If you’re looking to maximize sales, you need the right tools for the job.
However big or small your organization, having the best CRM software is crucial to boosting sales performance across the department—without one, you’ll be wasting time and losing opportunities you could be converting into revenue.
But not all CRMs are created equal. There’s a vast array of pricing options out there, so when asking yourself, “what is the best CRM?” it’s important to know what features you need.
To help you, we’ve developed this guide of key features you should be on the lookout for when trying to find the best CRM system.
Why you need a CRM
Different CRM software functions in different ways, but the best sales CRM tools provide major benefits to any organization:
- A clear visual representation of your sales pipeline
- The automation of repetitive tasks to save time
- A centralized source of information about every deal and lead your team has ever made or plans to make
- Data analysis to measure the effectiveness of sales, as well as forecasting future sales
- Streamlined communications with potential buyers
Let’s say you have 100 leads in your pipeline. Without CRM that’s 100 names you’ll need to manually enter into a spreadsheet. What happens when a lead progresses to the next stage? What happens if a deal falls through? What happens every time your reps communicate with their prospects?
It has to be updated manually.
You’ll be sifting through file directories to find the right information, with no guarantee it’ll be free of human error. And the only way to tell if your sales approach is working is by having your reps spend their time logging details after every lead interaction and putting the data into charts and graphs when you want to see the results.
A CRM does all of this for you!
A CRM can’t win your deals for you—that’s down to the skill of your sales team. But the best CRMs specialize in doing all those time-consuming mundane tasks, so your team can focus on selling.
Small teams will achieve significant workflow improvements moving from spreadsheets to CRM software for small businesses, spending more of their time selling and less bogged down in admin.
They can easily store and recall important details about leads, as well as being able to use data analysis from their pool of previous sales to refine their sales techniques to boost their revenue even more.
Larger teams gain the same benefits, but see huge advantages from having a centralized data platform. Information from sales departments in different locations and time zones is updated and represented in real time, meaning no loss of accuracy and no delays waiting for crucial information from other departments.
Who is CRM for?
While CRM software is usually designed to be used by Sales and Marketing, businesses with different focuses have leveraged the power of CRM for their own needs.
Healthcare providers use a version of CRM to keep track of patients, with automated reminders about appointments and check-ups. Øjenhospitalet Danmark (Eye Hospital Denmark), for example, benefitted from using Pipedrive.
Construction firms use CRM to track potential clients and prevent cross-communication with them, saving time and cleaning up the way information about prospects is stored. Check out how McKeon Group grew its revenue with Pipedrive, as an example.
Any organization in an industry with ongoing customer relationships paramount to success, or with repetitive manual admin, stands to benefit from CRM.
What makes the best sales CRM?
We now know the baseline for what CRM needs to bring to your organization. But what do the best CRM platforms bring to the table to separate them from the rest?
Your CRM should grow with your business, from a start-up CRM all the way to enterprise level. The best CRM software offers easy upgrade paths for when you need more advanced features and more users.
Your business holds enormous responsibility for the personal data it has, and the top CRM system providers make sure your data remains safe and only available to those with the correct permissions, while still being easy to access.
Unifies all your tools
Having a single, streamlined view of your sales process gives clarity, and gets your team on the same page. Supporting apps and integrations is also a must.
Integration and Customizability
You’ll waste time and money if the CRM you choose has a complicated interface and demands a complete overhaul of your sales process.
The best CRMs keep the focus on you and should integrate seamlessly with minimum training needed for your staff, enhancing your current practices with an easy-to-understand visual layout and intuitive controls.
You’ll need to be able to customize the presentation and functions of your CRM so your team can adapt to any situation. Your CRM should never be the reason you can’t implement a new strategy.
Some CRMs are expensive because they include lots of advanced tools you might need, but might not, whereas some are free, but lock their useful functions behind costly paywalls.
The best CRMs make sure you only pay for what you need and don’t charge steep prices for their services or for advanced functions when the time comes to upgrade. They’re also clear about what services are included for each price bracket.
A healthy ecosystem of third-party applications to integrate with your CRM lets you customize exactly how your CRM works for your business.
Look out for a large array of useful and popular apps, as the best CRMs will have integrations for every situation.
A good CRM will collate data for you to improve your sales process, as well as letting you set goals for your teams with real-time feedback.
The best CRMs make this data easily available and coherent, keeping your finger on the pulse of your process, pipeline, goals and requirements.
The best CRM software gives you prompts, reminders and tools to ensure these leads are never forgotten about. They allow you to set up chains once an initial step has been completed, with follow-up steps either automated or prompted after the desired interval.
Top CRM software also enables the use of advanced sales activities through their ability to track data, schedule follow-ups and automations, and encourage creativity in your process to find what works best.
Available on the go
Mobile access is crucial when you’re actively selling. CRM apps make sales management on the move easy and simple, and it’s even tougher for information to fall through the cracks.
Easy to use and set up
Instead of being a weekly reporting platform, sales management software should be an easy one-stop-shop for all your sales tracking needs.
It should also help you cut down on admin work. With the right tool, you’ll have to do less data handling, and have more time to sell.
Features of the best CRMs
With an understanding of what separates the top CRM software from the rest, let’s take a more in-depth look at the specific features you’ll want to look out for when deciding, ‘What is the best CRM for me?’
Leads and deals
When it comes to your pipelines you don’t want any limitations, so make sure your CRM doesn’t present any.
Look for CRMs offering unlimited pipelines for each team and rep, with customizable stages, deal probability and deal size. Make sure you can add custom fields for your pipelines and lead profiles so they display everything your business needs to succeed. These features are especially important in CRMs for larger teams.
Another key feature is automatic contact profile generation: however you contact a new lead, your CRM should be compiling their details for you and assigning them to the deals they’re part of. Once they’re part of your pipeline, moving them from one section of the pipeline should be as easy as dragging and dropping.
If a CRM has a clunky overview that makes your pipeline hard to understand, that should a big flag.
The best CRMs out there make the presentation of your pipeline clear and comprehensible and are intuitive to use. Your reps spend a lot of time looking at the pipeline, so choose a CRM with a light touch so your staff flow, not stutter—it’s one of the things Pipedrive users value most of all.
The best CRM software includes powerful, calling, emailing, live chat and chatbot tools. Address lead’s queries quickly and effectively with live chat, while the chatbot takes care of more simple questions and identifying leads via criteria you’ve specified.
Your CRM should display a comprehensive list of all your past communications with prospects, so your reps can continue the conversation where it left off and notify you when other reps have collaborated on a deal.
Features like Smart BCC and two-way email syncing keep your CRM and work email up to date, while features such as open- and click-tracking mean you can see how successful your emails have been.
Top CRM software will let you use email templates with merge fields to populate information about your leads automatically, enabling batch emails with a personal touch.
A powerful tool the top CRM systems often have is call-tracking, like Pipedrive’s Caller. Route your outbound calls to the CRM to allow the CRM to record and log the call in the software.
You’ll also want to ensure any CRM you consider has a Scheduler function, letting your leads select a timeslot from a calendar you’ve set of your availability—a quick solution when setting up meetings.
Any CRM you choose should have a calendar that syncs with your Google, outlook or other calendar provider, letting you schedule meetings, calls and other activities and making sure your calendar remains up to date.
Top CRMs will use A.I. to help you improve your sales—some will even analyze your behavior to suggest personalized tips about how to boost sales even further! They can highlight helpful ways you can automate your workflows and save time that you may not be aware of.
This lets you learn as you go, exploring the more advanced features of a CRM once you’ve got to grips with the basic functions.
And once you’re ready to start automating the repetitive tasks, you should be free to customize the workflows. Make sure you can specify the conditions and the follow-up actions associated with the task you want automated.
You should be able to set similar automations with your emails, selecting which templates (with auto-populated fields) get sent following specific circumstances.
Look for tools such as automated smart contact data collectors to ensure you have an idea of who your prospects are and how to pitch to them before making contact, improving your chances of closing a deal with them.
CRMs shouldn’t limit your business’s growth—you should never find yourself being held back because of your software. The same provider should be able to scale with you, ensuring you can still use the same core CRM for bigger teams.
Make sure that whichever CRM you choose allows you to easily upgrade the number of users or tier of product without penalizing you or imposing delays before the new functions or users can be added.
Sales data and reporting
Your CRM should give you accurate statistics and data on deals, revenue, your reps activities and leads, letting you refine and surgically adapt your sales techniques and see their results as they come in.
You’ll need an effective way to present this information too—your CRM should also give you options on how to display the data in dashboard view.
You should be able to design different dashboards to display different KPIs to your reps and have dashboards to address the concerns of different levels of the business, all the way up to senior management.
Privacy and security
The top CRMs will ensure robust security and privacy without making it an inconvenience for the user.
Make sure you can check who’s accessing what and when, with the ability to block suspicious users and set custom rules to restrict visibility and access to important data within your company.
You’ll want to make sure any CRM you’re interested in takes security seriously—check to see what measures they have in place to stay compliant with GDPR, that their staff are trained to handle your data securely and that their hosting infrastructure and encryption are world-class.
The best CRMs ensure your brand is never compromised by keeping your data as secure as possible.
Apps and Integrations
As modern CRMs are cloud-based, you should expect to be able to access yours from anywhere with a secure internet connection.
Not only should you be able to access your CRM from PCs, but it should support mobile platforms too, so your staff can stay connected even on the go.
You’ll want to ensure your CRM has a healthy pool of third-party apps to integrate with, to provide alternative customization options for your business.
The best CRM software providers offer great support for their products—they know how bad it is for business when a problem stops you from operating as normal.
Look for providers offering 24/7 support and channels with quick response times, such as over the phone or via live chat.
Enterprise-level businesses will want to ensure the provider looks after them too. Pipedrive provides implementation and account managers to help with transitions, as well as enhanced support for their highest tier of the product, including 24/7 phone support.
So, what is the best CRM?
The best CRM is the one that gives your business the features you need without breaking the bank.
The question really is: what features do you need?
Small companies looking to get into customer relationship management for the first time won’t need the more complex functions and tools an enterprise business will, but every business will want to make sure their data’s secure, that their sales pipeline is comprehensible within the new program, and that they aren’t having to spend a lot of resources retraining staff to use the CRM.
Importantly, a CRM tool should help you keep track of deals. A salesperson’s worst nightmare is forgetting. Whether it’s mixing up leads, missing an appointment, or losing sight of a deal that is just an inch away from selling, forgetfulness is a true salesman’s worst enemy. The right CRM will make sure you know where your leads are in the process and what activity you need to take next.
Make sure the baseline product meets your expectations of what a CRM should bring to your business, and then decide whether the cost for the features you need is reasonable.
Finally, check to see if the CRM will grow with your business—the top sales CRMs make this a breeze.
If you can tick all these boxes, then you’ve probably found the best CRM system for you—all that’s left to do then is start integrating it and boosting your sales to new levels.