It used to be that when you needed a sales CRM, you'd sign up to SalesForce and away you go. Now, however, we're spoilt for choice but picking the right sales CRM with the right balance of features vs. cost can be a challenge.
In this post, I'm going to compare the top 5 sales CRMs: Zoho, Base, Pipedrive, Hubspot and SalesForce.
When picking the right sales CRM it’s important to consider a few crucial things such as the size of your team, your budget, your companies potential growth and most importantly what exactly you want to achieve with the CRM.
Each of the 5 platforms I’m going to compare have different pricing models and features and I’ll be evaluating each of them on:
- Email capabilities.
- Team management.
- Activity/task management.
Full disclosure – I am a certified Pipedrive Partner and consult with companies on how to use Pipedrive most effectively. If you like, take what I say with a grain of salt. I get asked a lot about how Pipedrive differs from other CRM's. Hence this review…
Zoho develops a whole suite of sales, productivity, IT and business admin apps. If you are familiar with other Zoho apps then the Zoho CRM will be familiar and easy to work with. A major advantage of Zoho is that for an individual or small team (3 or less) the CRM can be completely free. Great for small businesses and startups with low budgets. However, the way Zoho makes money is by charging for all their extra apps and the features a CRM often needs.
Zoho prides itself on its customisation abilities, even in the standard account. Admins are able to customise without any coding. Elements such as tabs, page layouts, conditional layouts, validation rules, fields, and views are all customisable. The option to remove unnecessary data can be very useful and will simplify your data.
Zoho’s email integration is offered with all accounts other than the standard. You have the ability to create customised email templates and mail merge templates. With a Zoho Mail Add-on, you have the ability to send emails to your leads and contacts directly from the CRM.
Zoho has great reporting capabilities with over 40 different standard reports available. As the user, you also have the ability to customise reports to your own requirements. There are reports for contacts, deals, activities, campaigns and sales forecasting.
Zoho’s team management ability allows you to manage your team and all of the users in your Zoho account. You have the ability to define permissions for different users and define data sharing rules and feature accessibility.
Zoho’s activity management allows you to automate workflow rules, tasks, replies, and alerts.
Zoho’s pricing comes in at the lower end of the scale for CRMs. They offer their platform for free to teams of 3 or less, making it ideal for the solo entrepreneur or small startup. From there, Zoho offers 4 pricing tiers and offer a discount for annual billing.
- $18/user/month: Standard Account
- $30/user/month: Professional Account
- $45/user/month: Enterprise Account
- $1200/user/year: Ultimate Account (only available annually)
Key features & integrations:
- Gathers leads directly from your website.
- Customisable workflow.
- Forecasting for future sales.
- Detailed reports.
- Android and iOS apps.
- Integrates well with all Zoho apps, WordPress, WebMerge, ZenDesk, MailChimp, Microsoft Outlook, Zapier.
Standard Account: Sales forecasting, custom fields
Professional Account: Email integration, social call me, inventory management
Enterprise Account: Zia voice conversational AI, multi-user ports, conditional fields, subforms, encryption at rest.
Ultimate Account:Dedicated database cluster, premium support, automation suggestions, data enrichment, enhanced storage.
Base is a powerful CRM while still being very user-friendly and simple to use. It’s important to note that the cheapest tier is really only an option for solo entrepreneurs or extremely small teams as 3 seats can be limiting. For most small-medium sized companies the minimum requirement would be the Starter package.
Base’s customisable sales pipeline is one of their standout features. With a simple drag and drop process, it is easy to move deals through the pipeline. You can use custom fields to narrow searches and filter the data you see. Base offers multiple options for adding custom fields to add extra information about your clients or leads.
Base offers the ability to send and receive emails directly from the CRM. The email integration is available on all pricing platforms. The communications centre syncs conversations from Outlook or Gmail to Base so that all communication related to the deals is in one easy-to-find place.
I also really like their calling features where you can simply click a phone number and your phone on the desk next to you starts the call.
Base has built-in core sales reporting capabilities. The reports cover pipeline analysis, sales performance, activities, goals and more. The lite and starter packages offer basic versions of their reporting while the professional and enterprise packages offer complete sales tracking and reporting.
Base offers the ability for detailed team management and defining user hierarchies for accounts other than lite. The starter and professional accounts offer options for editing users permissions and the enterprise accounts allow you to create hierarchies of users, teams and groups.
Base has a well-integrated activity management system that allows you to create and manage tasks. Tasks can be added to leads, contacts and deals and users also have the ability to automate actions to streamline the workflow.
If you’re looking for a CRM with middle-of-the-road pricing then Base is what you are looking for. With 4 pricing tiers, they offer great options for different situations. Do note that their Lite tier is limited to only 3 users and they bill annually.
- $23/user/month: Lite
- $45/user/month: Starter
- $95/user/month: Professional
- $145/user/month: Enterprise
Key features & integrations
- Drag and drop sales pipeline.
- Lead capture forms.
- Reporting tools.
- Sales tracking tools.
- Android, Windows and iOS apps available offline.
- Integrates well with Zapier, ZenDesk, MailChimp, Trello, Slack, Xero, Google Contacts/Google Drive, Microsoft Office
Lite: up to 3 seats, 15,000 contacts/deals, customisable sales pipeline, basic sales tracking/reporting.
Starter: unlimited leads/contacts/deals, offline access, customised notifications, lead capture form.
Professional: full funnel forecasting, team performance analytics, task automation, team document storage.
Enterprise: predictive sales intelligence, lead and deal scoring, products and price book, multiple sales pipelines,role-based permissions.
Pipedrive (affiliate link) is often described as being the most simple CRM that has everything you need and nothing more.
One of the standout features of Pipedrive is the kanban board. Kanban boards are extremely useful for visualising what you and your team are currently working on. While other CRM's often have the option to view their pipelines in a kanban board they are an extra and therefore aren’t as visually effective.
Pipedrive’s pipelines are extremely customisable. Any user will have the ability to switch off every feature to ensure they are not bombarded with unnecessary information. There is also the option to filter the information that you view in your dashboard. The customisation is offered in all of their pricing tiers.
Pipedrive has excellent email integration. The silver edition offers Smart Email BCC which allows you to send emails from an external client and have them easily copied to Pipedrive. The gold and platinum plans offer the ability to send emails directly from Pipedrive and offer customisable email templates and email tracking.
Pipedrive offers extensive statistics and reporting. You have the ability to monitor things such as deal efficiency, company performance and activities. There's also the option to make comparisons between different categories such as closed vs. lost deals.
Pipedrive also has a great team management system. Users are given permissions to restrict the information they can access. These permissions are assigned by the admin and can be done on an individual level.
Pipedrive’s activity management system is well designed and fully customisable. The scheduling tool allows you to attach activities to deals and see your entire to-do list on one page that syncs with google calendar. The useful ‘deal-rotting’ feature brings neglected deals to your attention. Pipedrive also offers notifications and reminders to keep you in check.
One of the main drawbacks of Pipedrive is the lack of a bulk-email feature. You're restricted to emailing contacts one-by-one where other CRM's have the option to send mass campaigns to your leads. For this kind of functionality, you need to pair Pipedrive with an email platform like MailChimp.
Pipedrive is one of the more affordable CRMs and they offer 3 pricing tiers. Pipedrive offers monthly billing or if you opt for annual billing you can save 17%. As a CRM, Pipedrive is well priced and suited to anyone from a solo entrepreneur to medium sized organisations.
- $15/user/month: Silver
- $29/user/month: Gold
- $75/user/month: Platinum
Key features & integrations
- Sales and deal focused CRM.
- Pipeline management – multiple pipelines available for all plans.
- Email integration.
- Kanban board.
- Push notifications, reminders and alerts.
- Sales forecasting and detailed reporting.
- FREE customisation, reports analytics and customer support.
- Android and iOS apps that can be used offline.
- Integrates well with all Google apps, Zapier, Trello, MailChimp, Asana, LeadFeeder, Slack, Trello
Silver: core features include a calendar, contact timeline, smart email bcc, customisable dashboard, chat and email support.
Gold: includes email tracking and sync, sales inbox, smart contact data, and scheduler.
Platinum: multiple dashboards, revenue forecast reports, single sign-on, phone support and teams.
Also, if you’re still on your Pipedrive trial, you can enter my affiliate code AF-paulminors on your billing page to extend your trial to 45 days.
HubSpot is a completely free CRM that allows for unlimited members. It’s a great option for small business and has plenty of room for growth. If you are already using any HubSpot apps then this CRM will be familiar and easy to use. HubSpot prides itself on being intuitive and easy to use.
However, similar to Zoho, often teams start with the simple Hubspot CRM, but find themselves needing to pay more and more to get the features they need.
HubSpot allows individual users to customise their settings. Users have the ability to create custom contact, company and deal records. Users are also able to customise their displays and the data they see.
HubSpot has excellent email integration. It offers a two-way sync with Outlook and Gmail. This means you don’t need to switch between your email client and your CRM.
HubSpot’s free version doesn’t support reporting and analytics. This is a paid feature. In order to access reports, you need to purchase the marketing hub. The data that their reports generate can be limiting for certain businesses.
HubSpot allows you to set permissions for individual users, ensuring that they are only able to see what is relevant to them. Regarding team management, the free CRM version also allows you to set up one ‘team’ per account, whereas the marketing, sales or service hub subscribers will have the ability to set up unlimited teams.
HubSpot provides a task dashboard where you have the ability to handle all of your activity management. Tasks can be easily created and tracked through a number of different categories such as priority and status. The Sales add-on provides more power with task management and allows you to establish task queues.
HubSpot is unique in that it offers it’s basic CRM package completely free with unlimited users. For new teams and startups with a small budget, this can be extremely appealing. HubSpot also offers additional hubs that you can start to include as you grow and need more features.
- FREE: HubSpot CRM
- $50+/month: Marketing Hub
- $50+/month: Sales Hub
- $400+/month: Service Hub
Key features & integrations
- Unlimited users, free forever.
- Contact management.
- Track contacts, leads and deals.
- Email scheduling, templates and snippets.
- Lead analytics.
- Up to 1 million contacts.
- Android and iOS apps.
- Simple import tool allows you to migrate customers from a spreadsheet.
- Integrates well with Gmail, G-Suite, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, Zapier, MailChimp, WordPress, Salesforce, Slack, ZenDesk,
Marketing Hub: designed for more experienced marketers to run complete inbox marketing campaigns at scale with automation.
Sales Hub: designed for an advanced sales team. Includes sales toolkit, AI, advanced automation and custom reporting.
Service Hub: designed to help customer service teams connect with their customers.
Salesforce is considered the most powerful CRM. With so many features it is good for large and growing organisations. The downfall of being so powerful is that Salesforce is also the most expensive and difficult to use. A lot of small-medium sized businesses will never fully utilise all of the features and therefore aren’t getting the best ROI. The other key drawbacks for Salesforce is the complexity means it takes a lot of time to customise and learn and the need to purchase multiple add-ons to get the most out of the CRM.
Basic Customisation is available in Salesforce’s Essentials and Professional plans with limitations on how many you can make. Whereas, the Enterprise and Unlimited plans offer more customisation options and automation.
Salesforce email integration allows you to sync your emails and customers from outlook to Salesforce. The Salesforce email composer allows you to use email templates and send emails from anywhere in your feed. The outlook integration is free with the Sales Cloud but if you want to integrate with Gmail and other Google apps it is a paid add-on.
Salesforce offers reporting features with the ability to track team performance and customise your sales forecasting reports. Advanced reporting including filters, joined reports and detailed forecasting capabilities are only available in the enterprise and unlimited plans. Salesforce offers Einstein Analytics – a comprehensive analysis of data and reports as an added paid feature.
In regards to team management, Salesforce’s Enterprise and Unlimited plans offer unlimited user permissions and roles giving the ability to restrict access to unnecessary data for individuals.
All of the Salesforce plans have a task management feed, allowing you to track activities associated with any deals and receive updated when you need to take another action.
Salesforce is on the more expensive end of CRM’s and is more suited to large, well-established organisations. Note that their Essentials pricing tier is limited to 5 users and they bill annually.
- $25/user/month: Lightning Essentials
- $75/user/month: Lightning Professional
- $150/user/month: Lightning Enterprise
- $300/user/month: Lightning Unlimited
Key features & integrations
- Cloud-based tools.
- Generates quotes, proposals and contracts.
- Customer and lead management.
- Detailed analytics and reporting.
- Forecasting tools.
- Android and iOS apps.
- Integrates well with Microsoft Outlook, Gmail (paid), SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics
Essentials: up to 5 team members, basic features only: lead management, web-to-lead capture, email templates.
Professional: complete CRM, campaigns, customisable dashboards and permissions.
Enterprise: workflow automation, custom apps, web services API, real-time sales insights.
Unlimited: unlimited customisations, custom apps, 24/7 free support.
Options to add the Service Cloud for customer service teams, the Marketing Cloud to build and manage marketing campaigns or the Commerce Cloud for a shopping experience.
As I said at the start, I am a Pipedrive Partner. However, the reason I've chosen to specialise in Pipedrive is that I believe it's the best CRM for most small to medium sized teams. It has almost everything you need in a good sales CRM without needing to pay for extra fluff. It integrates with Zapier meaning you can extend its features and connect it with other tools to do some pretty cool things.
If you have any questions about either of these tools, please let me know in the comments below!