The best CRM software solutions integrate with almost every aspect of your business, helping you track customer relations, streamline processes, and increase sales.
A CRM tool will act as a hub for storing customer or prospective contact information, and can track multiple sales pipelines, optimize workflow management, log customer communications, and enable analysis of sales and marketing performance.
In this article, we unpick the main features and benefits of CRM software and outline the best solutions on the market for all business types. If you're looking for small-business CRMs, then take a look at our guide to the best CRMs for small business. We also have a guide to CRMs for real estate.
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Salesforce - Best CRM for Medium- and Enterprise Businesses
Salesforce is the CRM software market-leader for good reason: it offers a comprehensive suite of customer relationship tools, excellent integration, and unrivalled customization.
Free trial: 30 days - Pricing: $25 per user/month.
Read our Salesforce review.
Pipedrive - Most User-Friendly Sales CRM
A really easy to set up Sales CRM that is made for salespeople by salespeople. One of the most affordable tools to manage your sales pipeline including basic functions such as email management and lead tracking.
Free trial: 14 days - Pricing: $14.90 per user/month.
Read our Pipedrive review.
HubSpot - Best CRM with Free Functionality
Powerful free CRM core with great website marketing integrations. The basics are well covered, including contact management, call and email logs, deal pipeline, and integrations with Slack and Gmail.
Free plan - Pricing: $45 per two users/month
Read our HubSpot CRM review.
CRM software compared
|CRM software||Score||Lowest monthly fee||Free version||Key features||Support|
|Salesforce||5||$25 per user||30-day free trial||Sophisticated workflow automation; Enterprise app development||Email ticketing and toll-free phone|
|Workbooks||5||$34 per user||Free plan; 30-day free trial||Coaching program, supportive onboarding||Email, phone, knowledge base|
|HubSpot||4.5||$45 per two users||Free plan; 14-day free trial||Combined sales and marketing workflow; Website usage analytics||Live chat, phone, and online meeting support|
|Freshsales||4.5||$15 per user||Free plan; 21-day free trial||Deal management AI; In-built calling tool||Phone and email support, Mon–Fri|
|Apptivo||4.5||$10 per user||Free starter plan||Unique bundled series of apps; customizable and scaleable||24/7 support via email and live chat; live phone support on weekdays.|
|Zoho CRM||4||$14 per user||Free plan; 15-day free trial||Lead generation through website scraping; Deal management AI||Email support, Mon–Fri|
|Keap||4||$40 first user then $30 per user||14-day free trial||Unlimited email marketing||Online chat, phone, community|
|Insightly||4||$29 per user||Free plan; Two-week trial||Database and workflow customization; Powerful reporting integrations||Email support only; Premium phone and training support costs $1500/ year|
|Bitrix24||4||$39 per month||Free plan||Comprehensive commnuications platform; website builder||Live chat; knowledge base|
|Monday.com||3.5||$8 a seat per month||Free for individuals||Visual project management; accessible system||Knowledge base; live chat, email, call|
|Pipedrive||3||$14.50 per user per month||14-day free trial||User friendly; easy-to-use for small businesses||24/7 email and chat|
The best CRM software of 2023 in full:
Salesforce is a global leader in CRM, with advanced, customizable functionality, user-friendly design, and outstanding reporting tools. They proudly state on their website that “98% of customers meet or exceed their ROI goals” which is quite impressive.
The main CRM core is Salesforce Sales Cloud, which can be integrated with Marketing Cloud for email automation or with Einstein Analytics for AI-powered business intelligence, among others. While the lower Sales Cloud tiers are comparable with those from Zoho CRM or Apptivo, it’s the Enterprise Plan, or the even higher Unlimited Plan’s features that justify the higher prices.
These upper plan features include Workflow Approval and Automation, which can automate standard business processes, and Sales Teams that can designate the members of the team to work on the individual deal. Furthermore, on top of pipeline management, call and email logs, and customizable contact management, Enterprise plans and above include advanced reporting and prediction, app development, full sandbox, sophisticated process automations, and external system integrations via web services APIs.
The cost of Salesforce can get expensive on the upper tiers, considering that it is billed per each individual user. While there is also no free tier, we do appreciate the 30-day free trial that is available without a credit card, and does not require any software download. Another benefit is that the pricing is upfront, transparent, with a long list of features designated by the plan for ease of comparison.
In use, Salesforce Sales Cloud is intuitive and focuses on getting your leads over the line, but you can customize a significant part of your interface to suit your team’s needs, from dashboards to reports and contact forms. The support requires a login to connect directly. We did find the sales number in multiple places, but not any support number or email, giving us pause on any potential difficulty for direct communication should the need arise. Furthermore, there is a help area of the website with self help content via a searchable database.
In large organizations, the app development and sandbox features can help make teams even more productive by customizing permissions and workflows across territories, customer verticals, and sales funnel stages.
Read our full Salesforce Service Cloud review.
Workbooks is an excellent CRM for midsize businesses, offering solutions for customer service, sales, marketing, and operations teams.
Its primary differentiator is its Shared Success program, which gives customers access to free consulting hours, along with annual workshops to ensure that Workbooks continues to align with a client's business goals.
Workbooks lacks a diverse third-party app marketplace or developer community, unlike competitors such as Salesforce and HubSpot. Therefore, it might not be the best choice for users who require a large number of third party customizations.
In addition, its free version is limited to only two users and has fewer features, which could make it less appealing to very small businesses. It also requires a business email, along with a phone number to sign up, but it does not require a credit card.
Paid tiers for this offering are limited to a choice of two: the lower one called CRM, and the higher one, Business. Each one costs a monthly fee for each user, and we note the lack of a volume discount for multiple users, and also the inflexibility in pricing that the only option is to pay annually, while other services offer a month to month price with an annual discount. We like the 30-day free trial, but keep in mind that there are a myriad of additional features available, each with a monthly cost that with several chosen, the cost can add up quickly. These additional cost features include multilingual, multi-currency, web analytics and intelligence, and audit trail among many others.
Overall, we think Workbooks is a fantastic CRM platform when used for its intended purpose—providing CRM software solutions to midsize organizations.
Read our full Workbooks review.
While many CRM providers offer free plans, none are as functional as the one from HubSpot CRM. The basics are well covered, including contact management, call and email logs, deal pipeline, and integrations with apps including Slack and Gmail. It even includes email scheduling, and Facebook Messenger integration- features that we did not expect at this level.
On paid plans, the core CRM is enriched with features from HubSpot’s Marketing, Sales, and Service Hubs, which then integrate nicely across these different offerings. With the marketing functionality, you can generate pop-up forms, chatbots, and ad retargeting on your website, as well as automate and track email campaigns. Premium sales features include deal assignment automation, customizable reports, and intelligent lead scoring to help focus your team’s efforts.
The biggest obstacle is that the contacts you can market to—for example, via bulk emails or ads—are limited to 2,000 on all plans apart from Enterprise, which has a limit of 10,000. However, you can store and track up to 1 million prospects.
While enviable, HubSpot’s combined sales and marketing functionality comes with a steep price. Moving up from the free tier gets us to the Professional tier at a cost of $450/month. While it does support 5 users at that price, has a product library and forecasting, and supports eSignatures, that price point may be a barrier for smaller businesses. We think it is a missed opportunity that there are not additional tiers of plans to choose from, with an appropriately lower price of entry.
Read our full HubSpot CRM review.
Freshsales works best for small to medium businesses that prioritize ease of use over advanced customization.
Its desktop and mobile interface is highly intuitive, including quick access to contact records and communications, and drag-and-drop Kanban-style boards for sales pipeline management. Its intelligent assistant tool, Freddy AI, can also help suggest which deals to close and how if you give it sufficient historical data to work with.
Its main focus is on sales team productivity and deal closure. You can integrate your email client—including Microsoft Outlook and Gmail—into the software, enabling you to create email templates, send bulk emails to prospects, and log incoming and outgoing messages. It is also designed to integrate with other tools including PayPal, DocuSign, Slack and Intuit Quickbooks for a streamlined workflow.
Furthermore, there’s an in-built calling tool with a recording feature that automatically updates customer communication records. We also like that when it comes to support, that there is a toll free number, along with a direct email for getting directly in touch should the need arise for some help.
Freshsales CRM is limited in terms of lead generation tools, such as business card scanners. It does, however, feature customizable web forms, capturing lead data from your website and automatically assigning sales leads. Other features include several thousand Bot sessions per month depending on the plan, a visual sales pipeline, and Contact Lifestyle management.
There are four plans: a free tier, and three paid tiers. The free tier, while it has its limits, does still have 24/5 support, along with a mobile app. Paid tiers progressively add more features up to the top Enterprise plan with a dedicated account manager, audit logs, and AI-based forecasting insights.
Read our full Freshsales review to learn more about the sales-focused CRM; our Freshdesk review to find out about its customer engagement CRM; our Freshmarketer review to learn about the marketing CRM element; and Freshservice to discover its IT support CRM.
Apptivo is a comprehensive platform for business management and collaboration, with a CRM tool included. The Apptivo CRM is famous for its simplicity and scalability. It has a minimal and uncluttered interface that makes it easy to navigate. It's also very customizable; you can create your unique views, fields, and layouts to simplify your business workflow. Most of the customization occurs with a drag-and-drop workflow, which makes it easy to implement.
This CRM has a mobile app that enables you to manage your sales leads on the go. You can do this from anywhere with your smartphone, especially where it’s uncomfortable to use your workstation, e.g., during a commute.
Apptivo has integrations with many other tools to help customers improve their workflow. For example, its integration with Google's G Suite and Microsoft's Office 365 makes it easy to send invitations to customers or potential clients outside an organization. Yet, we observed customer complaints about Apptivo’s integrations being difficult to implement and work with.
With this CRM, you can create and manage leads for your business with ease. You can also use the activity tracking tool to manage your routine tasks and ensure you or your colleagues don't fall behind on important tasks. You can get a detailed overview of your notes, emails, calls, scheduled meetings, follow-ups, etc. The contact management tool enables you to track all your contacts in one centralized dashboard and reach out to them when need be, and you can also do the same for your customers.
A major advantage of using Apptivo is that it’s more than just a CRM tool. It has many other useful products for businesses, such as an email marketing tool, an invoicing and billing tool, a procurement management tool, etc. However, these tools aren’t free; you’ll need to pay for them in addition to your CRM bill.
Read our full Apptivo review.
We think Zoho CRM would work well for most people who are looking for a sales management solution. It does all the basics well—contact and pipeline management, communications tracking, workflow automation, and reporting. Further improving its reputation is that it is trusted by about 250,000 businesses worldwide, such as Suzuki, Bose and Purolite.
But its added value is in integrating with other apps from the Zoho sales, marketing, and project management suite, including Zoho Invoice and Zoho Campaigns, which can input valuable prospect data into your pipeline. Moreover, Zoho CRM can scrape contact details from social networks and scan business cards, making it a powerful lead generation system.
In use, the product is highly customizable: you can add fields to contact records, create lead assignment rules, and even personalize the look and feel of your CRM interface to maximize internal usage. Reporting and analytics features are also strong, including customizable performance reports and visualization tools.
Unfortunately there is no free tier, but there is a free trial which can last for 15-days. While it does not require a credit card, it does need a work email and phone number, and any of the tiers can be tried. The entry level plan, known as Standard features advanced functionality with multiple currencies, advanced filters, sales forecasting, and multiple pipelines. On higher tiers, the Enterprise and Ultimate plans, you get the Zia AI feature, which recommends what leads to focus on and what emails to write, as well as how to assign workflow. There is also flexibility in payment, whether month to month, or alternatively for a discount, annually.
Read our full Zoho CRM review.
Keap is not your typical CRM software. Its combined set of features blurs the line between sales and marketing, with native payments, appointment booking, and email marketing functionality built on top of a core contact and pipeline management system.
Keap helps you convert leads through advanced marketing campaigns and save time through workflow automations and payment integration. Features include lead & Client management, sales pipeline and analysis, text marketing and email marketing. A straightforward interface and generous support options make Keap highly accessible even for the most novice CRM users.
Unfortunately, Keap does not have a free tier, and while there is an offer of a free trial, it is limited to only 14 days, which is shorter than some of its competitors. The paid tiers are only two: Pro and Max. However, each tier includes a certain number of contacts, 1,500 on the lower tier by way of example, and only 2 users for the subscription fee. Adding contacts beyond that come at an additional cost, and the the same situation for additional users, although it is less expensive than getting another individual subscription so at least there is a discount of sorts.
With Keap, you can get started straight away and reap benefits from email campaigns and automated triggers without a huge learning curve.
Read our full Keap review.
Insightly is a great CRM system for managing complex sales pipelines, as you’re able to customize contact data fields, sales funnel stages, and more.
Workflow automation, including scheduling emails when sales stages change, can save a lot of time and refocus team efforts on nurturing relationships. The CRM offering has three tiers, but all of them are paid, and there is no free tier.
Another strong point is its integration capabilities: contact sheets can integrate social media posts, while communications can be drawn from Mailchimp, Microsoft Outlook, and other programs.
Also, Insightly’s reporting function can work with Microsoft Power BI to create advanced custom dashboards and reports, helping you measure and plan your sales productivity.
That said, lead generation features are slim: while Insightly features a mobile business card scanner, it’s not able to scrape the internet for new leads. We do like the Insightly mobile smartphone apps, which integrate well with features such as mobile voice notes, and the aforementioned mobile business card scanner. You don’t get much hand-holding, either: Insightly’s plans include only email and knowledge base support, and phone assistance has an added cost.
Read our full Insightly CRM review.
Bitrix24 is an all-in-one CRM platform that does much more than generate and manage leads. Apart from that, you can use it to automate your workflows and monitor the activities of your sales representatives with ease. You can also run marketing campaigns and build landing pages to entice leads using this platform.
Bitrix24 offers a mobile CRM platform that you can use to manage clients on the go. This mobile app gives you access to the features you'll normally find on the website. For example, you can use the sales funnel tool to get a breakdown of your sales results and track KPIs to see if your sales team is reaching its targets. You can also use chat or video calls to communicate with clients and leads.
This platform provides the tools that let you capture a lead and convert them into a customer. You can use the free website templates to build landing pages and collect contact information from leads. Afterward, you can start communicating with them to convince them to become a customer. You can build your custom sales pipeline with stages specific to your product and manage all your leads from a centralized dashboard.
The main drawback of using Bitrix24 is that its interface isn’t as smooth and easy to navigate as some other CRM tools on this list. There’s a steep learning curve to follow if you want to get familiar with the platform either as an end user or administrator.
Read our full Bitrix24 review here.
Monday.com is a project management system designed to give you a flexible and transparent way to organize your work. With a highly visual scheduling interface and customizable workflows, Monday.com adapts to the unique way members of your team approach their projects.
There are four different levels of Monday.com membership: Basic, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. Prices vary depending on the number of user accounts you require, with the cheapest memberships only allowing you to add two users and top-end options supporting more than 200 accounts.
Monday.com is the ideal project management tool for anyone looking for an accessible system that their team will actually use. Unfortunately, some important features, like calendar views, are only available with its more expensive subscriptions. All the same, Monday.com stands out for its slick design and adaptable third-party integrations.
Read our full Monday.com review.
Pipedrive is a cloud-based CRM tool that’s younger than many on this list; it was founded in 2010. Yet, in a relatively short while, it has amassed a user base of over 100,000 businesses around the globe. The platform boasts of being “designed by salespeople, for salespeople”.
Pipedrive makes it easy to set up a sales pipeline for your products and services and follow up on different steps of the pipeline to close a sale. You can create the stages for your pipeline by yourself or use an existing template to make it easier. You can add deals or import them from a spreadsheet or from an external CRM into the pipeline.
If you’re dealing with many leads, you'll like that Pipedrive lets you set automatic alerts and reminders to ensure you're on top of your deals. You can also update your sales forecast each time you progress through a deal to reflect your organization's expectation for increased sales.
A unique thing about Pipedrive is that it incorporates artificial intelligence (AI). There’s an AI-powered Sales Assistant that helps you decide what to do to close your deals and automate mundane tasks. For example, the assistant can analyze your sales actions and suggest methods to make your workflow smoother. It can track email opens and community discussions and give you activity reminders to keep you attuned to your deals.
A major drawback of using Pipedrive is that there’s no free version. However, you can take advantage of the 14-day free trial period to test its features before making your final purchase decision. Besides, Pipedrive is one of the most affordable CRM tools, starting at just $10 per user per month, compared to a rival like Salesforce which starts at $25 for the same period.
Read our full Pipedrive CRM review.
What to consider with CRM software
How does CRM software integrate with the sales pipeline? Here's a quick example: Someone in sales could begin by scanning a prospect’s business card, then create a follow-up task, log a phone call, send an email campaign, see recent social media posts, close a deal, and track the status of the project—all in the same software solution.
The focus of each CRM software solution varies from project management tools to marketing automation to lead generation, so look for the specs that fit your requirements.
CRM software equips you with tools that help you win new business. These include automatic workflows, email templates and campaigns, and performance reporting.
To support you in your decision-making, below we address some of the most frequently asked questions about CRM software.
Let's start with the basics: CRM helps you manage relationships with business prospects, close deals, and making internal resources more productive. In practice, it enables you to do the following:
- Store data about your contacts, including names, job titles, emails, and phone numbers.
- Assign and track workflow tasks to sales teams, such as sending follow-up emails, writing business proposals, and tracking invoices.
- Analyze and improve the effectiveness of sales and marketing activities through generating custom reports, forecasting future revenue, and anticipating sales bottlenecks.
Without a CRM solution, you’d be doing significant manual work to store, track, and interact with contacts, and the sales pipeline would be more sluggish without automation or reminders.
Many CRM solutions can integrate with software including Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, Slack, Mailchimp, and business intelligence programs such as Microsoft Power BI.
Populating your CRM database with customer data from elsewhere tends to be seamless: most providers allow imports from spreadsheets or contact apps such as Google Contacts.
How much does CRM software cost?
CRM software is usually priced as a monthly or yearly subscription, with plans varying in feature complexity. Usually, the quoted price is per user, unless stated otherwise.
Many vendors offer unlimited free tiers, while paid plans grow in functionality from Starter to Professional to Enterprise. Sometimes, add-ons come at an extra cost; for example, phone credits, premium support, or access to automated marketing tools.
The first paid tier in CRM software, which generally works well for small businesses, tends to be between $8 to $29 a month per user, charged on a yearly basis.
Mid-tier plans fit growing businesses and are priced between $20 to $75 a month. As a benchmark, Zoho CRM packs a competitive set of features in its affordable $23 monthly Professional plan.
Finally, the Enterprise tiers tend to be on the expensive side, offering customization options and a higher level of support: the range is from $40 to $150 monthly, with HubSpot’s full CRM suite reaching a whopping $4,000 a month.
CRM features and benefits explained
More on CRM software
Looking to learn more about CRM software? Then try these articles. Read our in-depth reviews of Salesforce, and Freshworks, and our feature answering the question: what is CRM software?
We've also explained what a CRM in real estate is; discussed five reasons why you need a small business CRM; seven changes to a CRM for business that drive customer growth; and ranked the best CRM for real estate and the best free CRM software.
How we tested the best CRM software
When we review CRM software, we look at indicators including feature set, interface and ease of use, plans and pricing, and support options.
A high level of automation capability in managing leads, deals, and workflow is an example feature that could contribute towards a high score. Another important strength would be a desktop and mobile interface allowing quick, intuitive access to basic features.
We look at pricing plans and competitors to check whether higher subscription prices are warranted by features you can’t find elsewhere in the market, or whether a good deal could benefit those with lower budgets.
Generous customer support options are also prioritized, especially for CRM software which may come with a steep learning curve.