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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Read our Freshsales 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 software compared
|CRM software||Lowest monthly fee||Free version||Key features||Support|
|Freshworks CRM||$15 per user||Free plan; 21-day free trial||Deal management AI; In-built calling tool||Phone and email support, Mon–Fri|
|Zoho||$14 per user||Free plan; 15-day free trial||Lead generation through website scraping; Deal management AI||Email support, Mon–Fri|
|HubSpot CRM||$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|
|Keap||$40 first user then $30 per user||14-day free trial||Unlimited email marketing||Online chat, phone, community|
|Workbooks||$34 per user||Free plan; 30-day free trial||Coaching program, supportive onboarding||Email, phone, knowledge base|
|Insightly||$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|
|Salesforce (US link)||$25 per user||30-day free trial||Sophisticated workflow automation; Enterprise app development||Email ticketing and toll-free phone|
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CRM features and benefits explained
CRM software reviews
Salesforce is a global leader in CRM, with advanced, customizable functionality, user-friendly design, and outstanding reporting tools.
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 features that justify the higher prices.
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.
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.
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.
Freshworks CRM 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.
Furthermore, there’s an in-built calling tool with a recording feature that automatically updates customer communication records.
Freshworks 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.
Read our full Freshworks review; our Freshsales CRM review to learn more about the sales-focused CRM; our Freshdesk CRM review to find out about its customer engagement CRM; our Freshmarketer CRM review to learn about the marketing CRM element; and Freshservice to discover its IT support CRM.
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.
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.
On 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.
Read our full Zoho CRM 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.
On paid plans, the core CRM is enriched with features from HubSpot’s Marketing, Sales, and Service Hubs. 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. A mid-tier plan, including sales, marketing, and service hubs, can cost $1,275 per month.
Read our full HubSpot CRM review.
Workbooks is an excellent CRM for midsize businesses, offering solutions for customer service, sales, marketing, and operations teams.
Its primary differentiator 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.
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.
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. A straightforward interface and generous support options make Keap highly accessible even for the most novice CRM users.
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.
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 business card scanner, it’s not able to scrape the internet for new leads. 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.
How we review 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.
More on 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.