The best crm software for 2018 business.com gas chamber

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Customer relationship management software is increasingly being adopted by small businesses. In its simplest incarnation, CRM solutions help sales teams manage leads, log communication, and build campaigns, but many high-priced systems go far beyond the scope of typical CRM tasks. In our quest to find the best CRM software available, we tested full-featured solutions and lightweight cloud products side-by-side.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these types of customer relationship management software. As with any business software, the more features and functionality a product has the more in depth the implementation process is. Additionally, highly customizable systems often require more knowledge to set up than out of the box solutions, which are designed specifically for small, less tech intensive, teams. At the same time, while lightweight systems are easier and cheaper to implement, businesses that are expanding quickly may outgrow such systems quickly.

To identify the best customer relationship management solutions, we created a replicable ranking system based on product features, usability, scope, implementation process, UI, integrations, level of technical skill necessary, customer service and user opinion. We then created a diverse set of use cases to highlight top performers in our CRM software reviews.

In the last two decades it’s become harder to answer the question "what is CRM software?" It’s grown from a glorified digital contacts repository to a powerful tool that businesses of all sizes can use to manage goals and tasks interdepartmentally. By aligning sales, marketing and inventory assets, CRM makes it easier for businesses to grow strategically and sustainably.

The proliferation of user-friendly CRM platforms and cloud-based CRMs has exploded the adoption of CRM across many industries and led to increased innovation among competing software companies. Today, the landscape is dominated by feature-rich, easy-to-use CRMs that offer scheduling features, streamline the email marketing process and offer visual data reporting. For small business users, the emphasis of choosing a CRM often comes down to ease of implementation, and companies have picked up on that. Delivering easy-to-use systems that are built for businesses without extensive in-house tech expertise has become the holy grail of all SaaS providers, including those that specialize in CRM products.

Increased demand for such solutions has led to growth industrywide. IBM reported in its corporate blog that, as of 2017, CRM was a $36 billion industry, with Adobe (27 percent), Salesforce (21 percent) and Microsoft (20 percent) leading the market share, and that 87 percent of all CRM systems market-wide live in the cloud. The trend of moving from natively hosted software to cloud systems is evidence of the changing tide in business software, away from strictly enterprise-level systems and towards customizable solutions that businesses of all sizes can use. Pricing

For small businesses, there is an extensive world of CRM pricing options to explore. There are free and inexpensive lightweight CRM systems, which are best for small teams and microbusinesses, and often offer upgrades as needed. There are also heavy-duty CRM platforms that are priced higher and offer more functionality, flexibility and scalability.

The amount you spend on a CRM system should be a balancing act between your current needs, your potential future needs and what you can afford. Most cloud-based services list the price per user per month but bill annually, while most native software products have a flat one-time, per-user fee. Some software companies further complicate pricing by offering add-on products and services, storage upgrades, mandatory training and implementation fees, automatic upgrades and more. Make sure you fully understand the pricing structure of any CRM product prior to making your decision and specifically ask about automatic upgrades, storage limits and user limits.

• Midrange cloud CRM subscriptions tend to run from $20 to $40 per month per user. Most small business users will be able to have their needs met by midrange systems. If ultralightweight solutions aren’t working for you, step up to this level.

When considering pricing, it’s good to consider how many members of your team will need to access the CRM. As with most business software and cloud services, the fewer users you need to onboard, the less expensive your service will be, and the easier it will be to make a lighter CRM work for you.

While many small business owners worry that they’ll sign up for a product that doesn’t offer enough functionality down the road, these concerns are often overblown. Tiers of service and add-on features are nearly always available, and while more features and functionality may seem inherently better, too many options within a system can be overwhelming, make the implementation process longer and more complicated, and cost more than necessary.

The best way to determine the features you require in a CRM is to list out what you want to be able to do with it. Technology should never be adopted simply because it’s current or common; it should be adopted because it solves a specific problem. If you cannot outline in a detailed way what you want to do with your future CRM system, and why you want to adopt one in the first place, you may not be ready to implement it. If you already know what you’re looking for and why you need it, but you want to further narrow your options, begin by asking yourself (and your team) these questions:

Whatever your needs are, list them out in addition to the answers to these questions. Make sure you also list any integrations you need (including proprietary legacy software, if applicable), and inquire about how such integrations are achieved prior to choosing a product. In some CRM systems, integrating with an outside solution is as simple as clicking a few boxes; in others you must use a third-party tool (like Zapier) to click your way through the integration, and in others still require hands on coding to make integrations happen.

By outlining your needs ahead of time, you stand a much better chance of getting a product that does what you need without overpaying for features you’ll never use. It’s also good to keep in mind that you can always upgrade – a company is never going to refuse to sell you more features in the future, so start addressing your most pressing needs first, and go from there. Keep in mind that when you’re not a customer yet, nearly everyone you talk to is a sales rep, so treat their advice accordingly. Negotiation Tips