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What is CRM Software? Analysis of Features, Types and Pricing

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What is CRM software?

CRM software is a system that enables you to nurture relationships with customers and prospects to drive sales or sustain long-term profitability. It also aggregates streams of customer data to surface insights that help you make better business decisions.

As more customers look for products and services that understand their needs and responsive to their situations, businesses find it necessary to personalize customer interactions to stay competitive. Indeed, a Forrester study revealed that 72% of customers believe “time is the most important thing that a company can do to provide them with good service.” Even with a huge customer base, companies can keep tab of customer engagements, thanks to CRM software.

In this article, you’ll gain a better understanding of CRM and the definition of its many aspects. It will make you better informed, so you can make the right decision navigating through hundreds of CRM solutions in the market today. Specifically, we’ll guide you through the following:

What are examples of CRM software?

1. HubSpot CRM

Popular CRM platform HubSpot CRM is a leading tool from app vendor HubSpot.

This intense popularity among users stems from the fact that it is among the best free CRM solutions around. It is a highly-flexible and intuitive product that can be used immediately after setup completion. This is because users need not make changes to their own workflows to be able to optimally use HubSpot CRM. It was designed with SMBs in mind, most of which are known to want to give CRM systems a try. The platform is also known for its ease-of-use, doing away with complex processes while providing all basic features.

The software can organize just about any customer detail so that users can construct both contact and company profiles. It assigns and tracks transactions while handing over total control over agent performance. All activities, meanwhile, are monitored by team members through the software. It has numerous integrations, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zapier and Shopify, to name a few.

You can easily sign up for HubSpot CRM free trial here and get to know the features firsthand at no cost and without commitment.

HubSpot CRM

This award is given to the best product in our CRM Software category. It highlights its superior quality and underlines the fact that it's a leader on the market.

HubSpot CRM won our Best CRM Software Award for 2018

Our score
9.8
User satisfaction
99%

2. Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce Essentials is part of the vendor’s CRM and customer support platforms, only intended for small businesses. It is specifically targeted at small teams who are known to have limited time and resources, helping them sell both faster and smarter. This is made possible by the built-in intelligence tool that comes with the software. It also makes CRM implementation a relatively simple task. Setup is a breeze, not taking weeks as many other tools in the category are known for. Users get help in setting up the system from apps that come with the software, namely, Trailhead and the Einstein Artificial Intelligence.

What makes the product even better is that it has powerful integrations, which include G Suite, Gmail and Google Calendar. Salesforce Essentials also helps businesses improve their customer service, centralizing and connecting a variety of support channels automatically. These can be accessed from any device, allowing them to be resolved at the soonest possible time. Aside from this, repetitive tasks can be automated, saving personnel precious time and effort. 

If you want to know more about the features you can easily sign up for Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

3. Freshsales

Freshsales is a robust CRM system from application developer Freshdesk. It is designed to cater to the sales teams of today, aiding them in tracking contacts while effectively resolving customer inquiries and concerns. The product came under development owing to the vendor’s own need to manage its sales process and the need to empower users to accomplish numerous tasks using a singular tool. This contact management program allows users to handle thousands of leads at a time through a very intuitive interface.

It can also function as a dynamic analytic contributor, offering critical sales tips and insights on how to best leverage them. It does not take much to set the system up as it does not come with complex procedures. The platform has numerous integrations and transactions are quite secure as they all take place in the cloud. Other prominent features such as direct calls, email tracking, sales management, event tracking, reporting, lead management and analytics also come with the software.

An appealing test drive of all software features is available to you when you sign up for Freshsales free trial here.

HubSpot CRM, Salesforce, and Freshsales are the top three CRM solutions subjected to a comparative analysis to find out which of them is the best.

Why use a CRM software?

You’ve learned what is CRM software, but what are its uses? There are several reasons why your company should use a CRM software. It can be set up for insights, automation, integration, visibility, accessibility, and collaboration—the result is increased productivity and more efficiency to your business. Here are the key advantages of CRM software:

  1. Streamline customer profiling. Get a 360-degree visibility over your customers with details of their demographics, contact information, transaction history, and support interactions, among others. Organizing this customer information in a single, centralized location makes it easy to sort, store, and retrieve as needed.
  2. Boost sales opportunities. Having access to crucial information gives empowers you to enhance your strategies. It streamlines qualifying leads and converting promising prospects to make sure you are spending time on valuable leads. Make the right approach at the right time when upselling or cross-selling. If you have dormant customers, you can re-engage them by reaching out proactively.
  3. Leverage data-driven decisions. The tool gives you deep insights about your customers and the market behavior by gathering disparate data together. It looks through trends, patterns, and insights to empower your strategies. You also get visibility on the sentiments of your customers towards your brand by translating the data streams coming from sources such as sales data, support interactions, and social media content.
  4. Forecast sales efficiently. You can improve your forecasting through an efficient and transparent sales pipeline. This will show you the tasks and deals that are incoming and going out. Know which of them are moving or inactive so you can respond appropriately. This also helps you make changes to ensure your business goals are achieved.
  5. Align marketing and sales. These two processes work together to improve your overall customer experience. They both share information about contacts, customer insights, and deals. Marketing teams can help your sales team increase their sales while the sales teams can empower marketing teams in their marketing strategies, brand messages, and campaigns.
  6. Monitor your customer’s social posts. Social media channels can be managed in a single platform. This makes it easy to respond when a customer reaches out to you. Brand mentions will let you know your customer’s sentiments. Understand what you’re doing right and improve them by knowing your customer’s praises. Meanwhile, resolve and address the rants and issues thrown by your customers to enhance their experience.
  7. Accelerate data collection. Mobile tools and solutions which are part of your mobile CRM strategy enable you to quickly gather and save data even when you’re on the go. The quick access to the software empowers how you stay updated with real-time syncing. Sales and marketing teams can respond immediately to their sales pipelines and campaigns at any time, anywhere.

What are the types of CRM software?

We’ve defined what is CRM software, but what are its different types? CRM software is generally classified into three types based on function: operational, analytical, and collaborative. Most solutions feature all three, but usually are strongest in one or two only. What you deem your priority function will dictate your choice of software.

Operational

The CRM’s main goal here is to streamline and automate workflows in sales, marketing, and customer service. Solutions that are strong in this area have excellent lead management, contact management, help desk, and sales pipeline. This is commonly used by managers, marketers, salespeople, service reps, and tech support to offload repetitive tasks and fast track work.

Examples: Pipedrive, Zoho CRM, and HubSpot CRM.

Analytical

A good analytical CRM can source tons of data from multiple touch points and consolidate them into insights that are useful to strategic planning. The software features robust reporting and dashboards and can generate real-time data. Quick look-ups and drill-down tools are standard. This type of CRM is useful for CEOs and executives, department heads, and team leaders.

Examples: Salesforce CRM, Oracle CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Collaborative

This CRM type promotes teamwork and transparency among sales, marketing, and support by sharing customer information and syncing their activities. It features excellent communication tools including social discussion, chat, and integrated email. Also, this CRM is strong in file sharing, editing controls, and activity streaming.

Examples: bpm’online CRM, Freshsales, and Base CRM

HubSpot CRM is a very popular solution available for free

What does a CRM software do?

We’ve answered the question what is CRM software, now let’s consider its main features so you’ll know how a CRM solution works. Various features of CRM software can organize contacts, manage deals and tasks, automate workflows, track leads in the sales cycle, run and measure campaigns, and generate reports in one platform. CRM software also aligns the workflows and data of various departments, mainly sales, marketing, and support, and promotes collaboration among teams. How does a CRM software work will depend on how many of these features it has.

Here are the key features of a CRM software:

  1. Contact management. Customer data such as contact information, support interactions, demographics, and transactions, among others, are stored in a unified hub. This also streamlines information retrieval.
  2. Lead management. It helps you manage leads throughout its entire lifecycle right from prospecting up to conversion. Pipeline stages can be configured to match your requirements. Customer profiles and interactions are centralized for contact management.
  3. Tasks and deals. Automatically add tasks and deals into customer information. It streamlines populating, assigning and monitoring items on your sales pipeline. Information is updated in real-time to ensure you have access to the latest changes.
  4. Email tracking. Built-in on the CRM tool or available as an add-on, this feature gives you visibility when your email campaigns are clicked and opened. CRM tools commonly integrate with popular email services such as Gmail, MailChimp, and Outlook.
  5. Campaign management. Empower your campaigns by managing it from creation to delivery. It segments customers, leverage targetting, and streamline workflows. Metrics are used to measure a campaign’s success with data-driven insights.
  6. Social media management. Get insights on how your audience interacts with your social media accounts. Information from comments, likes, and dislikes, among others, will give you information to improve your marketing strategies and customer experience.
  7. Reports and dashboards. It accelerates how you generate reports in real-time with accuracy. Valuable data is consolidated to uncover crucial insights about your market, trends, patterns, and behaviors.
  8. Mobile app. Access your CRM solution on-the-go through mobile apps on devices such as iOS and Android. Staying connected with your CRM data empowers you to stay connected even when out of the office.

What are the factors to consider when getting CRM software?

Whatever solution you choose, make sure it has the following aspects to fulfill the main purpose of CRM software: nurture customer relationships.

  1. Analytics. The software must be more than a platform that saves your customer data. It must effectively gather, consolidate and analyze data so you can uncover crucial insights to use in making data-driven decisions. The complexity of your business processes should be considered in how advanced your CRM tool should be.
  2. Customization. It is essential for your software to be flexible and configurable according to the unique workflows of your business. Having control over your data and approvals, among others, is crucial.
  3. Scalability. It should support your business as it grows so you won’t have to transfer to another software and start from scratch. Some factors to look at is if you can add more users, unlock advanced features, tighten the security level, and integrate with third-party apps. 
  4. Integration. Connecting with other apps is crucial especially since it deals with your customers. You should check if it integrates with systems you are currently using, especially customer-facing apps for help desk.
  5. Ease of use. Training can take up your time that should be spent on more important tasks. Hence, the software must be quick and easy to deploy. A short learning curve lets employees understand and navigate around the software with ease.
  6. Mobile support. When a team member is out, mobile apps help you stay connected and updated. CRM solutions usually offer support for iOS and Android devices.

Freshsales is an innovative CRM from the makers of Freshdesk

How much does a CRM software cost?

A wide range of pricing is offered by CRM vendors and including the type of software, deployment method, and type of plan or package. Generally, on-premise CRM runs into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars with a one-time payment. Thereafter, maintenance is still significant. Costs include one-time license fee, license type, number of users, and set features.

On the other hand, SaaS CRM costs in double- to triple-digits, and, for a few enterprise platforms, quadruple-digits. Payment is monthly or annually, with price points also influenced by set features, number of users and records, storage, service level agreement, etc.

Here are the price points of some of the popular CRM solutions:

  1. Pipedrive – From $12.00/user/month, which includes 2GB storage per user, sales management features, native integrations, and API access. Up to $75 for more robust features.
  2. HubSpot CRM – The basic plan is free with no credit card, contract, or training required. Features include Gmail and Outlook integration, email scheduler, and API. Pro plan is $50.
  3. Salesforce CRM – From $5/user/month for basic plan featuring contact management. More sophisticated packages range from $65 to $300/user/month.
  4. Freshsales – It has clear scalable features that grow with your business. Entry price point is free for basic features, then you move up for more features to $12, $25, and, finally, $49, all per user/month.
  5. bpm’online – It offers price points for different business types: $25 for teams, $30 for e-commerce, and $50 for enterprise, all per user/month.
  6. Infusionsoft – It bills by number of users, set features, and emails sent, among others, with five price points starting at $199/month.

What are the potential issues with CRM software?

Being aware of the potential issues you’ll encounter in using a CRM software is useful. This can help you prepare how to handle and avoid these scenarios effectively. Here are some examples:

  1. Security. Data that lives online face the potential dangers of malware attacks, phishing, and hacking. This can compromise your customer’s confidential data. However, CRM systems have improved in providing a secure infrastructure and encryption for your data.
  2. Privacy. Some customers may feel cautious when their personal information can be accessed and saved in your company’s system. Transparency with your customers can assure them their details are only stored and used for its intended purpose.
  3. Weak utilization. Teams may not utilize the software to its optimum capability as they may find it complex or confusing. This is where it’s crucial to look for a user-friendly and intuitive software. Some vendors also offer training to help you get started.
  4. Expense. Some users view who view the software as nothing more than a spreadsheet or address book thinks the software is not a valuable investment. When proper understanding and usage of the CRM system, it can bring benefits to your organization by saving time and empowering your staff to focus on more important tasks. This can then minimize your costs and increase your sales.

What are the latest CRM trends?

Leading vendors are pushing the envelope on CRM solutions for more efficiency and deeper insights, and many of these trends are already happening this year.

  1. Going vertical and integrated. More industry-specific CRM solutions are being launched, such as for real estate, e-commerce, education, and retail. At the same time, CRM is being split out of its category with tech giants like Oracle integrating CRM functions into other systems.
  2. AI driving sales cycle even faster. Technologies like predictive analysis and machine learning are getting more accurate in qualifying leads and automating engagement. The result is higher and faster closure rates.
  3. Mobile first. Field users like sales are demanding more mobile features and vendors are responding.  
  4. Knowledge collaboration. CRM is integrating data across departments beyond sales and marketing. Accounting, purchasing, management, and other departments are becoming integral to newer CRM suites.

This article is also available in Spanish. You can find the Spanish version here: ¿Qué es el Software CRM? Análisis de las Funciones, Tipos y Precios.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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