through all these steps, but it's time well spent on such an important investment.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: CRM software is a critical part of your sales and marketing teams' daily operations, which serve as the engine of your revenue. Keep detailed notes as you explore various platforms, and invite other team members to join demos and take advantage of free trials.

Advantages of CRM Software

A central location where your employees can log all customer communications and build marketing campaigns can benefit your business in multiple ways. A CRM offers your company the following abilities:

  • Organize and maintain customer information. CRM software is ideal for companies that need to use up-to-date data to service their customers. This is the most basic yet essential benefit that CRM software can provide for your business.

  • Forecast your sales process. CRM software allows you to predict your future sales based on past sales data. Sales reports and insights are key for companies to project future needs and costs.

  • Streamline and scale your sales cycle. With the data you receive from CRM software, you can streamline your sales process and cut out unnecessary steps. You'll see which types of communication work and which ones don't. When you need to scale up your sales process, CRM software can help you with that too.

  • Automate your workflow. CRM software automates data entry and administrative tasks, allowing your team to focus on building meaningful customer relationships. Workflow automation also minimizes the potential for human error.

  • Build customer relationships. CRM software helps your team engage and build lasting connections with customers. Using the data stored in your CRM, your team can track customer information and cater their interactions to meet each customer's unique needs and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions About CRM

What does a CRM system do?

CRM systems help your sales team log communications, manage leads and sometimes build marketing campaigns. In other words, a CRM allows you to build and maintain relationships with your customers and other businesses.

Organizations use CRM solutions for various reasons. Initially, though, the CRM industry was geared primarily toward sales and PR professionals, offering a convenient way to store information and track communications with customers. Today, CRM solutions straddle several areas, such as marketing, analytics, communication and light project management. Some CRM systems even have built-in chatbot and calling capabilities, letting your sales reps communicate with clients directly from the system.

What are some examples of CRM software?

CRM software is any tech solution that helps businesses manage communications with their current and potential clients. Leaders in the CRM software industry include Salesforce, Zoho and HubSpot.

What makes a CRM system 'open source'?

When software claims to be "open source," it typically means that some or all of the source code is available to users for review and modification. Developers and programmers who want the ability to customize their CRM software extensively often opt for open-source solutions.  

What are the differences between ERP, CRM software and marketing automation?

ERP software has some overlap with CRM software, so it's understandable that there's frequent confusion regarding the difference between ERPs and CRM software.

ERP software is intended to manage nearly every aspect of a business's operations, including accounting, human resources, inventory and analytics. As such, CRM capabilities are often built into ERP software. CRM software focuses specifically on managing customer information, logging interactions with clients and storing sales-related lead details. Marketing automation, meanwhile, is what businesses use to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks to build their revenue.

Should I consider a free CRM?

The obvious perk of using a free CRM is that it does not cost anything. Systems like HubSpot move the needle when it comes to what free CRM software can offer, improving business processes and organization at zero cost.

Free programs typically limit the number of users, integrations and campaign creation opportunities. They give you just enough features to show you that you may need more. In other words, they are good starter programs to use while you figure out exactly what you want.

However, you may encounter poor security features or a lack of automatic backups. Free programs can be breached or lost, and they don't offer much support for growing companies.

What other tools integrate with CRM software?

Sales and marketing add-ons are the most common integrations for CRM solutions. Reporting and tracking tools are also popular. Direct integrations typically connect most quickly, while third-party integrations require middleware to facilitate the exchange of data between the CRM, the operating system and other applications. Custom API integrations typically take longer because the integration has to be built.

How do I get my team on board with CRM software?

It's important to communicate to your team the benefits of a CRM system. Include your staff in the search process so you can find a solution that pleases everyone. Before and during implementation, make sure your team gets all the training they need so they're comfortable using the program. Talk to your employees about their concerns, and encourage them to ask questions so the training representative can address them. You want your team to feel that they can use the CRM system comfortably and proficiently.

What is a CRM analyst?

A CRM analyst examines your consumer data to help your business make the best sales and customer service recommendations. These experts help you understand your customers' needs and interests so you can determine the best ways to market to them.

What are the disadvantages of CRM software?

As with any business strategy, there are some challenges in using CRM software. First and foremost, some systems may not be affordable for small business owners. In addition to being pricey upfront, many CRM services have hidden costs. For example, you might have to pay for system administrators, software developers, maintenance and data backups on top of the CRM's base fee. Read the fine print and ask the CRM vendor about any hidden costs before deciding whether you can afford a certain system.

Your CRM could also negatively impact your business if it shuts down or fails. You run the risk of losing all your records, which can hurt your business financially and let your customers down. Also, depending on the CRM's learning curve and your team's experience, training your staff to use the CRM effectively can be a long and tedious journey.

What is the first step in the CRM process?

The first step in the CRM process is research. Take time to understand your target audience and how you should approach them. You want to know their interests, how they prefer to be contacted, their demographics and what forms of communication they respond to the best.

Then, divide your targets into groups so you can market to them directly according to their preferences. Gathering and grouping your leads is an important initial step in the CRM process, allowing you to better understand the marketing strategy you should create so you can successfully turn them into customers.

How do CRM systems typically handle automation?

You can automate three kinds of workflows within your CRM: marketing, sales and service roles. CRM automation allows your program to perform certain tasks repeatedly so an employee doesn't have to do them manually. This not only saves time and streamlines your team's workflow, which can boost your company's overall productivity, but it is also especially useful for moving consumers from the knowledge-gathering part of the buyer experience to the stage where they can be molded into a customer.

What to Expect in 2022

In recent years, CRM software has become more sophisticated and integrated with a broader range of business operations. Social media and email integration, for example, have been hallmarks of the CRM evolution. With the emergence of AI and machine learning, CRM functionality will continue to grow.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a hand in CRM growth. With more people at home than ever before – conducting business from home offices or making purchases online – there was an increased need for communication between customers and employees. CRM software was the solution to this problem, providing organized recordkeeping services for medical professionals and streamlined tracking systems for products.

In 2022, CRMs will become more focused on self-service for customers. Salesforce data showed that nearly 80% of service professionals said that their customers have increased their use of self-service during the pandemic. Examples of self-service will be seen in FAQ pages, help centers and secured customer profiles, where returns can be processed or orders can be tracked. 

There will also be more integration with the Internet of Things (IoT) in the form of CRM connections to IoT feeds. The amount of IoT-connected devices is expected to surpass 25.4 billion by 2030. By 2025, estimates suggest there will be 152,200 IoT devices connecting to the internet every minute. The developers who tap into these trends in a way that maintains or enhances user experience are poised for success in the next decade.

Simone Johnson contributed to the writing and research in this guide.

Jeff Hale
Jeff Hale
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Jeff Hale is a writer and editor based in San Diego with a background in business development and marketing. He has identified new market opportunities for Fortune 500 companies and developed communications strategies and digital branding for tech startups and small businesses. Jeff covers emerging technologies and business solutions with a focus on efficiency and growth. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, and an MBA from Chapman University.
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