Everyone in Sales knows it: CRM. And if you want to start using a new package, you must choose between more than 800 vendors. Which one is best for your team(s)? This page provides answers to that.

I will tell you about the most important features to include in your equation and which type of CRM in which situations suits you best in 5 steps. We’ll start with the essential features.

Don’t you want a new CRM? Then the CRM Upgrade may be for you; read more about CRM upgrade options.

1. The basic CRM functionalities

Three components are traditionally found in a CRM package: the Rolodex, project management, and reports.

Let’s start with what CRM is. The acronym stands for Customer Relationship Management. A tool for managing your customer relationships. I jokingly refer to this as the Rolodex. This Rolodex contains contact and background information on individuals and companies. With any luck, you will also have more data on what you have discussed with people, what you have already delivered to a company, and the quotes you have sent. The memory of sales. That last part, by the way, is by no means always actual.

Every package that calls itself CRM has this feature. That’s not where you find the distinctiveness.

When most people think of CRM, there is always a feature directly attached to it: a summary of all the sales opportunities that are currently there. The sales funnel. All those opportunities are listed with information such as what you want to sell to whom, all communication about it, and when you expect to close this deal. The project management part is what I call the Rolodex. After all, every sale is a (mini) project. Again, there is hardly any distinctiveness here. The more basic CRMs cannot often classify your funnel or customize the information in sales opportunities. If you don’t think that’s important, don’t worry: they can do all of this.

And that last piece leads that, in turn to a reporting part. Because the salespeople may know what they are doing, but the rest of the company does not. Other departments want to know what work will arrive when, and the CFO is eager to be able to look ahead to revenue.

Most CRMs offer a decent foundation in this, but the differences are significant. They all lag in actual deep reporting functionality. So if you want to go very far in your reporting, you can’t escape a BI tool. For most companies, the reporting function in the better tools is sufficient.

2. The great CRM Differentiators

So if those essential functions don’t make the difference, what does? That’s three, far from all CRMs have. Automating tasks, customizing what fields you have and what you see or don’t see, and marketplaces for innovative additional tools and connections to others.

Process Automation. This feature helps sales teams decide which contact is a lead, which has a sales opportunity, provides triggers and tasks, and automatically performs pre-programmed actions.

And here, then, lies directly the first scrape for a company when choosing a CRM. If your sales team is tiny and does not have very many contacts and few sales opportunities at a time, the Process Management feature is probably not needed.

Every feature you want extra in a tool costs money. It’s that simple in SaaS land. The more complete the tool, the bigger the bill. A very simple rule that almost always holds true. Process Management is a relatively expensive function when the operations hardly take time.

Suppose you and your colleague do sales at your company. You work together daily or have well-separated tasks. You are simultaneously working with up to 10 prospects, and they report relatively quickly based on your network. There is always enough work for the business, and you grow to the satisfaction of the owner (who may be yourself) every year. While having all contacts in the overview is excellent, having triggers and tasks created automatically is unnecessary. You know exactly what needs to be done and have a nose for good sales opportunities.

If you have a particular sales process or want to include specific information, you’ll enjoy the ability to configure the system to your needs. Within my comparison, there are significant differences there. By the way, most comparison sites won’t help you down drill on this. This is not an essential feature, it seems. That’s a tricky one. The more distinctive your business, the more you need this.
I think a tool never stands alone. Integrations with your financial package, operations, and marketing are necessary to work smoothly and quickly. In the comparison, I examined the presence of standard integrations and APIs. And this is where you see significant differences emerging. If you are a bit larger as an organization, you should look for tools with at least three stars (out of five). By then, there are quite a few standard integrations and a choice of Zapier or Make to build others. But that always means additional costs. If a marketplace is well stocked, chances are the vendor of the other package has built something for you. And that’s often free.

3. Notable names in the CRM equation

Salesforce is a hit functionally, with HubSpot being the runner-up. But both are costly. Mind you, Salesforce is, on average, 3 to 4 times more expensive than HubSpot, and of those, the prices are already firm. In my view, the difference between the two is only noticeable at the Enterprise level.

Zoho One stands out because it offers exceptional functionality and low prices. A lot of value for quite a little money. You then have to put up with a somewhat outdated user interface.

We are very fond of Membrain because of its intelligent functionalities and good user interface. Unfortunately, a bit on the pricey side (similar to HubSpot). Nutshell also caught my eye, and it is a lot cheaper but unsuitable for large sales teams (+ 50 people).

Angry looks

A few companies are unhappy because they don’t appear very strong on this list. Does that make them a poor CRM? Nope. No way. Only very basic in our eyes. And since we are now big fans of integrations and demand a lot of customization, they score less on my list.

Are there poor CRMs? I don’t think that’s too bad. We do find a lot of CRMs somewhat outdated. Many user interfaces remind us of 20 years ago. And that while UI as a profession is much more advanced, most of them look fine, and you can see how it works.

4. Choices, choices and again choices

You’ll naturally start with a shortlist if you buy a new CRM package. You can then choose from more than 800 CRMs. Go figure out. I hope you don’t just make a list of familiar names but look a little further. There is an incredible amount to buy. To get you started, here’s the list of 25 CRM packages we researched and a few tips.

Here are the first three to already apply a substantial reduction to your list:

  1. Reviews: Every situation is different. So I wouldn’t care much about reviews unless they are downright nasty.
  2. Size matters: Up to 5 people making sales; please do not buy a standalone CRM, but choose an Add-On to a financial or operational package. Saves a lot of hassle. If that is not possible, look at the cheaper options in the list.
  3. Industry-specific: If you are in a very homogeneous market, such as construction or fundraising, you usually prefer to choose an industry-focused tool. That saves setting up. Consider, do you put a lot of requirements on a software package and be innovative.

The second step is to look for look-a-likes of the packages you already know. Comparison sites help you do that. Use at least 2 of these:

5. The CRM Top 25 list

Name Rolodex Funnel Automate Customize Marketplace Size Price
Salesforce L, XL
HubSpot M, L, XL
Zoho M, L
Pipedrive M
Freshsales M
Microsoft Dynamics M, L
Salesflare M, L
Cirqll X S, M
Efficy X M
SharpSpring M, L
ActiveCampaign M, L
SuperOffice X X M
Odoo ∗∗∗ M
Membrain ∗∗∗ ∗∗∗ ∗∗ M, L, XL €€€
Nutshell ∗∗∗ ∗∗∗ M, L
SmartSales X ∗∗ M ?
Perfectview X ∗∗ M
TribeCRM ∗∗∗ ∗∗∗ M, L
Spinoffice X ∗∗ S, M
Archie CRM ∗∗ ∗∗ S, M €€€
My desk X ∗∗ S, M €€
Alexion X S, M
SugarCRM ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗∗ M, L, XL €€€
Lime X ∗∗ M €€
Zendesk ∗∗ ∗∗ ∗∗∗ M, L €€€€

Explanation of the items in the list

The comparison was made on the three differentiators. Here I explain how.

  • Automate -> The more different types of triggers and tasks I can automate, the more stars. Five stars is maximum
  • Customize -> As Admin, can I control what my users see, and how easy is that?
  • Marketplace -> the more apps in the marketplace, the more stars. Zapier and/or Make in it always results in an extra star.

Based on the functionalities and focus indicated by the vendor itself, I distinguished between the size of sales departments:

  • S = Small: less than five employees in Sales
  • M =Medium: 5 to 10 employees in sales
  • L = Large: 10 to 50 (because then multiple teams) employees
  • XL = X-Large: more than 50 sales associates

I determined the suitability by size based on functionalities. The larger the company, the more need for integration, customization, and automation.

“Stryfes is brisk, direct, and decisive and knows how to lay down a concrete plan in no time with the right questions. No piles of paper but recommendations you can do something with.”

Ineke Kolijn

Manager & Fundraiser – Hartekind Foundation

Our articles:

So what can we help you with?

Do you also want to become successful in responding to RFPs? Stryfes helps you make a difference. We’re made up of visionaries & doers. Realists and pragmatists alike. We do not write hours but offer fixed methodologies that, therefore, have a fixed price. We believe in taking action. Vision and action.

“Want to know what Stryfes can do for your RFP response? Schedule a no-obligation appointment.”

Hanneke Vogels

Sales Technology Director

(06) 5263 3631

Stryfes has a no-SPAM policy: we use your information only to contact you.