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    A sales CRM, or customer relationship management (CRM) tool for sales, is frequently the centerpiece of sales operations for a variety of business use cases. But how many businesses have truly optimized their sales CRM for efficiency and overall success?

    Businesses that use a sales CRM rarely utilize the platform’s full capabilities. A recent report from Deloitte found that 80% of small businesses in the U.S. were not taking full advantage of digital tools and were possibly paying for more features than they use.

    It pays to stay on top of the latest tips and trends as well as the top sales CRM software available in today’s marketplace. In this definition, learn about the key features to look for in a sales CRM solution and what different software vendors offer in this space:

    What Is a Sales CRM?

    Sales CRM software works as a portal to log information and guide a lead through the process of (hopefully) converting into a customer. The software uses customer relationship management strategies, which foster the relationship with customers or potential customers, to support the sales funnel.

    Who Should Use a Sales CRM?

    The sales CRM is a tool for the sales team, of course, but reaches far beyond the sales department. It can assist marketers who are executing email or SMS initiatives, act as a customer service tool as product questions arise, and facilitate operational areas of the business once an order has been placed.

    Moreover, as a sales tool, sales CRM software acts as a database, note keeper, and marketing arm that supports the sales machine. The sales CRM strategy is frequently responsible for these key business objectives:

    • Reducing silos between sales, marketing, and customer service
    • Serving up a full view of customers and prospects
    • Making customer retention and cross-selling easier and more effective, especially in regard to loyalty programs
    • Supporting the acquisition of new customers and nurturing of prospects
    • Measuring the efficacy of sales and marketing initiatives
    • Increasing profitability and operational efficiencies
    • Decreasing customer management costs

    Learn about the advantages and challenges of implementing CRM solutions on CIO Insight.

    What Are the Key Features of a Sales CRM?

    There are many kinds of sales CRM platforms to choose from in today’s software marketplace, but a few foundational features that can be expected in most, if not all CRMs, include:

    • Contacts Database: Houses customer and prospect data such as mailing addresses, phone numbers, social media tags, etc.
    • Tracking Capabilities: Allows users to note the origin of a lead, what marketing initiatives the contact has received, and other relevant flags to identify their status on the customer journey.
    • Employee Tracking: Enables users to see who created a record, who called to follow up with the contact, and who closed the deal.
    • Analytics and Reporting: Provides insights into business contacts and their actions, statuses, and revenue contributions or projections.

    What Integrations Do Sales CRMs Include?

    Another essential feature for sales CRMs is integration with other technologies. Sales CRMs are built to integrate with enterprise tools for email, and some may even offer native email functionality. Many sales CRMs also integrate with accounting software, project management software, scheduling or appointment setting software, operational or order processing software, marketing dashboards, and APIs.

    Assessing these relationships between the existing tech stack and a new sales CRM is an integral part of the decision-making process and, ultimately, how a business gets the most value out of its new tool.

    Top Sales CRM Software Options

    Salesforce Salesforce Logo

    A leader in the sales CRM space, Salesforce is designed for sales-driven organizations. It is a robust system that allows sales professionals to automate many tedious tasks and expedite sales-related processes. 

    Salesforce comes with deep functionality, several customizations, and third-party software integrations. The platform also offers a range of pricing options to suit different organizational budgets. Reported drawbacks are a steep learning curve, and sometimes, difficulty accessing customer support.

    Zoho CRM Zoho CRM Logo

    Zoho CRM is a popular sales CRM for businesses of all sizes. It is known for its simple user interface, customizable modules, automation, and social media functionality that allows for easier social listening and engagement with customers on most popular social platforms. 

    Although Zoho offers a freemium model, the paid version comes with the most robust usability factors, including sales forecasting, automated workflow options, and KPI tracking tools. The Enterprise edition of Zoho layers on stage-by-stage sales funnel tracking tools and the ability to customize and compare data across teams, users, and regions. Users can access Zoho’s advanced features with the Ultimate edition, which comes with an exclusive 30-day free trial.

    Hubspot CRM HubSpot Logo

    At the core of Hubspot’s business management suite lies the HubSpot CRM. HubSpot is a major player in the world of CRM and marketing technology, offering a free platform with basic features as well as a more robust customizable, paid configuration. 

    The basic tool handles simple sales processes, including lead management and cross-channel tracking of customer engagements and activities. With a Zapier integration, customers can sync Slack, Google Sheets, Mailchimp, and over 1,400 other commonly-used apps with the platform. With more paid add-ons, Hubspot’s CRM functionality gets deeper with tools like AI assistance, deeper prospect insights, and high-end automation. One reported drawback is a limitation in customization options. This might be a bigger challenge for customers who need niche, industry-specific features.

    Pipedrive CRM Pipedrive logo

    Pipedrive CRM is known for its slick visual interface and its general ease of use. Users like having the ability to build multiple sales pipelines and customize stages for the unique parameters of the products or services they are selling. 

    Pipedrive functionality allows users to sync cross-channel information, thus reducing repetitive administrative tasks. Users of the Advanced, Professional, and Enterprise Pipedrive options gain access to more sophisticated tools like an in-app inbox and automatic email sync, which is compatible with the most commonly used email service providers. As far as potential drawbacks for this tool go, Pipedrive’s Zapier integration is often considered complicated.

    Still not sure which CRM platform is the best fit? Check out this resource: Best CRM Software and Tools