Choosing The Best CRM For Startups And Small Businesses

best crm for startups and small businesses

A startup environment is a dynamic and passionate one. Achieving more sales and closing deals effectively is crucial to the success and having a good customer relationship management software to streamline the sales process gives the startups a much needed head-start to success.

In the early days of the startup story when the business is relatively young, excel sheets and sticky notes may fulfill your sales needs, but as you continue to grow and more leads start pouring into your sales pipeline, switching to a CRM is a wise investment. As the business scales and your customer base begins to grow, a sales CRM becomes a must have for every business to organize the ongoing business communication.

When it comes to choosing a CRM system for your small business, there is simply no dearth of options to choose from. There are hundreds of CRM software that come with a varying range of features, from just bare minimum to full-fledged enterprise CRMs. The price range of the CRM solutions also varies from free CRM to those that charge hundreds of dollars per user every month.

With such a wide range of features and pricing, choosing the best CRM for your business can be a tricky decision indeed. This is exactly why we have compiled this extensive guide to help you make the crucial decision in the early days of your business and help you close more deals. Let’s dive right in.

Things to consider while choosing a CRM software for your startup

1. Cost value equation

Money is a really big factor in the initial stages of business growth. Startups and smbs need to be frugal with their expenses in order to ensure sufficient funds are directed towards achieving future growth. A good CRM software is not a business expenditure but a valuable long term investment but where do you draw the line in the sand when it comes to determining the amount you are willing to spend?

Startups and small businesses do not utilize 60-80 percent of the top end features offered by the CRM software. As a result of it, you simply end up paying for features your sales team isn’t even likely to use. In order to determine the cost value equation, talk to the actual members of your sales team, understand the sales process, list out what features you absolutely need and then proceed.

The CRM you choose should actually streamline the sales activities and boost productivity rather than compelling your sales reps to spend most of their time in data entry.

Almost all the CRM software available in the market offer a free trial period so that you can have a trial run with your team without having to pay an upfront amount. There are also software such as Benchpoint and Hubspot CRM (the basic version at least) that come with a forever free plan for you to avail. What matters at the end of the day is that you do a thorough cost-value analysis before deciding what suits your needs best.

2. Time to onboard

As a startup, you do not have the necessary time required to train your sales reps to use the CRM. Your sales team needs to be out and about pursuing leads and winning deals. Introduction of CRM tools should be a facilitator and not a barrier to your sales efforts.

The CRM system that you pick needs to come with a low learning curve, have an intuitive user interface in which the sales reps can simply drag and drop the deals through the different stages of the sales pipeline and should be ready to use by your sales team without needing to spend hours on the onboarding process.

3. The ability to scale

As your startup or small business grows in volume as well as scale, the CRM tool that you have chosen should be able to adapt to those changes as well. It should have the ability to scale up and down when the need arises.

Scaling a business comes with its own set of challenges. Choosing a CRM that promotes collaboration between the marketing, sales and customer support teams as the business grows in operations is important for a business that is scaling.

4. Ease of data transfer

Data is the backbone of the entire sales process. Importing existing data into the CRM software should be a seamless task. If your sales team has to spend hours logging in data into the CRM software for it to work, it becomes a counterproductive activity. The CRM should also allow for easy export of the sales and marketing data whenever the need for it arises.

5. Customization according to your needs

Every business is unique and so is your sales cycle. The CRM that you pick should give you the freedom to customize the sales pipeline stages according to your sales process. A cookie cutter software doesn’t work out well in case of all startups and a custom build CRM solution is not an affordable choice for startups and small businesses.

Adopting a CRM system that allows you to incorporate custom changes is the best of both worlds. It offers you the flexibility you need at lowered costs making it the best option for you.

The must have features to look for when choosing a CRM software

1. Sales pipeline management

Pipeline management is a quintessential feature of any CRM. The software should provide you the high levels insights of your sales funnel, how many leads are flowing in and where are they slipping through the cracks.

Lead management not only results in a more efficient sales process, it gives you accurate real-time insights at what needs to be done in order to close more deals. Your CRM platform should have key features such as lead scoring and visual tracking of the leads generated in order to ensure effective sales pipeline management.

2. Email integration

Integration with the major email providers such as Gmail and Outlook is a must for every CRM software. Email marketing is one of the most efficient methods to generate more leads and close more deals.

Integration with email marketing automation tools such as Mailchimp allows you to automate your outbound marketing process and send out bulk emails, thus filling up your sales pipeline with leads generated. Additional features like email templates, finding the open rate of your outbound emails through email tracking increase the effectiveness of the email marketing campaign.

3. Contact management

The CRM software that you choose should give you the option of building your own customer base within the software itself. Incorporation of contacts from your email and easy addition and management of new contacts has become a necessity for any CRM software. The number of contacts allowed varies depending on the CRM adopted and the pricing plan chosen.

4. Comprehensive dashboard

As a startup, every win needs to be celebrated and every deal lost needs to be pondered upon. A CRM that comes with a comprehensive dashboard gives a clear view of the sales pipeline, the activities scheduled and the progress made.

An intuitive UI of the dashboard makes management of the sales process easy for the sales team members. The dashboard and reporting features make it easy for you to determine the health of your sales pipeline and figure out what changes need to be incorporated within your sales pipeline in order to make it more effective.

5. Analytics and sales forecasting

Depending on the probability of the leads to convert, the leads generated need to grouped under different ranges. This step is crucial to ensure that your sales team does not end up wasting their time and effort pursuing cold leads and focus all their attention to leads that are more likely to convert.

Tracking of the key metrics, analytics and sales forecasting help in workflow automation and boosts the sales efficiency by formulating an effective sales strategy.

6. Calendar and events integration

An experienced sales rep would tell you that you can’t close deals in a single go. It takes a lot of effort for a lead to convert. The leads need to be put through different stages of the sales pipeline. Sales reps need to have frequent conversations with the prospects by phone calls and/or face to face meetings and calendar integration just goes to streamline the entire process.

The CRM should allow the sales reps to schedule future appointments so that they don’t miss out on a follow-up and are able to schedule their work in a more effective manner.

7. Team management

Sales is a team process and the software you pick for your business needs to offer team integration. Effective project management is only possible when all key stakeholders have access to ground level data. The management can make use of real-time data to gain access to high-level sales insights and incorporate the necessary changes within the sales process.

Team management shouldn’t be about micromanaging your sales reps. They need their autonomy and at a startup, trust is the basis for a strong foundation. Team management is rather a way to ensure that you come up with a sales strategy that works in the best interest of your business.

Which Is The Best CRM For Startups And Small Businesses?

Every CRM software comes with its own set of pros and cons. There is no definite answer to “Which is the Best CRM software for Startups and Small Businesses” because the matter is subjective in nature. Depending on your business needs, you would have to prioritize on the features that you want your CRM to include.

If social media integration is a big part of your lead generation strategy, you might want to consider a CRM that offers social media integration. If your sales team is primarily out in the field and mobile operations are a big part of your sales activity, you need to consider a CRM software that has a dedicated mobile app.

If you are looking for a robust and cost-effective CRM system that has all the necessary features mentioned above, try out Benchpoint. It is the best CRM and sales pipeline management tool out there and it comes with a forever free plan ensuring that customer relationship management is never a pricey ordeal but rather a smooth process.

What Is The Easiest CRM To Use

A CRM’s ease of use translates to the ability of the sales team to fully utilize all the features offered and navigate through the software. On-boarding with Benchpoint is a breeze for its users. The sales reps can get started on using Benchpoint with minimal training which is crucial for startups and small businesses.

The intuitive user interface and the easy to comprehend visual layout of the software gives the users vital insights into the sales pipeline while making it easy for the users to navigate through the stages of the sales process. The seamless user experience combined with the ease of adapting to the software makes Benchpoint rank among the easiest CRM to use.

What Is The Best Free CRM For Small Businesses?

When it comes to choosing a free CRM for small businesses, Benchpoint, Hubspot and Insightly are the top three CRM that offer a forever free plan. Other CRM software such as Freshsales, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive etc. come with a limited period free trial for users .

Our pick for the best free CRM for small businesses would be Benchpoint, and no, we are not biased.

Benchpoint is a CRM that is specifically designed keeping the needs of small businesses in mind. It contains all the essentials without any hidden charges in an elegant an intuitive interface that makes it easy for your sales reps to operate on a daily basis.

Hubspot does come with a basic free plan but the pricing curve associated with the upgrade to its paid plan is pretty steep. Features such as email marketing, reporting dashboards and creation of multiple pipelines come under paid plans which costs upwards of $35 for starter plan, $280 per month for professional plan and $1,200 per month for its enterprise version.

Insightly’s free plan also comes with similar restraints. It is only available for free for two users and for access to features such as Mailchimp integration , calendar and contacts sync, you need to upgrade to it’s paid plans that start at $29 and go up to $99 per user per month.

In case of Benchpoint, all these features are included within the free plan making it truly the best choice CRM for startups and small businesses.