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The Best CRM Software 2022: Top CRM Tools for Small Business and Sales Reviewed, Compared and Rated

CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”. CRM software helps business owners or sales teams track contacts or communications, and nurture them to build customer loyalty. A good CRM software helps you keep track and manage all your company relationships and interactions with customers and potential clients to grow your business and repeat sales to improve profitability.

top CRM tools illustration for the best CRM software reviews, comparison and guide on how to choose the right customer relationship management software tools & systems for your business

Any customer relationship management platform can manage customers data, but the best CRM software gives you a reliable and secure way to manage customers data and leads from the first marketing touch, to ensure a closed sale and repeat sales, with integration and ability to connect to the other tools that make a business a success.

This is the most comprehensive CRM software review and analysis in 2022, regardless of your business size. We test-drove seven of the most popular platforms to see for ourselves which are the most robust, easy to use, and highly rated. Then we consulted CRM superusers and consultants to tell us how to start gauging which one is the best for various categories of businesses and use circumstances.

To help you choose the right CRM software for your business, we compared the top 50 CRM solutions. We looked at cost, ease of use, important integrations, convenience, reporting features, and support. In this CRM software review and buying guide, you will know which CRM software is best after rigorous testing, and learn how to choose the best crm software solution for your business.

The Top 3 Best Rated CRM Software

Our top 3 CRM software picks for 2022 are:

  • Zoho CRM: best for small business
  • Salesforce: Best overall CRM software for sales and big businesses
  • SugarCRM: Best platform for mid-sized businesses

Our top picks cater to various business sizes, and they’re excellent starting points as you begin your search.

What is CRM and CRM Software?

What is CRM?

CRM, an acronym for “Customer relationship management” is a process in which businesses or other organizations keep track and manage all the company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. The purpose of this is to enable the company to render better services, improve customer experience, build trust and close sales.

What is CRM Software?

CRM software (also known as “customer relationship management software” or “CRM tool”) is a software tool that’s designed to help business owners or your organization offer your customers a unique and seamless experience across the entire customer lifecycle by providing an easy way to keep track of all communications and data including your sales, organizing and prioritizing your opportunities to build better business relationships, drive and ultimately close sales and grow your business.

Why you need a good CRM tool

For any business to succeed today, it needs to establish trust and connections with its new, existing and potential customers. To do this, you need the best CRM software to automate the whole process of utilizing customers data to maximize sales and build good customer relationships.

CRM Software Comparison: Compare top CRM software tools & systems to find the best Customer Relationship Management software for your business

There are hundreds of CRM tools to choose from, and it comes down to evaluating which has the right functionality to give your business the insights it needs to succeed. Compare the top CRM platforms below and choose the best customer relationship management solution for your business.

We’re going to be honest: Reading this or any other review of CRM software with hopes to find the right customer relationship management software is only a step in your journey to find the best CRM software for your business.

Best CRM software for small business and beginners who want to scale their business

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM, review with test performance results and ratings
Zoho CRM review, rating and use circumstances

Zoho is the best CRM software for small businesses in need of a top performing customer relationship management software solution at an affordable and cheap price.

Aside from the fact that Zoho CRM is an entry level and beginner friendly CRM platform (all thanks to its affordable pricing and ease of use), it also boasts of a free CRM tool that functions for up to 10 users, plus a simple interface for the needs of a small business.

Zoho CRM Price: Free for 3 users; from $12/month/user (standard plan)

Why we picked it

It’s easy to use.

Zoho stood out to us as the best crm software in our testing as an excellent option for solopreneurs and very small or growing businesses — particularly for those who want to dip their toes into CRM with a free or low-priced subscription but still grow over time. This is all thanks to the intuitive nature of the zoho platform.

Zoho kicks off with a Getting Started landing page that links to tasks essential for setup such as: migration, inviting colleagues, personalizing the CRM, and workflow automation. You can access that page anytime through the navigation, and it’s a nice home base as you get more and more comfortable.

We particularly liked the fact that Zoho consolidates its operating system to give you an all-in-one option, known as Zoho One. This way, you can run your entire business in one place with around 40 integrated applications. However, if you don’t like the all-in-one option and want to pick and choose, Zoho gives you that choice, too.

Cost-effective with entry level pricing.

Zoho is undoubtedly one of the most affordable CRM software platforms out there. It topped the charts on CRM Magazine’s 2017 Market Leaders for small business CRM suites. Brent Leary, co-founder and partner at CRM Essentials, stated in the report that Zoho “has a breadth of products and offerings with a good depth of functionality at such low-price points that it delivers great value, even to the smallest of SMBs.”

Free CRM option available.

For those looking for a free CRM, Zoho even offers an edition that lets three users have access to all of Zoho’s basics at no charge: accounts, leads, feeds, documents, mobile apps, and macros.

The next tier ($12 per user per month) adds functionality like sales forecasting, roles, and call center connectors. Even though there are only around 180 integrations for Zoho CRM on the Zoho Marketplace, it has some pretty important ones, like Google Drive and Microsoft Office.

What you should know and points to consider

Inconsistent user experience (you pay for what you get).

When we checked consumer ratings of Zoho, we noticed that the CRM platform didn’t have an overly super excited user ratings and report card among the public. It appears to be a case of you pay for what you get. A quick view of online user ratings reveals that users have cited technical and customer support issues, as well as the fact that workflow automation is only available to those who purchase the Professional (or most expensive) edition.

Granted, the negative feedback could simply be the nature of the market itself. Salesforce doesn’t shine when it comes to customer reviews, either; like Zoho, a lot of the complaints deal with customer service. We take online reviews with a grain of salt, but know that choosing a site as budget-friendly as Zoho and opting for the cheapest plan may come with a few headaches.

Best CRM software overall – for sales, marketing and big business

Salesforce

Salesforce CRM platform review image showing performance score and ratings
Salesforce CRM platform review , analyzed rating and use circumstances

Salesforce is the most popular and best CRM software for businesses of all sizes. With over 1 million users worldwide, Salesforce is a reliable solution when it comes to anything and everything CRM related.

If you want to get more leads, close more sales, increase repeat sales and build good customer relationships with your audience, Salesforce is the best CRM software solution right now. It’s a cloud-based CRM platform that caters to important aspects of a business, including sales, marketing, service, analytics, and more.

Why we chose it

Extensive integration and customizability.

If you can dream up a feature, there’s likely a way to do it within Salesforce itself or via one of its integrated apps. Do you want to use it to streamline your hiring process? Track your MailChimp campaigns? Gamify your employees into increased productivity? There are apps (both paid and free) for all of these functions and many, many more.

Salesforce’s AppExchange third-party app marketplace is one of the largest available, giving businesses access to over 4,000 applications and integrations.

These are broken down into categories, like Sales and IT, and industry, like Education and Real Estate. It’s by far the most customizable CRM we investigated. And because Salesforce is in the cloud (more on that in our FAQ), you can add applications without going through costly infrastructure.

Efficient for sales teams.

For sales teams or sales users in particular, Salesforce surpasses the competition by allowing users to interact more with the customer than the computer.

I’d say that sales users generally warm up more to Salesforce than [Microsoft] Dynamics.

Steve Chipman, a partner at CRM Switch

It takes more clicks to get things done in Microsoft Dynamics than Salesforce, and this means less time with customers and tending to your business and more time working (manually) through the kinks in the software. While Salesforce’s interface is occasionally complicated, Dynamics’ is even more so.

It’s Reliable.

Don’t take our word for it, though; Salesforce is steadily growing in popularity thanks to the depth of its functionality. In fact, CRM Magazine gave Salesforce the top spot for the second year in a row for its 2017 CRM Market Leaders: Enterprise CRM Suite category. This rating system is designed by analysts to evaluate customer satisfaction, depth of functionality, company direction, and cost, making it a solid choice for enterprises.

What you should know and points to consider

Steep learning curve.

Mastering a CRM suite as robust and flexible as Salesforce is not easy. One superuser we chatted with agreed: Salesforce is a “migration of steps,” requiring you to ease in employees slowly. And the leadership needs to be fully invested in migrating to the CRM, because it will likely take at least a couple of years.

If you’re opting for a top-of-the-line enterprise CRM, expect to dedicate some staff to it. Training an employee to do nothing but manage Salesforce for the company was essential for our testers — despite the extensive help and training available on the website, someone without a background in information technology would struggle to set up and maintain a CRM with so many capabilities and integrations.

It felt a little like Google Analytics to one of our testers: She could tell it was an amazing tool, and she could figure out a few things on her own, but there was no way she could tap into its full functionality. Our superuser said that, after hiring consultants and an administrator, Salesforce was customized for the company so that each employee only saw the functionality they used in the system. Very cool — but definitely not what a small business or solopreneur might be interested in or likely capable of operating.

Best for mid-sized businesses

SugarCRM

SugarCRM review, performance data analysis with pros and cons
SugarCRM review, pros and cons

SugarCRM is an intuitive program that straddles the line between small-business CRM and enterprise.

Why we chose it

Variety of functions.

SugarCRM offers a vast array of functions and bridges the gap between small business and enterprise CRMs. It’s shy of Salesforce’s 4,000+ integrations, offering a more modest 270, but that is more than enough if you’re running a mid-sized business. And those 270 are diverse enough to customize your experience and take steps to grow your business: They enable you to monitor customer interactions, gauge data, and draw insights.

Intuitive and simple navigation.

Sugar felt more accessible than our enterprise-suite experience, with intuitive drag-and-drop modules to customize the dashboard and navigation. We were also impressed by its simple navigation bar across the top of the home screen; users are always one click away from accounts, contracts, opportunities, and leads.

It didn’t take us long to learn how to get around. While having a consultant or systems admin set up software like Sugar would make the process more seamless, its learning curve is much gentler than that of Salesforce. It also offers simple on-site deployment, so you can easily make the transition from any previous software.

Flexible business needs

SugarCRM was designed with small businesses in mind, but it can also expand into a full-fledged enterprise suite. CRM Magazine named it one of the top contenders for the 2017 CRM Market Awards for small business CRM suites, but it was also named one of the 2016 enterprise leaders.

In the same year, SugarCRM became the CRM choice for Virgin Mobile USA. Because it’s made its name in both small business and enterprise arenas, it’s a reputable option for many different business needs.

What you should know and points to consider

While it’s great for small business. It’s too robust for extremely small businesses.

Although 270+ applications may not seem like a lot in comparison to Salesforce’s 4,000, there’s still a good chance this is more than you need, especially if you’re running a very small business. Analysts from CRM Magazine agree: In the small-business suite report, Kate Leggett, vice president and a principal analyst at Forrester, commented that a full-featured CRM like Salesforce, Dynamics, and even Sugar “may offer a depth of capabilities that is more than what a small business requires.”

That said, keep in mind that a ceiling on your CRM’s capabilities could be limiting if your small business becomes not-so-small — which could be the case with a true small-business CRM like Zoho.

Fewer integrations than the competitors.

On the flip side, if you do have an extremely large business, SugarCRM’s lack of integration may hinder you. Its 270 integrations are suited for true mid-range businesses, but it can’t compete with Salesforce’s 4,000 for a business that has more extensive needs.


What are the best free CRM tools?

Here is a video review of the top 5 free CRM tools for small businesses.


Beginners Guide to CRM Software and How to find the right CRM software solutions for you

In this comprehensive guide to Choosing CRM software for your business, we show you all the things and factors you need to consider when choosing a CRM solution if you truly want to find the best CRM software for your business.

Identify your business needs

The best way to find a CRM software that works for you is to identify the insights your business needs. Do you need to track how long it takes a digital suspect to become a qualified prospect? Do you need to hyper-focus on the usage of your website by current clients?

Marie Hale, co-founder and marketing visionary of atrevenue

We suggest speaking with customer service representatives to make sure that the service aligns with your current needs — while offering room to grow, if that’s in your future.

Look at the CRM software features and check for compatibility with other apps you currently use

When it comes to finding the right CRM tools, efficiency and connectivity are key.

It’s really hard to have a CRM tool that exists in its own environment. You end up copying data from tool to tool, which is inefficient and complicated. What makes a good CRM is when it’s all integrated and it’s connected to the other tools that make a business a success. That integration is really critical. – .

Valerie Youman, a CRM marketing consultant.

A good approach to this is to double-check the apps you currently use against those offered by your potential software before buying.

Consider the price

It’s especially important to look at the fine print and investigate any hidden costs. You definitely don’t want to overpay for integrations that you never use — and if you do end up with unwanted apps, you should be able to easily switch them.

Again, the simpler the product, the less you’ll pay: More functionality usually means higher initial prices and maintenance resourcing (e.g., finding the IT support to help you set it up).


Methodology: How we tested and compared the best CRM software tools & systems

We looked at a variety of business needs across different categories of business and use circumstances

To find the best customer relationship management (CRM) software, we homed in on the seven most popular, most widely available platforms — targeted at a variety of business sizes.

Why seek out this range? Usually, larger businesses with greater resources will benefit from a program with a wealth of options, whereas small businesses don’t have the infrastructure to handle the more complex integrations.

Salesforce, for example, was designed with enterprise businesses in mind; however, Zoho’s smaller feature kit may better suit a business with only a handful of users looking for how to scale.

Customer interaction is always evolving, and most businesses are hungry for ways to manage advertising, marketing, and social media strategies all in one place to efficiently drive sales. The best programs are the most intuitive ones — but on the same token, the more intricate the program, the more resources and money you’ll expend to maintain it. We wanted to provide options for every business tier.

Functionality is key

The best CRM software lets you operate a variety of functions at once: store customer information, make calls, monitor leads, schedule appointments, and streamline communication. However, CRM functionality doesn’t stop at simply tracking and storing data — it can also be used for marketing and customer service reports to help you better understand your business and its needs.

Having all of these resources in one place is key to taking manual labor out of growing your business. We looked for software that provided robust functionality for all users.

However, as with everything else, you should consider the number of resources you have to set up and maintain the software. Some, like Salesforce, offer deep, intricate functions that might not be as easily navigated without the initial help of an IT team. In fact, to fully tap into Salesforce, most of the experts we spoke with suggested having dedicated IT and system admins to manage it.

Integrations

Adjacent to functionality is the option to add integrations to your package. These are applications designed by third parties and offered in addition to the features already present in your CRM software — think Outlook, Zendesk, and QuickBooks. We preferred software with plenty of available integrations, since these integrations helps customize and streamline your experience.

Ease of use

The main point of CRM software is to provide a hands-free way to manage sales leads and customer relations; if it’s as difficult to use as a spreadsheet, you probably shouldn’t be dealing with it. The more intuitive the software, the better. Streamlined menus, functional search features, and uncluttered layouts all caught our eye in the best software.

Reliability

While we analyzed each software and tested ease of use for ourselves, we also consulted third-party opinions to obtain a well-rounded view. We looked at CRM Magazine, CRM and marketing experts, and online reviews to gauge user-friendliness, reliability, and customer satisfaction.

CRM Software FAQ

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