Sales CRM

Monday, July 15, 2019
Christopher Sirk
CRM.ORG is a knowledge hub for all things work: digital tools, customer service relationship software, and other innovative methodologies for exploring work-related relationships. In “What is a CRM?”, we break down the meaning of the three-letter monster that is CRM and explore the history, benefits, and features of the customer relationship software.  

These days, the science of selling has become ever more sophisticated. There’s still room for artistry, but the truth is investing in an integrated digital tool—i.e. a sales CRM—is pretty much now indispensable.

A sales CRM manages the entire sales cycle. That includes sales leads, sale processes, and sales teams.

Features like automation and workflow management tools make your sales team more effective with fewer resources. You’ll sell smarter and breathe easier.

Basic features of a sales CRM

In general, CRMs streamline and improve the sales process, marketing campaigns, and customer service (not to mention customer interactions in general). They do this by rationalizing and simplifying workflow, building a sales pipeline, automating tasks, and analyzing data.

If your particular concern is sales, you’ll definitely be seeking a CRM that manages your customer-facing voice, chat, social media, and email touchpoints in one place. Doing so results in improved efficiency throughout your business, and dramatically increased visibility on your team’s performance, your customer base, and the market at large.

Sales automation sorts information across channels and rationalizes your workflow. Sales inventory tracking gets rid of a lot of manual data entry, and agent performance tracking tools incentivize best practice, helps schedule team members, and plan for busy periods.

A sales CRM lets you better identify a sales lead with lead tracking and other tools that offer visibility on all available sales opportunities.

Lead management and contact management features aggregate information across channels (email, social media, telephone, etc.) to give you easy visibility on who’s who in relation to your business, and where they’re at in the sales cycle. You’ll be able to nurture leads with personalized, relevant information over time, building up an individual rapport and brand visibility to win loyal customers.

Accounts management tools automatically put client information in one place for easy access, including their activity, pending deals, associated contacts, and payment status.

Quotation management lets you generate quick quotes and keep track of those already in play. This is super useful for forecasting sales, addressing your business’s overall production and operational needs, and segmenting customers and leads to further refine your sales funnel.

Opportunity management allows you to spot potential sales as they develop, providing you with the ability to respond and capitalize right away.

Proposal management tools keep track of projects, quotes, letters, contracts, and messages.

From sales pipeline to AI: navigating the marketplace for sales CRMs

Here are a few picks for sales CRM, highlighting a range of super useful features like AI for voice, social listening, and customizable, collaborative selling tools.


Close is a simple, powerful CRM designed to seamlessly bump up sales team productivity and effectiveness. It features particularly strong tools for managing voice and email channels.

The platform offers predictive dialing and call automation, as well as excellent tools for segmenting and drilling down through customer data. You’ll gain a complete history of each customer, automatically generated according to past interactions, meaning you also receive valuable information on the size of your client base and the types of clients your current selling strategy is attracting.

Close's lead tracking tools cut down on wasted time by ensuring your sales agents talk to only the most qualified leads. Integration with Autopilot provides for in-depth and customizable lead scoring, delivered through an intuitive, visually oriented user interface.

Sales performance tracking and automatic organization of task workflow helps your team put its best foot forward.

With a very gentle learning curve, the web-based app is targeted at startups and small and midsize businesses.

As for pricing, Close will indeed set your budget back a few bucks—the Basic package is $65 per month per user; Professional is $95 per month per user, and Business is $145 per month per user.

Give the free trial a whirl and see for yourself if it’s well worth the cost.


Pipedrive focuses on the sales process and is geared explicitly towards your sales team. With a straightforward, clean user interface, the CRM lives up to its name by providing a highly visual pipeline that drives the sales process and tracks contacts. It’s all about moving the customer throughout the journey to the most ideal result—the closed deal.

The platform is adept at letting you spot leads and stay on top of deals. It buzzes you with reminders, notifications, and alerts for follow-ups, meaning you’ll stay on top of things automatically. You can also track your deals, contacts, and activity on the go with Android and iOS apps.

Full email sync allows you to view messages from your chosen email service in-app. Gmail integration exists as a handy sidebar application that allows you to schedule sales activities, make notes, and add contacts from Gmail to Pipedrive.

Pipedrive helps you manage your sales by constructing multiple sales pipelines, each customizable with unique stages appropriate to each context, It helps prioritize the most important sales activities, synchronizes information from other channels in one place, and dramatically cuts down on the time you spend on admin. That way you can concentrate on the sales process and building relationships.

Pipedrive’s pricing starts at $12.50 per user per month, billed annually.


SugarCRM is a highly customizable, open source CRM that helps you manage customers and leads, as well as bring your sales, marketing, and customer support teams in concert.

The main value of the platform is its ability to refine your sales cycle and sales pipeline in an endlessly personalized way, with tweakable dashboards, productivity tools, and collaborative tools to bring your team’s different personas together. Sales Stage tracks your opportunities from “Prospect” to “Proposal” to “Deal Won”, assigning probability values for success each step of the way—super useful for sales forecasting.

SugarCRM’s development tools allow you to make custom apps for your specific selling needs. Its clean, modular design lets you do a lot of developer-type things without any knowledge of code, using a drag-and-drop interface that makes it easy-peasy to set up features and fields.

Android and iOS apps let you keep in touch with customers and access in-depth sales information on the go.

As for pricing, SugarCRM’s main product, Sugar Professional, retails at $40 per user per month. Sugar Enterprise, priced at $65 per user per month, offers advanced workflow tools and more storage space. Sugar Ultimate adds a dedicated technical account manager and round-the-clock support for $150 per user per month.

Zendesk Sunshine

Launched in late 2018, Zendesk Sunshine is a next-generation CRM for the age of non-linear sales. It’s an anti-ego, relationship-driven tool for smart selling in an ever-more discerning world.

Sunshine is essentially a reworked and revamped version of Base CRM, which the cloud-based customer support empire Zendesk acquired last year.

The software values collaborative selling, giving a boost to customer relationships via the syncing and sharing of information (notes, emails, call logs, etc.) between team members.

Customizable sales pipeline, sales tracking and reporting, forecasting, and a simple, intuitive interface make it workable for most any enterprise.

It’s built on the Amazon Web Services public cloud, which everyone already uses all the time, meaning that custom app creation by in-house developers is a simple affair. Designed to work along with sales force automation tool Zendesk Sell, as well as Zendesk Suite, Zendesk Explore, and every other tool that starts with a Zen-.


Copper is another CRM that aims to go beyond tracking and managing sales processes, incorporating relationship-driving tools for team collaboration and customer engagement.

AI-driven capabilities automate menial, time-consuming and fundamentally annoying day-to-day tasks. Copper automatically records emails, calls, events, and other productivity documents. That frees up significantly more time for the main event—managing customer relationships and making good and sustainable sales.

The CRM’s Chrome Extension lives inside of Gmail (just like you). Fully fledged G Suite integration makes it easy to attach all your Google spreadsheets, slides, and docs can be effortlessly attached to each and every customer profile.

Since Copper is built with Google Material Design, you can do all your CRM sales stuff, like email tracking, call logs, and contact management, in a familiar G Suite-like environment.

Indeed, the G Suite integration is so seamless that Google uses and specifically recommends Copper CRM—now that’s a serious recommendation if we’ve ever heard one.

Copper can be gotten as a 14-day free trial. Paid plans start at $19 per user/per month (Basic), then move up to $49 (Professional) and $119 (Business).


Freshsales is the sales CRM arm of the broad featured Freshworks 360 suite. Some highlights include: an easy-to-use visual sales pipeline, real-time analytics, and Smartforms for capturing leads from web forms.

Designed to cut down on the use of third party tools and the juggling act of tab and window switching, the CRM provides an all-purpose, one stop tool for running sales campaigns, with event analytics, email tracking, and integration tools to boost productivity.

With the help of AI, Freshsales lets you work out your own system for assigning scoring data to every lead and set custom organizational parameters—in other words, your own ‘sort’ categories. There’s also a built-in phone module with automatic dialing,  call routing, and recording features.

Freshsales’ pricing starts at $12 per user/per month, billed annually.  


HubSpot is a titanic force in the world of CRM, and its eponymous platform provides essentially all you’d ever need to do sales.

The Personas feature can help you dig deep to understand the mindsets of different customer strata, then segment them for better selling. The web app helps users learn how to conduct research, interviews, and surveys, and how to use the gathered data to create their persona.

The platform runs as part of G Suite and Microsoft Office, so whichever your business favors, you’ll be able to run it without headaches. Zapier integration is very useful for sharing information across apps like Google Sheets, Slack, and so on, so you can bring in extra tools for streamlining tasks.

HubSpot’s basic CRM is free. Their Sales Hub product, which runs on-top of the basic CRM, is free for individuals, and starting from $50 per user/per month for teams.


Salesforce, another major presence on the CRM scene, packs a lot of powerful features into their offering. Foremost among them are sales forecasting, reporting, automating tasks, and collecting and documenting sales leads.

The platform also does a good job of connecting your sales and marketing operations, sharing information and taking the hiccups out of customer engagement.

Salesforce has recently been adding more and more powerful AI to their arsenal of customer solutions. Predictions and analytics from Einstein pore through data from your unique customer data and processes to develop tailor-made insights and solutions.

Their new Lightning platform, meanwhile, provides a faster, more legible, and more visually agreeable component-based user interface. Drag-and-drop features and robust customization options keep things agile.

With the myriad of tools Salesforce puts at your disposal, there is a little bit of a learning curve. Fortunately the company provides a free online training center called Trailhead.

Salesforce’s CRM is priced from $25 per user/per month.

Not quite CRM: An alternative sales tool


Dialpad is a cross-channel ‘softphone’ sales platform with voice, video, call center, and messaging features. It’s not a CRM in and of itself, but rather a lightweight-yet-powerful tool that integrates with more broad featured CRM platforms like Zendesk and Salesforce.  The platform also offers native integration with G Suite for a seamless crossover with the web apps you already use.  

One of Dialpad’s most exciting (and eminently useful) features is VoiceAI, a form of advanced AI analytics that uses speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) technology. This handy tool automatically generates an accurate transcription of all your sales calls in real-time.

It also provides insights into the most important parts of the call, generating Smart Notes. These chart customer sentiment and provide you with a list of Action Items (aka. the actions you said you’d take for the customer over the course of the conversation).

The Moments features, meanwhile, creates a timeline of each sales voice call, highlighting key moments and classifying them by customer ‘intent signals.’ What that means is that when someone utters a line like “this price is a bit expensive,” a ‘price inquiry’ flag and time note will automatically be generated, letting you know there’s still space to follow up and make a deal.

Real-time sentiment analysis, meanwhile, generates a customer satisfaction score while in conversation. Real-time coaching floats in the background with automated feedback for the sales agent, including pricing, features, and competitor offering information.

Dialpad’s Standard plan is $20 per user per month. The $30 per user per month Pro version includes handy Zendesk, Slack, and Salesforce integrations. The top-tier Enterprise plan adds 24/7 support and custom analytics and reporting tools for $40 per user per month.

Getting sold on a CRM for sales

It’s important to address what your specific business needs are before you commit to a paid sales CRM solution.

Do you do a lot of cold calling and want to revise your selling script in-depth, preferably with the help of AI and advanced analytics? Are you most concerned about building a customized sales pipeline for your niche product? Is social media your main avenue of communications and sales?

There’s a CRM out there for pretty much every need, niche or not. The first step towards realizing the best fit is figuring out the problem you want to solve. Good luck out there!