When you’re buying software, you can choose from a couple popular solutions that may or may not fit your needs, or go deep into researching alternatives.
There are pros and cons to each approach: the popular solution could be expensive or not as customizable, but may be easier to use and work seamlessly with your other systems.
On the other hand, a less popular solution could have few offerings or lack integrations with other software, but could be customized to your needs because it has a great customer support and service plan.
Feeling overwhelmed by software choices?
The customer relationship management (CRM) software market has hundreds of software options, which can be overwhelming. How do you pick the right one? One way to start is to learn what others are saying about the various choices.
In this article, we look at the top-ranked CRM sales tools for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). We referred to Software Advice’s FrontRunners for CRM, as well as user reviews and ratings. We also looked at vendor recommendations from Gartner to narrow down the list.
But first, let’s define the sales-specific features of CRM to differentiate them from core CRM functionality.
Salesforce automation software helps manage salespersons and their activities. The purpose of the software is to make it easy to accurately forecast and gain better insights about opportunities. The core sales features include:
- Contact management: Manages all your contact details, avoiding overlapping records. Some solutions also automatically transfer contacts from phone, email or other apps.
- Lead management: Track all lead-related information so that salespeople have the latest information to customize your sales pitch.
- Opportunity management: Tracks salesperson interactions with prospects from the beginning to the end of a sale. This feature works best for organizations with a large number of salespersons, high order values or lengthy sales cycles.
- Pipeline management: Oversee and manage current as well as future sales during different stages.
- Forecasting: Project current and future sales performance.
- Territory management: Segment customers and leads based on territories for better management.
HubSpot CRM is one of the most popular solutions in the market and ranked high in the FrontRunners for CRM software. While the CRM solution is free, some features such as marketing and sales require upgrading to paid offerings, such as the Marketing Hub and the Sales Hub.
FAST FACTS: The CRM solution is marketed as “free forever”, with unlimited users, no time limit and storage of up to a million contacts and companies. Marketing and sales offerings have pricing tiers, but provide basic functionality for free.
That’s why HubSpot CRM works for companies that need basic features and plan to upgrade later to the more advanced features. It cross-sells or upsells its other solutions when users need them.
THE IDEAL USER: The free pitch makes it suitable for startups and small businesses that are just beginning to consolidate their sales efforts. The FrontRunners report places HubSpot in the Leaders quadrant because of its high capability ratings and value offered to users.
The pricing makes HubSpot CRM an attractive choice for businesses of any size. You can expand your marketing and sales efforts by using the free versions first. As the business grows, you can pay for advanced features such as blog and content creation tools for marketing and live chat in sales.
Salesforce is an immensely popular CRM software platform that’s used across the globe. Though it’s a large company on its own, it is widely used by SMBs because of its popularity. Some of the advanced innovations offered in Salesforce CRM are artificial intelligence, business intelligence and analytics, custom application builder and support for Internet of Things devices.
FAST FACTS: Salesforce offers four separate CRM products in the cloud:
- Sales Cloud
- Service Cloud
- Marketing Cloud
- App Cloud
According to Gartner’s “Vendor Rating: Salesforce” report, Salesforce has the highest level of brand recognition in the CRM market. This makes Salesforce a hard competitor to beat.
And this is proven by the prominent place Salesforce takes in our FrontRunners quadrant this year and in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for eleven consecutive years. It’s considered a leader based on its completeness of vision, ability to execute, feedback from clients and other key metrics.
THE IDEAL USER: Businesses of all sizes and types that function either on a B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) operation model. Salesforce is rated highly by many of our users on functionality, ease of use, quality, customer support and value for money. It also supports approximately 3,200 complementary applications available via AppExchange, allowing great opportunities for customization.
Salesforce is constantly revamping its solutions and launching new ones. Businesses have to prepare their relationship with the vendor and their IT budgets for this. That’s why, despite it suiting all business sizes, Salesforce is still largely targeted at midsize and large enterprises. You can find more about Salesforce’s pricing in our free to download pricing guide for CRM software.
Of all the solutions in this list, Zoho CRM is the newest player in the market. It’s seen a quick rise and wide adoption because of its free version, varied features and suitability to any business type and size. The cloud-based solution offers all the core CRM features, especially for sales.
FAST FACTS: Zoho CRM is featured in “The Gartner CRM Vendor Guide, 2017” (document accessible to Gartner clients only) for sales automation software. The guide features vendors that offer all the core sales functionality and are some of most popular and highest rated solutions by users.
Zoho CRM is also a leader in Software Advice’s FrontRunners for Customer Relationship Management for small and midsize businesses. This means that it offers plenty of features that are essential for SMBs and startups when they’re looking to expand their abilities without making a huge commitment.
THE IDEAL USER: New and small businesses. Zoho CRM offers various packages that allow users to test and check its suitability to their business, which can be really helpful for organizations starting to expand sales capabilities.
It offers both a cloud-based service and an on-premise deployment that suits midsize and large businesses with over 50 employees. This option provides access to help desk, idea management and LMS, which aren’t available for cloud users.
FAST FACTS: Bitrix24 is featured in “The Gartner CRM Vendor Guide, 2017” as a common vendor among SMBs. It’s also featured as a low-cost vendor for project management solutions in Gartner’s “Are Low-Cost or Open-Source Options for Project Management Tools Right for You?.”
Adding project management tools to your CRM solution will enhance the capabilities of CRM, and Bitrix24 offers both in a freemium plan. That means, you can start with the basic, free version for a limited number of users, and then pay for more advanced features and more users.
Bitrix24 also offers integration with other solutions such as Microsoft Office Suite, Mailchimp, Xero and Google Suite. Its open API allows for easy integration with other solutions.
THE IDEAL USER: Bitrix24 is useful for startups that have less than 12 users, established SMBs that can take advantage of the open API and enterprises in need of an on-premise option.
According to the Gartner report “Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2016“, SAP is one of the largest vendors in the cloud software market after Salesforce. SAP has multiple deployment options for both on-premise and cloud-hosted business models.
Various dashboards on SAP Hybris Sales Cloud (Source: SAP)
FAST FACTS: Gartner’s “Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2016” report notes that SAP leads in the digital commerce platform segment, a part of the CRM market. Its CRM revenue in 2016 was about $3 billion as a result of double-digit growth.
Current and potential users should know that SAP CRM will be integrated under the SAP S4/Hana implementation in 2018. This effort to improve the performance of SAP software products may require some users to develop their own customizations or updates.
THE IDEAL USER: SAP CRM’s user base is generally midsize and large businesses. One of our user reviews notes that SAP is a better fit for companies that have revenue of more than $1 million per year. Smaller businesses may want to consider other options.
Soffront is a feature-rich, cloud-based CRM and marketing automation solution. It breaks down the sales cycle into stages: leads, prospects and opportunities. This makes it easy to plan each step for the sales team.
Soffront’s basic version helps users take complete care of sales and marketing efforts. The Professional and Advanced versions offer CRM, project automation and customization tools.
FAST FACTS: While Soffront offers all the core CRM functionality such as contact management, interaction tracking, lead management & scoring, forecasting and customer support, it doesn’t offer a product catalog feature. A product catalog allows you to put products/services, pricing and discounts in one place.
THE IDEAL USER: A midsize or large enterprise that doesn’t mind the price. Each additional feature and user increases the cost, so you need to thoroughly plan for these expenses.
Soffront is a good fit for established CRM users, and may be overwhelming for a new user. In addition, if you need features such as a product catalog, you’ll need to integrate with another solution.
Where to Go From Here
Deciding between vendors is a complex process that makes you consider a number of factors, including price, deployment options, the impact on your current business practices and future IT plans. It’s not an easy step, which is why making a checklist works.
Here’s how you should proceed before deciding on a vendor, whether it’s for first-time use or switching:
- Analyze your immediate sales CRM needs: Of the different sales-specific CRM features, you need to identify which ones are the most urgent for your business. This, of course, depends on your business type and size and whether or not you’re a new user.
- Ensure mobile access: First, choose your deployment option—cloud or on-premise—and then ensure that the vendor offers a mobile app. Mobile access is necessary for salespeople to pitch to customers while on the move. It’s also one of the big requirements by businesses of all sizes, and as a result, one of the top three trends in the CRM market that small businesses should definitely adopt.
- Budget your IT needs for the next five years: Foresight is essential when using technology. You should work with your IT team (if you have one) to budget for upgrades, support and unplanned expenses. Whether or not you have an IT team, carefully consider the support plan that will be defined by the service-level agreement (SLA).
The next step is to compare the prices of these software as well as their alternatives and get expert recommendations. Our pricing guide of CRM software is a great place to start. You can also call our advisers at (844) 852-3639 for a free consultation.