Guide to CRMs and Top 10 SaaS Solutions

Introduction

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system has become an essential piece of software for enterprises that want to effectively manage interactions and relationships with their potential and existing customers. CRMs help businesses streamline processes, stay connected with their customers and improve profitability. The ultimate goal of a CRM is to improve profitability by improving business relationships through effective contact and sales management. 

CRMs help businesses integrate and automate customer-facing tasks, including customer services, sales, marketing and e-commerce. Modern CRMs also provide customer analytics, social media, personalization and collaboration tools to better understand customers and meet or exceed their expectations.

In context of CRMs, a customer means individual people as well as colleagues, service users and suppliers. A CRM is often referred to as a technology that enables businesses to record, analyze and report customer interactions. A CRM can also be interpreted as a strategy or philosophy about how businesses should manage relationships with their customers. CRM as a process means a system that helps organizations manage and nurture relationships with their customers/clients/suppliers.

Benefits of Using a CRM

Modern CRMs are designed to provide a 360-degree view of customers, allowing customer services reps to have better and more personalized conversations with them. That’s made possible by keeping an up-to-date record of customer contact information and interactions through email, phone, social media etc.

A CRM can automatically pull contact information, interaction history and individual preferences, allowing reps to see details that otherwise might not have been possible using manual or old-school methods. Knowing customers and keeping track of prospects is pivotal in establishing good relationships and acquiring/retaining customers. 

That’s where CRMs play an important role by allowing users to access all the information from a single platform and establish long-term and profitable relationships. A CRM benefits different business functions including sales, marketing, customer services and HR teams. Some major advantages of using a CRM include:

  • Centralized storage and access of large amount of prospect/customer data
  • Real-time availability of information
  • Improved contact management
  • Integrated and accurate sales forecasting
  • Better team collaboration
  • Improved productivity
  • Improved marketing ROI
  • Reduced administrative tasks
  • Streamlined workflows
  • Effective sales pipeline management and better visibility
  • Reliable reporting
  • Easily digestible and organized data
  • Improved sales metrics
  • Customer retention and increase in customer satisfaction
  • Unprecedented insight into customer behavior
  • Enhanced products/services
  • Personalized insights
  • Delivery of personalized experiences

CRM vs. Sales Management Solutions

We have already covered sales management software (link to best sales management software) in detail, but it’s important to understand the difference between CRMs and SM solutions. A CRM is more like a digital rolodex containing customer information. On the other hand, sales management solutions provide managers with the information and tools they need to effectively monitor sales and sales staff performance, assign tasks, manage opportunities and forecast sales. 

However, these functionalities can also overlap and CRMs can include functionalities generally offered by sales management systems and vice versa. While many CRMs offer functionalities such as lead management, purpose-built sales management systems offer in-depth capabilities needed to manage large-scale sales teams and processes. 

Scope of CRMs

CRMs are typically used by large organizations and enterprises that want a comprehensive solution for effectively managing customer relationships. It allows customer services, sales and marketing teams to store, access and manage important customer data, including contact info, leads, customer preferences, interaction histories and more. Many popular CRMs also allow teams to view status of customers/clients in the sales process and offer core functionalities including:

  • Contact management
  • Lead management
  • Email integration
  • Marketing integration
  • Business intelligence and reporting
  • Workflow automation
  • Task management

Scope of Sales Management Systems

SM software are primarily focused on tracking and monitoring sales performance and activities, and are often used along with contact management and sales force automation software. The core functionalities of a sales management software include:

  • Sales forecasting
  • Task scheduling/tracking
  • Daily workflow management including task scheduling and meetings
  • Analytics and performance tracking
  • Opportunity management
  • Quote management
  • Pipeline management
  • Order management

One-premises vs. SaaS CRM Solutions

Cloud-based software are becoming increasingly popular because of their low initial cost, flexibility, scalability and rapid deployment. Gone are the days when these advanced technologies were limited to large enterprises and organizations. Now small and medium businesses can also benefit from cloud-based solutions without having to heavily invest in hardware, software and maintenance.

Compared to costly on-premises solutions (in terms of upfront cost, maintenance and upgrades), SaaS CRMs carry many benefits inherent to the cloud technology including:

  • Rapid deployment
  • Low initial cost
  • Automatic and across-the-board updates
  • Highly scalable
  • Accessible from anywhere, using almost any device
  • Low maintenance costs
  • A variety of pricing options
  • Predictable long-term pricing
  • Centralized, up-to-date and reliable data
  • Remove physical barriers for remote workers

Who Should Use a CRM?

Any business that wants to improve their sales and customer services workflows and is involved in customer services, sales, marketing, business development or account-focused roles. Businesses should consider a modern CRM if most of their customer data is stored and processed independently by different departments and they need to put it in one place. 

CRMs are also beneficial for businesses that want to turn insights into results and understand the effectiveness of their marketing and sales campaigns. CRMs are designed to minimize manual processes by automating back-end tasks, allowing teams to focus on delivering great customer services instead of spending most of their time on updating spreadsheets.

A clear understanding of what customers want is essential in delivering excellent services and products. CRMs can help businesses seeking more inter-departmental transparency and want to deliver personalized engagements. Growing businesses need to keep up with the increasing amounts of customer data so they can scale while keeping data organized. CRMs take care of these concerns and help businesses focus on what matters the most.

Top 10 CRMs

Picking the right SaaS solution depends on a variety of factors, including budget, business requirements and functionalities. CRMs are created keeping views of different users in mind. Some are built specifically for large enterprises, while other focus on needs of small and medium businesses. That’s why it’s important to consider business requirements, budget, integration support and other things such as scalability before deciding on any specific CRM.

The following CRMs have been included in the top 10 list keeping different business sizes and types in mind. It’s worth mentioning there is no such thing as one-size-fits all when it comes to CRMs so businesses need to evaluate pros and cons of each to make sure they are buying just the right solution with minimum compromises. 

1. Salesforce Sales Cloud

Salesforce is trusted by over 100,000 businesses around the world and offers a full range of functionalities enterprises need to effectively manage customer relationships. It streamlines the way companies connect with prospects and existing customers. However, the advanced feature set comes with a steep learning curve, making it more suitable for large business that already have the IT resources needed to take full advantage of the solution.

Small businesses that just need the essentials for up to 10 users can opt for the Essentials plan priced at $25/user/month (annual billing), which includes contact, account, opportunity and lead management. Professional, Enterprise and Unlimited plans offer advanced features such as collaborative forecasting, workflow and approval automation and cost $75, $150 and $300 per user, per month respectively.

Key features and capabilities

  • Contact management
  • Lead and opportunity management
  • Account management
  • Email integration
  • Rules-based scoring
  • Lead registration
  • Collaborative sales forecasting
  • Customizable sales process
  • Tasks management
  • Sales forecasting
  • Order and quote management
  • Advanced reporting and real-time insights
  • Workflow/approval automation
  • Mobile app

2. Oracle CX Cloud Suite

Oracle CX (Customer Experience) suite offers a comprehensive set of functionalities that go beyond automation of sales force and help businesses increase revenues and sale engagements. Adaptive and actionable intelligence equips sales teams with the information they need to close more deals in less time. 

The solution helps businesses deliver outstanding customer experiences and gain a competitive advantage. The suite is a set of integrated apps that cover the whole customer lifecycle. Pricing information is available by quote and depends on a variety of factors including the number of users and scope of the project.

Key features and capabilities

  • Marketing Cloud
  • Commerce Cloud
  • Engagement Cloud
  • Service Cloud
  • CPQ Cloud
  • Subscription Management
  • Loyalty Cloud
  • Social Cloud
  • Data Cloud
  • CX Platform and Industry

3. Microsoft Dynamics 365

The CRM is available as an on-premises, cloud-based as well as a hybrid solution. It includes advanced features such as social insights, business intelligence and seamless integration with Microsoft productivity apps. The solution unifies different aspects of businesses including data, processes and people and helps them boost profitability and quickly adapt to changing situations. Data-driven recommendations and insights, a comprehensive view of customers and AI-driven workflows enable businesses to make intelligent decisions and achieve rapid innovation. 

Pricing starts from $115/user/month (Customer Engagement Plan), while Unified Operations and Dynamics 365 plan costs $190 and $210 per user, per month respectively. Unified Operations plan includes finance and operation, retail and talent management, while Dynamics 365 Plan offers even more functionality for large businesses.

Key features and capabilities

  • Sales and customer services
  • Finance and operations
  • Talent management
  • Retail management
  • Project service automation
  • Marketing
  • AI-driven insights
  • Microsoft Forms Pro
  • Power Apps
  • Office 365 and LinkedIn integration

4. SAP Service Cloud

The solution allows businesses to deliver a unified customer services experience throughout the CS cycle by eliminating the gap between CS reps and back-office processes. It provides front-office teams with the information and insights they need to deliver consistent and personalized experiences. 

Omnichannel engagements and gamification techniques enable teams to meet service volume and demands, while next-gen self-service features leverage Artificial Intelligence to take appropriate actions and automat conversations. SAP Service Cloud is available through annual subscription and businesses can request a pricing quote based on the number of users and requirements. The consumption-based pricing allows businesses to scale as they grow and future-proof their investments.

Key features and capabilities

  • End-to-end service execution
  • Intelligent scaling
  • AI and language technology
  • Preconfigured bots
  • Service tickets and tasks optimization
  • Automated fact-finding
  • Self-service options
  • Routing, prioritization and categorization through deep learning
  • Gamification techniques
  • Real-time feedback

5. Hubspot CRM

HubSpot works well for businesses of all sizes, especially small and medium businesses that only want to pay for the features they actually need. What makes HubSpot different from other CRMs is its price, which is zero. HubSpot offers many CRM, sales, service and marketing tools for free, which suits small businesses who either don’t need a comprehensive CRM or are not yet ready for one due to financial or other constraints. 

Free CRM tools include contact management, website activity, deals, tasks and activities, while free marketing tools include HubSpot CRM features, pop-up forms, ad management and email marketing. The list of free sales tools includes CRM features, live chat, conversational bots and team email. 

The main reason why HubSpot offers a CRM and other tools for free is because they open up businesses to its paid solutions i.e. HubSpot CMS, Sales Hub, Service Hub and Marketing Hub, which is something businesses need to consider before going for a free CRM. Other things to consider are paid tools/features within the CRM so businesses need to confirm in advance to avoid ending up paying for certain features (while being under the impression that everything was supposed to be free).

Key features and capabilities

  • Free forever CRM and tools
  • Unlimited users
  • Up to one million contacts/companies
  • Contact management
  • Tasks and activities
  • Forms/pop-up forms
  • Email marketing
  • Ad management
  • Live chat and conversational bots
  • Team email
  • Ticketing
  • Calling

6. Zoho CRM

Zoho offers different editions of its CRM targeted at small, medium and large businesses. The CRM features Zia, a sales assistant powered by artificial intelligence that allows users to call for any customer information present in the system. The multichannel CRM can capture leads from the social media and allows teams to effectively manage SM interactions. Real-time responses, streamlined notifications and one-click dialing enables CS teams to respond in real-time.

The CRM makes it easier to manage social media interactions and allows teams to manage multiple profiles from on place. This enables CS teams to effectively manage Facebook and Twitter profiles for multiple products and services that fall under one brand. All brand profiles are synced in real-time so reps can close deals faster and by having access to up-to-date and accurate information.

The CRM can be integrated with a variety of other systems and tools, including Office 365, Zendesk, G Suite, Twitter, Slack, MailChimp, LinkedIn and Zapier. Most of the advanced features of the CRM are available only in the Pro and Enterprise editions. The pricing plans include (billed annually)

Free Edition: Essential features, 3 free users

Starter: $8/user/month (10,000 records), basic custom fields, web forms, workflows and reports

Standard: $12/user/month (100,000 records), scoring rules, workflow conversion and email insights

Professional: $20/user/month (Unlimited records), real-time notifications, macros, Webhooks

Enterprise: $35/user/month, conversational AI (Zia), sales inbox, visual CRM view, BI tools

Ultimate: $100/user/month (annual subscription only), includes advanced functionalities, data enrichment, advanced customization

Key features and capabilities

  • Custom fields and web forms
  • Social CRM
  • Roles and profiles
  • Scoring rules
  • Email insights
  • Workflow Conversion
  • Real-time notifications
  • Process management
  • Macros
  • Inventory management
  • Tags and Groups
  • Custom reports
  • Webhooks
  • Conversational AI
  • Multi-user portals
  • Visual CRM view
  • BI tools
  • Auto responders
  • Email sentiment
  • Automation suggestions
  • Dedicated database cluster

7. Insightly CRM

Designed keeping needs of small and medium businesses in mind, Insightly CRM helps teams reach prospects and customers with the right message at the right time. Personalized customer experiences boost engagement and enable SMBs to stand out from the crowd. From lead routing to workflow automation and email management, Insightly offers a comprehensive set of features and tools for streamlining business processes.

The intuitive and easy to use interface makes it easier for small businesses to get started with a CRM without having to spend a lot of time learning it first. The CRM also supports a variety of project management features such as tracking and task management. However, lack of advanced features available in other top-tier CRMs might make large businesses think twice before investing in Insightly CRM.

Insightly can be seamlessly integrated with a variety of apps, including Office 365, G Suite, Xero, QuickBooks, MailChimp, Slack and Zapier. Pricing (billed annually) for the CRM starts from $29/user/month (Plus Plan), while Professional and Enterprise plans cost $49 and $99 respectively.

Key features and capabilities

  • Automatic lead routing
  • Workflow automation
  • Multi-step processes
  • Email management
  • Real-time email delivery tracking
  • Relationship linking
  • Custom apps
  • Data visualizations
  • SOC 2 Type II compliant, Single-sign-on
  • Support for 2-factor authentication
  • GDPR Compliance

8. Nimble CRM

Nimble is an easy-to-use CRM that can directly work inside G Suite or Office 365 inbox, allowing users to manage deals, update contacts, access insights and more form within the existing workflows. Smarter and faster prospecting, CRM-generated social insights and business data and efficient task management makes Nimble a great alternative to other CRMs that require a steep learning curve.

The CRM eliminates the manual labor associated with maintaining spreadsheets and helps businesses organize their contacts with ease. This allows them to focus their efforts on building strong relationships, find more opportunities and achieve business goals instead of spending a lot of time on spreadsheets.

Nimble offers a pretty straightforward pricing structure i.e. Nimble Business plan that costs $19/user/month (billed annually) or $25/user/month (billed monthly). However, the same straight forward pricing can be an issue for businesses that don’t need all the features, but have to pay for them even if they don’t plan on using them in the future.

Key features and capabilities

  • Unified message inbox
  • Contact management
  • Up to 25,000 contact records (unlimited upgrades)
  • 2 GB/user storage
  • Data enrichment
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Email and activity tracking
  • Prospecting
  • Pipeline management
  • Sales forecasting
  • Reporting
  • G Suite and Outlook Ad-in
  • 2-way sync with over 160 apps
  • API Access

9. Base CRM/ ZenDesk Sell

Previously known as PipeJump and Future Simple, Base CRM/ZenDesk Sell is a comprehensive sales automation solution that covers pipeline management, email and phone communication, sales forecasting and reporting and lead management. Automated scoring rules make lead prioritization easier and help sales team to stay focused on the ones that really matter. 

The intuitive UI provides complete visibility into the sales pipeline and keeps teams updated with accurate, relevant and up-to-date information. The CRM allows users to customize sales stages such as including leads and records to all sales deals in the pipeline. Real-time visual reporting makes things clearer and present information in an easily digestible form.

The CRM supports integration with a variety of systems, including Zendesk, Slack, Dropbox and HubSpot. A variety of pricing plans are available for all types of businesses, including:

Team: $19/seat/month

Professional: $49/seat/month

Enterprise: $99/seat/month

Elite: $199/seat/month

Key features and functionalities

  • Pipeline management
  • Lead and opportunity management
  • Automated scoring rules
  • Full-funnel analytics
  • Enterprise-grade mobile apps
  • Personalized, bulk emailing
  • Sales forecasting and reporting
  • Task automation
  • Customized notifications
  • Advanced permissions
  • Advanced call analytics

10. Apptivo CRM

The CRM is a great option for businesses looking for a customizable solution that brings together everything under one roof, including CRM, invoicing, project management, procurement, field service and email campaigns. It supports integration with a variety of systems, including Office 365, G Suite, Slack, QuickBooks, Xero, Dropbox, PayPal and Stripe.

The Starter plan costs nothing, allows up to 3 users and 500MB/business and offers basic functionality including basic contact sharing and reports. The Premium plan offers more advanced features i.e. 3GB/user, 2,000 API calls and 1,000 emails per user and costs $8/user/month (billed annually). 

The Ultimate plan is priced at $20/user/month (billed annually) and includes 10 GB/user, 20,000 API calls, 3,000 emails per user and third-party services integration. Pricing for Enterprise plan is available by quote and it includes 5,000 emails/user, dedicated instance, white labeling, custom integration support and dedicated account manager.

Key features and capabilities

  • Lead capturing
  • Territory management
  • Sales planning
  • Work orders and field service
  • Leads and opportunity management
  • Contact management
  • Sales tracking
  • Billing
  • Project management
  • Tasks management
  • Online involving
  • Ticketing system/web help desk
  • Email campaigns
  • Procurement