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The best CRM software to manage your leads and customers

We put dozens of Salesforce alternatives through the wringer and came up with the 10 best CRM apps on the market.

By Chris Hawkins · March 28, 2023
A hero image with the logos of the best CRM software

Finding the best CRM (customer relationship management) software for your business can be overwhelming. So many choices. So many features. Over the last two decades or so, I've used all sorts of lead management solutions, including proprietary company CRMs and commercial CRM platforms like the ones featured here. For this article, I spent time testing all the top options on the market.

I'll give you a peek inside these ever-evolving platforms, help you understand how they work, show you what makes the best CRMs special, and even dig into where I think improvements could be made.

With that, here are the 10 best CRMs I found based on all my testing. Click on any app to learn more about why I chose it, or keep reading for more context on CRMs.

The best CRM software

  • Zoho CRM Plus for an all-in-one CRM for small business

  • Salesforce Sales Cloud for customizability

  • HubSpot for scaling a business

  • Pipedrive for being easy-to-use

  • Ontraport for automating online transactions

  • Nimble for customer prospecting

  • Nutshell for managing a sales team

  • Apptivo for business management

  • Close for inside sales teams

  • NetHunt CRM for Gmail power users

What makes a great CRM platform?

How we evaluate and test apps

Our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. Unless explicitly stated, we spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

Customer relationship management software keeps contact and sales info in one tidy, easy-to-manage place. If there's a touchpoint—call, email, chat, web visit, social connection, campaign, etc.—your CRM should capture it. Why? Because all customer interactions are an opportunity to learn something.

Every business has different requirements when it comes to CRM programs, so I selected the elements I felt most universally represent those requirements:

  • Ease of use. While the "don't make me think" approach for websites might be too much to ask from CRM platforms, it's something to shoot for. If a user can log in the first time and get a good sense of how the basics work, mission accomplished—but not everything will be as breezy. Providing in-app directions, definitions, and help articles is a must and will help with the more advanced features. Regularly available support and onboarding options also contribute to a more productive user experience.

  • Contact and sales management. Because the heart of your CRM, not to mention your business, is people, how you manage them is crucial. How well do you know them? How can you get to know them better? Where should you put your sales efforts? What's the best way to connect and stay in touch? A CRM's contact and sales management features should align with your ideal customers and how they buy.

  • Customization. Your CRM application should work like your business works. Company-specific terms, data requirements, processes, and the apps you use (see integrations below) are particular to how you operate. CRM software should accommodate your company's needs as much as possible.

  • Reporting. If you don't measure it, you can't manage it. What do you want to measure? How about sales forecasting? Ideally, your CRM is able to report on any data point you can collect—sales by rep, sales cycle, average value, loss reasons, and dozens of others.

  • Automation and integrations. Automating processes will increase employee efficiency (and make them happier) and help ensure things like communication don't fall through the cracks. No CRM does it all. A healthy selection of third-party integrations can connect department functions and boost customer data collection power, creating a more complete customer profile.

How I tested the CRM tools

Once I had identified and defined these five requirements, I signed up for trials of the CRM management software that, on paper (perusing their marketing pages), seemed to capture those criteria the best. From there, I spent about an hour getting a feel for each platform's UI, settings options, and main features, making notes for each of the five criteria in a spreadsheet as I went. I created contacts, pipelines, and deals, and if one had a particular use case, I would do some preliminary testing. For example, if the app had business management features, I would create product listings, draw up an invoice, and assign it to a fictitious company.

After this initial pass-through, I narrowed down the list of CRM systems to those I felt solidly checked off all five requirements and that also possessed a differentiator. Then I went back into each of these apps for another hour or two more to dig a little deeper. I also compared my current impressions to last year's to see if they still held up. And when needed, I reached out to vendor reps to get answers to my questions.

Based on all that, I narrowed it down to the 10 CRM apps that merited a spot on our best CRM software list—and that's what you see here.

Best CRM for a small business all-in-one tool

Zoho CRM Plus (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Zoho CRM, our pick for a small business all-in-one platform

Small businesses looking for an all-in-one should look no further than Zoho CRM Plus. This platform ($57/month/user) combines sales, marketing, help desk, social, projects, and other channels into one platform. To top it off, Zoho offers inexpensive add-on suites—Finance, Custom Apps, and Forms, to name a few—for easy integration.

While Zoho already allows a good deal of customization, the Canvas feature lets you customize the look and feel of your CRM as if you were designing the UI from scratch. Access it from Setup, select the module (e.g., contacts) you want to (re)design, and go. Then either start from scratch or select a template to customize. From there, you select the data fields, elements, and style just by dragging and dropping to the WYSIWYG editor page. Finally, select which team will have visibility to the new design. You can create a different design for each module or clone them to all look alike. You can also customize the main menu, renaming, reordering, and choosing which modules are visible.

Your employees will appreciate the 360-degree view for every contact. In a contact record, you'll see all activities and touchpoints related to that person, including site visits, sales, social, help cases, emails, meetings, and campaigns, among others. The "footprint" potential for any given contact is huge, helping you better understand how each person interacts with your company and providing a more complete picture when employees are making decisions.

I like the leads module (vs. contacts) that lets reps focus on qualifying those people from sources such as trade shows, campaigns, and the like. The leads view is nice because you get a large image of the person (pulled in using SalesIQ) to personalize it, followed by a chunk of contact details you can click on (phone, email) to start a conversation. On the left is a column of filters to easily sort the ones you want to target. Once you have your list, click on the ones you want and perform actions, such as email, create tasks, or add to campaigns.

In the Campaigns section, you'll find everything you need to create marketing automation campaigns using email, social, text, and an integrated eCommerce store. From here, you can also set up lead scoring and manage your contact lists and segments. I tested a product trial nurture automation, which opened a visual of the campaign steps with triggers and actions on the left side that I could add by dragging and dropping to the pre-made campaign. Once you experiment with the different campaign steps, it's fairly easy to make it do what you want it to. And while it's not the most sophisticated automation I've seen, it will likely be enough for many small businesses.    

Zoho includes one of the more comprehensive reporting features of all CRMs. Dozens of pre-made reports (Sales, Desk, Projects) can be configured to show a range of views (chart, table, tabular, and more), all of which can be customized. A nice feature is the comments sections, where you can have conversations about any of the reports. Campaigns and Social have their own reports section, while the Motivator app lets you gamify sales with contests for KPIs, such as leads converted, deals won, and emails sent.

With Zoho CRM's Zapier integrations, you can also do things like create contacts from Facebook Lead Ads or WooCommerce orders, or take actions in the other apps you use most. Here are a few ways to automate Zoho CRM, or you can start with one of the templates below.

Create contacts on Zoho CRM from new leads from Facebook Lead Ads

Create contacts on Zoho CRM from new leads from Facebook Lead Ads
  • Facebook Lead Ads logo
  • Zoho CRM logo
Facebook Lead Ads + Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM Plus price: $57/month/user

Best customizable CRM

Salesforce Sales Cloud (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Salesforce Sales Cloud, our pick for the best customizable CRM

Companies that need lots of customization options in their CRM app will want to consider Salesforce Sales Cloud. Between its own customization options and both the internal ecosystem and third-party AppExchange, the possibilities for creating a bespoke platform are nearly endless.

The Flow Builder lets you create custom process management automations. Click Flows in Settings, and select the type of flow you want to create. For example, a record-triggered flow lets you design what happens after a particular record (like a contact) is created. Using the visual builder, you can then add conditions—for example, contacts created only during a certain date range will be sent a follow-up email.

At the page level, Salesforce lets you control who has access to view and edit fields. So you may want to restrict employees, depending on their roles, from being able to see or edit fields in a contact record that isn't related to their job. This can be for security reasons and also to avoid integrity issues from employees who may not have the specific knowledge needed. Also at the field level, you can create your own help text explaining that field's meaning. For example, for a discount field, you might have an explanation that says: This is the maximum allowed for this account type. Manager approval needed for anything above. These instructions reinforce business practices and are good reminders, especially for newer employees.

To edit a page such as contacts, click on the Setup wheel in the top-right corner and then click Edit Object. From there, you can customize the details of the page, such as fields and the layout. To see how fast your page will load and get tips for increasing the performance, click Analyze at the top-right. Or if you want to see how all of your objects (e.g., contacts, leads, opportunities) are tied together, the Schema Builder shows a visual data flow. You'll get a moveable screen layout of all objects and how they're related, with lines that run to and from the various objects. From here, you can also add new objects and custom fields to your objects.

The AppExchange provides hundreds of third-party integration options for both paid and free apps. You can search for available apps based on your software edition (professional, enterprise, etc.), category, prices, ratings, and languages. One thing in particular to check is the compatibility of an app with your Salesforce edition. For example, integration with D&B Hoovers prospecting app requires Enterprise or above, while a similar app, ZoomInfo, makes the Professional edition the minimum.

If you collect a customer data point, you can create a report for it in Salesforce. There are dozens of pre-built reports for deals, activities, top accounts, win ratios, conversion rates, and anything else you could want to measure. And the bane of sales managers everywhere? Reps not updating their deals. With the Login Wall of Shame, you will know which reps aren't even logging in, let alone not making updates.

You can increase your capabilities even more with Salesforce's Zapier integrations. Get Slack notifications for new opportunities, add leads from form submissions, or anything else you can dream up.

Salesforce Sales Cloud Price: From $25/month/user

Deciding between Salesforce and Zoho? Read our showdown: Salesforce vs. Zoho CRM.

Best CRM for scaling a business

HubSpot (Web, iOS, Android)

HubSpot, our pick for the best CRM for scaling a business

Full disclosure: I've been using HubSpot for the last year in one of my sales and marketing roles. I last used it regularly about five years ago, and since then, a lot has changed. But a lot has also stayed the same—mainly, HubSpot's ease of use compared to many other CRMs. It's also more capable than ever with its sales add-ons, integrations, and optional Hubs that add service, marketing, and other functions. HubSpot also revised its pricing, making it more affordable to get started. For these reasons, it's my pick for the best CRM for scaling a business.  

Let's start with ease of use. The look and feel of HubSpot CRM hasn't changed much since I started using it almost a decade ago. The menu is located vertically across the top, with lots of dropdowns, and a handy search box (filterable by object). Contact records display everything you might need at a glance across the screen: contact info on the left, activities in the middle, and related items, such as deals, invoices, and payments, on the right. You can add deals, quotes, and tickets with a click—and with a few more, you can send an email, make a call, or log a meeting, among other things.

The basic HubSpot CRM is free for unlimited users and one million contacts; to get more advanced sales features, you'll need to purchase a Sales Hub add-on (starts at $45/month for two users). These tools are all designed to help you sell more efficiently and track all of your contact interactions. For example, the calendar link in my email signature—and tied to my Outlook calendar—lets contacts easily schedule calls without back-and-forth emails. Then I can track their email opens and site visits, record calls, and when I send a sales deck, see their page views. The account-based marketing (ABM) tool, Target Accounts, allows you to identify your ideal customers while viewing details such as open deals, last touch, and other filters. 

One feature I use a lot is Sales Sequences, which allows me to create a series of five automated emails and send them to my ABM targets to connect and stay top of mind. I usually send short marketing-related blog post links or eBooks that look like a one-time personal email rather than a salesy blast (though you could create those too if you wanted). Like most things in HubSpot, these are easy to set up, monitor, and analyze. And with quotes, I can easily create SOWs, then send a link to my clients, which they sign electronically.  

HubSpot started as a marketing platform, and this continues to be its strength. You can use your website as a lead generator with content offers, run ad campaigns, nurture contacts with multichannel automation, and more. When building a campaign, you can use a prebuilt campaign or create one from scratch. HubSpot allows you to enroll contacts, companies, and other elements, filtering down by properties until you get the exact profile you're looking for: all contacts from Tier 1 ICP companies assigned to me or my colleague who took a meeting in the last 12 months and sent an email with a video case study about Acme Inc. From there, you pick your actions: emailing, texting, and calling, or sending the contact to your ads audience.

Another reason HubSpot will appeal to growth businesses is its extensive app marketplace, which provides over 1,000 third-party apps available for integration. Filtering makes it easy to find your app, see if it's compatible with your plan, then easily connect it to your HubSpot account. And if you don't find what you're looking for, you can connect HubSpot to thousands of other sales, marketing, customer satisfaction, and IT tools with Zapier. Here are six ways to automate business processes in HubSpot, or you can use one of these popular examples to get started.

HubSpot CRM price: Free for unlimited users; Starter CRM Suite (Marketing, Sales, Service, CMS, Operations) starts at $30/month.

Best easy-to-use CRM

Pipedrive (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Pipedrive, our pick for the best easy-to-use CRM

If you need easy-to-use sales CRM software, the popular Pipedrive is a smart choice. While the platform offers plenty of flexibility, its singular goal is to help salespeople sell. You won't find many marketing or service features to distract you.

Pipedrive's interface is straightforward, with all menu items arranged on the left, a search box at the top, and an expandable menu on each page for quickly adding deals, activities, leads, etc. One of the menu items is your mailbox. Once your email provider is connected, you can email directly from the inbox or contact record, tracking opens and email history. You can also sync your Outlook or Google Calendar, manage your meeting availability within the app, and create a link to send to contacts. Another handy feature is Smart Contact Data, which pulls known social and work data for contacts with a single click.

To make calls from the app, you'll have to purchase blocks of call credits (you get five free hours each month), which go toward the by-the-minute charges accumulated each month. Calls can be made from the list view of People and from individual records and can be recorded. When you finish a call, click the outcome from a list, and move to the next one. All call activities are noted in a contact's timeline, including the recording.

Pipedrive offers a few sales-related add-ons: LeadBooster and Web Visitors. The first provides live chat, chatbot, forms, and prospecting capabilities, all of which can help reps connect with potential customers. Prospector provides data on companies and contacts, letting you search by size, industry, keyword, and other attributes that fit your target buyers. Using a tracker code pasted into your site's code, Web Visitors provides you with real-time data on the companies who visit and what pages they view. It will also identify specific visitors you already have in your system.

The Sales Assistant uses AI to make suggestions on what to prioritize throughout your day. And Automations has pre-made templates for sales tasks, such as follow-up emails and tasks. Some example automations include creating activities when a deal moves to a new stage, sending a Slack message to a sales manager, or scheduling a call. Pipedrive has recently added improved functionality to the Automations feature that acts as a marketing automation tool. This lets you set up triggers and events based on actions, like clicking on a link in an email.

Reports include forecasting, deal duration, conversion, won, and average value, while goals track activities and revenue each week. Customizable reporting lets you add conditions from each data field, so you can get as granular as you want. And there are standard and customizable dashboards for tracking all of the above. If you want to connect Pipedrive to other apps, the marketplace offers about 300 third-party native integrations with apps such as Zoom, Slack, Trello, and QuickBooks.

If you're looking for increased automation power, Pipedrive's Zapier integrations let you add new people to Mailchimp as subscribers, add new deals to a spreadsheet, and send Gmails when new deals are added to a stage, among many other possibilities.

Pipedrive price: From $14.90/month/user; Add-ons: LeadBooster $32.50/month/company; Web Visitors $41/month/company

Deciding between Pipedrive, Zoho, and HubSpot? Check out our showdowns: Pipedrive vs. Zoho, Pipedrive vs. HubSpot, and Zoho vs. HubSpot.

Best CRM for automating online transactions

Ontraport (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Ontraport, our pick for the best CRM for automating online transactions

If your business sells online (products, services, memberships), Ontraport offers lots of features that can integrate the entire customer experience, from marketing to transactional sales/payment processing, cross-selling, and coupon codes, all the way to post-sale follow-up and nurturing.

Using Ontraport takes some getting used to because it's unlike most of the other CRMs reviewed here. Here's an example: when you click New Contact or New Deal, the entire screen pops up with dozens of fields and sections. You're not sure what you need to fill out, and there's no save button—just a back button to get out. Turns out you just need to type one piece of info (e.g., first name), hit the back button, and presto, a record is created.

This aside, you can see from a contact record the potential touchpoints the platform includes in its capabilities: campaign history and actions, purchase and membership history, credit card info, subscriptions, and coupons, as a start. From a contact, you can email, text, create tasks, and process a transaction with a credit card.

To create deals (available with Plus plans and above), click on Deals > New Deals, and fill out the details. From this screen, it's straightforward. Associate contacts, add expected win percentage, a weighted value, amount, and go. Your customizable Kanban pipeline board then shows cards for each deal and displays the total and weighted value for each stage.

Setting up a payment gateway (e.g., Authorize.net, PayPal, Stripe) using one of their vendor integrations enables you to take payments manually and automatically. For example, Ontraport lets you create a customized membership site, accept payments, and deliver member content.

To test this, I created and launched a webinar registration using one of Ontraport's systems. I created a landing page for signup, then I added a series of automated reminder emails to sign up, another series to remind contacts about the upcoming webinar, and a text message reminder the day of the event. This all took about 30 minutes, and the provided steps and examples made it hard to screw up. Once saved, you can view your automation as a visual workflow to make any necessary edits. And your campaign stats can be accessed from the same page by clicking Performance. This simple example is only scratching the surface of Ontraport's capabilities.

To attract customers, the marketing suite offers pre-built and custom automated campaigns. The builder uses a visual drag-and-drop editor, letting you set triggers, actions (emails, texts, postcards), and filters with "if/then" branching logic to tailor the customer's experience. All of your campaigns can then be tracked for stats, such as conversion rates, monthly recurring revenue, lifetime value, and the flow of contacts.

Besides payment gateways, other third-party integrations include eCommerce platforms (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce), video, voice/text, forms, memberships, shipping fulfillment, webinars, and others. Reporting for sales is based primarily on eCommerce transactions: sales by product and by subscription, to name a few. Dashboards include tracking for conversion rate, average time between two things happening, total value of something across contacts, and average value for a numeric across contacts.

Get more out of the software with Ontraport's Zapier integrations. Here are some examples to get you started.

Ontraport price: From $84/month/user. (Note: There is a $24/month version, but the CRM capabilities are very limited—for example, there are no pipelines.)

Best CRM for customer prospecting

Nimble (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Nimble, our pick for the best CRM for customer prospecting

With its Prospector engine, contact action lists, and social tracking feature, Nimble keeps prospecting sales teams organized and more efficient. On top of that, there's a playful quality to the interface that makes it enjoyable to use.

Nimble provides lots of instruction throughout, especially when you first sign up, making it hard not to get started and up to speed quickly. The dashboard shows a helpful high-level snapshot of important daily reports, such as deals, tasks, activities, email tracking, and social engagement called Signals. The menu includes these same items when you're ready to dive in. Though Nimble has recently added a few new reports, this remains a weakness for the app. Included are forecasted deals and revenue, deals won and lost, deal progress, funnel conversion, and opportunities by stage. It would be nice to see a custom reports option that lets you track the data you're collecting, such as activities or business types.

The contact screen's menu shows a list of action-oriented lists in various stages of contact: recently viewed, added, and contacted, marked important, and stay in touch. These provide a quick way to see who you need to contact or take action on throughout the day. For example, if your sales manager just passed over contacts from yesterday's webinar, go to the Recently added tab, and from there, you can segment into a more targeted list. Segment for title, city, keywords, influence groups, and many other attributes that let you find those most like your buyer personas.

When you add a contact, Nimble will show suggestions for LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, asking you to confirm the correct ones if there are multiple options. And it pulls in all related info, such as work experience. This info is then displayed in a smart summary providing a handy overview of your contact's bio, work, and areas of influence.  It also pulls in general interests (in my case from my Twitter bio) that could be handy when trying to break the ice with a contact. Their social feeds will display in the record, letting you monitor and interact without leaving the screen. To get a view of all your social activities, the Signals section shows Twitter and Facebook streams for you and your contacts, including comments, mentions, likes, and any pending posts you've scheduled. Newly added lead fields in the contact record include rating (1-5 score), source, status, and type. You can then use these to filter when creating contact lists.

When clicked, the Prospector extension grabs details about the company and contacts in the sidebar whenever you visit a site. You'll see contact info, company insights (size, year founded, industries, keywords), and Twitter and Facebook profile info. With a click, you can add a company and see if any current contacts are linked to that company. And just like in contacts, all social activities will display in the record.

Newly added to Nimble are Workflows, automations that let you send messages, schedule activities, log notes, and complete other functions. I set up a workflow that would send a text to a project manager letting her know a deal closed after that deal is moved from any stage to closed/won: "Hi Nicole, we just closed Acme. Please set them up in Trello." Workflows can add another layer of efficiency to your business and keep tasks from falling through the cracks.

Nimble's Zapier integrations let you automatically turn new email subscribers into Nimble contacts, send new contacts to Google Contacts, and anything else you need to do in the apps you use most.

Nimble price: From $25/month/user with 25 Prospector credits/month ($10 per additional 100 credits)

Best CRM for sales management

Nutshell (Web, iOS, Android)

Nutshell CRM, our pick for the best CRM for sales management

Nutshell is a sales-focused CRM with features that will make the lives of sales managers and their reps easier and more productive. These features include highly-specific customizations to match how and who you sell to, team and territory management, and reporting options to measure any data point.

As a manager, you have complete customization of the many notifications (e.g., new leads, watched leads, activities, tasks, mentions), so you can stay informed on your team's work. Customized pipelines let you set confidence percentages, days overdue in a deal stage, and automatic closings for overdue deals. Other helpful, company-specific features include fields for competitors, industries, and markets.

Creating territories for your team lets you assign and organize leads based on the geography assigned to your reps and can be created by area code, city, state, and postal code. So if Hondo is assigned to the South, I could automatically distribute all leads to him based on his defined territory. Multiply this by a handful of territories and hundreds of monthly leads. Lead distribution also works with industry, market, and sources.

When you add a contact, it will find the appropriate LinkedIn profile and link to it and other social accounts. It will also add your employer and pull in your job profile. Scheduling tasks and other activities let you @ team members. And Nutshell's plans include unlimited contacts and data storage.

If you have multiple lines of business (e.g., products, services, reseller), you can create different pipelines for each based on your sales processes. Automatically assigning leads for each pipeline based on territory or market, for example, keeps your deals organized and on the screens of the right reps. For each stage of a pipeline, you can create tasks that need to be done as part of your sales process and schedule automated emails to follow up.

There's stock reporting for sales value, average value, losses, and new leads, among others. Pull each of these by territory, assignee, or source. Forecasting is included for pipeline, quota, and projected sales. And if you want to measure data not in the pre-built versions, custom reports provide a nearly infinite combination of filters gathered from the fields your team has completed.

Nutshell's marketing platform allows you to design and send drip email campaigns to defined audiences. Select when the sequence begins (e.g., leads lost), create an email, and then add a goal (e.g., link in email clicked). Then set a time delay for the next email to send. All of your campaign emails are tracked in Engagement for opens, clicks, and bounces. A newer feature is the ability to track website visits, pages visited, and the source of the visitor. This info will be tied to your contacts and displayed in their records.

Boost your business capabilities with Nutshell's Zapier integrations. You can do things like automatically creating Google Contacts from new Nutshell leads and adding people to Nutshell from new form submissions.

Nutshell price: From $16/month/user; marketing add-on starts at $5/month for 100 contacts.

Best CRM for managing a business

Apptivo (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Apptivo, our pick for the best CRM for managing a business

For companies that want to manage multiple business functions—sales, procurement, expenses, invoicing, marketing, contracts—with one app, Apptivo is a solid, inexpensive option. And though the UI feels a little dated compared to some of the other CRMs reviewed, it's highly customizable, so you can adapt it to how you do business.

Note: Apptivo is not the easiest-to-use CRM reviewed here, mainly because it contains so many different business functions. It also provides few in-app descriptions for the various functions. That said, it has a solid self-support center, and from what I've read, responsive customer service. Now let's jump in.

Tailoring the homepage and six main apps might be the first place to start. Click Customize My Apps at the top, and then arrange the order of menu items or hide them all under a sandwich dropdown for a cleaner look. Each of the apps is then customizable for layout, fields, and sections. Just click Settings at the top, and a long list of options appears on the left side. A drag-and-drop widget lets you create the look for each app, including the number of columns for each section, adding data fields, tables, and the naming of all these.

Once you have contacts, customers, or companies created in the CRM, it's easy to associate these to other business functions. Click 360 View in the record to see what, if anything, it is already associated with, or select one and click Create. For example, pick Estimates, and all of the relevant terms for that customer will populate. If you've created services or products in Product Management, then it's easy to add line items and costs with a simple search. If not, add it on the fly in the estimate, and it will be included in your inventory with an auto-generated item number. You can also add a SKU, price, cost, sales commission, manufacturer, and inventory details to track supplies.

Then, with a few clicks, convert the estimate to an invoice, order, or project. When you're in the customer record, you can also always view or create available features from all the apps quickly. And in the record, you'll see related customers, contacts, and leads and be able to set appointments, tasks, email, and other actions.

Once you connect your bank account (or PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, etc.) to the Apptivo app, you'll be able to easily collect customer payments and manage business expenses. And with your Apptivo portal, which is automatically created in your app, you can provide customers access to their invoices, orders, projects, and other functions within the app.

The Supply Chain suite lets you add suppliers, manage orders and inventory, and process and track shipping. For orders, all required info, such as shipping address, terms, contacts, and currency, are auto-populated based on the customer's details. Create packing slips, choose the type of shipping, and convert to an invoice with a few clicks. You can see all your shipped and orders awaiting shipment and other categories such as booked, closed, back order, and partially shipped.

Pre-built sales reports include opportunities, funnels, contacts, activities, territories, and market, plus the ability to customize your own to capture any data point you're recording with fields. The financials suite provides expense reports for employees, and you can track customer payments, receipts, and invoices; you can also track revenue and taxes. 

Apptivo price: Paid plans from $8/month/user

Best CRM system for inside sales teams

Close (Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of Close, our pick for the best CRM for inside sales teams

Inside sales teams spend lots of time sifting through thousands of contacts, making calls, and sending email follow-ups. The easier it is to perform these core functions, the more productive they'll be. Close packages all of this in a CRM that makes communication uncomplicated and deciding who to contact as easy as clicking a button.

With all of the Close plans, you get a built-in phone with free monthly calling credits, texting, and email-sending right from the web app. Every plan except Starter includes unlimited contacts and unlimited custom fields. Phone plans are through Twilio, but setup and billing are done through your Close app to keep management simple. You can rent phone numbers ($1.15/month/number) and then pay outbound/inbound call rates ($0.014/min and $0.0085/min, respectively) or port an existing number with an existing plan. SMS message rates are $0.01 per outgoing and incoming. You can also add an existing number (e.g., mobile) to make outgoing calls.

It took me just 30 seconds to select a number and make my first call from the contact record I had previously created. For calling lots of leads quickly, the Power Dialer will call through a Smart View (see below) list automatically. As a call begins, the contact record is opened in case someone picks up. If there's no answer or when the conversation ends, the dialer alerts you that the next call is starting. If you're still making notes in the record, the dialer pauses, and you can also pause it yourself if needed. Additional phone features include call recording, call coaching, and pre-recorded voicemail messages. Texting (separate rates apply) and emailing from the record were just as easy with a timeline recorded in real time, tracking all communications. An inbox displays all of your incoming calls, texts, emails, and tasks, and it lets you respond and filter based on done and future activities.

One thing that's a little different with Close is they treat leads as companies rather than contacts. This means you'll be creating a lead (company) and associating a contact(s) with that lead within the same few steps. To do this, click the plus sign next to Leads in the menu, add a company name, a contact name, and you'll be taken to the lead record where you can add contact and company details.

Smart Views show sales reps who to call and when to follow up. Some of the categories include leads to call, leads never called, and no contact in over 30 days. According to Close, the purpose of these lists are so you don't have to think: 1) Should I call this person? 2) What should I say? You set the parameters of the lists using statuses (e.g., in a trial), best times to call, and other filters that build only the most relevant leads. As an example, I created a list of contacts to call where the disposition was "no answer" and where the contact had opened at least one of my emails. As mentioned above, use the Power Dialer to then call your list or manually call them one-by-one right from this screen. You can also send them a bulk email or a pre-made email sequence.

Supercharge Close's capabilities with its Zapier integrations. Do things like automatically adding new Intercom users to Close as leads, posting Slack messages for new Close leads, or anything else you need to do in the apps you use most.

Close Price: From $25/month/user

Best CRM for Gmail power users

NetHunt CRM (Gmail, Web, iOS, Android)

A screenshot of NetHunt CRM, our pick for the best CRM for Gmail power users

NetHunt CRM is a CRM designed for Gmail, which means you manage contacts, deals, tasks, reports, and email campaigns right from your inbox. For users who already spend more time in Gmail than anywhere else and don't want to toggle between separate apps, NetHunt is the ideal CRM solution.

When you sign up, you're given the web app to work from; to get the inbox version, you'll need to download the Gmail extension. In a few clicks, the company's blue icon appears at the top-left to access settings, import data, and integrate with companies like Zapier. From settings, choose where you want NetHunt's features to appear in navigation—before or after your inbox. Here you'll find a customizable dashboard that shows activities, tasks, deal progress, and other functions. Below this are a deals list, Kanban pipelines, contacts, companies, tasks, campaigns, and reports.

To create a contact record, click the blue icon next to your email's name, click on the name that pops up, and that's it. If you want to add more details, tasks, or comments, or create a deal, click on the name again to open the record. To add custom fields or folders, click on the settings wheel next to the contact's name. Pipelines are customizable for stages, names, probabilities, and which details are visible for each card. NetHunt also offers customizable webforms and pop-ups to capture leads, which can then be dropped automatically into a nurturing campaign that you create.

The Workflows feature allows you to automate actions such as creating a task, making a call, or sending a Slack message. Add a starting trigger, and then add your action—for example, you might create a series of emails to automatically send to contacts who filled out a webform. Then set a condition: like if the contact clicks a specific link in the email, a follow-up email is sent in three days, or assign a task for a rep to call the contact.  

Finally, if you use LinkedIn for prospecting, NetHunt's (separate) extension lets you create contacts with a few clicks while you're viewing profiles. Contacts are then enriched with details such as social, email, phone, company, and position. Companies can also be added the same way. While prospecting, each profile will show whether they're already a CRM contact (blue icon) or not (white icon). Plus, details from the contact record, such as emails and tasks, show up in a sidebar on each LinkedIn profile.

You can do even more with NetHunt's Zapier integrations. Create records in NetHunt from new spreadsheet rows, create to-do list tasks based on comments in NetHunt, and much more.

NetHunt CRM Price: From $24/month for one user

What is the best customer relationship management plaftorm?

There are hundreds of capable CRMs on the market, and honestly, most of them will probably get the job done. But by finding a CRM that's catered to your organization's needs, you'll be able to move quickly, adapt as necessary, and close more leads. Managing customer relationships is the core of your business, so you need to get it right.

I've spent a lot of time using all the CRM platforms on this list and can vouch for them being solid tools, so take a look at my recommendations to see which one is best for your business.

Related reading:

This article was originally published in 2014 by Matthew Guay. The most recent update was in March 2023.

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'