Ask anybody in sales and they will tell you the same thing:
The money is in the list.
Having a database of customers is essential for the stability and growth of your business. The problem is that many companies simple don’t want to, or don’t know how to, effectively manage their customers.
One of the best ways to do this is by using web based CRM software to manage your sales leads.
These online tools are often either free or relatively low cost and are perfect if you are just starting out or are a small business looking to maximize your existing client base. With web based CRM software you can effectively automate your lead list, after sales follow up, sales pipeline and list promotions to drive more revenue into your business.
While there are many custom solutions out there that you can install in-house or host on your own website, most people starting out will have more than enough choice from the online equivalents. Many of these are free, offer 30-day trials or are relatively inexpensive and will provide all the features you need to manage your sales funnel and customers the right way. Here are our reviews of the most popular web based CRM software on the market today:
Salesforce is undoubtedly the 800lb gorilla of the CRM world. Used by over 2 million companies to manage their clients, they even have their own book: Salesforce for Dummies! Of all the web based CRM software, this is the one we have most use and experience with. With a development platform, content management and a very active user community, they really have got the innovation nailed down. As far as features go, it has everything you need in an online CRM. The main down side for us was that for some clients who require heavy customization to fit in with their billing system and existing infrastructure, Salesforce.com just couldn’t do that because their product is mostly generic for all their users. Another pet peeve was the scheduled downtime which many users have been annoyed with over the years.
Highrise is created by an innovative and exciting company, 37 signals, who also developed quite possibly the best project management software on the market too when they created Basecamp. The beauty of Highrise is in the simplicity. The interface is so easy to navigate that it takes only moments to track the status of clients and interact with them. You can share contacts across a team, tag contacts with keywords and share selected notes tied to each contact or company. The interface of Highrise allows you to do this so easily and you might just fall in love with the simplicity. The problem though, is that it strips away a lot of features. You can’t get reports on your sales pipeline and there is no calendar to track important dates and events. At $24 a month for the basic plan with 6 users, 5Gb of data and 5,000 contacts though, it’s actually quite affordable for small and start up businesses.
As far as free software goes, FreeCRM is pretty good. It works well as a contact management tool but sales pipeline management is very limited. The reporting you can get from the data is very limited and are generic in nature. Web based CRM software now should be able to handle custom reports without much trouble and this is a major deal breaker for us. Email sending and work flow notifications are none existent and you have to endure some pretty invasive and annoying ads to use the software. Granted, it’s free, but when you consider that Highrise is only $24/month it soon becomes clear that this particular free CRM tool is not worth your time to even sign up for.
ACT for Web is a featured packed and robust online CRM, no doubt about it. The Activity Dashboard is nice but the interface, although quite intuitive, is noisy and distracting when trying to knuckle down and get some work done. We signed up for the free trial but didn’t last a week with this. It’s too clunky, too expensive and just doesn’t compare to the other big boys like Highrise and Salesforce.
BigContacts is one of the best web based CRM tools we have used and reviewed, ever. You can create and edit contact details, add notes, manage a calendar and tasks list, group your contacts, view your activity history, upload files and photos, track sales contacts and opportunities, assign tasks to other BigContact users, send birthday/christmas cards, manage opportunities or prospects in a sales managers pipeline view and much more. All that for $25 a month can’t be bad!
PipelineDeals is the application of choice for the sales managers out their. Of all the web based CRM software on the market, this is the one that really lets you manage your pipeline quickly and easily. You can add contacts, assign them as active deals, and track your progress on those leads. These open leads can be shared amongst your team and allows you to quickly update exactly where you are with a prospect and when you are likely to close the deal. Managers will love that they can assign leads, re-assign them, and add lead sources to the pipeline whenever they like. Reporting is also pretty good, allowing you to drill down into leads and get the information that matters most. If your sole purpose for a web based CRM is for tracking the status of deals, this is the software you want.
Not only does Oprius offer the usual contact management features with custom fields, import and export, groups, calendar, task list, notes, history and so on but it also has a number of features that make it a really popular choice among sales professionals. First off, you can send single and mass customized emails to your contacts very easily. The export feature is a beauty when you want to back up your contacts, just in case something happens. If your company has a website, you can also easily attract new leads using their lead capture widget on your site. Also, you can access your account via your cell phone to keep up on leads wherever you are. Our only really problem with this reasonably priced online CRM ($14.99/month) is that short of giving someone your email and password, there is no real way to share your contact database!
Relenta is actually an email management and marketing system within a web based CRM program. It has a lot of fantastic features such as consolidating all your company emails (inbound and out) by tying them into the Relenta database. It also comes equipped with some really great email newsletter/marketing features AND, importantly, you are able to share emails, contacts and notes across your entire team. The down side to Relenta is that you do need to have a bit of tech knowledge to get to grips with it quickly and it does have quite a steep learning curve. If you can get over that though, this could be a really great way to combine your sales pipeline and your email communications. All for $20-25/month.
What we really loved about BatchBook is the level of detail you can log within their system. For example, if you are dealing with a Managing Director and a Purchasing Manager within a company, you can tie the two together as Supervisor > Employee. We really liked the mailing features of BatchBook too. You can create mailing lists and print mailing labels from filtered contacts in a flash! Custom fields can be established on single contacts or for all your records depending on what you want. This is great for customizing the system to tailor it to your companies individual needs. This comes very recommended from us!
Now it’s over to you – let us know in the comments which web based CRM software you use and why. Alternatively, if you want us to review a specific CRM tool, let us know and we’ll get on it as soon as possible.