Top 5 CRM Software for Small Business in 2017

crmAs irrelevant as the CRM question may seem while building up a business, it happens to be one of the biggest stepping stones enterprises rise and fall above all the time. Plus, the fact that most companies believe CRM is reserved for market giants and top performers is the reason why they never become such. Now that customer relationship is almost entirely based in cloud, affordability is no longer an excuse for a startup not securing a tool for quality communication.

The way business is done today, it takes more for a company to succeed that listing customers in Excel. According to recent studies, smart CRM systems help upstart companies grow by boosting their reputation, be those pay-per-use or locally hosted ones. Depending on what the business is looking to accomplish, it gets to choose between customer services for sales, marketing, or a handy combination, while most systems are even analytically-equipped to evaluate agents’ performance. This, nevertheless, leaves an open discussion to as which system is most suitable for a developing company, and which are the features it should be looking for. To make matters a bit easier, we’ve listed and compared top CRM software for small business to consider in 2017.


Top Solutions For Small Business

  • Pipedrive – The leading CRM for freelance and upstart application, ideal for retail businesses looking to compare critical metrics and improve service.
  • Zoho CRM – Member of Zoho’s productivity suite that has the  potential to generate more sales, connect with leads on social networks, and always display fresh, real-time data.
  • Nutshell CRM – Perfect CRM for inbound sales team that improves agents’ performance, and helps makes the most of customer relationships.
  • Freshsales – Top CRM software for small business as it offers powerful lead capturing and evaluation, event tracking, and customizable sales workflows.
  • Insightly – A system that provides holistic contact view & management, and separate tracking options for tasks and milestones.


Pipedrive is the current leader of our CRM software category with a score of 9.8/10. The system is well-known on the CRM market for its capacity to handle small-biz and freelancer needs, and the fact it imposes no limitations on the type of industries/services that get to use it. It is particularly efficient in sales-focused environments, where it helps manage deals and focus on the right customers, and configure a unique lead collection that leaves no potential customer out. The tool is fully optimized for analytics and reporting, as it measures critical metrics independently, and summarizes them on a common dashboard for all team members to contribute.



  • It provides a full overview of your sales pipeline. Pipedrive is designed to help companies monitor deals in different sales stages, so that they can focus on the right customers, and become more productive.
  • It makes it easy to plan events and schedule meetings. Pipedrive makes sure you never miss any important appointment, as it comes with a handy Activity Scheduler where you can also sync data, forward documents, and assign tasks to agents.
  • It offers configurable lead management. With Pipedrive, you can import leads from as many sources as necessary, and categorize them according to your wishes. The system uses Web Forms to collect information and add leads to your lists, and engages them automatically.
  • It comes with top notch statistics. Developers did the impossible to equip Pipedrive for comparisons, which is why it allows generation of all types of standard and customizable reports. You can use it to compare won to lost deals, evaluate agents’ performance, or measure the effect of any activity.
  • It is fully mobile optimized and well integrated. Pipedrive is what we like to call ‘one-size-fits-all’ system, as it can be incorporated in any software architecture and accessed from any device.


  • It doesn’t offer a free lifetime plan. You can nevertheless test features using their free trial, or get your small team a $10/month package.
  • It takes to familiarize with it to make the most of its potential. Pipedrive is not exactly intuitive for a small business with no digital CRM experience, as it has its own management rules you should read about in advance.
  • It may overwhelm you with information. A part of Pipedrive’s personal CRM policy is to make sure users are always in the loop of updates and innovations. They’ll be sending informative emails and promotions or offer training for new features, but you can always contact them in case you prefer to skip those.

2. Zoho CRM

The system is one of the best performing members of Zoho’s reputed productivity suite that focuses exclusively on managing customer relationships and automating daily business activities. We recommend it to small companies because of its potential to generate more sales, connect with leads on social networks, and always display fresh, real-time data. The same as Pipedrive, Zoho CRM is ideal for retail businesses, as it offers a number of sales automation and lead management features, a productivity suite for account regulation, and supports both mobile and social CRM.



  • It offers Sales Force Automation. Zoho CRM is enabled to generate and qualify leads, analyze sales pipelines per stage and probability, and manage quotas.
  • It helps forecast sales performance. With Zoho CRM, companies can discover revenue trends, revise quotas and forecast their accuracy compared to commit amounts, and draft reports on team/individual progress.
  • It automates Lead Management. The system will track leads to deals faster than before, and match the sales-ready among them to the right agents. You can import leads from all external sources, and capture such from your website or trade show.
  • It collates all of your email activities. You can manage your emails through this system, reply to customers using your favorite mail client, create merge templates, distribute updates and notifications, and much more.
  • Social & Mobile CRM. Zoho CRM will at the same time search and engage customers via mobile and social networks, engage them within the social stream, and stay tapped on their interests and preferences.


  • Setup may not be that easy. Due to its robust productivity suite and almost unlimited connectivity, Zoho CRM may require some programming help to help you make the most of it.
  • Customization is advanced, but difficult to get grasp of. For novice users, creating custom fields may be a bit challenging at the beginning.
  • Phone support is available only for enterprise package users. Basic users can nevertheless contact the tech team via emails or tickets.

3. Nutshell CRM


If you’re looking for an inbound sales CRM that focuses on agent performance rather than managerial processing, Nutshell CRM is the ideal system for you. It is also one of the most affordable systems in our database, which nevertheless offers comprehensive contact management. Leads are categorized in a business-specific manner, and displayed with history and behavior details, and you can import them from virtually any local source or third-party application. Nutshell CRM will also provide you with a robust reporting kit, designed to draft performance charts, sales forecasts, summaries, and much more.


  • It lets you automate/customize your sales processes. Nutshell’s dashboard is intuitive and friendly, and aggregates all important activities for real-time follow up. It lumps all opportunities together, and adjusts prices to different markets automatically.
  • It displays contacts in a very comprehensive manner. Once your contact are imported in the system, you can see the entire history of your relationship, including emails and conversations. You can import them from different sources, and categorize them to your wish.
  • Reporting is quite powerful. With Nutshell CRM, you can draft both standard and custom reports, pull out detailed performance charts and success reviews, forecast sales, and track agent activity. All reports are exportable as CSV files.
  • You get to wok in a collaborative environment. Nutshell is designed to help agents track opportunities, and allows group discussions, comments, bulk editing, and exchange of files.
  • Customer support is outstanding. As a general rule to all products discussed in this article, customers get nothing but premium support accessible via several channels, and experienced to solve all issues and queries. In the case of Nutshell CRM, you can contact them via email, phone, live chat, send a ticket, or download their training materials.


  • It is not suitable for enterprises. Nutshell CRM was designed specifically for small and medium companies, which is why enterprises may find its CRM functions too basic for their needs.
  • Lack of self-cleaning method for the database. When facing a problem such as duplicate entries, the user has to contact support and wait for them to locate the problem and to eliminate it.
  • The search field is not that intuitive and won’t respond to custom attributes. When searching for leads, try to limit keywords to common attributes required by the system. Moreover, make sure you import those correctly.

4. Freshsales

With a Free Plan for basic lead scoring, Freshsales made it quite fast to the top 10 CRM solutions on the market. Backed up by Freshdesk’s impeccable reputation, this system promises companies powerful lead capturing and evaluation, event tracking, and customizable sales workflows. The highlight of Freshsales is that it doesn’t only nurture leads, but can also be used as a call center where you can direct and route calls, track their IDs, and store and follow up conversation history.



  • All-in-one CRM and Call Center. Freshsales allows you to direct calls to it, and provides features such as ID recognition, auto-dialer, call routing and assigning, and much more. It will save all conversations, and track the performance of agents who were in charge of them.
  • It distinguishes interested leads. Thanks to its powerful email tracking, Freshsales will not only collect leads, but categorize them in advance. You can discover who is interested in your product, nurture them to close a deal, and depict trends that would improve your lead generation strategy.
  • It tracks events. Freshsales displays a timeline for each client, where you can see their engagement information, interests, and preferences.
  • Builds standard and custom reports. You can use Freshsales to generate pipeline, territory, and email reports, or customize summaries for leads, deals, and opportunities.
  • Pricing is flexible. There is a free plan for small teams, while migration to a paid plan is also made painless.


  • Once leads become deals, you have to convert them manually. When it comes to the pipeline view, bulk editing is not provided.
  • Assigning leads per agent is limited to 25. In case there are more leads assigned to the same agent, you will need to repeat the process.
  • The search filter doesn’t recognize phone numbers. Instead, you have to search for leads using names, dates, or e-mail IDs.

5. Insightly

There is a lot small businesses would like about Insightly, most of it related to holistic contact view & management, and separate tracking options for tasks and milestones to ensure the company will be in control of engagement at any point of time. Insightly is probably the easiest CRM that will give you the small and the big picture of your business works (macro and micro views of your activities), making sure you keep the most effective ones to increase your database.



  • Social CRM. With Insightly, it will be easy to detect leads and their preferences using social networks. Thanks to the macro views of this system, you will be able to evaluate the effects of social engagement.
  • You get the small and the big picture of your business. In short, this means that Insightly provides both macro and micor views of your activities, tracks projects, tasks, and milestones, and compares progress to help you depict valuable opportunities.
  • It generates Opportunity Reports. Alongside standard reports, Insightly generates Opportunity reports based on your business activities.
  • It provides a holistic view of your contacts. With Insightly, it will be incredibly easy to organize contacts-customers, dates, and project data. All information will afterwards be exportable to your email account.
  • It comes with conventional conventional HTTP REST API. For experienced developers, this means that Insightly supports JSON and XML based requests and that thanks to technical support provided by the vendor, you can edit the system’s data directly on your device, and connect it to all third-party apps you’re using.


  • The organizational level is not optional. For certain customers that wish to sort leads differently in their reports, Insightly’s customization options may appear slightly limited.
  • Flexibility is limited in the Free Edition. Free package users will only get 2, 500 records and 10 custom fields. Email and phone support are also reserved to paid-plan users.
  • Constant update reminders. Some users find Insightly’s notifications a bit annoying, but we believe they can be a handy alternative to manual updates.

Comparison of Key Features

Contact management & lead nurturing

All discussed apps help companies collect leads and assemble them in comprehensive lists, but what makes the difference between them is how they handle lead categorization and evaluation.

Pipedrive, Zoho CRM, and Nutshell, for instance, do the best job importing information from local and external sources, collecting such with handy on-site forms, and memorizing participants on trade shows, but lack the micro views of Insightly used to compare the behavior of those leads based on individual activities. At the same time, they are not as generous with categorization and sort-out options as Freshsales is. When it comes to qualification, they all have a different approach.

Pipedrive helps maintain a well-organized lead collection with a history panel per each lead, and a timeline for quality deal closure. The advantage is that import/export is simpler than with other systems, while the drawback is that Pipedrive is designed to work in sales environments, and focuses on sales goals more than it does to personalizing communication.

Zoho CRM excels in lead collection and management, as it is both a social and a mobile CRM. It generates leads from various sources (email, mobile, local lists, web forms, third-party apps, social media), keeps all accounts in a single database, and qualifies them automatically to distinguish sales-ready from cold ones. For sales purposes, it will also display the purchase history per each lead to find cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

Nutshell CRM also imports contacts from various sources, displays them with full conversation overviews, and relies on homegrown intelligence to help you categorize and qualify each of them. It will also assign products, sources, and competitors to each lead profile to lump opportunities together, and help agents focus on potential buyers.

Freshsales offers advanced lead scoring, as it not only attracts leads, but helps you discover where they came from, and how they should be managed up to conversion. You also get a 360-degree overview on all conversations and relevant details, and you can compare leads based on their real-time position on the sales pipeline.

Insighty is famous by its holistic contact view and sharing possibilities to keep records accessible to all users, but what makes it a leading CRM system is mass email import and email management. With web-to-contact forms, easy and automated uploads, and unlimited record customization, Insightly is a reasonable investment for every company.

Sales automation and management

When it comes to sales management, each of the compared products has few competitive advantages that deserve to be mentioned.

Pipedrive, to start with, is entirely focused on sales teams, and offers some of the most comprehensive pipeline views. The highlight is quick closure, as this smart manager picks the right activities for you to focus on, and offers an Activity Scheduler to help you plan your events. You will also benefit from features such as goal setting and bulk editing.

Zoho CRM offers a fully-featured sales force automation suite, where you can perform a probability analysis on each sales stage, assign and revise sales quotas, and measure accuracy against commit amounts. It is also completely enabled for opportunity management, and offers customizable forecast reports and dashboards.

Nutshell CRM is a highly collaborative environment focused on inbound sales team looking to boost sales through improved communication. Among its most prominent features is the possibility to customize sales processes, compare deals for sales analytics purposes, and draft detailed funnel reports.

Freshsales, just as Pipedrive is foremost a sales CRM that offers full visibility on all stages of the sales process. As you move up the deal ladder, Freshsales will make it easy to sort and filter close dates, distinguish bestsellers, and make sudden changes for all actions.

Insightly allows you to set up relationships, pipelines and activities the way it suits your business, and generates Pipeline and Opportunity reports to help evaluate your work. While its micro views may prove incredibly helpful for improving deal closure, the system lacks many of the sales bells and whistles the other systems have.


Standard CRM reports are available in all systems. Pipedrive offers robust and shareable statistics that help teams understand the values of critical metrics, and stores all data in a centralized base from where it can be exported as a summary or a report. The dashboard also has a Live mode used to follow the status of wins, loses, activities, or people, and to compare it in special reports. Zoho CRM, due to its forecasting suite, focuses on delivering forecast and opportunity reports, but it also manages recurring events by day, week, or month. Nutshell CRM is known by its unique Activity and Funnel Reports, and homegrown Nutshell intelligence that helps analyze sales opportunities. Freshsales offers pipeline, territory, email, deal, and opportunity reports, but you can trigger its analytic capacity at any point of time, and to analyze any type of campaign-related information. Last, but not least,  Insightly tracks all contacts for quick lockups, and generates amazing opportunity reports.


We hope we did a good job summarizing the pros and cons of the leading CRM platforms for small businesses. 2017 will be even more competitive than 2016, so make sure you’ve checked the detailed review for each, and tested their free trial to compare how your business can benefit from them. Let us know which product you’ve chosen in the comments!

Category: B2B News

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