Why the right CRM is important to a growing business

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Finding new customers is key to growth, but so is keeping the ones you already have and building strong relationships with them. The right technology can help. 

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers. Businesses use CRM to stay connected to customers, streamline processes, and improve profitability. As compared to logging everything on sticky notes and in spreadsheets — it’s okay, you’d be surprised how many companies start out this way! — CRM can make the business of running your business easier and more effective.

Our CRM101: What is CRM? explainer offers a deep dive into the benefits, features, and different ways to transform your business with a CRM system. That said, not all CRMs are built the same. Even if you’re already familiar with the basics of how the technology works, it’s important to conduct a CRM comparison to see which tool will work best for your small business.

What to look for in CRM

Before starting in on a CRM software comparison, you need a solid understanding of what to look for. A good CRM tool starts with these key features:

  • Tools for relationship building: CRM’s core purpose is to help you build relationships and get closer to customers. This is especially true as businesses engage with customers today across so many different touchpoints, channels, and internal teams. Don’t settle for a glorified Contacts app. A solid CRM tool goes way beyond just gathering names, phone numbers, and email addresses, with capabilities for attracting new customers, nurturing customer relationships, winning more deals, providing customer support, and building customer loyalty. Look for a CRM that helps all of your teams — marketing, sales, commerce, service and IT — work together to create the experiences your customers expect.

  • Workflow automation: A CRM with robust email capabilities can do everything from capture important business activity from your Inbox to let you write and schedule work emails ahead of time. CRM can help automate marketing workflows, such as triggering a marketing email to be sent to a new prospect if they complete an action. It can support sales automation and productivity, ensuring your sales team never forgets to follow-up with a new lead and freeing up their time to focus more on selling and less on admin. It can even support automation for customer service teams such as intelligently assigning a new support case to the agent best able to address the issue, or powering chat bots or other self-service support functions.

  • Mobile access: Setting your team up to work from anywhere has never been more important. Make sure any CRM you’re considering is supported by a full-featured mobile app. A good CRM solution will offer both Android- and iOS-compatible mobile apps.

  • Reporting: Reports are a key feature for a CRM tool, and an area in which too many solutions fall short. Look for a CRM with robust reporting capabilities that offer both at-a-glance views into the health of your business and customization options that let you pinpoint the metrics that are most relevant to your business needs. 

  • Single source of truth: A huge benefit of running your business through a CRM tool is keeping an ongoing record, or “single source of truth,” of all your key business interactions, customer data, and files. Make sure your CRM makes it easy for your teams to find what they need, when they need it. This isn’t just a benefit for the business, but actually improves the quality of customer experiences. Think about how many times you’ve called customer service only to repeat your information again and again — with a single source of truth, every team is working from the same customer record. 

Beyond a feature set that looks good in a CRM comparison chart, you also want a system that can scale as your business grows. More robust CRM tools often have greater customization options, and integrations with more third-party tools than their small business counterparts. A small business CRM built on the same platform as its enterprise-sized sibling may offer some of these features, along with a clear upgrade path as you scale your operations. You may not want or need enterprise CRM right now, but make sure you don’t box yourself in with a contact management system or sales tool that can’t scale with your business.


Salesforce Comparison

Salesforce CRM, known as Salesforce Customer 360, is offered in different versions and configurations to suit businesses of every size and in every industry. Customer 360 is the breadth of Salesforce CRM technology — one integrated CRM system that can be used by all of your teams to manage and grow customer relationships. All versions are built on the same cloud platform, making it easy to upgrade as your operational needs change. The main differences between versions have to do with the maximum number of users you want to support, and what automations and advanced customization and integration options are needed. 

This Salesforce comparison chart highlights the high-level differences between the versions. As you look it over, remember that the best CRM for you is the one that best fits your business needs and workflow. Salesforce Essentials is easy to get started with, and combines essential sales and service features without advanced features new CRM users don’t need. But not all SMBs are built the same. Our Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited tiers offer progressively more support for larger teams, more complex workflows, process automations, and whatever other needs an individual business might have.

Essentials also combines Sales Cloud and Service Cloud functionality into one subscription. The other editions offer sales and service as separate products.

CRM Comparison Chart: Sales Cloud






CRM Comparison Chart: Service Cloud






The main difference between “small” (Essentials) and “large” (Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited) editions is that CRM software for small businesses comes without some of the bells and whistles found in the big business versions.

Salesforce’s “bigger” CRM tiers offer more advanced customization and automation tools. Larger organizations will usually employ programmers and consultants to tweak to their installs to fit the specialized needs of different departments within a large organization. They also feature more high-level reporting and analysis tools targeted at upper management users. Small businesses simply don’t require all these features—or the additional price tag— to get business done.

Small business CRM tools like Salesforce Essentials offer plenty of customization options, including integration with common third-party business applications. Many customizations in Essentials are available through clicks, not code, making it easy to adapt the system to the way a fast growing company does business. In addition to no-code customizations, look for a CRM with thorough, easy-to-follow resources to help you get more out of your system. 

For instance, all Salesforce CRM customers get access to Trailhead, Salesforce’s free, on-demand learning platform that covers everything from Small Business CRM basics to advanced topics for Salesforce administrators and developers. 

Businesses of all sizes should also look into:

Comparison with Salesforce Competitors

Comparing Salesforce Customer 360 with other CRM software is an important part of determining the right solution for your business. Looking at Salesforce’s relative strengths versus the competition is a straightforward way to frame the comparison:

Salesforce Strengths:

  • Innovation

    • Artificial Intelligence: AI built into Salesforce helps you make decisions faster, make your employees more productive, and make customers happier.

    • Analytics: Augmented analytics help every user discover insights, predict outcomes, and find recommendations to help their business, no matter the industry.

  • Platform

    • The Salesforce platform is one of its core strengths. From the expandability of AppExchange and available integrations to the security built into the cloud architecture, Salesforce’s platform sets it apart from other CRM solutions.

  • Productivity

    • Salesforce is proven to drive efficiency and growth. 38% of Salesforce customers report an increase in sales productivity after adopting the platform. 

  • Mobile

    • The Salesforce mobile app lets you run your business from anywhere, with on-the-go access to all of your vital business information, including tasks and notifications, dashboards and reports, and more.

  • Community

    • Over 2.3 million members strong, the Salesforce Trailblazer community is an active ecosystem of CRM users driving innovation and change in their businesses and within the Salesforce ecosystem itself.

    • Trailhead is Salesforce’s free, self-service platform for learning new skills, earning professional credentials, and connecting to mentorship and job opportunities. 

Another helpful exercise as you compare CRM solutions is to review objections that new customers commonly raise as they consider adopting Salesforce. Here are some of the most common, followed by our responses to each:

Salesforce Objections:

  • It’s too expensive

    • Think about the return on investment you hope to get out of a CRM solution. Salesforce is all about delivering value.

    • A customer survey completed in August 2020 revealed 95% of our customers have met or exceeded their ROI goals with Salesforce, with 40% reporting they exceeded ROI expectations. And when users expand their use of Customer 360 by integrating more products into their toolkit, these numbers only increase. Fifty-two percent of multiproduct users say Salesforce has exceeded ROI expectations.

    • That said, we have products for businesses of all sizes and budgets, starting with Salesforce Essentials for small organizations. 

  • It’s too complex

    • A common objection is “Salesforce is overkill if you don’t have a dedicated team for it”. Sure, we can design a Salesforce solution for giant enterprise companies. But for smaller businesses, Essentials keeps it easy with just the features you really need. 

  • Configuration and setup is complex and time-consuming

  • You have to pay for add-ons to get the most out of the software

  • The learning curve never seems to end

    • Not true! We designed Essentials to be self-contained and easy as 1-2-3: 

      • 1. Connect your email and see all of your customer information in one place

      • 2. Access in-app tutorials and guided setup

      • 3. Get answers to all your questions on Trailhead

    • That said, you also can customize and extend Salesforce through AppExchange apps, self-paced Trailhead learning, and programming with clicks not code. You can never learn too much, right? 

  • Customer support has a poor reputation.

Honestly, we like to think of ourselves as a friendly and useful bunch. We’ve got you covered, whether you prefer phone, online, social, or email support.

Strategy for choosing a CRM

Your strategy for choosing a CRM should be two-fold. Conducting a CRM comparison is a good way to get familiar with the benefits and features of Salesforce’s tools and those of Salesforce competitors. But you also need to take a good look at how your organization does business, and how a CRM system will support and enhance your workflow. Small businesses, in particular, should keep these factors in mind:

  • Minimal setup requirements that make it easy to get up and running, fast.

  • Familiar, app-style interfaces your team can quickly get comfortable with.

  • A good small business solution will document your sales process and use dashboard-style reporting to let you check on the health of your business at a glance.

  • A CRM solution built on a platform that grows with your small business can ensure smooth customer experiences as you scale.

  • Consider a CRM with integrated customer service and marketing functionality, as well as other business critical apps.

  • Promote ease-of-use with a cloud-based CRM that lets employees log in from anywhere, via laptop/desktop or mobile app.

  • Choose a small business CRM that works with the other tools your business relies on, including email, file sharing, and document signing apps.

Every small business’ needs are different, so take a look at “How to Choose CRM for Small Business” for a more detailed look at finding the right tool for your needs now and in the future.

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