Whether you’re a one-man-band or an up and coming small business going faster than a speeding ticket, one of the most important backbones of any successful business is the ability to track down and store information on your leads. Chances are when you first looked into getting a CRM you were probably overwhelmed by the options available on the market so stuck to an at-first, simple spreadsheet that’s now snowballed into a giant morass of email addresses, phone numbers, formulas and broken macros — that sound about right?
Mate, it’s time to ditch the Monday morning colonoscopies and get a CRM.
Beyond not having mind-numbing spreadsheets to deal with, CRMs provide you with critical data that shows you exactly what actions your leads are taking so you can reach out to them at the right moment and convert them easier than what you can say “Cat in a hat!”
Thankfully, with advancements in technology, you can do exactly that to ensure your sales pipeline is hitting the right notes and resonating with your precious leads.
Thing is, with CRM platforms popping up faster than mushrooms in horse shit, how can you be sure you’re making the right decision for the long term growth of your business? Well, it just so happens that I always keep a spreadsheet (wink wink) of personal CRM favourites of mine handy just in case I’m in hearing distance of someone going, “These #$@*&^ macros are driving me up the @%#^@ wall up again!!”
Ready? Here’s my list of favourite CRMs for 2021.
Best CRM Platforms
Right, we’ll kick off with the new kid on the block. Freshsales came about in 2016 and hasn’t stopped innovating since. Where Freshsales tries to be different is they think beyond just providing a CRM platform that works with other sales tools like your trusty email, phone calls, or event tracking. The folks over at Freshsales try to provide you with a holistic sales platform that gives you everything you need to manage your lead generation and sales campaigns with precision. How good are they at it? Let’s see.
Freshsales came about from an internal need for a robust platform that broke the rules of traditional CRMs. The Freshsales team wanted a solution that spoke to the challenges they experienced every day, so built a platform that allowed them to manage all their day-to-day activities like email outreach and call tracking. But they took it further than that and ended up building a solution that takes care of a wide scope of daily sales activities without the need to endlessly switch between different tools.
Since it came on the scene back in 2016, I must say the Freshsales platform has continued to evolve and is a tool I like to use. It’s become a trusted name within the CRM space by building out a host of solutions that sales teams love. There’s that and it’s got a great price tag — double threat!
Freshsales brings new life to the CRM space with a well-thought-out user experience and interfaces that are not too bad on the eye. You can easily navigate between your leads, contacts, accounts and deals using the navigation tools that aren’t tough to get accustomed to. You’ll start managing your growing database like a pro within a few days and the customer support ain’t bad if you get stuck.
- Allows you to send outbound email campaigns directly within the platform
- Allows you to make calls directly within the platform
- AI-based lead scoring based on a lead’s individual activities
Freshsales takes every business situation into account and comes up with a full range of pricing options. Their Sprout Plan provides you with a limited free-forever account while still offering all the essential features you need to get started. It also offers additional features used by growing sales teams, all of which are available on a free 30-day trial.
- Sprout – $0 free forever plan
- Blossom – $19 per user, per month/$12 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Garden – $35 per user, per month/$35 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Estate – $65 per user, per month/$49 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Forest – $99 per user, per month/$79 per user, per month (billed annually)
Next cab off the rank is Salesforce. Established in 1999 in a rented apartment, Salesforce has grown to become the biggest name in the CRM game. It’s a platform that provides big sales teams with all of the bells and whistles they could ask for and is known for building and acquiring other tools and APIs that all fit within the Salesforce product family offering.
With its wealth of industry experience, size and market standing, Salesforce has been able to build out a robust product offering. However, like most other humungous platforms on the market, you do end up with a steeper learning curve and more screens to flip through. Depending on your preference for simplicity, it may get a bit dizzying, but this is subjective criticism, to be honest. Apart from it being a tad intimidating, the panoply of apps, integrations and features pack a punch but will require a dedicated…ahem… sales force, to master.
Salesforce also provides features that aren’t necessarily required within the garden variety CRM. For those starting out, the platform can be more complex than needed, resulting in sales teams having to complete training or learn about features they may not end up using.
Salesforce is a CRM platform for high-adrenaline sales teams that masquerade their markets like wolf packs. However, with so much terrain to navigate, it gets a little complicated for the smaller teams who are looking to get off to a less intimidating first-time venture into the world of CRM platforms. The upside about Salesforce? There are as many as there are APIs and powerful features.
Obviously, if you’re on the savvy side of technology and can flip between screens like a Russian gymnast on a pommel horse and you need more than the usual tools, Salesforce is the CRM for you. If your team is growing and you typically manage massive amounts of leads, need hyper-segmentation, mobility, and integrations are a must-have, then Salesforce should be your poison of choice.
- Native integration with a whole bunch of other products in the Salesforce family
- Robust sales reporting and deep data analytics features
- Features can be added and removed to suit individual needs
Unlike Freshsales, Salesforce’s pricing plans cater more towards the established business and enterprise organisations. While they do offer a free trial and an entry-level plan, it doesn’t come in as favourably as Freshsales and other platforms at $25 per user, per month (billed annually). Now, this doesn’t essentially make Salesforce a bad choice for the budget-conscious startup, but it does mean you have to be confident that it’s the right platform for you before committing as it will be a little tough to switch to another platform, should you choose to do so.
- Lightning Essentials – $25 per user(up to 5 users) per month (billed annually)
- Lightning Professional – $75 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Lightning Enterprise – $150 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Lightning Unlimited – $300 per user, per month (billed annually)
Pipedrive’s mission is simple: to help you close deals faster. With its well-thought-out design and feature stack, it’s good at doing exactly that. Their platform helps sales teams to focus on the most important aspects of their jobs and allows them to be more productive and profitable. This means less researching, looking for lead data scattered all over the office and getting on with closing deals.
Pipedrive doesn’t skimp on offering small-to-medium businesses a value-based platform. It gives you all the basic tools — and them some — to nurture and convert leads at the press of a button. With an easy-to-use pipeline management feature, built-in email sending and receiving, the ability to add relevant activities and advanced reporting, Pipedrive is a CRM I really like and think it’s definitely worth a test drive for those looking to up the ante on their lead generation game plan.
Pipedrive likes to keep things simple while still offering all the features sales reps need to stay on top of their game. They provide a clean, easy to use interface that’s controlled by one central navigation bar located at the top of the main dashboard. From there you can move between each feature as required to keep your pipeline pumping.
- Activity reminders and mobile notifications to ensure everything is up to date
- Send and receive emails from directly within the platform
- Provides one of the top-rated CRM apps for iOS and Android
While Pipedrive doesn’t offer a freemium version, their prices come in much more reasonable than Salesforce, which is great if you’re just getting started. Their Silver Tier Plan starts at $15 per user, per month and includes everything you need to get started. If you’re after some of the more advanced apps you’ll need to upgrade to the Gold Plan which is still a very reasonable $29 per user, per month, all of which are available on a free trial to get you started.
- Silver – $15 per user, per month/$12.50 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Gold – $29 per user, per month/$24.20 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Platinum – $75 per user, per month/$62.50 per user, per month (billed annually)
There’s nothing unsightly about Insightly, in fact, it’s a pretty decent CRM platform with a few aspects about it that make it unique and value-packed for sales teams who want to get a contextual view of their leads. Insightly connects all your leads’ peripheral data such as external partnerships, hierarchies that influence buying decisions, turnovers and more to bring each individual buying process into sharp focus.
Okay, so the thing I dig most about Insightly is that it allows me to segment and categorise leads pretty easily. The platform is fairly straightforward on the surface but has a broad enough range of features to give you a decent toolset that includes a visible sales pipeline and workflow tools that automate much of the heavy lifting associated with lead research, qualification and complex buyer processes.
As I said, Insightly has a large enough range of features without it being intimidating to the first time CRM user. It makes getting off the ground easy and you quickly learn the feature-set as you get your teeth sunk into it. It’s got some nice integrations to give it more versatility so you can use most of your existing tech with Insightly. It also offers CRM solutions to the larger organisation without letting the small guy feel left out.
- View and manage organisational hierarchies, partnerships with rich user data
- Automated lead capture and distribution ensures each lead is delivered to the right rep
- Automate repetitive tasks and manage schedules with task milestone dates
Insightly was built on the foundation that every business needs a good CRM, even if they can’t afford one. So, in 2009 they launched the world’s first free CRM. Unfortunately, giving something away for free isn’t essentially an ideal business model so they have since had to expand into paid plans to keep the lights on at the Insightly office. However, their original free plan remains intact and is worth checking out if you’re browsing anyway.
- Free – $0 per month (limited to 2 users)
- Plus – $29 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Professional – $49 per user, per month (billed annually)
- Enterprise – $99 per user, per month (billed annually)
Now here’s a platform that needs little introduction, however, no list of marketing tools would be complete without a mention of the Hubspot. The kings and queens of inbound marketing are well-known for their knack for cracking the, at times very aloof, buyer persona and helping brands build bulletproof content marketing strategies. I’m a proud Hubspot Certified Inbound Marketer myself and must say that I’ve learnt a lot from these clever folks over the years. Okay, so what’s the deal with their CRM?
The first thing I want to mention about the Hubspot CRM is that it’s 100% totally free, forever. That’s according to Hubspot so it’s got to be true. The CRM itself is what you’d expect from Hubspot with a broad range of features and tools built to make life easy for busy sales teams. The CRM integrates nicely with the Hubspot sales and other platforms which opens up a whole new world when you start connecting to them.
If you know Hubspot you’ll have no hassles getting to know the CRM’s interface. The folks at Hubspot HQ are serial information sharers so there’s always help available in the form of tutorials, blogs and handy FAQs. Now, the thing with the Hubspot platform is that they’re not naive enough to give you a complete CRM for free so expect to see a feature or benefit missing here or there as a means to get you onboarded to the full, honeymoon, luxury, VIP, deluxe suite of applications. And because Hubspot is such a darn good platform you can expect to fork out some serious moolah when it comes to taking the plunge and signing up for the full suite or other paid-for products and services.
- User-friendly deals page lets you manage your pipeline with total visibility
- Log sales activities of leads across social media, email and calls
- Detailed lead overview page allows you to easily view your leads information
Hubspot has opted for a completely freemium CRM pricing model. While most would call it a sneaky marketing trick, the CRM itself is a pretty reliable, feature-packed piece of work that works like a charm. Nice work, Hubspot!
- Free – $0 per month (forever)
And there you have it, a detailed breakdown of the leading CRM’s available on the market at the moment. Now, it’s over to you to make a decision which is best for your needs. Take these babies for a test drive and kick that Excel sheet to the damn curb once and for all.
Remember, every business is different so be sure to make a decision that’s going to support your needs and not just for the short term. Your CRM is the backbone that supports your entire sales team and gives you the automation and flexibility you need to be a kickass sales pro, instead of burning daylight trying to make sense of convoluted, booby trap-laden spreadsheets — that shit’s so 1995 anyways.
Why we recommend and use Freshsales
We use Freshsales as our chosen CRM for both ourselves and our clients as it works well with other platforms that we use within our marketing campaigns. Matched with a modern, clean UX and jam-packed with features that enable you to go beyond traditional CRM platforms, we simply dig Freshsales. Now, we’re not saying you should too, but that’s the platform we’ve become most comfortable with and we’ve got the leads and customers to show for it.
Go on and get your CRM testing off the ground and see which works the most ideal for you. Your business might have its own unique proclivities and demands that some of the other CRMs we mentioned have that Freshsales doesn’t quite match. But whatever you do, tear up that damn spreadsheet, Mr Gorbachev!
I’m out…(…drops mic and walks away…)