How Do Companies Choose the Right CRM Solution?

We all know that CRM software helps us build strong relationships with our customers, boost conversations, and improve revenues. We all know that we need CRM to process and analyze customer information, make use of disconnected data to depict opportunities, create sales funnels, and carry out loyalty campaigns. It also allows us to categorize customers according to their expectations and devote attention to prospective buyers. But here’s what we want to know:

How Do Companies Choose the Right CRM Solution?

Ultimately, what we want to know is how to choose the right CRM solution for our company.

Companies choose the right CRM solution for them by comparing the various factors in all the available CRM solutions. Some of the things that companies look at are features, how the software is deployed, how much it would cost, the quality of customer support, whether or not it allows customizations, whether or not it provides mobile support, and finally CRM trends. We are going to look at each of these seven factors in this article, and hopefully it will answer your questions and show you how to choose the best CRM software for your unique needs.

What CRM Features Are Important?

Most quality solutions share common features that help you perform basic relationship management processes, but they also vary in some features that address specific industries, business size, or specializations. You can read more about why is a CRM system important in our other article. These are the key features every CRM should posses:

  1. Contact manager – Organizes your contacts (customers and suppliers) by categories for easy sorting or retrieval. For some small businesses with a tight budget, this feature is all they need to conduct a CRM program, such as, email campaigns or categorizing their customers based on their records. This feature may be a stand-alone module or integrated with other modules.
  2. Sales automation/marketing – It’s the main component of a CRM software. This feature automates the sales process from prospecting to customer inquiry and sending out replies to order taking. At its core, this module should help you to follow leads, such as, customer inquiries, past sales, or web visits. A good sales automation feature also have web forms that let you capture leads from landing pages, invite web visitors, or collect feedback. This module is sometimes referred to as marketing automation.
  3. Sales tracking – Some vendors include this feature in sales automation or as a separate module. This feature helps you measure sales analytics. How much you’ve sold? Where? Who? Sales forecasting. Sales rep performance. These are some of the basic functions of the module. The CRM software should have at least a basic set of report templates and a dashboard to help you create sales reports or see an overview of your sales performance.
  4. Communication channels – This feature is usually integrated with other modules. Many CRM software boast of multiple-channels to communicate with customers, including: email, phone, IM or live chat, social, and forums. Although having more channels means a wider reach, it doesn’t make sense to get a live chat or phone feature if you don’t have someone to handle it, or a social network function if your online social presence isn’t developed. Often, an email channel alone sits well with customers provided you respond within 24 hours.

How is the CRM Software Deployed?

Hosted Environment

You buy or license a range of software applications that you need for your business. You run these out of a hosted environment, where you rent space on a server or a virtual server and your users access the application via a web interface. With this option your data is held remotely at the hosting organization. The beauty of a hosted environment is that you don’t need to purchase a physical server nor keep an in-house IT team to support it. In other words you are just renting the space you and your users require.

Web-access CRM

You could also install a web-access CRM. The software and data live in your own servers, located in your building. However, you are relieved of the cost and maintenance headache of having the software installed on multiple machines around the business. Everyone, whether they’re in the building or working remotely, can access the software through a URL with a username and password. It’s like an intranet/extranet set-up, but you’re diving straight into the application, rather than accessing web pages. For those organizations concerned with where their data is stored, web-access is a good option since data never leaves your servers.

True Cloud Application

The third option is a true ‘cloud’ application. The software company hosts the application on their high-powered servers and you get secure access from wherever you are, via a security log-in which recognizes you, your permission levels, and the location (also at the software host) of your stored data. Considerations here tend to rest on whether you’re renting the use of a discrete or a ‘public’ cloud application. Are you just another bunch of users sitting on a set of mega-servers in a shared application environment? Or does the service give you your own private environment, separate database, etc?

True “cloud” applications are a very attractive option for businesses with growing databases that do not want to worry about constantly purchasing new on-premise storage servers.

Choosing between these options is tricky. Each deployment option has its pros and cons depending on several factors such as budget, accessibility and security requirements.

How Much Does CRM Cost?

We cannot ignore cost when deciding on which CRM solution to go with. After all, cost plays a factor in how profitable we will be in the long-term. Therefore, it makes sense to choose the lowest cost solution without also sacrificing needful and necessary features. In the final analysis, what matters is not so much cost, but value.

Below is a list of the top 7 CRM software solutions we reviewed, with their lowest-cost option:

  1. Pipedrive$10.00 per user per month, billed annually. Pipedrive is available in three SMB and enterprise pricing plans. All payment plans offer a free 30 days trial, and provides you with the possibility to use the app free for 2 month if you decide to pay on an annual basis.
  2. Hubspot CRMFREE. HubSpot CRM is available completely for free, so you can easily start using the software right away without any costs or charges involved.
  3. Salesforce CRM$5.00 per user per month, billed annually. Salesforce CRM offers four SMB and enterprise pricing plans billed annually.
  4. Insightly$12.00 per user per month, billed annually. Insightly is another worthwhile HubSpot alternative. It offers monthly or yearly subscription with the option to cancel any time. It accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover Card and billing is in US dollars. Subscriptions are available in five different SMB and enterprise pricing plans.
  5. Zoho CRM$12.00 per user per month, billed annually. Zoho CRM offers a monthly or yearly pay-as-you-go service that you can cancel, upgrade, or downgrade anytime. All major cards and bank or check transfers are accepted. There’s a free trial plan that you can try out. There are four SMB and enterprise pricing plans to choose from.
  6. Freshsales$12.00 per user per month, billed annually. Freshsales offers three SMB and enterprise pricing plans, but also a completely free one for startups and small companies. A 30-day free trial plan is also available so you can easily try out all key features of the software.
  7. Nutshell CRM$20.00 per user per month. Nutshell CRM offers three different SMB and enterprise pricing plans tailored to meet the needs of all clients. A free trial is also available so you can check the capabilities of the system first.

What Customer Support Does CRM Offer?

When it comes to CRM software solutions, one big factor would have to be customer support. What good would it be if, when you run into a problem, you cannot get the necessary help to solve it? The CRM solution might be the most cost-effective, or the most feature-packed, but if you cannot get a hold of anyone to help you when you run into a problem, it wouldn’t be the ideal solution for your needs. Fortunately, the top 7 solutions have very good support options:

  1. Live (Pipedrive)
  2. Phone (Hubspot and Salesforce)
  3. Email (Insightly, Zoho, and Freshsales)
  4. Tickets (Nutshell)

Which CRM Allows Customization?

Even the best CRM software solution is not perfect or ideal for every company or every need. The software developers of each product couldn’t possibly anticipate all the needs or requirements of each company or business. Therefore, it is important that the ideal CRM software solution allow certain customizations to better fit the requirements of your business.

Pipedrive allows full and extended customization

With Pipedrive, you can customize literally everything. It’s possible to add customized fields to modify your sales pipeline stages according to your business needs. You can also turn on and off whole modules with just one click. When communicating with your clients, you will have access to a variety of modern editing filters to personalize messages, or share/publish files you think would be relevant for your colleagues. Group discussions are also available.

Hubspot allows you to customize views. Salesforce, on the other hand, gives you customizable reports with the basic Contact Manager Plan, customizable dashboards with the Professional Plan, and customizable everything with the Enterprise Plan. Insightly also offers customizable features. Zoho, Freshsales, and Nutshell also offer various customizable options with their various plans.

Does CRM Provide Mobile Support?

Most people nowadays spend the bulk of their time online with their mobile devices, rather than on a PC or a laptop. Therefore, it’s imperative that any CRM solution should have a strong mobile component. The top 7 CRM solutions profiled in this article offers mobile support.

Pipedrive offers full mobile optimization

Pipedrive allows you to take your sales pipeline with you anywhere you go because of its mobile apps. If you are a tablet user, you can use the app’s mobile web version using your favorite browser from anywhere in the world. You can also take notes during a meeting or call using this application. All data is also backed up in real time to a separate server.

Hubspot supports Windows Mobile, among others. Freshsales and Nutshell can do mobile too.

Salesforce CRM has a mobile app (Salesforce1 Mobile App) for Android and iOS featuring real-time data from dashboards and custom reports. It lets you take the software’s main functions with you, on the field or at the office.

Insightly has an iOS, Kindle and Android mobile platform for on-location flexibility, and it integrates well with popular applications, such as, Google Apps & Gmail, Evernote, MailChimp, Office, and Outlook.

Zoho’s mobile platform lets you take CRM on location so can get updates fast and real-time, and close more deals even when on the go. It is a special, dedicated mobile edition for Android and iOS users which helps stay in control of customers even while on the go. You can control their actions, access sales records, or send invitations directly from your mobile device.

What Are CRM Software Trends For the Next 5 Years?

The global Customer Relationship Management market has been growing at a phenomenal pace over the past few years. The market has been expanding at a CAGR of 7.1% as of 2018. Salesforce has been a market leader in the CRM space for some time now and continues to improve its position. Going forward, we expect Salesforce to maintain its competitive edge and continue to add significant market share by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Indeed, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next big trend in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The combination of the two technologies is seen to result in better information management with AI interpreting and redirecting data. It will likewise make customer interaction far simpler to include help desks in transactions. More accurate customer profiles can be generated from these hybrid systems as they use intelligent information analysis and data entry.

Another recent CRM trend as reported in InformationWeek is called customer retention through contextual messaging. Through this technology, messages can be far more personalized.

Adam Goldberg

By Adam Goldberg

Adam Goldberg is a senior market research analyst and one of the key customer experience technology and CRM pioneers working for the FinancesOnline review team. He has been cooperating with FinancesOnline for over 5 years now. During that time Andrew has analyzed more than 2,000 CRM solutions and he’s well-known for his honest reviews and his unique perspective on challenges and opportunities posed by customer-centric innovation. He’s a strong believer in business process automation and the role it plays in customer data management, conversational intelligence, and customer engagement. His work has been mentioned in many major publications and media sites, including MSN, Springer, TheNextWeb, and CIO.

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