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CRM for startups

Give your startup a growth-inspiring boost with all-in-one CRM software.

A guide to the best CRM for startups

No matter its size or industry, every business needs a way of maintaining a happy customer base. But large businesses have different needs than startups do when it comes to customer relationship management software. That’s why startups looking for CRM software should be strategic about their choice when selecting the right platform for their business.

In this guide, we’ll discuss some of the fundamentals about customer relationship management for young companies, and review some of the best CRMs for startups on the market today.

What is a CRM for startups?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. It’s a kind of software that helps businesses manage their contact information, streamline their sales process, and boost productivity and growth. Many of the big businesses you purchase from use CRM to manage their enormous volume of customers. But CRM isn’t just for enterprise businesses with huge lists of contacts.

Startups stand to gain a lot from CRM software, too. Many of the features of CRM are designed to maximize the reach of a business’s cash, manpower, and time, allowing young companies to do more with less.

Why do you need a sales CRM for your startup?

You may think you don’t need a CRM. Not to survive, maybe. But it’s hard to grow without one. The goal of startup sales is to keep growing, which means they need the resources to support and plan for that growth. By implementing a CRM platform into your startup, you can give more resources back to your team members, build an organized sales process that converts more leads into customers, and gather better data that helps you plan for future growth.

What startup problems does a CRM platform solve?

Here are some of the common issues faced by startups that CRM software can help handle or eliminate:

  • Too much data. The best CRM for startups provides powerful tools for collecting, storing, and analyzing customer data, ensuring that all of that valuable information won’t get disorganized or go to waste.
  • Not enough time. There are only so many hours in the day, which means salespeople are typically going to be strapped for time. Rather than hiring on more personnel, startups using a CRM platform can manage more tasks hands-free using SFA, or sales force automation.
  • Not learning from mistakes. With CRM reports and analytics, you can see where your past victories and misjudgments happened. Startups that know what their mistakes were and why they happened can adapt and restructure, and CRM helps provide the hard data for making those changes.

What makes a great CRM software for startups?

There are tons of CRM software options on the market, and they all come with their own assortment of features and functions. But the best sales CRM for startups will always include these seven components:

It’s cloud-based.

Cloud-based software allows users to access and operate the platform from anywhere, which is great for startups that work remotely or have limited space. The alternative is on-premise software, which would require upfront expenses for infrastructure, space, and a dedicated IT staff to maintain it.

It has mobile access for all devices.

Being able to access your CRM on a mobile device allows for more flexibility, letting teams operate from anywhere their business takes them. Some CRM mobile apps can even operate off-the-grid, so users can access and update their data even if service is spotty.

It’s customizable.

No two startups are alike. Your CRM should be customizable to your workflow and unique sales process. That way, you can craft your software to the exact needs of your team so they can operate smoothly.

It’s scalable for growth.

The best CRM software for startups will have multiple pricing options and feature packages, letting young businesses decide how much their budget can allow in the beginning. Then as business continues to grow, users can add on more features to accommodate the greater volume of contacts.

It includes all of the crucial CRM features.

You can find tons of features offered by CRM providers, but startups don’t need all of those bells and whistles just yet. There are a few key CRM tools that should be included in a startup’s CRM platform, including:

It has an intuitive interface.

Ease of use is a critical factor when it comes to how much benefit you get out of your CRM. Even the most powerful software will be rendered useless if users find it too difficult to navigate. CRM providers do their best to create interfaces that are simple to work with, but it’s impossible to know exactly how user-friendly they are unless…

It offers a free trial.

Test driving a piece of software is the only way to know if its interface is truly intuitive. Many of the best sales CRM for startups offer limited time free trials, so you can explore their features and layout before committing to a subscription.

What are the benefits of using a CRM software for your startup?

  • You’ll save time. By automating processes like emailing, scheduling, and reporting, you give hours back to your team. They can turn around and devote those hours to more revenue-generating tasks and building strong relationships with customers.
  • You’ll have more accurate forecasting. Because CRM cuts down on manual data entry, you can trust that its data is accurate and up-to-date. And with a full view of how business is operating, it can help businesses more accurately predict future sales.
  • You’ll be way more organized. Disorganization in business can result in missed opportunities, lost revenue, and straight up frustration. CRM helps users organize their daily activities, goals, and sales processes, so teams can operate with less frustration and fewer opportunities to make profit-hurting mistakes.
  • Your customers will stick around. In order to grow, new companies need their first customers to be loyal ones. But customers today expect around-the-clock, rapid responsiveness, which many startups don’t have the resources to provide using personnel alone. CRM lets startups with limited resources create a system for providing excellent service that keeps customers satisfied, so the business can continue planning for growth.
  • You’ll have a data-driven path to growth. Reporting features and activity trackers help young businesses see the hard data on sales metrics, close rates, customer engagement, and more. The insight CRM provides lets managers see where improvement is needed, so they can continue to refine their marketing and sales efforts for more success in the future.

What are some challenges of using a CRM for a startup?

Startups learning to use CRM will probably experience some challenges along the way, which is normal any time you make big changes to your operations. Some team members may find it difficult to change the way they track their activities and store their contact information. Others may get frustrated or overwhelmed with learning a new platform.

To avoid letting these issues snowball into larger problems, make sure your team understands the full range of benefits they stand to gain from using CRM. Teams that are mentally prepared to embrace a new business tool are more likely to get a greater return from that investment than teams who are unprepared or hesitant.

Another challenge startups face in using CRM is leaving behind certain other business apps that they’ve been using. People get comfortable with certain platforms, and it almost seems like a waste to throw away their knowledge of those other tools. Thankfully, many CRM platforms offer third-party integrations, allowing businesses to continue using some of the software they’ve spent so much time learning and optimizing.

What is the best CRM for a startup business?

Zendesk

Zendesk Sell startup CRM

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With an elegant user interface and affordable pricing options, Zendesk Sell is one of the best CRMs for small business on the market. It has tools for tracking sales pipelines, forecasting future sales, scheduling tasks and activities, and more. It also helps companies reallocate hours of work time every week by automating tasks that don’t need human attention, so teams can stay focused on closing more deals.

To help young businesses get started on the right foot, Zendesk Sell runs a Startups Program that offers 6 free months of unlimited access to all of its products for qualifying startups. With simple workflow automations and insightful real-time analytics, startups using Zendesk have everything they need to build a strong sales strategy for growth.

Features:

  • Contact management
  • Sales analytics
  • Sales pipeline management
  • Social media integration
  • Live chat
  • Sales forecasting

Streak

Streak startup CRM

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Designed with G-Suite in mind, Streak is the only CRM integrated entirely within Gmail. This saves users from switching back and forth between their Gmail inbox and other CRM tools. Streak also promises to help users identify bottlenecks in their sales process, so they can make changes to keep their pipelines moving at a healthy pace for growth.

If you’re an avid G-Suite user, you already have all the experience you need to use Streak’s spreadsheets. It also has a mobile app for automatically logging calls and accessing information on the go.

Features:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Task management
  • Internal chat integration
  • Social media integration
  • Email templates

Copper

Copper startup CRM

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Copper is another sales CRM for startups that’s optimized for Google Workspace users. Copper promises its customers a short implementation cycle, so they can get a speedier return on their investment. It also offers integrations with popular apps like Slack, DocuSign, Zapier, and MailChimp.

Copper offers its platform to businesses based on their industry, with CRM options geared towards agencies, tech companies, consulting businesses, and real estate agencies.

Features:

  • Self service portal
  • Email marketing
  • Calendar/reminder system
  • Email response control
  • Sales forecasting

HubSpot CRM

Hubspot CRM startup CRM

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With flexible pricing options and a wide range of features for building positive customer experiences, HubSpot is continually found to be one of the best free CRM for startups. Designed to streamline everything from sales, to marketing, to customer service, HubSpot offers companies end-to-end tools for growing business from every angle.

For startups, HubSpot offers discounts to qualifying companies. Based on eligibility, new users can get 90%, 50%, or 30% off their first year using HubSpot.

Features:

  • Activity dashboard
  • Email management
  • Forecasting
  • Landing pages/web forms
  • Relationship tracking

Agile CRM

Agile CRM startup CRM

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Agile CRM promises a 360° customer view, with tools for building highly detailed profiles and sharing contacts with other teams. Track every interaction with your customers and record all of your data in a centralized location, so your people can avoid information silos and work from a single source of truth.

Agile CRM’s strong areas of focus are sales enablement, marketing automation, and customer service. It also has features for one-click calling, gamification, and appointment scheduling.

Features:

  • Performance metrics
  • Real-time chat
  • Landing pages/web forms
  • Lead generation
  • Sales forecasting

Nutshell

Nutshell startup CRM

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Nutshell is a B2B CRM and email marketing platform. It offers users the most common CRM features like sales pipeline software, contact management, and sales automation, and integrates with popular apps like Google Workspace and Outlook for easy connectivity between platforms.

Nutshell’s email marketing functions allow users to send drip emails at the right moments, track campaign responses, and use customer data to create highly targeted audiences. It also promises to be simple enough to set up without a dedicated IT team, and offers free data migration assistance.

Features:

  • Lead qualification
  • Mobile optimized emails
  • Reporting/analytics
  • Task management
  • Event triggered actions

EngageBay

EngageBay startup CRM

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With popular features like pipeline visualization, automated workflows, and deal management, EngageBay offers one the best free CRM for startups platforms. It promises to get rid of miscommunication between sales and marketing teams, and facilitate a more streamlined process across the board.

Users enjoy EngageBay’s simple contact management feature, which allows them to get a full view of every customer interaction and gain deeper insights into their behavior. EngageBay is also useful for automated appointment scheduling, which lets prospects book meetings according to the sales team’s published availability.

Features:

  • Analytics/ROI tracking
  • Lead management
  • Sales forecasting
  • Internal chat integration
  • Prospecting tools

Insightly

Insightly startup CRM

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Insightly is a CRM platform designed to help businesses craft memorable customer experiences and streamlined sales processes. It hosts workflow automation features for making complex business processes, updating records, generating tasks, and more.

Create unique and clean data visualizations using Insightly’s built-in business intelligence, and use its drag and drop feature to design a dashboard that shows only the data you need to see on a daily basis. Insightly also has a mobile app that lets sales reps add new contacts right at the client’s physical location.

Features:

  • Lead qualification
  • Social media integration
  • Email marketing
  • Calendar/reminder system
  • Task management

Freshsales

Freshsales startup CRM

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Freshsales is a CRM platform that promises to help companies grow their business, shorten their sales cycle, and close deals faster. Startups using Freshsales also have access to a mentorship network that helps guide them through the early stages of using CRM to grow profits.

Freshsales comes with all of the basic CRM needs, including contact management, sales automation, sales pipeline views, and sales activity reports. It also hosts an informative podcast for early career entrepreneurs called The Orbit Shift Podcast, which provides advice from senior leaders and business founders.

Features:

  • Activity dashboard
  • Campaign management
  • Live chat
  • Performance metrics
  • Forecasting

Bitrix24

Bitrix24 startup CRM

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Offered as SaaS, on-premise, or open source software, Bitrix24 is one of the best free CRM for startups. It offers popular features like social media and email integrations, analytics and reports, staff management dashboard, and collaboration tools.

One of the features that makes Bitrix24 a good pick for startups is its HR management tool, which helps young companies streamline their hiring process. Its basic package also includes free custom fields, a free call center, and 5GB of free online storage.

Features:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Analytics/ROI tracking
  • Self service portal
  • Goal management
  • Pipeline management

Really Simple Systems CRM

Really Simple Systems CRM startup CRM

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As its name suggests, Really Simple Systems CRM is an easy-to-use platform designed for growing B2B teams. It promises to empower sales teams, offering standard CRM features like contact management, pipeline management, reporting, and seamless email integrations.

Users enjoy the customizable customer data fields, which they use to immediately capture and store valuable information. For startups, Really Simple Systems offers a forever-free CRM plan that allows up to 2 users and 100 company accounts.

Features:

  • Campaign personalization
  • Activity dashboard
  • Template management
  • Marketing automation
  • Field sales management

Nimble

Nimble startup CRM

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Nimble is a solid tool for building a comprehensive contact database. It allows users to easily organize their contacts, track sales teams’ activities, and manage a streamlined sales process.

Nimble’s unified relationship manager automatically combines contact details from across channels, saving sales teams from tedious searches and data entry. Nimble also has a popular mobile app that lets users take their work on the go while still having access to their CRM data and features.

Features:

  • Interaction tracking
  • Email management
  • Opportunity management
  • Social media integration
  • Lead segmentation

SugarCRM

SugarCRM startup CRM

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SugarCRM is a top contender in the market, offering both on-premise and cloud-based CRM solutions. It promises to give customers a high-definition view of their customers, improving service and messaging so that companies can build a more engaged and loyal customer base.<>/p

For companies engaged in subscription-based sales, SugarCRM offers a renewal console called Sugar Sell. Users also appreciate SugarCRM’s powerful AI-engine, which can make accurate predictions even with incomplete CRM data.

Features:

  • Multiple scoring models
  • Calendar/reminder system
  • Source tracking
  • Field sales management
  • Prospecting tools

Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce startup CRM

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Salesforce has a wide range of business software products, including its combined sales and CRM platform, Salesforce Essentials. This user-friendly platform helps young companies track all of their customer data from one place, saving hours of organizational time and creating a shareable work space that teams can access from anywhere.

With tons of productivity tools like contact management, lead management, and automated scheduling, teams using Salesforce can develop a loyal customer case while also creating a tighter sales cycle.

Features:

  • Reporting/analytics
  • Social media integration
  • Task management
  • Landing pages/web forms
  • Marketing automation

Pipedrive

Pipedrive startup CRM

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With tons of features and an easy-to-use interface, Pipedrive is one of the best sales CRM for startups. Get a full view of your entire pipeline with a single glance, receive accurate forecasting to plan for growth, and use AI technology to automate tedious tasks.

Among Pipedrive’s most popular features are its team collaboration tools, lead segmentation for creating targeted lists, and activity reminders. Pipedrive also offers 250+ integrations, so users don’t have to give up their other favorite business apps.

Features:

  • Activity dashboard
  • Predictive analysis
  • Lead management
  • Customer segmentation
  • Performance metrics

How will you know if a CRM is right for your startup?

The best way to know if a CRM is right for you is to use it. Fortunately, many CRM providers offer some kind of free trial or version, allowing you to explore its features and get a feel for how it operates.

When test driving software, ask yourself the following questions. Be honest about your startup’s resources and capabilities, and then use your answers to decide if that CRM platform is right for you.

How easy is this CRM to use?

Give your team members ample time to explore the program and really use it. Then, have a discussion with your team members about how easy or difficult it was to navigate. Additionally, make sure to use the provider’s support features during the trial. This will give you an idea of how responsive they are to customer’s needs and questions, which can have a huge influence on which provider you should go with.

Will this CRM platform help your startup grow?

Even if the CRM is easy to use, you still need to have an idea of how well the software will help you grow. Make sure that when you’re test driving a platform, you aren’t just playing with the features for fun. Go in with a plan of exactly which features you’re going to use, keep records of how your workflow changes, and really make time for you and your team to explore how your sales process operates within the CRM platform. Only then will you gain a clear, accurate idea of how that particular CRM will help your startup grow.

Frequently asked questions on sales CRM for startups

Do startups need a CRM?

The objective of every startup is to grow. But with more customers comes more responsibilities. At some point, the amount of work involved in maintaining a happy customer base is going to outpace the team’s capabilities.

Startups don’t need a CRM to survive, but it’s an enormously helpful tool that allows startups to maximize their resources so they can actually make room for growth. Because if your team is lost in a sea of disorganized data or weighed down with time-consuming manual tasks, they’re not exactly in the best position to take on even more customers.

How can a CRM help your startup grow?

CRM automates repetitive tasks, giving time back to sales teams so they can allocate more hours to delivering personalized interactions with customers. It also helps create a better organized and shorter sales process, which allows salespeople to close more deals in a short amount of time. Put together, all of this adds up to higher profits, which allows companies to invest in growth and expansion.

Do you need a CRM for your startup if your existing systems work just fine?

If you’re currently managing your volume easily, there’s probably no immediate need to invest in CRM. As you grow, however, even the most organized spreadsheet will start eating into your timeclock. If you’re hesitant about upending a home-grown system that works, it might be in your best interest to try a free CRM trial. Then, after exploring the software’s features, you can accurately judge and compare the efficacy of both systems.

Ready to try a CRM for your startup?

Zendesk Sell is a sleek and easy CRM sales platform that’s great for startups planning for growth. Designed for zen-like ease of use, Zendesk lets users get more done without increasing staff or stretching current team members beyond their abilities. Test drive its user-friendly features for 14 days with its free trial, or apply for its free 6-month startup support program.