Sales are all about building business relationships and striking meaningful conversations with a potential client to effectively turn him into a business customer.
Companies today have recognized the need to sell better and contextual products to a customer’s needs, saving time and efforts for both parties. Sellers today, like to analyze their buyer before even crafting the message with which they are going to make an outreach.
Salesforce is one such product that introduced methodical selling to the industry.
Salesforce is a technology that brought an enhanced version of a customer relationship management tool for the industry to make the most of. The technology has been built for sales professionals to help them analyze their target market, customer interactions and gauge their needs before pitching a business product to them.
With Salesforce, the focus of the selling industry shifted to first building trustworthy relationships with customers and potential clients, instead of targeting direct sales.
The world knows that the benefits of using a Customer Relationship Management tool are many. In fact, as per a recent survey, 91% of companies with more than 11 employees now use a CRM software.
The need for a CRM platform is real in every business. Salesforce has seen such a roaring success because they were one of the first companies to establish a CRM platform. Not just this, they brought together various technologies that helped make the sales industry more efficient and played into their favor, making them an industry leader.
- Cloud: One of the oldest cloud-based CRM software solutions, Salesforce captured the market when the industry was still at a nascent stage. In fact, they gave rise to a whole new industry where others eventually also entered and tried their hands at it.The cloud-based system allows its customers to access the platform from anywhere in the world and is also cost effective to maintain. Not just this, Salesforce users had access to the cloud-based CRM applications as well as the entire cloud infrastructure whenever they wanted!
- Flexibility: The fact that Salesforce is built on Cloud gave its customers the freedom to customize the applications as per their needs. The flexibility offered by the product was immense which made its users stick to it for longer, thus becoming a permanent requirement for business enterprise solutions worldwide.
- Networking and Community Building: Salesforce believes in strengthening its tribe through events and conferences where CRM and Salesforce loyalists get to interact and network. The platform also offers its online avenues where the community can communicate and be heard by customers for more business and relevant relationships.
- Analytics: With every process and solution provided by Salesforce, there was also a requirement to analyze the results for each of them. Salesforce analyzed the data and numbers to churn out comprehensive reports and charts for easy comprehension. The in-depth analysis enabled users to take informed decisions at every step of the way.
- Automation: With numerous processes in place, automation becomes a crucial factor in the entire ecosystem. Salesforce automation provides a smooth machinery for all processes to follow seamlessly, right from tracking leads to managing emails as well as assigning tasks and running approvals!
The strategy by Salesforce was bang-on right from the beginning as it offered its users everything that they required. Needless to say, Salesforce has approximately three times the market share as compared to the vendors vying for the number 2 position. (Source)
However, when Salesforce seems to be doing everything right, why do you need an alternative in the first place?
With the urge to find something better, more compelling and new, businesses have naturally started looking for effective alternatives to Salesforce. The relatively new CRM software in the industry bank upon two factors that the consumers are constantly looking for:
- Simplicity: Many Salesforce users have often commented that they haven’t been able to use the full product or unlock its full potential, owing to the complexity of its apps.
- Better Pricing: Now that Salesforce has been around for a while and has captured a significant chunk of the CRM market, they tend to go a bit bold with their pricing.
These are also the top two reasons for businesses to look around for alternatives to Salesforce CRM. So let’s begin with taking a look at some of the new entrants in the CRM category that are as competent when it comes to offering nifty features.
For businesses to transform into successful businesses, it is most crucial to identify the one factor that can make you a leader in your domain. In the business of sales, it is all about striking the right relationship with your customer that matters the most.
Nimble, being another CRM in an already crowded market seems to have got that one thing right. The platform equips you well to not only manage your sales, marketing and leads but also to connect with your customer and engage with them in real and relevant conversations for better business.
Nimble has come up with a few cool features that allow sales professionals to be part of a whole new ecosystem in the CRM space. The following functions on the platform are not so well known, but you’ll be glad once you start using them!
(a) Staying Social With Scheduled Posts
Being socially active can actually be a boon for a sales professional, for the simple reason that you get to stay connected with your audience on the right platforms. Moreover, you get a chance to interact with them over topics beyond work, which will actually help you build a healthy rapport with your client.
So here’s a trick you could use on your Nimble CRM. Check out the Status Update/ Schedule Post option on the menu. You can actually integrate your CRM with your social media channels to share an instant or scheduled updates/ posts, without having to shuffle through ten different windows!
Also, for times when you know, you wouldn’t have access to your computer or your phone, you simply have to schedule a post. To do so, you need to enter a date and time, draft the content and schedule the same. The post will be shared automatically at the designated time as well as on the chosen platform. Isn’t that incredibly convenient, considering how busy a sales professional’s regular work day can get!
(b) Staying Relevant with Personalized Conversations
You would agree that there’s nothing more putting off than the mass emails and messages that we consistently receive on our phones and over email all the time. But being a sales professional, it’s important you reach out to your audience now and then to avoid losing touch!
Well, Nimble solves that problem too. The tool’s personalized messaging feature lets you reach out to as many as 300 people a day, with customized messaging. You can save a lot of your time by just creating a message template, and the feature would update the receiver’s name and their company name before it is sent out.
Named Group Messaging on the platform, this is a brilliant feature that lets Nimble users make the most of their contacts in one go.
(c) Updating with Advanced Search
A major challenge that sales professionals face on a daily basis is identifying the right people and then their contact details. Nimble addresses this problem with an incredibly nifty feature called the ‘Advanced Search.’
The tool lets you fill in the search criteria in various fields. To increase the number of fields, you only need to click on the ‘Plus’ (+) symbol. Once you have filled in the search criteria, hit the search button and all relevant results would appear before you. So, go ahead and save the contact you had been looking for.
You may also save the fields and search criteria to use in your future campaigns, to make the process simpler and more efficient later.
(d) Staying Connected with ‘Stay in Touch’
By now you would have noticed how much Nimble focuses on maintaining the right amount of communication with clients and customers. Keeping in line with the same objective, Nimble has rolled out quite a wonderful feature, called ‘ Stay in Touch.’
The feature helps you remain in contact with the clients you feel can be most crucial to your business. With hundreds of contacts and multiple conversations had with so many people, can leave you confused. To counter the challenge, all you need to do is, on your contact list, select a contact and look for the ‘Clock’ button. On choosing the Stay in Touch feature, you may decide how often you need a reminder to send the concerned contact a message.
You will get the options of sending them a message weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Choose as you see fit and half your worries are taken care of! Not just this, for the contacts that you haven’t reached out to in the designated time, the clock above them would appear in red, indicating a reminder for you.
(e) Emailing with Outlook Importer
It’s a bummer that Nimble, a platform winning at the integration game so far, has no integration with Outlook. But with a majority of the corporate sales professionals using Outlook for emailing, maintaining all the contacts on Nimble seemed like quite a task.
However, Nimble provides a feature where you can export an Outlook CSV File and then import the same on your Nimble’s Outlook Importer.
Settings >> Networks & Imports >> Outlook Importer!
Nimble is an all- round CRM platform. While it does have the regular CRM features crucial for the platform to be called a CRM in the first place, it also has many other highlights that make Nimble stand out in this cluttered space. Focusing on Social Listening, Social Integration, and Social Contacts, Nimble has tried to make sales not just about business, but about building relationships with clients.
Pricing: Nimble offers a 14 day free trial with all its features ready to be used. Post the free trial period, and it costs $25 per license per month.
2. Zoho CRM
Over the years, Zoho has emerged as one of the most popular CRM platforms for small businesses across the world. A company with its origins in India, it quickly managed to gain popularity in the CRM space with the platform’s robustness and cost effective pricing plans.
Here’s a quick round-up of all the things that Zoho CRM’s features can do for your business:
(a) Avoid Duplicity
Many times, CRM users end up creating a long list of duplicate contacts in their list. The discrepancy majorly takes place while converting a ‘lead’ into a ‘potential’ or while updating the contact status in the database.
However, on Zoho, while changing contact statuses, the user is asked if the modification has to be made to an existing contact or a new contact. By placing this one filter in the process, the complete duplication challenge is overcome in a few seconds.
(b) Process Automation
Considering there could be some tasks and process to follow while maintaining your CRM, automation plays a crucial role in getting them right. What’s more, automating the processes would remove the dependency on people, making your platform self- reliant and more robust in itself.
Workflow automation helps you set business rules, specifying the process of assigning tasks, sending email alerts, updating record values, and approvals.
Automation can be a huge booster in the way tasks are carried out on your CRM, increasing the speed as well as accuracy levels at the same time. With this feature on Zoho CRM, you can assure seamless completion of tasks and a smooth running of the process machinery at all times.
(c) Reports and Dashboards
Reports and charts are the heart of an effective CRM. It is only through these reports that you get a good look at your sales performance, basis which, appropriate steps can be taken to improve. Zoho CRM wins at creating rich reports that are customizable, allowing you to include bar, funnel, pie and line charts as you please.
Moreover, you may also schedule these reports to be delivered to your client as per the required time frame. These reports can also be shared with non- Zoho users via email.
(d) Integration with Zoho Apps and Telephony
Zoho has an extensive list of applications built to create a robust sales and marketing management eco-system. Apart from the CRM, the platform comes with a host of other applications for sales professionals to make the most of. For example:
- Zoho Projects lets you plan and follow all your projects without making you go through tedious processes.
- Zoho Support for you to monitor all your customer tickets from within the CRM account. Addressing to customer queries and problems right when they occur is a smart choice for every sales professional knows how catastrophic, such situations can turn out to be.
- Telephony – Zoho PhoneBridge is an excellent tool integration for you to make and receive business calls inside your CRM. It helps you log your calls according to your leads and contacts, again reducing one more task to be done.
(e) Zoho Surveys
In the add-ons section of the Zoho CRM, you will find another application by the name of Surveys. The tool is robust enough to let you create your own Surveys and get responses from across your contacts on the CRM platform. It further assesses and analyses these responses for you to make sense of and then eventually take appropriate steps.
The Surveys is an excellent extension to gather customer feedback, basis which, sales pitches can be modified and improved for better business and increased revenues.
(f) Going Social
Since the social media has become such a crucial part of the customer relationship management, on the whole, Zoho has not forgotten about it either. Apart from all the other integrations and add-ons that the platform offers, they also have high integrations with social media channels.
By integrating your social channels, you can listen to live updates from your clients and target audience, getting appropriate windows to slide in and strike a relevant conversation with them.
The idea is to engage your customer with interactions that may lead to a sale or even a great business relationship!
Through this integration, you can not only stay connected with your existing contacts but also get a chance to look for prospects and discover new leads across the platforms. These would be leads that you generate directly from social media, reducing your efforts at least by ten times altogether!
Pricing: Plans start from $12 per month and go up to $100 per month for an ultimate plan.
Firstly, the set up process for InfusionSoft is a bit on the difficult side of things. You need to go through a couple of phone calls before you can make the payment, which means the company is trying to push for human interaction more than anything else.
However, for most people, this bit comes across as an inconvenience as almost every platform now allows payments in one go! But, at the same time, the people at InfusionSoft would make sure you understand the product thoroughly before you go through the payments at all, which is great because you get rid of the wrong expectations in the first step itself.
(a) Kickstarter Sessions
Another significant aspect, which is not exactly a feature here- is a coaching session which takes the user through the product over a period of the first one month. The same can also be broken down to across 90 days if required.
While the kickstarting sessions are again a paid feature, they are an excellent way to figure your way around almost instantly instead of having to go through hit and trial methods which lead you basically, nowhere. Saving time and efforts is the first objective of getting software to do things for you anyway, why make it complicated in the first place!
(b) Automated Marketing
After you are taken through the entire product, covering each module of the platform, you begin the real tasks for your business.
A marketing campaign being the first step to targeting your audience with relevant communication, this is where you begin with your sales. You may start with email campaigns, landing pages, and emails designed on HTML/CSS or in a WYSIWYG. Further, you may schedule these posts as per the required date and time or even by directly feeding in an approximate period when you’d like to send out the campaign your list of recipients.
Not just this, the user can test these campaigns to gauge their success and impact altogether. Basis the results, these campaigns can be tweaked, & have them modified for optimum results.
(c) Sending Quick Mails
Emailing being an important aspect of sales pitches and also the first step of contacting a potential customer is much more simplified on this platform. The Quick Mail feature available on your InfusionSoft dashboard will let you send emails directly from your Gmail account if you prefer so.
The exciting bit here is that these emails can be pre-scheduled, ready to go as per your preferred date and time. The integration with your Gmail account makes the task much easier as it lets you hang around a familiar UI.
(d) Tracking Customer Activity
After sending out emails and targeted campaigns, most sales professionals are left feeling lost. The feeling of helplessness seeps in when you don’t know what your next step should be.
This is where InfusionSoft’s analytics come in handy. Once the campaigns are run through and through, you get to know who has made the efforts to open your emails, how many of them have responded and the exact number of those who chose not to.
By taking a look at data as comprehensive as this, you know who needs to be engaged in a relevant conversation and who is already sold on your ideas and products. Further, you channelize your efforts for maximum impact and result driven strategies.
(e) Community Building and Networking
InfusionSoft is one of those companies that believe in building a loyal community for them. And the approach has ended up creating a robust network that will help you out whenever you’re stuck. Their user forum is so well connected that they’d end up saving your butt more often that the customer-care team!
They also come across as an organization that believes in solving people and business problems. The same is reflected in their enthusiasm in organizing regular events and conferences where people get a chance to interact with the industry and build a community relevant to their business.
You can look out for their annual event that goes by the name of ‘Icon.’
(f) Going Mobile
Now, other platforms too have their mobile version up and running. After all, mobile is THE screen to capture currently. But, InfusionSoft has managed to get the simplicity factor implemented right. While other platforms have dumped their entire product onto the mobile, InfusionSoft has kept it pretty simple.
With only the basic levels of sales and marketing features and a simple payments integration, the mobile version of this tool is pretty efficient in itself. It further offers the convenience of accessing your sales and marketing data on the go.
To add to the simplicity, the UI of the application appears to be neat, leaving the clutter of hordes of features out of the way.
Pricing: The basic plan starts at $200 per month and goes up to $600 per month for ten users.
The days are gone when a customer was expected to be patient for his queries and problems to be resolved. We live in a time where everything is supposed to be sorted out within minutes, sometimes even seconds!
Considering the time boundaries, it is a wise idea to automate processes and to have all of them huddled together onto one single platform. Shuffling between application can delay your response time, and platforms like GetBase have been built to combat exactly that.
Let’s check out the features for a closer look at the CRM that is about to transform your business:
(a) Automatic Built-in dialer
A major part of a sales professional’s life goes into making calls and keeping records of these calls somewhere in the database. While this is a huge manual task, it is equally important for a good sales performance.
GetBase has introduced a brilliant feature that makes it easier for your sales team to make phone calls with the ‘Click-to-call’ feature. It further goes on to maintain call logs, sending alerts when there’s a new call or a follow- up required.
It also generated a quick report for you to see the calls scenario in a single glance!
(b) Email Intelligence
An email is usually the first point of a contact with a potential new customer which makes it a critical tool in the process of selling. You’d know of various online tools that help you’ track’ your email performance but then again, using numerous tools for different purposes will only complicate things further.
Under this feature on GetBase, you get to know if your email was even opened by the recipient, you also get to customize the templates and even receive real-time notifications for all actions taken basis your email! Email Intelligence such as this will help your sales team enhance their sales and mailing techniques, delivering better email campaigns for improved results.
(c) Lead Line-ups
GetBase offers another interesting feature by the name of ‘Lead Prioritization’ which helps you focus better on the Hot Leads that are more likely to bring you business, over the ones that may or may not convert.
The feature offers you with insights that show you which of the Leads fare at the top of the sales funnel, so your efforts are more cost efficient and channelized.
These features are merely the highlights of the product. The platform is well equipped with the otherwise ‘must-have’ features essential for any CRM. GetBase efficiently takes care of your sales, marketing, and lead management for smarter sales.
Pricing: The platform is offered on a free trial for 14 days. The basic pack is available at a price of $25 per user per month, which covers sales tracking and customer management for up to five users.
Inspired the company’s experience with sales and customer service, FreshSales has some brilliantly built features, designed for the success of any business. Let’s look at the features to understand how the platform can improve your sales results:
(a) Event Tracking
Solving customer queries is all about knowing your customer and understanding their business requirement thoroughly. In large teams, customers often find themselves lost in the confusion of how much information has already been shared and what information is still pending to be shared.
But the Event Tracking system here takes care of this problem. It logs the entire journey of your customer onto the system in chronological order. This systematic approach gives a storyline to each who need not be repeated in case the customer gets transferred to a different sales professional.
(b) Behaviour Based Segmentation
Once the activities and the query storyline has been logged, each activity of the customer get analyzed to determine how engaged the user is. The feature tracks everything from the sales interaction to engagement pattern on the website for a clear timeline view. It further tracks email and the responses to them to know how interested the user is- for further segmentation and quick actions to be taken by the sales teams.
(c) Third Party Integrations
For times when you want multiple functionalities on your application, the best way to handle it is with relevant integrations.FeshSales has some brilliant third party integrations that will take care of all your business needs.
The integration with FreshDesk supports the entire ticketing system, for you to plan your sales conversations better. There is also integration with FreshChat which automatically picks up conversations from the website chat and categorizes these people as Leads on to your CRM. Not to mention Google Calendar that takes care of all your events and important dates for you to never miss another appointment.
Pricing: There’s a free trial offered for 30 days, which is longer than any other CRm’s free trial period.
Another CRM built in the modern times to tackle sales challenges with advanced solutions, PipelineDeals has a host of features that can successfully boost your sales.
(a) Pipeline Overview
The pipeline of deals in your sales funnel is something that can point towards relevant projections for the future sales revenues. By analyzing data in the CRM, PipelineDeals gives life to a summarized report for you to take a quick glance through it.
Through this report, you can easily keep track of your pipeline volume, sales velocity as well as wins and losses.
Since automation is an integral part of any CRM system, a particular focus has been made on this feature by PipelineDeals. Managing leads and sales can become quite a task, sometimes losing track of the next step that needs to be taken for better conversions.
Combating this challenge, automation on PipelineDeals creates workflows to close your deals with an improved turnaround time. This feature takes care of an entire host of tasks- from prompting the next action to be taken and notifying the team managers of a closing deal with alerts, to viewing your sales pipeline from start to finish as well as creating a new deal when a recurring deal closes.
(c) Account Customization
Building a familiarity and a sense of connection with the platform you’re working on can boost your interest for using it in the first place. This brilliant offering lets the user customize his account to change the look and feel of the application as per his suitability.
Not only this, but you also get an option to rename the different deal stages by just updating the default names. You can also add logos of your brand to build the likability factor and even define custom fields as well as control user access and roles.
Pricing: PipelineDeals is offered at a free trial for 14 days, with all features available.
While ProsperWorks is not so widely known in the CRM industry yet, the product does have a few key features that could give some real competition to the top contenders. It has all essential features of a CRM but what makes it stand out is its tight integration with Google apps.
The following functions are the highlights of the entire ProsperWorks platform, that aim towards delivering a better sales performance for increased revenue numbers:
(a) Integration with GSuite
For businesses that closely follow and use Google Suite (Google Sheets, Docs, Slides, Calendar, Inbox and Gmail), this CRM is a boon that you just can’t avoid using. Its seamless integration with Google Apps makes your life much easier as it eliminates manual data entry and even sends alerts when sales processes aren’t followed.
It also keeps your CRM database updated, by automatically making relevant changes whenever they’re any update in contacts, etc.
(b) Automated Tasks
Keeping up with processes is important, and there’s nothing better than automation that can help you do just that.The app automates steps so that the sales team can focus on selling more than anything else. Everything is taken care of- from sending calendar invites and setting follow-up tasks to updating statuses and even sending out proposals.
(c) Sales Goals
What’s life without some goals, eh? Well, guess what? Setting up goals on your CRM can also do wonders for your sales team as it is more likely to improve their productivity, thereby, increasing sales.
This feature allows you to set up goals for your teams or even individuals by marketing revenues, opportunities, emails sent and calls to be made, among others. You can view their progress report to keep track of their activities and even see the overall performance before you decide to coach your reps.
Pricing: The different packages offered by PipelineDeals start at $19 per month for a user. They also provide custom integrations if required by your business. There are also free trials available for each of the packages, for 14 days.
How to Choose
The CRM space is pretty crowded and choosing the right software for your business, does get challenging. While you want the best of features, you also have multiple other aspects like the pricing and its usability to take into consideration. However, if you chart out a list of factors that may affect your business and sales, and what you need, selecting the right platform will be easier.
You must begin with pointing out why exactly you need a CRM in the first place. Doing this would help you lay down your objectives, eventually helping you take appropriate steps to achieve those goals. Next thing to take into consideration is the user adoption period – just how long will the CRM take to be implemented in your business.
You must gauge how customizable the platform is and the efficiency it adds to your business. Go through all the features that each of the CRMs has to offer. It is true that all CRM platforms come across as similar products, but it is the post implementation services that you should care about.
Make sure that the product you zero in on offers effective onboarding to help you make a smooth transition and get started with the CRM as soon as possible.