Choosing the Best CRM: A Comprehensive Guide
At Service Provider Pro, we talk a lot about customer relationship management. It’s one of the key drivers of sustainable business growth—right up there with effective productization and agile project management.
From onboarding to billing to sales, the CRM is the backbone of a successful service company. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to figure out which CRM system best fits your needs.
That’s why I’ve put together this guide to help you find the best CRM software. I’ll give you a framework to evaluate the different CRM platforms available and decide which one best meets your needs. I’ll share with you some of the best CRM software tools I’ve seen along the way.
Choosing the best CRM software: a framework
I’ve already dealt with the question “what is a CRM?” in detail, so I won’t repeat myself. Let’s find out how to create a list with the best CRM software of 2023 instead.
All the CRMs to consider will be slightly different from one another when you look past core functions and take things like features, customer support, and pricing into account. This makes it challenging to figure out which CRM vendor is the best overall.
To help narrow down the options, I’ve developed a simple framework to find the best customer relationship management tool for yourself.
Prioritize features: This is the most crucial step—the best CRM isn’t necessarily the one with the most features. Start by thinking about your core processes (e.g., sales, email marketing, or contact management) and which features you need to support them (e.g., email integrations or marketing automation).
Set a budget: Price is the easiest way to narrow down a list of CRMs. Set a budget and only consider CRMs that fit within it. Do take into account that some CRMs bill per user, so as your team grows, so will your costs.
Read documentation and reviews: Start evaluating CRMs based on how well they support your prioritized features. Read documentation and reviews to get a better idea of what they can do, and what the customer experience is. Are any clients frustrated with certain features or lack of support?
Create a hierarchical shortlist: Draw up a hierarchical shortlist of CRMs based on the best combination of features, price, and reviews.
Try out trial versions and demos: Most CRMs offer free trials or demos, so you can get a feel for how they work in practice. Take advantage of these to decide which one best fits your needs. Oh, and remember to take notes.
Also read: best crm for agencies
7 of the best CRMs to grow your business
Mailchimp: Best for marketing automation
Salesforce 360: Best for customer service and support
ActiveCampaign: Best for sales automation
ClickUp: Best for project and task management
Monday sales CRM: Best for dashboard creation
Close.com: Best for sales-heavy businesses
Less Annoying CRM: Best for simplicity
Mailchimp is one of the biggest players in the marketing automation space—for good reason. It’s simple enough for anyone to pick up quickly, but offers plenty of advanced features for more experienced users.
You may not realize that Mailchimp can also be used as a CRM. With its automated workflows, customer segments, and reporting capabilities, you can turn Mailchimp into a capable CRM without breaking the bank.
Automated workflows: Mailchimp’s automated workflows can be used to send personalized emails based on customer behavior. While the platform seems simple at first glance, it’s actually quite powerful.
Advanced customer segments: Mailchimp lets you easily segment customers into different groups and target them with relevant offers or messages. You have full control over the segments you create and target.
Tons of integrations: You can integrate Mailchimp with just about any other system, from eCommerce and payments to analytics and customer support. With SPP’s native Mailchimp integration, you can quickly link your client portal to Mailchimp and tag clients based on their purchases.
Mailchimp offers four plans (Free, Essentials, Standard, and Premium) ranging from $0 to $350 per month. The free plan is fine if you’re okay with sending less than 2,500 automated emails per month.
Pros & Cons
Easy to use
Powerful automation capabilities
Tons of integrations
Limited customer support options
2. Salesforce 360
Salesforce 360 has been leading the CRM space for over two decades with a powerful platform designed for businesses looking to scale. It has a wide range of features—from customer service and support to automated workflows and advanced analytics.
Since Salesforce 360 is designed for larger businesses, it’s best suited for those looking to take their operations and customer service to the next level. There are plans that can work for smaller companies, but you may find yourself bogged down by unnecessary features.
Salesforce Intelligence: Salesforce’s built-in intelligence engine can be used to analyze customer data and generate insights into customer behavior. This makes it easier for you to identify opportunities and create high-performing campaigns.
Collaboration tools: With Salesforce, you can easily collaborate on projects and tasks with teammates. The platform also includes a range of automated workflows you can use to streamline processes and ensure all tasks are completed quickly and efficiently.
Advanced analytics: Salesforce 360’s advanced analytics capabilities make tracking and analyzing customer data easy, so you can identify trends and patterns and make the best decisions for your business.
Grow your industry knowledge
The entry-level Salesforce 360 plan (Essentials) costs $25 per user per month and includes basic features like customer segmentation and reports. The more advanced plans (Unlimited, Enterprise, and Performance) cost from $75 to $1,250 per user per month.
Pros & Cons
Advanced analytics and intelligence engine
Wide range of features
Integration with other Salesforce products
Expensive for smaller companies
Can be overwhelming for those new to Salesforce
ActiveCampaign put a heavy emphasis on sales automation that is supposed to help companies get rid of mundane tasks. You can automate everything from contact management to lead scoring and the deales pipeline.
In order to make the automation process simple, ActiveCampaign integrates with leading software such as Salesforce, Slack, and many more. That allows you to set up automations such as: if a contact enters a sales pipeline, send them an email to book a demo call.
Lead & contact scoring: You can create rules that look at a contact’s or lead’s engagement, and attribute a score to their profile. This allows you to focus on leads that are highly engaged to close deals, and continue educating those that are not engaged yet.
Powerful automations: ActiveCampaign allows you to build many automations, but this can be a daunting task. The bigger the automation, the harder it is to follow the logic behind it. With that said, if you build them in a modular way, you can automate a large part of your sales process and easily keep an eye on your automations.
ActiveCampaign’s Sales platform has a Plus plan for small teams at $19/month and a Professional plan for $49/month. Those looking for a custom solution can reach out to ActiveCampaigns team and get a tailored Enterprise plan.
Pros & Cons
Wide range of integrations
Possibility to build powerful automations
Lead and contact scoring
Interface is clunky and slow
ClickUp is a project management tool that does a lot more than just manage projects. Sure, ClickUp wasn’t designed to be a CRM, but it does a good job at managing customer relationships and tracking deals.
ClickUp ensures that every customer relationship is tracked, organized, and easily accessible—all within the same platform. Plus, ClickUp’s integrations with other CRM tools (like Pipedrive) make it easy to get the best of both worlds.
Related: how to keep track of customers
Automation: ClickUp’s automation features help you save time and streamline customer onboarding and follow-ups.
Ease-of-use: ClickUp is easy to use once you understand the platform’s structure. There are also many ClickUp experts you can hire to help you get set up.
Built-in task management: ClickUp includes a powerful task manager that helps you manage customer relationships and keep deals on track. It’s easy to assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress.
ClickUp is reasonably priced , with plans ranging from free to $19 per user per month.
The free forever plan will work fine to get started with a functional CRM. That said, if you decide you want to upgrade your CRM with features like advanced automations and dashboards, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
Pros & Cons
Affordable pricing options
Integrations with other CRM tools
Easy to use and customize
Not specifically designed as a CRM
No built-in analytics tools
Laggy due to feature bloat (at least for now)
Related: ClickUp for agencies
5. Monday sales CRM
Harnessing the power of the monday.com Work OS, monday sales CRM provides business owners and their sales teams with an all-inclusive tool to manage every aspect of their customer communication and data in a single location.
This platform gives sales teams comprehensive control over their pipelines, allowing them to personally manage contacts and accounts while streamlining post-sales processes.
Impressive no-code customization: Monday.com’s no-code customization allows teams to customize their sales pipeline without a single line of code, making it simple to tailor the platform to their specific needs.
Integrations: Integrate Monday sales CRM with other software solutions to ensure all data is accessible in real-time across the entire organization. It also integrates with other monday.com products out-of-the-box.
Robust quota tracking: Track employee and team quotas with monday’s built-in dashboards and reporting tools.
Monday.com offers four different plans: Free, Standard, Pro, and Enterprise. Prices range from $0 to $24 per user per month, depending on the features and users you need.
Pros & Cons
Integrates with other Monday.com products
Robust analytics and reporting features
Customizable no-code workflow builder
Can be laggy in the same way as ClickUp
Close.com is a powerful CRM tool for nurturing your leads and clients. It features sales automation features that are sure to benefit almost any lead generation or sales effort.
When you’re looking to effortlessly reach out and capture your leads, Close CRM is a solid choice. This sales platform makes it a breeze for any team to manage their lead generation process as well as streamline the entire sales pipeline.
Multichannel inbox: Close features a really intuitive multichannel inbox that consolidates emails, calls, and SMS messages into one single place. This minimizes time wasted swapping between different apps.
VoIP calling and SMS included: Close also includes both VoIP calling and SMS services that are integrated into the platform. These aren’t add-ons, either—both come with every Close plan.
AI-powered lead generation: Lastly, Close has an AI-powered lead generation tool that helps you identify leads best suited for your service.
Close CRM doesn’t offer a free plan. Instead, there’s a 14-day free trial after which you can upgrade to one of four paid plans (Starter, Basic, Professional, and Business). Prices range from $25 to $129 per user per month.
The Basic plan will work for businesses looking for a standard CRM, but if you’re looking for more advanced features like AI-powered lead generation, the Professional and Business plans are your best bet.
Pros & Cons
AI-powered lead generation
Built-in VoIP and SMS services
No free plan
Expensive compared to other options on this list.
7. Less Annoying CRM
Say goodbye to pesky tabs, confusing buttons, and extra features you don’t need or want. Less Annoying CRM is a simple customer relationship management software with features designed to help small businesses manage customer relationships and sales opportunities. All of its core tools are designed with simplicity in mind—so no more hours wasted trying to figure out an overly complicated platform.
If that wasn’t enough reason to check it out: G2 recently recognized Less Annoying CRM as “easiest to use” of all 720+ other CRMs listed on the site.
Centralized contact information: All of your contacts are stored in a single place and can be quickly sorted, filtered, and exported.
Activity tracking: Track everything from emails to meetings to phone calls with Less Annoying’s activity tracking feature.
Customizable fields & forms: Easily customize the field names and form order on contact profiles to best suit your team’s needs.
In the interest of not being annoying, Less Annoying CRM only has one plan—$15 per user per month. There are no setup fees or hidden costs.
Pros & Cons
Easy to use and understand
No setup fees or hidden costs
Limited features compared to some other CRMs on this list
Best CRM FAQ
What is the most used CRM?
Salesforce Customer 360 is the most used CRM due to it’s large market share.
What is the most successful CRM in today’s market?
According to Apps Run The World, Salesforce is the most successful CRM with a market share of 31.3%.
What is the most secure CRM?
NetHunt CRM is a secure tool that passed the Google Security Assessment in 2019 for the first time, with new tests every year for compliance. All data is securely stored in Google Cloud Platform with encrypted backups for data recovery purposes. Data in transit and at rest is also encrypted.