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What is CRM Software?


Customer relationship management software is a tool that streamlines the sales process to sustain and develop a company’s relationships with customers. These tools manage each step throughout the entire customer lifecycle in your sales funnel. CRM software provides communication tools, contact management, task management, and more functions that consolidate customer correspondence and insights.

Some go further with tools for sales automation, marketing automation, sales forecasting, email templates, and advanced analytics reports.

CRM tools used to be the province of large, enterprise-level organizations. Cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service subscriptions made scalable CRM solutions available to small and midsized businesses.

Today, CRM providers offer SaaS solutions to businesses of all sizes and industries. Some of these solutions even offer free services to small operations.

CRM functions fall generally into three categories: operational, analytical and collaborative. Understanding these categories and evaluating which CRM functions your company needs most are essential when considering the right solution.


Key Benefits & Features of the Best CRM Software


CRM software provides workflow benefits for employees whose job involves customer interaction as they move clients through their sales pipeline. The improved speed and efficiency that CRM offers will ripple throughout the company.

Certain CRMs provide tailored functions for specific industries. Some CRMs cater to retail, nonprofits, real estate, and banks. Some CRMs target businesses by size, including freelancers, independent contractors, or small to midsize businesses.

Others boast a massive library of official integrations that would appeal to an enterprise-level corporation requiring a CRM that integrates with existing systems.

The essential role of CRM solutions is to provide a comprehensive view of vital customer intelligence that might otherwise be spread out. These tools unify data between multiple employees over different locations, websites, applications, and devices.

Each CRM offers a unique approach, but all share a few basic functions.


Manage Contact Information

The phone numbers, email addresses, and websites collected by businesses are more helpful when they’re stored in one place. Information from colleagues, professional networks, and clients have to be carefully managed to get the most out of them.

The most cutting-edge CRMs offer cloud storage which expands with larger subscription plans.


Track Customer Interactions

CRMs track phone calls, durations, email correspondence, and customer profiles. This includes purchase history, value, and past concerns. Some CRMs can scan emails and automatically extract this data and others require manual input from Excel spreadsheets or other places your team stores their data.

CRM tools integrate with Microsoft Outlook, Google’s Gmail, Mailchimp, and any other email tools that your sales team uses. Easy integration means that you have an overall improved customer experience as customers reach out on their own terms using familiar tools.

Using a CRM to track customer correspondence and consolidate their relevant data in one location makes lead management and follow-up easier than ever. You can extract information from customer support interactions that happen via your help desk in order to gain insights into your business.


Qualify Leads

Many CRMs now offer marketing features. Lead qualification is based on tracking website activity to determine which visitors are interested in which products.

Based on where they came from, the links they click, how long they linger, or what they put in their shopping cart, your business can get useful metrics. The CRM helps determine the level of customer interest and readiness for contact by a sales rep.


Segment Customer Demographics

Customer data is widely available from social media and online activity. Segmenting customers into demographic groups based on age, gender, region, profession offers major insights.

When you have access to shopper behavior, specified reports, and tailored marketing campaigns, you can grow your business much faster.


Convert Leads to Sales

Many sales CRMs feature lead scoring. This qualifies a lead according to weighted values determined by the business.

Some CRMs can be configured so that when leads are qualified with a certain score, they are automatically transferred to a sales team for direct contact.


Targeted Marketing Campaigns

Most CRMs with marketing features offer email templates for marketing campaigns. These templates are customizable and can be triggered by events.

For example, once a visitor clicks a certain number of website links, or reaches a dollar threshold of purchases, a personalized email can be sent. This email can include a targeted promotional offer that can help seal the deal.


Enable Customizable Pitches

Customer segmentation data based on social media and online behavior enables marketing campaigns tailored to customer tastes. Some CRMs go a step further and enable automatically customized landing pages.

These landing pages offer customers preferred products based on their individual tastes. These pages can greet them when they visit your website next.


Lower Departmental Boundaries

The best CRM software enables team members across departments to share information easily within the platform. They can be in different locations and still share customer data as if they were side by side.

This lowers boundaries to collaboration and enables company reps to provide relevant solutions to individual clients.


Make Upselling and Easier

The increased potential for collaboration combined with collected customer insights allows for highly specific promotions. You can offer discounts or suggestions to encourage more purchases.

Shared data and simplified collaboration makes cross-selling is easier too.


What to Look for in a CRM Software Solution


Choosing the right CRM depends on your company size, your industry, and your budget. The top solutions share common features that you should keep in mind as you compare them.


Cloud Functionality

All major CRM providers offer solutions through the cloud. Some complement their software with on-premises hardware or native desktop clients.

Modern business is increasingly on the go. Employees need access to their productivity platforms when working remotely.

Cloud-based platforms improve the potential for collaboration within your office too, reducing strain on internal IT departments and allowing for optimal communication with remote workers. Cloud functionality is a requisite for modern CRMs.


User-Friendly Interface

Your CRM will be used by employees at all levels of your organization and in most departments. Ease of use and an intuitive user interface will promote adoption and ensure everyone gets the most out of the software.

When tools are easy to use and intuitive, you can get everyone on board without extensive training.


Tiered Plans

Certain providers cater to everything from startup to SMBs or e-commerce businesses. Most providers offer tiered plans with increased storage space and greater features as you grow from using their free plan to higher-priced plans.

As your company grows, you’ll want your CRM to grow with it and scalable solutions make all the difference. Tools like Hubspot CRM, Zoho CRM, Freshsales, Pipedrive, and Microsoft Dynamics all come in tiered plans.



Small business CRMs might be adequate for SMBs in need of an all-in-one platform for communications and contact management out of the box. As a company’s business grows, it may become necessary to adapt the CRM solution to their particular needs.

For example, having a wide variety of email marketing templates with customization ensures better personalization. You can easily send personalized email campaigns automatically for nearly any situation.

Some companies need a dashboard that individual users can adapt to their preferences while retaining access to relevant customer information. When solutions can be customized, it’s much easier for teams to use the tools in ways that work for them.

Customizable CRMs enable users to adapt the platform for maximum usability.


Social Media Integration

Important conversations and brand interactions are happening on social media in this era. There’s an opportunity to acquire customer data through these platforms and offer promotions particular to them.

Social media also provides the potential for enhanced customer service. The top CRM solutions will flag negative feedback in real-time and notify someone who can deal with it as it happens. This feature will amplify positive feedback over time.


Detailed Reports

Collecting and tracking customer data is a primary function of CRM software but that’s not all they do. Modern CRMs also offer a wide range of analytics and reporting tools.

Advanced reporting includes granular KPI reports on sales, customer activity, trends, segmentation, and more. For a company in a position to fine-tune its digital sales management and marketing, these reports are invaluable.


Services and Support

An ideal customer relationship management provider will be as much a partner as they are a vendor.

While virtually all CRM providers offer some form of support, some providers go above and beyond. These vendors include everything from an online library of instruction manuals to email support and live webchat. This ensures proper deployment, onboarding, training, and implementation.

Ongoing support and cooperation from a provider make CRM tools a major asset as a company’s needs evolve.


What to Look for When Comparing CRM Providers



If your company makes a lot of phone calls, consider a solution with integrated telecommunication features. If you’re interested in expanding your digital marketing outreach, a CRM with diverse email templates will appeal to you.

If you have a lot of employees whose roles don’t require IT, you may favor a CRM that’s more intuitive to ensure adoption.

No matter what you choose, keep your staff’s needs at the forefront of your concerns.



It’s important to ensure your provider has the functionality and resources to grow with your business.

Whether this means sales automation, marketing automation, pipeline management, project management support, or follow-up features, your tool should aid your growth. If a provider can’t manage a significant expansion, you may find yourself dealing with issues. You could be dealing with the inconvenience, expense, and lost productivity of switching systems midstream.

Similarly, scalability allows a company to be mindful of features they don’t need. There’s no reason to pay for an expensive monthly plan now when you can always upgrade later.



Some companies work well with the out-of-the-box features of their CRM. Others require some additional development to adapt the platform to their specific processes.

Integration and add-ons allow businesses to manage their sales activities over multichannel customer interactions. When customer satisfaction is key, you need to allow for lead generation over whatever channel your customers prefer. Email integration with your CRM platform is just one of many ways to improve your workflow automation and allow your marketing teams to track interactions.

The most agile CRMs provide the development API so an IT department can integrate it with internal applications. CRMs with a long list of official integrations assure their customers a more seamless operation between the CRM and any existing software.



One size does not fit all, and neither does one style.

When it comes to email templates, the user interface, or the ability to configure automated processes, your company deserves a custom solution. The ability to custom-fit the software to your business needs should factor into your CRM decision.

There are even open source CRMs that include as many robust marketing tools as out-of-the-box solutions.



CRMs often bill per user per month. Some CRMs have package rates for a set number of users. Determine your needs and weigh them against your budget.

While some companies tend towards premium solutions, there may be smaller players in the CRM space who cut out unnecessary features for a lower price and may offer more dedicated support as well.



Many providers offer CRM features including a searchable online directory of how-to articles and FAQs. Others go further with customer support via email and live webchat. Some providers will also include direct phone support for customers buying their larger plans.

Consider your familiarity with software and whether your business would need an in-depth consultation with the provider. If you require help managing, implementing, and maintaining your CRM on your own, you will.

Certain providers provide dedicated account executives and even small business consultation, but this type of coaching may cost a premium.


Why You May Need a CRM Administrator


When a CRM is properly integrated into your business, it’s adopted universally across departments. This requires training and coordination. A small company may have a close-knit culture and direct communication to achieve this, but a large company may not.

Customer relationship management software requires implementation for sales, marketing, and other business processes. A fully-featured solution is best deployed, implemented, and maintained with a dedicated administrator.

An effective CRM administrator understands how to implement business processes into the software. They should have a strong IT background, a concept of marketing practices, and effective diplomatic skills. They should use these skills to teach new users how to use the system, explain changes to existing users, and troubleshoot the software.

Hiring a dedicated CRM administrator is an expense on top of the CRM software itself. If existing staff can handle CRM responsibilities, then a small company may be able to put off hiring an administrator. The work of maintaining data security, creating email templates, managing staff training and inquiries could be handled by a small company.

However, CRM systems tend to grow beyond the capability or attention of an employee working in a dual capacity. The employee’s role could be spun into administrating the CRM full-time and getting their certification. Otherwise, the role should be filled by a dedicated administrator tasked with working across departments.

For a larger company, this is a must. There’s a serious need for security management and configuring complex automation. The management of individual and group permissions as well as integration of Enterprise Resource Planning software is no small task.

This necessitates the hiring of a dedicated CRM administrator.


What to Consider When Buying CRM Software


Before making a decision on which CRM solution is right for your business, you must evaluate your company size, business needs, and budget.

Analyze which features produce the most value for your business. Look at the processes and tools you and your team currently use the most.

The ability to consolidate these functions in one place or deciding to automate them will impact your decision. The ability to integrate existing solutions into a platform can also play a role. You may be able to make a more cost-effective purchase by passing on extraneous features.

Your hardware will affect your choice of CRM. The ability to seamlessly access the software across platforms will be central to its performance. This is where cloud accessibility and mobile app access come into play.

Some solutions can function both within browsers and as native apps. That flexibility may be crucial for teams with employees in different locations or who require mobility. Your staff should be able to work with your CRM whether they’re connected via an iOS, Android, or Google device.

Your CRM is only as good as your adoption rate, so listen to your employees about the factors that are most important to them. Keep these opinions in mind. They may guide you towards the most appropriate vendor and improve your CRM software’s ROI by encouraging universal usage.