7 best-in-class CRM systems to consider for your startup

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A customer relationship management system, or CRM system for short, gives companies the tools they need to engage with leads, increase customer satisfaction, and close more deals. Some systems are truly all-in-one and include a host of sales, marketing, customer service, and help desk tools. But more often than not, you’ll choose specific modules according to your business needs. 

With so many choices and endless customizations, finding the right CRM system can be a challenge. But we’re here to help. In this article, we review seven of the best CRM systems for businesses of all sizes. You’ll get a breakdown of each solution, organized into three categories: platform and features, pricing*, and product highlights.

*All prices are current as of 09/23/20 and subject to change.

1. Salesforce 

Salesforce is a well-known CRM system. While many other CRM vendors started out offering other types of business and consumer software, Salesforce focused on sales workflow automation and CRM from its founding. Today, it serves more than 150,000 companies.

Platform and features: Salesforce offers an enormous suite of separate marketing, sales, service, analytics, and IT support apps to help companies manage their sales cycle with confidence. The Sales Cloud product is Salesforce’s all-in-one sales tool and powerful CRM system. You can manage leads across multiple channels, tap into sales forecasting, and share sales content from one custom dashboard.

Users can extend their Sales Cloud’s functionality with add-ons like the Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, Community Cloud, and Einstein Analytics, which utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to supercharge your business strategy. Besides in-house options, Salesforce has hundreds of integrations and a third-party app marketplace.

Pricing: There are four Sales Cloud pricing plans. The least expensive Essentials plan costs $25 per user per month. The other three plans require an annual contract. If you want to add features, costs ramp up quickly. For instance, adding marketing automation or analytics could cost an additional $1,250 or $2,500 per month, depending on the plan you choose. 

You can filter solutions by industry, department, or goal to get to the services you need without the hassle. Still, some customers complain that there’s a lack of clarity about what’s included in each package, why extra charges occur, and total anticipated costs.

Highlights: Salesforce is considered the gold standard for large enterprises and growing businesses that need a single software ecosystem. That said, small firms and startups can also benefit from its sales force automation and business strategy tools.

2. Oracle CRM On Demand

Oracle is another industry leader providing robust and innovative business management tools, from supply chain management and data services to customer experience software and human capital management. 

Platform and features: Oracle has multiple CRM tools, both cloud-based and on-premise, but we’ll focus on the latest edition of Oracle CRM On Demand. This cloud-hosted CRM platform gives enterprise-level companies a 360-degree view of their customers, and enables complete sales force automation. There’s also a desktop version for companies with special security requirements. 

Similar to Salesforce, Oracle CRM On Demand is a suite of apps you can select from to craft your ideal CRM. Its core sales hub — Oracle CRM On Demand Sales — allows large teams to draw from one accurate data source to enhance sales productivity and customer satisfaction. It includes opportunity management, real-time reporting, and historical analytics. You can add on marketing, service, and partner applications and integrations as needed. 

Pricing: Oracle’s pricing isn’t listed directly on its website. According to ITBusinessEdge, packages range from $65 to $300 per user per month. All plans require an annual agreement.

Highlights: If you’re searching for an enterprise-ready tool, Oracle CRM On Demand is a comprehensive customer relationship management system. Although users report a steep learning curve, it’s highly customizable and offers advanced reporting. 

3. HubSpot CRM

HubSpot has earned high marks and a notable reputation for its modern marketing platform and expansive library of in-depth growth marketing resources. Its “freemium” customer relationship management software has become a go-to tool for new businesses as well as small and mid-sized (SMB) businesses. 

Platform and features: The HubSpot CRM includes all the basics for daily pipeline management, customer communication, and multichannel marketing campaigns — without the complicated interface of other CRM systems. 

You can organize your customer histories with contact information, sales activity, web page views, and form submissions in a user-friendly database. There’s the option to engage leads via Gmail, Google Apps, Office 365, and other integrations. There’s also convenient live chat.

Optional add-on features help establish this CRM platform as a true all-in-one product for small businesses and startups. You can also integrate HubSpot Sales Pro and Marketing Pro for a fee.

Pricing: HubSpot is a standout because it offers a 100% free CRM version with unlimited users, no expiration date, and the CRM capabilities small companies need. Unlike other software-as-a-service (SaaS) options we’ve covered, there’s no annual contract required for its CRM & Sales plans. 

For more advanced versions, the Starter plan is $50 per month and includes two users. There are extra costs if you need additional contacts, quotes, custom fields, and email inboxes. If you work for a startup, you might be eligible for up to 90% off each plan through the HubSpot for Startups Program.

Highlights: While the free version is a key selling point, customers stay for the HubSpot CRM’s easy-to-use dashboards, scalability, and straightforward tools. 

4. Pipedrive

Where other companies do a little bit of everything, Pipedrive is a sales and customer relationship management company at its core. Founded in 2010, it’s a relatively new CRM contender that’s laser-focused on sales team automation. 

Platform and features: With “pipe” in the name, it’s clear Pipedrive is all about empowering sales reps and marketing teams with better pipeline management. It offers a clean and intuitive visual pipeline to help your sales team negotiate and close deals, mark progress, and remain organized throughout the entire sales process. 

Another noteworthy aspect is Pipedrive’s mobile app, available for Android and iOS. You can take notes, review customer interactions, make calls, send emails, and take your sales pipeline anywhere you go. Data is backed up to the cloud in real time. That said, Pipedrive has fewer email marketing, social media, and web marketing tools compared to other CRM systems. 

Pricing: Pipedrive offers some of the most affordable CRM packages available. The Essential plan, the entry-level tier, starts at $15 per user per month. Upgrades include expanded email functionality and more workflow automations, report types, and security features. The Enterprise plan is $99 per user monthly, with a 10-user minimum. 

Highlights: Pipedrive is a solid management tool for businesses of all sizes and industries. The mobile CRM is particularly useful for on-the-go sales teams. 

5. SugarCRM 

SugarCRM is another popular customer relationship management company. It used to offer an open-source CRM product that was ideal for companies seeking tech stack and development freedom. Now, it offers numerous tools to help companies win new leads and new customers. 

Platform and features: A unique feature of SugarCRM is that you can deploy its software on-premise or choose a cloud-based solution. As such, firms with specific data security, privacy, and compliance policies can still enjoy the benefits of CRM technology. 

SugarCRM offers three cloud software options: Sugar Sell, Sugar Serve, and Sugar Market. There’s also Sugar Professionals, which is designed for small businesses and features elements from each package. Sugar Sell contains most of the CRM features you expect, like a drag-and-drop interface, sales journeys, light communication and marketing features, and data management and analysis

Another perk of SugarCRM is that it’s a multicurrency and multilingual platform, perfect for international companies and ecommerce business owners. 

Pricing: Sugar Sell starts at $80 per user per month, making it one of the pricier options. What’s more, every subscription level except Sugar Market has a 10-user minimum. (Read: the minimum monthly cost of the Sugar Sell plan is $800.) All plans are billed annually, so your total upfront cost may be higher than it appears at first glance. 

Highlights: SugarCRM offers a collection of robust apps, and the cloud and on-premise flexibility is great for mid-market and enterprise-level businesses. 

6. Zoho CRM 

Zoho offers more than 40 business productivity tools used by over 50 million users worldwide. Its massive library of SaaS applications spans sales, ecommerce, marketing, email, collaboration, finance, IT support, help desk, human resources, and business intelligence. 

Platform and features: Among a laundry list of apps, the Zoho CRM still manages to be one of the strongest CRM solutions. Its platform is simple to implement and easy on the eyes, with industry-standard tools like customer lifecycle management, sales force automation, and project management, as well as analytics and forecasting. 

Some plans include Zia, an AI-powered sales tool that delivers advanced lead scoring and deal predictions. There are also gamification elements to motivate teams and reward them for hitting goals. The extensive Zoho Marketplace has plenty of apps to streamline your marketing efforts and customer service.

Pricing: Companies can try the platform using the Zoho CRM Free Edition. It comes with three free users and CRM essentials like sales tasks, events, email templates, notes, and mobile app access. Paid plans start at $18 monthly per user. Higher tier plans include additional portals, advanced customization, and more.

Highlights: The Zoho CRM is an end-to-end solution with an accessible price point and convenient add-ons.

7. Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that rounds out our list of the best CRM systems. Its curated toolkit includes everything from operations and field service to finance and human resources apps. 

Platform and features: The Microsoft Dynamics CRM puts businesses in control of customer data. It boasts a highly customizable home screen, lead management and prospect tracking, and detailed reporting. You can use the Sales module alone, or create an all-in-one platform by adding one of seven other business modules.

The core of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is sales force automation, but you can also easily create price lists, distill customer information into marketing lists, and follow up with leads. Other standout features include attractive charting and graphing tools, as well as solid mobile apps for Android and iOS. Of course, this CRM is a go-to tool for businesses that rely on other Microsoft products, like Outlook and Excel. 

Pricing: The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Sales app starts at $65 per user per month. There’s potential to save as you add modules. For instance, if you purchase the Sales Professional plan, your subsequent app purchase is just $20 per user per month.

Highlights: Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a quality solution for a mid-market price point, and works best when integrated with other Microsoft products. 

CRM systems are a must-have

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Investing in powerful, cloud-based CRM software enables your business to deliver the best experience possible to the people who keep your business thriving — your workforce and your customers. These sales, marketing, and communication tools are essential to maintain a competitive edge in the modern marketplace. 

For scalable, wallet-friendly CRM solutions, consider Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM, and Pipedrive. If you have the budget and need, Oracle CRM On Demand, SugarCRM, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are excellent for large enterprises with complex business processes.

Whether you have a customer base of 50 or five million, there’s a CRM product to suit your business needs.

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