Top 5 CRM Software for Small Business in 2017

Pipedrive: No. 1 CRM Solution


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.

Moreover, a Forrester study showed that 58% of employees interact with customer one way or another. That’s a whole lot of untapped internal brand ambassadors. Empowering them with the right tools like CRM can further push sales growth.

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. With 62% of all CRM solutions predicted to be cloud-hosted by 2018 (State of the Cloud Report 2015), you have plenty of choices, and plenty of reasons to be overwhelmed. 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 – Part of the Zoho suite that helps you drive conversion rate, mine social media for leads,  and generate real-time customer information.
  • Nutshell CRM – Perfect CRM for inbound sales team that improves agents’ performance, and helps makes the most of customer relationships.
  • Freshsales – A leading CRM software for small companies to capture and qualify leads, monitor events, and customize sales processes
  • Insightly – A system that provides holistic contact view & management, and separate tracking options for tasks and milestones.

1. Pipedrive

Pipedrive won our Best CRM Software Award for 2016

Pipedrive is the current leader of our CRM software category with a score of 9.8/10. It’s popular with freelance and small business and flexible across industries. 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. Pipedrive features excellent reporting tools and analytics. You can isolate or consolidate metrics to unearth patterns and share the insight with the team. If you want to try out this solution first the vendor offers a great free trial plan. You can easily sign up for Pipedrive free trial here.



  • 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 has flexible lead processes. Pipedrive lets you capture leads from various sources and sort them in different ways that are meaningful to you. Its Web Forms tool is especially useful to collect leads from your website and drive them down the funnel.
  • 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 tends to send one too much  information. Pipedrive loves to update you with notifications, new features, or training updates. This is all part of its personalized approach to CRM. They want you to stay informed. But you can contact them if you want to skip notifications.

2. Zoho CRM

It’s part of the acclaimed Zoho productivity suite, focusing on nurturing of customer relationships for sales opportunities. With Zoho CRM, you capitalize on existing customer database and make more  repeat sales and upselling. Likewise, social media is optimized for more leads and insights are generated in real time. And like Pipedrive, Zoho CRM is targeted at retail businesses looking to improve their sales automation and lead management workflows. The software also features a suite for account regulation and supports mobile access.



  • It automates sales workflows. Capture and qualify leads, track them across the sales pipeline, and generate better sales forecast based on data, not hunch.
  • 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 can be a bit difficult. It’s part of a robust productivity suite, plus it promises unlimited connectivity, making this software a more suitable system for businesses with a tech team.
  • 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


Nutshell CRM is ideal if you want to focus more on improving agent performance than automating workflows. It has a robust contact management, while having one of the lowest pricing tiers. It sorts leads intuitively with historical and behavioral context. Likewise, leads can be sourced from other systems. Nutshell CRM also has excellent reporting tools that help you present agent performance, sales forecasting, executive summaries, etc., with clarity.


  • 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.
  • Promote teamwork. Empower your team with group discussions, shared files, bulk actions, and easy-to-follow comment threads to keep everybody in the loop
  • 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.


  • No enterprise features. Nutshell CRM cannot be scaled to enterprise use. It is designed for small and medium businesses with simplicity and standard functions in mind
  • 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

It has a basic lead scoring freemium, which makes it one of the popular CRM apps today. Supported by the industry acclaimed service desk  Freshdesk, Freshsales lends to your company a reliable lead capture and qualifying and event tracking processes. Likewise, you can customize the sales pipeline based on stages that are meaningful to your team. Aside from lead nurturing, the CRM software can perform help desk tasks, such as, call routing, ID tracking, and customer conversation archiving. You can also easily try out Freshsales with a great free trial plan.



  • 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.
  • Categorizes leads intuitively. Leads are not just collected, they are sorted in context. For instance, qualifying prospects who expressed interest in your product or identifying trends and patterns as revealed by consolidating lead metrics.
  • 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.
  • Phone numbers can’t be filtered in search. You can only sort leads by name, email reference, and date.

5. Insightly

Insightly is known for its big-picture visibility while allowing you to drill down to details. Both views give you the flexibility to slice and dice your sales, support, and marketing perspectives. Among others, Insightly is appreciated for its options to monitor tasks and milestones. You stay on top of activities at all times.



  • 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 helps you get a 360-degree view of the customer. Customer data is organized and consolidated giving you a holistic profile of the types of people who buy from you.
  • 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.
  • Freemium is limited.  You’re only allowed up to 2,500 records and 10 custom fields for the free app and there’s no phone or email support.
  • 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 five CRM solutions have contact management and lead management features. But they differ in how they sort and evaluate leads.

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 uses a history panel to organize leads. A timeline meanwhile marks close dates. The CRM software has a more intuitive export and import feature compared to the other four solutions. But Pipedrive focuses more on streamlining sales processes than helping you nurture relationships with a personalized engagement.

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.

Meantime, Freshsales’ lead scoring stands out. Not only does it help you to collect leads, but show you the lead sources and how to push them down the funnel. How? You get a 360-degree view of conversations, plus you can contextualize leads based on their stage in the 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

Sales management is also one area where the five CRMs differ significantly, with each one having a unique benefit.

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.

On the other hand, Zoho CRM features a full sales force automation platform. You can do success estimates per stage in the pipeline. You can also set sales targets or modify them as the need arises. Zoho CRM also stands out for featuring opportunity management. Likewise, you can customize forecast reports and dashboards that match your metrics.

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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