CRM Software for Sales and Marketing

A sales lead is just a potential sales opportunity. To convert a sales lead into a closing business deal, you must develop a proper marketing strategy and use the best CRM software to organize the marketing campaign from start to finish. A marketing campaign can convert prospects into paying customers if it’s done right. There are many tools available today to help automate your workflow and build loyalty in return customers.

So you need a CRM system, but there are so many options out there, it’s hard to figure out what solution is best. Don’t worry. The CRM software market has been growing steadily over the years and now there are hundreds of CRM systems available. Understanding their features can help you tackle that task. In this article, I describe how various CRM systems stack up against each other in terms of functionality and price.

What is CRM Software?

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a business strategy that stresses good ongoing relationships with customers. It holds that maintaining these relationships drives growth and profitability. There are two core elements of this customer-centric strategy:

  1. Presenting a unified face to the customer
  2. Providing a seamless customer experience

CRM software can help by synchronizing customer communications among business units. Sales, marketing, and customer service can all get on the same page. It acts as a system of record for contacts and accounts throughout the customer lifecycle. With CRM tools companies can track, automate, analyze, and optimize customer interactions. At its core, a CRM is a database of contact information and interaction history for each contact.

Multiple departments may be using the CRM within one organization. These include sales, marketing, customer success or service, and potentially other teams too.

Customer Relationship Management Software Features

In general, customer relationship management technology provides the following sets of capabilities:

Customer Data Management

CRM software collects and organizes customer data. This includes contact information and interactions via email, phone, webchat, and social media.

Sales Acceleration and Enablement

CRM software helps streamline and automate certain sales-related duties. This helps enable sales reps to do their job better and also accelerates sales cycles through the automation of repetitive tasks. These tasks may include:

  • Creation of quotes
  • Order processing
  • Updating contact information
  • Sending emails
  • Sales forecasting
  • Evaluating employee performance

As the source of sales force automation features, CRM systems are the most established type of sales acceleration technology. They are also considered a tool for sales enablement.

Marketing Automation

Many CRM software products include some marketing automation features. Others integrate with dedicated marketing automation products. Some features to look for include:

  • Email marketing
  • Lead management
  • Lead scoring and qualification
  • Landing page creation
  • Web forms
  • Marketing analytics

Customer Service & Support

CRM software products often provide customer support-related features. Many also integrate with standalone customer support software (i.e. help desks and contact center software). Customer support features may include:

  • Knowledge bases
  • Ticketing systems
  • Live chat
  • Customer support portals

Additional Features & Considerations

Some CRM software products also offer project management and social media management capabilities.

Additional considerations when evaluating CRM software include:

  • Deployment type (on-premise vs. hosted)
  • Customization options
  • Usability/UX
  • Mobile access
  • Security and privacy
  • Ease of integration
  • Scalability

Benefits of Using a CRM System

CRM systems hold several benefits for both small businesses and enterprises. When implemented properly, CRM can:

  • Create a single storehouse for customer data
  • Provide greater visibility into sales, marketing and customer service processes
  • Help optimize customer communications
  • Shorten sales cycles
  • Improve customer retention
  • Help companies understand and address the needs of customers
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Automate tasks
  • Increase operational efficiency
  • Free up employees to focus on customer interactions

Best Sales CRM Software

Nutshell

Benefits:

Nutshell is a total CRM solution complete with sales automation and marketing tools. No IT department is required. Build and access customer conversation histories, use lead form integration to turn website visitors into contacts, and segment leads and customers in sophisticated ways (including industry, lifetime value, and location).

The personal email sequences feature is hugely helpful for outbound sellers and is offered natively. Other Nutshell features that sales reps love to include the map view, in-app phone dialing and recording, sales automation suite, and fully customizable reporting tools.

Nutshell’s Gmail Chrome extension seamlessly connects your Google and Nutshell contacts and emails, and syncs and automatically updates Google events with Nutshell activities. It also allows you to save emails to Nutshell, sync Google Calendar activities, create tasks, track communication timelines, write notes, and view which emails have been shared with teammates in-app.

Drawbacks:

It should be noted, users cite a lack of automated integrations and customizability capabilities as a bit of a bummer, but depending on your situation Nutshell’s easy-to-setup interface and third-party integrations through Zapier may make up for that.

Pricing: 

  • Starter plan is $19 per user/per month billed annually, and $22 per user/per month billed monthly
  • Pro plan is $35 per user/per month, billed annually. and $39 per user/per month billed monthly

Nutshell offers a 14-day free trial for both its Starter and Pro plans. 

Salesmate

Benefits:

Salesmate is a CRM system for salespeople who want to spend more time selling and less time learning to use new apps. It’s great for startups and small businesses, but it can also be used for the real estate and construction industries.

This platform is always improving itself. It’s given its analytics and reporting a significant upgrade, with a more customizable and interactive dashboard. Salesmate has also added new tools for phone calling and deal management, as well as new mobile app improvements. New features on the horizon include live chat and DocuSign integrations. 

Drawbacks:

Some of the customization features can be a bit lacking, especially when trying to create custom data fields. Also, you’ll need the pricier version for essential tools like email analytics.

Pricing:

  • Starter version is $12 per user/per month, billed annually
  • Growth version is $24 per user/per month, billed annually
  • Boost version is $40 per user/per month, billed annually

Salesmate.io offers a 15-day free trial on all of their plans.

Really Simple Systems

Benefits:

Simple yet sophisticated. An easy-to-use CRM with marketing automation, contact management for clients, vendors, suppliers, and leads. Features sales force automation and customer satisfaction-inducing customer service tools.

Simple Systems also offers advanced data security and encryption (traits that make this CRM a favorite of government and financial organizations).

Drawbacks:

Generating a report is a bit more complex than it probably needs to be. Email templates for marketing campaigns are a little basic. Outlook users won’t be able to trigger active reminders in their inboxes.

Pricing:

  • Free plan for up to 2 users.
  • Starter plan is $14 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 per user/per month billed monthly.
  • Professional plan is $30 per user/per month billed annually, and $33 per user/per month billed monthly.
  • Enterprise plan is $46 per user/per month billed annually, and $50 per user/per month billed monthly.

Zoho CRM

Benefits:

Zoho CRM caters to businesses of all sizes and types with its simple user interface, customizable modules, automation, and social media features.

The platform lets you define workflows and rationalize your everyday tasks, manage leads, and automate processes. Integration with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ allows you to reach out and engage with leads quickly and snappy, at just the right time.

If you’re on the hunt for a free CRM, you may want to give their gratis offering a whirl. It’s available for up to 3 users, although it is limited features-wise. Customization is limited, but users can send 50 individuals’ emails per day and have access to 10 email templates.

The paid Standard edition of Zoho pumps up the usability factor with robust sales forecasting and KPI tracking. The Enterprise edition adds ever more sophisticated tools, such as stage-by-stage sales funnel tracking and customizable data comparisons across teams, users, regions, and more. You can access Zoho’s advanced features with the Ultimate edition which comes with an exclusive 30-day free trial.  

PipeDrive

Pipedrive keeps busy sales professionals on track with at-a-glance pipeline information. It sets up in minutes; no technical skills are necessary. Team management and goal-setting tools are only available with the upper-tier plans.

All CRMs capture lead and sales information, but Pipedrive’s unique visual sales pipeline sets it apart from similar platforms. You get a complete overview of each deal’s exact stage and can use the drag-and-drop interface to easily perform mission-critical tasks like adding contacts or moving deals between stages. Pipedrive even collects leads from your chatbot and web form interactions, feeding them directly into the pipeline where they won’t be overlooked. Customizable pipelines and fields let you tap into existing workflow systems or create new ones.

Pipedrive’s features are designed to enhance sales performance, including reporting tools, workflow automation, and communication tracking. The integrated artificial intelligence tool analyzes your past business performance to recommend ways to improve your sales efforts and suggest tasks that will provide the maximum benefit at the moment.MORE

Freshworks

Freshworks CRMFreshworks offers AI features for businesses to conduct dynamic lead scoring to inform which prospects are most likely to buy. Excellent communication tools help Freshworks stand out from the crowd. The pricing plans have user limits, which can complicate budgeting and scalability.

Freshworks is a standout solution for sales professionals who make and receive many calls and need CRM software to capture the data those calls generate. You can easily tie your existing phone number to the CRM platform, or buy a new local or toll-free number from over 90 countries with a single click. Mobile and vanity phone numbers are also available.

Built-in phone options include call recording, call transfer, conference calling, and a widget that allows you to make calls right from Freshworks’ sales page. You can configure agent extensions for quick call routing and set custom ringtones that callers will hear before the phone is answered to enhance the customer experience. Customized greetings and phone-tree messages round out the personalization and branding options that make interacting with your company a pleasant experience for your customers.

Freshworks supports sales calls and all other customer touchpoints with a comprehensive feature set that includes deal and account management, list segmentation, email sync, and website visitor activity tracking. Its artificial intelligence tool, Freddy AI, rounds out the package with predictive contact scoring, deal insights, and smart chatbots. Freshworks’ CRM plans are available at several price points, including sales-only and marketing-only tiers, so you only pay for the features you need.

Keap

Keep CRMKeap is a great choice for solopreneurs and small businesses that don’t need a lot of bells and whistles with their CRM. Keap’s combination of sales and marketing tools keeps all your customer activity data and outreach efforts in a single location. All plans require a $500 onboarding fee.

Keap is a great solution for busy small business owners looking for a turnkey CRM that’s easy to set up and maintain. Its migration team will help you move your company’s existing data from many popular CRMs into Keap for free. Its fee-based onboarding service includes one-on-one coaching and other training materials to get you up and running in no time. Live chat support and an extensive online library of helpful resources are available 24/7, and phone and email support are accessible on weekdays.

Keap’s entry-level plan is designed with small and emerging businesses in mind. It includes the core tools companies need to support sales efforts, including lead capture, client invoicing, and contact management tools. Scheduling software makes setting up meetings a breeze, and the email sync with Gmail and Outlook helps you centralize communications in a single organized system. Keap scales as your business grows, so you can easily add more functionality to the CRM as the need arises.

To help users reach their target customers, Keap recently released a new feature: automated text message marketing. With this new capability, users can set up text message responses to automatically generate when certain events are triggered (e.g., a customer completes a web form). This feature not only reaches your customers where they are but also takes the burden away from your team, streamlining your customer communication process.

Plan upgrades provide additional features to nurture customer relationships, such as automated sales pipelines, customizable dashboards, and reporting tools that shed valuable insight on team performance. The email templates and list segmentation tools help you message the right audience at the right time, while the built-in reporting tool tracks the campaign’s effectiveness and customer engagement.

Keap can help small businesses simplify their sales process with its useful Checkout Forms tool. With select plans, users can create customizable checkout forms to collect customer payments without sending a complete invoice. What’s more, Keap recently enhanced these e-commerce tools so businesses can create intuitive checkout pages with embedded promo codes and one-click upsells. You can also add branded logos and colors to make your checkout forms match your business. Together with Keap’s intuitive automation and synchronization, these embedded features add to the software’s overall usability.

Conclusion

CRM is one of the most important tools that will help you improve your sales process, customer relationships, and marketing campaigns. The more organized your sales team is, the more efficient it will be able to develop new sales leads and serve your current customers more effectively.

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