You’re past the startup phase: you’ve got yourself a good client base, and now you’re looking to scale. You’re no longer using a spreadsheet to track touchpoints with your contacts, and you might already be using CRM software—but will that solution remain solid when you 10x the leads you’re generating?
To help you find the best tool for the long haul, I spent time with the best CRM software for small businesses like yours. After extensive testing, I’ve narrowed it down to the eight best CRMs that will help you step up from your current solution—or get started with a powerful new app for the first time.
Get ready for more opportunities, increased agility while negotiating, and making closed won the most common expression you hear this year.
The best small business CRM software
Vtiger for an all-in-one solution
Flowlu for an affordable all-in-one solution
Zoho CRM for scaling your business
Capsule for managing projects
Freshsales for a simple CRM for small business
folk for simple, ultra-personalized emails
Salesmate for phone and SMS outreach
NetHunt for managing your Gmail inbox
What makes the best CRM for small business?
A CRM is one of the core sales apps in your tech stack. It contains all the data about leads and deals you’re building for them, complete with a timeline of past and planned interactions. It helps you be productive by letting you know what to do next and coordinating your sales team. And since all your data is centered here, you can take a look at reports to find opportunities to improve.
But what’s important in client relationship management software for small business, in particular? You don’t want a tool that’s too basic, too focused on the CRM side of things—something that will limit you later on, forcing a switch. At the same time, the subscription price needs to fit your budget as you grow, starting at a fair enough point on the lowest plan, and keeping a reasonable scale for the advanced features that you get on the higher plans. Lastly, you need a tool that gives you visibility and control over your business processes, so your team can get the insights they need.
With that in mind, here’s what I looked for as I was testing the best customer relationship management software for small business:
User experience. I looked for small business CRM systems that you can set up quickly, that offer easy ways to access help content when you need it, and that are simple to use every day.
Sales features. As the center of your customer data and sales productivity, your CRM will help you keep track of contacts and activity, and see how your deals are moving forward with a visual sales pipeline.
Reporting and analytics. How do you improve if you can’t measure how you’re doing? Any good CRM system for small business will provide a set of reports to help you do just that.
Integrations. A CRM that plays nice with your other apps is key. More integrations means more functionality you can access from your dashboard, more data moving back and forth seamlessly, and more opportunities for automation.
Value for money. I was looking at the price you’ll pay now—and as you grow. The maximum price on the lowest paid plan is $40 per user per month. I also excluded apps with a sharp price increase toward the upper tiers.
If any of my picks don’t fit these constraints neatly, I mention it in my review to give you a heads-up. In some cases, the unique approaches were compelling enough to include, even if it was missing one or two typical features.
Out of the 130 CRM apps I researched, I tested the 30 best fits. After signing up for each, I added my contacts, created deals, and moved them along the pipeline, logging fictional phone calls and emails as I went. Then, I headed over to the reports section to see what insights were collected. Finally, I tested the unique features of each app to get a feel for if they were useful or just nice to put on the marketing page.
One final note: all prices below refer to monthly subscriptions, where available. There are discounts for annual billing, so refer to the pricing page of each app to get the full cost breakdown.
Best all-in-one CRM software for small businesses
Vtiger(Web, iOS, Android)
Vtiger takes the crown as the best all-in-one CRM software for small businesses. It’ll keep all your contacts and deals organized, bringing inventory, marketing, help desk, project management, and documents into the mix.
You’d think the user interface would be a mess trying to cram all this in. But Vtiger keeps everything clean: there’s a screen for every major feature set, with simple navigation at the top. If you need to switch screens—say, you’re looking at your inventory and want to get back to your sales pipeline—click the hamburger menu on the top-left. That will open a big menu, letting you jump straight to where you want to be.
Another risk with all-in-ones is having some features that are great and others that are just ok. Vtiger impresses on this front—here are some examples:
Adding a new contact brings up a short form, so you can get it done quickly between calls or emails. Later, you can open up the main contact page, where you can add all the relevant info when you have time.
The sales screen has a visual pipeline to help you keep track of your deals. Clicking on a deal lets you see the next task, along with all the detailed information about the data connected to it.
The help desk screen keeps track of open cases submitted by your customers, a live chat tab, and the possibility of building your own FAQ section to help your support team.
The email marketing screen lets you build campaigns and autoresponders. You can create and save your own templates with dynamic fields to personalize each message with the recipient’s data.
The projects page lets you add all your projects, queue tasks inside, and assign them to anyone. It has its own activity feed where you can send messages or post updates. You can attach and link everything here to make this your single source of truth.
As for inventory, you can keep track of products and services, invoices and purchase orders, and even manage product-related taxes.
The best part? All these features are connected with one another. Just closed a deal? Click to convert it to a project. Want to add the most common products or services that a contact usually requests? You get the idea. In case there’s a critical feature that Vtiger doesn’t have, you can connect it to Zapier to cover your use case. Here are some examples of how that works.
Vtiger price: Each pricing tier has two user types. The admin users have all the privileges across all the features; the price for these users is higher, starting at $30/user/month (One Professional Standard plan). However, if you have lots of employees that only need read/write access to one of the feature sets—say, they only handle customer support—the price is lower, at $20/user/month (One Professional Single App plan).
Best affordable all-in-one CRM software for small businesses
Flowlu (Web, iOS, Android)
Flowlu brings decent power at a decent price, as long as you have at least eight people working with you. With a sharp user interface and a thorough onboarding task list, you can combine sales with projects, financial features, collaboration, client portals, and knowledge bases. It’s an all-in-one CRM leaning toward the project management and business side of things.
When you log in every day, you’ll see a feed of recent messages. You can run a quick poll or type in announcements to get everyone on the same page. From there, the menu on the left side can take you anywhere you need, with shortcuts to create new tasks, deals, or contacts without having to click two or three times to get it done.
The contact and sales management features are all here. There’s a filterable list view for all activities that you can use to organize your work or see how your team is performing. Another detail I like is how you can set automations for each stage of the sales pipeline: set the rules, and focus on your sales tasks, not on admin.
As an all-in-one, Flowlu focuses on project management, helping you connect projects with the contacts you’re building them for, and keeping all the information in one place for easy access (with both waterfall and Agile methodologies available).
Flowlu pricing: There’s a free plan available. If you outgrow that, Flowlu’s lowest plan (Team) starts at $39 for 8 users, bringing the cost to $4.87/user/month. The price is per fixed number of users, so that may be beneficial depending on your roster. If you ever go over 25 users, you can upgrade to the Enterprise plan ($199/month), unlocking all the features for a fixed price, not a per-user rate like most of the competition.
Best CRM for scaling your small business
Zoho CRM(Web, iOS, Android)
When choosing software for your company, you don’t just consider the short-term. Sure, this app fits my needs now, but what happens when we double or triple our client roster next year? Will it still support me through the increased workload without siphoning away my hard-earned money?
Zoho CRM will. The free plan is good. The lowest plan is fair. When you move to the pricier tiers, it stays affordable considering the full range of features you’ll get: advanced reporting, machine learning, and AI, to mention the notable ones.
The user interface isn’t as appealing as some of the competition, but Zoho makes it up to you by offering robust features. In addition to sales, it includes email marketing and a company activity feed to improve communication between teams. There’s support for creating self-service portals for your customers, help desk features, and automatic lead scoring too. As you can see, Zoho is close to all-in-one territory too.
If you want to track your projects, you can set up a seamless integration with Zoho Projects, letting you access your tasks from the CRM dashboard once you complete the configuration. And that’s just one of the dozens of other Zoho apps that the CRM integrates with—and most of them have either a generous free plan or accessible paid plans. You can upgrade and downgrade as your budget expands or shrinks.
If there’s a feature that the Zoho software suite doesn’t offer, you can connect Zoho CRM to Zapier, so it plays nice with all your other apps. Here are a couple examples.
Zoho CRM pricing: The lowest plan available, Standard, starts out at $20/user/month. As you move up through the tiers, you unlock new features and raise the cap on existing ones. Here’s a breakdown of how it works. Professional ($35/user/month) brings more automation and process management; Enterprise ($50/user/month) unlocks more data analytics and ways to customize the interface and functionality; Ultimate ($65/user/month) unchains Zia, Zoho CRM’s resident AI model that does things like cleaning up and updating your contacts database, providing real-time view into your sales pipeline performance, and answering sales questions in a chat window. Ask “how many leads did we generate this month?” and it’ll provide the results right there. Think of it as a mini-ChatGPT for all your business metrics.
Best small business CRM for managing projects
Capsule(Web, iOS, Android)
Capsule in a nutshell: a strong CRM combined with a dependable project management app. Like all good productivity apps, it understands that user experience is important. It has an intuitive user interface and a dashboard that keeps the overwhelm under control. This is important because improving productivity is like all-you-can-eat diner discipline: if you overflow your plate with food, you’ll either overeat (get burned out) or waste food (leave stuff undone).
The Projects screen has three views: calendar, Kanban, and list. You can add everything you need to do here, assign it to the right people, and include all files needed to execute. Then, hop back to the dashboard and see all your tasks organized there on a list on the left, ready to tackle. To the right of this list, you’ll see the latest activity for you and your team—a stream of completed tasks, calls, and deal updates.
After a few weeks of getting things done, you can take a look at the reports to spot any productivity problems. This report comes on top of the general sales pipeline data that’s stock to almost every app in this category. Use these to understand which tasks take longer and who’s having trouble moving through projects—that person might need help, advice, or an encouraging word.
If there are more apps involved in getting your projects to 100%, you can connect Capsule to Zapier to move all the important data in and out. Here are a few workflows to set up.
Capsule pricing: The lowest plan, Professional, is $18/user/month, and offers 50,000 contacts and all the core features. The Teams plan is the most competitive at $36/user/month, increasing the contact limit and adding automation, advanced analytics, and user roles. The highest paid plan, Enterprise, is $54/user/month, further increasing contact limits and storage, but not unlocking any big features of note within the app (though the ongoing priority support is great in that plan, if you need it). The Enterprise plan doesn’t feel as competitive as others on the list, so depending on your size, it may make more sense to stay on the Teams plan before you have to upgrade to an enterprise-grade software suite. If you need email marketing features in Capsule, you can subscribe for the add-on for $11/month (not on a per-user basis).
Best simple CRM for small business
Freshsales (Web, iOS, Android)
All apps come with their own look, feel, navigation, and overall logic. Depending on how powerful they are, you may be willing to tolerate the rough bits or the unforgiving learning curves. And then there are apps like Freshsales, which keeps the difficulty level low, but not so low that it strips itself of all of its usefulness.
When you finish the onboarding, you’ll be prompted to add your leads, tasks, and appointments right away. Every page has its own What’s this page about? link that opens help, in case you need to understand what’s happening at every click. Freshsales also explains how you can leverage these features to help your business run smoothly. And hey, if something ends up being too cryptic, you can hop on the phone with the Freshsales team, something that not all other options on this list offer on all plans.
If you’re reading this article the old-school way—you know, top-to-bottom without skimming or skipping—you surely remember Zoho CRM’s Zia and its AI capabilities. Freshsales offers a similar feature set, here called Freddy, a cute 3D dog that spends its days sniffing around your data: it identifies priority contacts that are more likely to be better fits for your business; it suggests when you should follow up with leads to keep the engagement trend going up; and it can be installed as a chatbot on your website to handle customer support and appointments.
With Freshsales, you’ll be able to handle documents, keep track of products and connect telephone and chat in addition to everything you’d expect from a CRM. If you want to expand that feature set, Freshworks has more software that expands the features of Freshsales, adding marketing and customer service. And if that’s not enough, you can connect Freshsales with Zapier too.
Freshsales pricing: The Growth plan starts at $18/user/month, offering sales features, telephone, chat, and AI contact scoring, to name the more important ones. After that, the Pro plan moves the price upward to $47/user/month, unlocking time-based workflows, AI deal insights, and next best action. Finally, the top tier (Enterprise) caps at $83/user/month, unlocking all the AI sales forecasting. This is pricier than Zoho CRM’s top tier, for example, so if you need AI in your CRM, consider locking some time on your schedule to test both and see which one works better for you.
Best small business CRM for simple, ultra-personalized emails
Heads up: folk has a different vibe when compared with others on this list. It doesn’t do complex sales pipelines or flashy reports with pie charts. It doesn’t want you to think about your business relationships as numbers on a dashboard. Instead, it offers a simple way to handle all your contacts and send ultra-personalized emails to your lists at scale, replacing robotic templates with the unmistakable charm of the human voice.
If you use Notion, you’ll feel right at home. On the left side, you can click to start a search of your contacts database, see a breakdown of your emails, and access the settings. A little further down, you can see all your contact lists. folk is useful for keeping track of multiple kinds of relationships: you may deal with clients on a classic sales pipeline, but also with investors who have different relationship stages. If you need more ideas, you can explore the template gallery, as there are 50 different templates you can start from.
So what are these ultra-personalized emails? Click on a contact list and, on the top-right, click to compose a new dynamic email. As you write, type a forward slash to add any of the contact’s data fields to the body of the email. You can add their name, company, or any other custom text field that you have for your contacts. Once done, you can review your work to make sure that the static parts of the email fit with the dynamic tags, and click to send to the entire list.
But you can’t personalize a lot if you don’t have data. That’s why folk has a contact enrichment feature, automatically filling the gaps in contact information to give you a more complete picture of who you’re talking to. It can find companies, job titles, and phone numbers, among other bits of information.
The simplicity, support for multiple relationships, and these personalization features are so robust that they compensate for the lack of advanced analytics and reports. Think of folk as more of a rank-and-file, close-quarters sales tool, not so much a manager-level, boardroom-dweller enterprise software.
folk is hanging out wherever you are: you can take it with you to Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Gmail by installing the Chrome extension. That’s a nice collection of integrations to start the party, but if you want to keep it going, you can connect folk to Zapier and bring thousands of other apps in too. Here are some examples.
folk pricing: The Standard plan starts at $14/user/month, offering 100 enrichments and 500 messages per month. The next and highest-paid plan, Premium, is $29/user/month and raises the cap to 500 and 2,000, respectively. This kind of feature set and pricing seems a better fit if you sell high-ticket products or services with a long sales process.
Best small business CRM for working with phone and SMS
Salesmate(Web, iOS, Android)
Emails are the standard for a lot of CRM communication. But what about the good old phone call? Or that well-timed SMS? Salesmate offers the tools to connect those channels to your CRM, building features around them to make sure you get a lot out of these interactions.
The user interface is appealing, topped off by a great onboarding sequence and useful mini-tutorials on each page. Salesmate explains itself well, so it won’t take you a long time before you’re on the phone with your next lead. It doesn’t completely shun emails; in fact, it rounds them up in a Team Inbox. You can route any emails you get at [email protected] to it and have your team work through them together.
The good stuff starts happening when you connect telephony. You have to fill out a form and submit your company for consideration before unlocking these features (and remember that call rates apply on top of your regular subscription). Once you jump through those hoops, though, you can start sending and receiving SMS messages right on the platform, having them appended to the activity log of each contact. You can also start calls from the dashboard or—I find this really handy—from your sales pipeline’s deal cards. And when you get an incoming call, that contact’s page opens up on the screen so you can start the conversation without hesitating.
Salesmate also integrates with Zapier to expand its capabilities even further. Here are some examples of how it can work with your other apps.
Overall, Salesmate is a well-rounded tool, with a dedicated interface to set up marketing automation, another for customer support chats, and a reports section that helps you create as many viewing angles over your data as you need. If you end up consulting a few of these reports many times a day, you can add them to your dashboard.
Salesmate pricing: The pricing here is fair and doesn’t rise too sharply based on the features offered. Starter goes for $15/user/month, unlocking most of the basic features. One step above, Growth ($30/user/month) unlocks product management, more email features, and date-based workflows. One step further, Boost ($50/user/month) unlocks phone features such as the Power Dialer (automated voice calls) and Voicemail Drop (a kind of reverse voicemail: if your contact doesn’t pick up the phone, you can leave one pre-recorded message on their voicemail). And if you want to remove all limitations and get personalized support from Salesmate, hop on the Enterprise plan (pricing on request).
Best CRM for managing your Gmail inbox
NetHunt(Web, iOS, Android)
What if there was a CRM that you could use while you go about your day in Gmail? You know where this is going: it’s NetHunt. And unlike most other CRMs for Gmail, NetHunt has a separate dashboard you can access to make big-picture decisions and fine-tune the controls.
Getting started is easy: sign up with the Gmail account you’re working with, and NetHunt sorts itself out in an instant. You can then access it when on Gmail (make sure to install the browser extension first), or fire up the web app, which has a similar user interface to Gmail, so you won’t be bothered by the seams. The web app lets you check deals, update and create contacts, fire email campaigns to your lists, and create workflows to automate the repetitive stuff.
There are simple reports available for user activity, pipeline, and time in stage. If you want to take a dip in the business intelligence software category, you can feed your data to Looker Studio via the available integration. This will let you build interactive dashboards and reports that update in real-time, helping you keep a finger on the pulse. Or you can connect NetHunt to Zapier and bring thousands of other apps in.
NetHunt pricing: NetHunt’s lowest paid plan, Basic ($30/user/month), strikes the best balance between pricing and features, which is why NetHunt made it on this list in the first place. The Business ($60/user/month) and Advanced ($120/user/month) plans, which offer automation and native integrations, are pricey when compared with other CRMs. If you do upgrade, make sure that you’re fully leveraging everything that each plan offers; otherwise, it could weigh heavily on your expenses without offering much in return.
What is the best CRM software for small business?
You’re running a small business today, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for inferior software or burn your runway by joining the big players and their expensive enterprise software club. If any of these picks speak to you, they’re all free to try, so take your time exploring the best one for you and your team.
Of course, small business customer relationship management can evolve quickly. If you need a CRM that’s simple but highly customizable and automation-ready, take a look at Zapier Interfaces. Interfaces lets you build your own mini-apps to power your business-critical workflows with zero coding skills.
Or, if you need something more powerful, you can check out our picks for the best CRMs overall, which brings together the best of the best of the category, including tools you can trust to navigate the business stratosphere.
How to automate your CRM
CRM strategy: why you need one and how to set it up
6 tips for successful CRM implementation
Originally published in 2018, this article has had contributions from Jamie Irish and Chris Hawkins. The most recent update was in March 2023.
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