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What's the Best CRM to Choose in South Africa?

Luke Marthinusen | April 10 2020

Although you've probably come here to inform your decision on which is the best CRM software to choose, it's important to consider that CRM or Customer Relationship Management is more than software.

Customer Relationship Management is a strategy for managing the interactions your organisation has with customers and potential customers.

A CRM's core purpose is to improve & maintain these relationships and ultimately increase company profitability. Keep this in mind during your decision making process. It's is easy to get sidetracked by sexy CRM system features. Always ask yourself: Will this improve & maintain relationships? Will it increase company profitability?

With that in mind, let's jump in. 

The best CRM software to choose in South Africa:

  1. HubSpot CRM
  2. Salesforce
  3. Microsoft Dynamics 365
  4. Zoho CRM
  5. Insightly
  6. Pipedrive

All of the CRM's above are great, but there are subtle nuances within each system. These range from flexibility, ease of use, local SA support, and of course price. 

What's in this guide?

1. Factors to consider when choosing a CRM in South Africa
2. How to evaluate your CRM choice?
3. Our top CRM's to choose in South Africa
4. What are the benefits of CRM?
5. 10 Key features of CRM
6. Enterprise vs. SMB CRM Platforms
7. Cloud-based CRM systems (SaaS)
8. The International CRM market
9. Implementing and managing your CRM (Support)

1. Factors to consider when choosing a CRM in South Africa

  1. Affordability: The Rand can fluctuate wildly making sizeable $ payments a concern.
  2. Popularity in South Africa: Sharing experiences and best use practices with peers is very important to successful implementation and usage. Upskilling new staff on popular platforms is often far quicker due to past experience.
  3. International Support: We have a 5 to 9 hour time difference to support centres in Asia and the USA.
  4. Local Support: To setup, consult and maintain if required.
  5. Most User-Friendly: CRM software really becomes valuable when it’s used by the whole team.
  6. Business Size: This guide will be of greatest use to SMBs with 1 - 1000 employees, it does offer some guidance for large business with 1000+ employees.

2. How to evaluate your CRM choice?

All of the CRM systems on our list are strong platforms. That being said, each business is unique and it is up to the evaluator to find the right balance between price, features and functionality. This choice needs to be made with the current and future business in mind.
Hubspot crm

Image Source: HubSpot

Core features you need in a CRM:

  1. Email integration: Track and automatically log email communications in the CRM
  2. Calendar integration: Track meetings an automatically log in the CRM (Gmail & Outlook/Office 365)
  3. Dashboards & Reporting: Customisable dashboards and easy reporting
  4. Opportunity & Pipeline Management: Team and individual pipelines
  5. Task management: Create, manage and share tasks
  6. Contact property customisation: Configure lead types, industries, geographies, etc.
  7. Sales process customisation: Configure deal stages
  8. Mobile capabilities: Mobile app for users on the move
  9. Sales Automation: Lead allocation, rotation and notifications.
  10. Ease of use: Clean & uncomplicated user interface
  11. Value for money: Pricing suited to the South African market

Other CRM feature considerations:

  1. Marketing campaigns: Bulk email sends, website lead capture forms, social media integration, and marketing automation.
  2. Communication features: Chat, tag members, Slack and Google Drive integration
  3. Setup and maintenance: Does an external consultant or dedicate employee have to set it up and maintain it?
  4. Integration: Accounting, ERP, and other CRM systems integration - natively or by API

Why the size of your business matters:

Small and Medium Business CRM Platforms

  1. 1 - 1000 employees.
  2. Limited or finite budgets
  3. Enterprise features not required
  4. Integration with productivity tools. Eg. Slack and Google Drive.
  5. Work well out the box, or with minor customisation. 
  6. Examples: HubSpot CRM, Pipedrive, Salesforce Essentials.

Enterprise CRM Platforms

  1. 1000+ employees
  2. CRM platform must be designed for enterprise use
  3. CRM’s must serve large-scale business needs across a variety of departments.
  4. Numerous enterprise tool integration and add-on features
  5. Developer toolkits
  6. Examples: Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP.

3. Our best CRM software picks to choose in South Africa

  1. HubSpot CRM
  2. Salesforce
  3. Microsoft Dynamics 365
  4. Zoho CRM
  5. Insightly
  6. Pipedrive

hubspot crm south africaHubSpot CRM

Free trial: Yes, with some feature limitations. Trail period is forever.

Price range: Free. Starting at $0 p/month for HubSpot CRM, $0p/month for HubSpot Sales Free. $40p/month for 2 x HubSpot Sales Starter removes HubSpot branding on live chat and the meeting scheduling tool, and gives salespeople access to up to 1000 sales documents, snippets, email templates, and email automation sequences.

$400p/month for HubSpot Sales Professional includes 5 x licences, $80/month per additional user. Professional gives access to more than one pipeline and pipeline automation for sales follow-up and reminders. These costs include the 20% discount you get when you choose an annual contract.

HubSpot Sales Enterprise includes 10 x licences, and costs $1200p/month. $120/month per additional user. Enterprise offers all HubSpot's bells and whistles. 

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: Yes. 1,000,000 contacts, unlimited users, free access to the CRM has no time limit.

Free live support in all plans: Yes, even of the free platform you get access to the same support.

Top features: A fully functional CRM software for free. Using free versions of Sales Hub, integration of Gmail and Outlook calendars and email. Customisable contact properties, deal stages, pipeline and opportunity tracking. Tasks, website chat and bots, email tracking, reporting, meeting scheduling link per user.

Things to be aware of: HubSpot wants you to upgrade to paid products. Upgrade required only if you want additional functionality, the fully functional CRM software remains free. Upgrade to HubSpot Sales Starter to remove HubSpot branding on live chat and the meeting scheduling tool. Upgrade to HubSpot Sales Professional if multiple pipelines required, deal visibility across teams needs to be limited. Integrating HubSpot Marketing to your CRM will add a cost of $50 p/month for every 1000 users in the CRM. HubSpot is far and away the leader in campaign management and marketing integration into CRM. HubSpot Marketing starts as $50 p/month for Starter and $800 for Pro.

salesforce crm south africa
Salesforce CRM

Free trial: 30 days
Price range: Starting at $25 user/month for Salesforce Essentials (up to five users), $75 user/month for Salesforce Lightning Professional (Our opinion: The right plan to invest in to get full adoption and success with CRM), up to $300 user/month for Lightning Unlimited; all products require an annual contract.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No

Free live support in all plans: No

Top features: Salesforce Essentials: Basic contact management features, along with task and event tracking, Outlook & Gmail integration, mobile app access, a content library, reporting, and Chatter (their internal chat tool). Features limited only by your budget.

Things to be aware of: Unbelievably confusing pricing, with hidden costs that are easy to miss. Don’t forget Salesforce implementation costs, this can range from R20,000 to a few hundred thousand Rands. Can be skipped for Salesforce Essentials. Campaign management requires licensing to Salesforce Marketing Cloud which will cost a minimum of $1500 p/month billed annually.

microsoft dynamics south africa
Microsoft Dynamics 365

Free trial: 30 days

Price range: Starting at $40 user/month (apparently...), $115 user/month for Customer Engagement Plan, which should suffice for most sales and customer relationship requirements, up to $210 user/month for Dynamics 365 Plan, which gives you all the apps.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No

Free live support in all plans: No

Top features: Like Salesforce, this enterprise-grade platform offers features limited only by your budget.

Things to be aware of: Be prepared to download the 58-page licensing guide to figure out what you should be paying in licence fees. A dedicated person or support company to manage the platform is required. The marketing campaign app allows for 2,000 contacts included with 10 or more users of Customer Engagement and Dynamics 365 Plans. Be prepared for more costs as your database grows.

zoho crm south africa
Zoho CRM

Free trial: 15 days

Price range: Starting at $12 user/month for Zoho Standard, $20 user/month for Zoho Pro, $35 user/month for Zoho Enterprise, up to $100 user/month for Zoho Ultimate. (It’s not really for enterprise applications) Billed annually. Month by month price is higher.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No

Free live support in all plans: No. Paid plans only.

Top features: Workflow automation, sales gamification, sales process builder (available only in Zoho Professional), Google AdWords integration (available only in Zoho Professional), AI sales assistant (available only in Zoho Enterprise).

Things to be aware of: Limited free support, expect to wait. 8-hour turnaround on support queries. Premium support costs 20% of licence fees, and only available for accounts with 10 or more users. Average user interface. Expect some custom development to make the CRM system work for you. Budget accordingly. 

insightly crm south africaInsightly

Free trial: Yes.

Price range: Insightly has a free plan for up to two users and three paid plans. When billed annually, the Plus Plan costs $29/month, the Professional Plan costs $49/month, and the Enterprise Plan costs $99/month. (It’s not really for enterprise applications) Billed annually. Month by month price is higher.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No

Free live support in all plans: No

Top features: Simple, but effective lead and pipeline management, email tracking, templates and bulk email. Workflow automation, project & task management, integrations with G Suite, Office 365, MailChimp, Quickbooks, and Xero.

Things to be aware of: Poor onboarding and setup instruction/documentation. The mobile app experience is a source of complaint.

pipedrive crm south africa

Free trial: Yes

Price range: Starting at $15 user/month for Silver, $29 user/month for Gold, and up to $75 user/month for Pipedrive Platinum. Billed annually. Month by month price is higher.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No

Free live support in all plans: Yes. Telephonic support for Platinum plan.

Top features: Lightweight sales orientated CRM software. Intuitive lead management that is well organised and easily customisable. Multiple pipelines.

Things to be aware of: The deal data filtering capabilities are limited. This can become a problem in larger sales teams. Suited to small sales teams of 1-5 people. The Gold plan allows the tracking of emails and logging of conversation history in the CRM.

What others think:

G2 Crowd: Highest Rated CRMs (CRM Software products based on user satisfaction)
Top 5: HubSpot CRM, Salesforce, Freshworks, Less Annoying CRM, Copper, (Pipedrive in 6th)

Software advice: CRM Buyers Guide (CRM software based on user rating, Software advice’s rating and price)
Top 5: HubSpot, Salesforce, amoCRM, Infusionsoft and Copper

Capterra: CRM Software Roundup (CRM software with the highest combined score in affordability, user-friendliness, and popularity.)
Top 5: HubSpot, Pipedrive, Nimble, bpm’online, Zoho CRM

HubSpot is a very popular choice making all 3 lists

HubSpot CRM: 3/3
Salesforce: 2/3
Pipedrive: 2/3
Copper: 2/3

Let us know if you use Copper in South Africa, we’d love to hear your experience of it so we can include it here. Please send us feedback if you think we’ve left a CRM off the list.

4. What are the benefits of CRM?

A CRM system enables businesses to strengthen relationships with its customers, potential customers, partners and suppliers. In a world that's increasingly more competitive, how you manage and use your information will be the difference between success and failure, and CRM is core to that concept.

1. Increased sales metrics and productivity:

Using a reputable CRM system improve sales productivity. If you measure and track your performance - you know how to improve and hit targets more efficiently.

Excel is NOT the best way to track sales performance...

2. Improved contact management:

Every call, email, meeting, and touchpoint with your contacts can be tracked - automatically.

3. Increased customer satisfaction and retention:

Your easiest customers to convert are your current customers. Acquiring new customers is expensive, and when you really know your customer (through constant communication) you are less likely to lose them.

4. Personalised customer interactions:

Most modern CRM’s come with lead tracking capabilities, so you know what pages of your website have been visited or emails opened. Using this information allows you to reach out with relevant information individually tailored to your customer or prospect.

5. Increased productivity:

Easily automate and track regular administrative tasks like follow up email, and ‘catch up’ meetings. 

6. Reporting and analytics:

Detailed analytics start to reveal star sales staff, client industries or geographies, and allow you to know where to focus your efforts.


5. 10 Key features of CRM Systems

1. Lead management and contact management:

Most businesses are looking for a safe, easy-to-use & manage place to store contacts for the business, and CRM's deliver. The number of business still using spreadsheets to manage business contacts and leads is frightening. Your contacts are the lifeblood of the business.

2. Opportunity tracking and sales pipeline:

Logging opportunities against stored contacts is key to closing more sales. Whether the opportunities are new customers that salespeople are working, or existing customers account managers are managing. The opportunities can be logged and systematically moved through the stages in a sales pipeline - more deals will be closed and sales targets can be achieved.

Pipeline management in HubSpot CRM:HubSpot Pipeline

[Image source: HubSpot]

Pipeline management in Salesforce CRM:salesforce pipeline

[Image source: Salesforce]

3. Email and calendar integration:

Gmail, Outlook and Office 365 will integrate into any good modern CRM software. This is key because all communication via email and meetings logged in calendars are automatically logged in the CRM. This removes the need to manually log these customer touch points. Manually logging of touch points was the bane of many a salesperson using the CRM’s of old.

Below you can see HubSpot CRM integrated into Gmail. You can see the email has been tracked and opened once. The user can also see CRM information right from Gmail. The same functionality exists for Outlook. 

Hubspot email integration

[Image source: HubSpot]

Email integration gives users access to CRM tools from inside their email. Below you can see the user is inserting a 'book-a-meeting' link into the email. Options exist to add documents, sequences (automated email), and templated emails to enhance productivity.

Hubspot email integration 2

[Image source: HubSpot]

Salesforce's Outlook integration allows the same functionality. Not all CRMs do this well. We have been very disappointed with the Zoho CRM Gmail and Outlook integrations. They are far behind the likes of HubSpot and Salesforce. Microsoft Dynamics CRM does not integrate well into Gmail and is natively part of the Outlook suite.

CRM email integration is a major productivity element for your customer facing teams. Don't over look it. 

Salesforce Outlook integration

[Image source: Salesforce]

4. Quoting:

Quotes are created inside the CRM and logged against the contacts and companies they are sent to. Some CRM’s offer very complex quoting functions and others are very simple but perfectly functional for most businesses.

Depending on the CRM, creating a quote often automatically creates an opportunity for the sales teams to track and move deals through the pipeline to close.

Although most CRMs come with a standard quoting ability, it is really important to understand the scope of your quoting requirements before selecting a CRM. You might also decide you want to keep you want to keep quoting outside of our CRM. We quote from our project management system for example. We pull the quotes into the CRM software via a unique link and API process.

Some companies with thousands of line items require sophisticated quoting capabilities. This is available, but expect to pay through the nose. Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics are great for this. But Salesforce for example requires a very expensive module called CPQ Salesforce, or Configure, Price, Quote Software by Salesforce. It's expensive and a monster to configure. However, if set up right it is a very powerful tool.

Many salespeople get frustrated when they try to add products to opportunities in Salesforce. The Salesforce CPQ solves that. Salesforce CPQ_Quote_Line_Editor

[Image source: Salesforce]

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Professional has a powerful, albeit poorly interfaced quoting capability. Image below is sourced from this article on how to create a quote in MS Dynamics.

Microsoft CRM Quotes

HubSpot quotes offers an easy to use quoting function that is very functional. It can't however, handle the volume of products and line items that a Salesforce CPQ can. If you have no more than a few hundred line items, HubSpot is great.

HubSpot CRM natively includes the ability to add items to quotes from a product library and e-signatures. All this is offered natively in their HubSpot Sales Professional offering. 



[Image sources: HubSpot]

5. Campaign management:

For most B2B companies marketing has gone digital. Leads are generated online and passed to the sales teams. CRM integration into the website, landing pages, email marketing, paid promotion on Google Ads and social media helps with ROI calculations and allocation of marketing budgets.

The powerhouse in this space is HubSpot Marketing Hub, but significant competition is developing with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Microsoft Dynamics is often paired with Click Dimensions a third party software to accomplish this. That being said, their native marketing suite - Dynamics 365 Marketing is gaining some momentum. IBM (IBM Watson Campaign Automation) and Oracle (Oracle Marketing Cloud) have significant systems as well at the large enterprise level. 

There are some lesser players in the space, but they really aren't anything to write home about. Zoho CRM claims to have a marketing suite, but it's limited. Active Campaign is a potential small business CRM and marketing campaign solution, but it's limited to light lifting in the CRM and marketing automation space. 

Our choice in this space is HubSpot.


[Image source: HubSpot]

6. Email marketing:

At the base level of campaign management, it is critical to send out regular communications to your contact database. The customer-facing teams often can’t get to all of your contacts each month, so regular email marketing makes sure a business stays top-of-mind with all the contacts on your database.

See the campaign management section above for the providers or email marketing software. 

7. Customer targeting:

By categorising the contacts in your CRM system according to industry, position, and many more possible criteria - communications can be custom designed and targeted to be more relevant. This enables customer-facing staff to add more value with their outreach. Full property customisation is a must.

8. Customer service and ticketing:

Managing an existing customer base requires knowing who customers are, managing support requests, and maintaining regular contact. If both problems and reports of good service can be tracked, this info can be used to maintain and build better customer relationships.

Ticketing allows clients to log support requests, and allows a business to manage the requests through to resolution. Issue turn around times can be tracked and customer experience can be better managed. Reporting will bring recurring issues to light, enabling efficient rectification and proactive, preventative measures to be employed for  better customer retention.

Popular stand alone support solutions in the customer support space are Freshdesk and Zendesk Support. Both can be integrated into most CRM solutions via ready built integrations. Expect to pay a monthly fee for these. However the better CRM solutions have their own ticketing and help desk solutions. 

Integrated support and CRM means service professionals can view the entire sales process when servicing the client, an integral connection point for efficient service.

Microsoft provides a product called Dynamics 365 Customer Service.


[Image source: Microsoft]

Salesforce has Salesforce Desk. You can read a Salesforce slanted overview of helpdesk ticketing systems here. Note the article does not include HubSpot Service Hub or Dynamics 365 Customer Service.

Below is a screengrab of the HubSpot Ticket board, and then a single HubSpot ticket view. 



[Image source: HubSpot]

This article compares HubSpot Service Hub to Zendesk Support, and gives a great overview of the functions that can sit inside a ticketing system. 


9. Reporting and Dashboards:

All the functions above are collated into dashboards that can be customised for particular functions eg. salesperson, sales manager, service manager, business unit manager and more. What is measured can be improved and customised reporting is one of the best means of improving the performance of a business.

Salesforce originated dashboards. They were pushing dashboards before dashboard were even a thing. This is a great Salesforce article on six important dashboards a leader should have at his/her fingertips. 

All the CRMs in this guide have good reporting and dashboarding capabilities. HubSpot is particularly good at attribution and ROI reporting as it was borne out of the marketing campaign world.


10. Mobile CRM:

Most good CRM’s have a mobile app that allows on-the-move reporting and logging of communications, and tasks. A salesperson can be reminded of a call to a prospect, a sales manager can quickly see the status of a sales teams performance, and a business owner a birds-eye view of sales, service, and general business performance.


[Image Source: HubSpot & Salesforce]

6. Enterprise vs. SMB CRM Platforms

Enterprise CRM Platforms

Enterprise CRM platforms offer a vast array of features and can integrate seamlessly with their existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They often come with extensive developer toolkits with which custom functions can be built.

Due to this flexibility, these systems cost more to run from both a licensing and support perspective but they are far superior when dealing with large data sets and deliver unmatched functionality around augmented reporting and analytics.

Popular enterprise systems include Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, and Oracle. These are suited to companies of 1000+ employees or companies with very specific CRM requirements.

SMB CRM Platforms

The market of enterprise vendors can be intimidating to small and medium businesses that have limited budgets and are looking to improve their contact management and processes from a low base (eg. the worst case scenario of contact management is by spreadsheet!).

The good news is that this space is exploding and there are many vendors to choose from. Every day they are nipping at the heels of the functionality offered by the larger enterprise systems.

We've done a number of Salesforce CRM rip and replaces with HubSpot CRM.

Popular SMB CRM systems include, HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive and Insightly. Generally, these are suited to businesses up to 1000 employees.


7. Cloud-based CRM systems (SaaS)

According to Gartner, 72.9% of CRM spending was on software as a service (SaaS) in 2018, which is expected to grow to 75% of total CRM software spending in 2019.

In the last 10 years, cloud-based CRM’s have changed the game. Gone are the days where you need an on-premise server to host your CRM, and an IT manager to manage the system updates.

Cloud-based CRM means updates are automated for every user, and deploying the CRM to multiple desktop computers and mobile devices is far easier and affordable than it used to be. It keeps remote or traveling workforces connected with the right information always at their fingertips.


8. The International CRM market

With the nature of business today, the level of touch points required and the competitive nature of our modern world, CRM’s are some of the most widely adopted solutions in business IT. According to Technology Advice, current adoption rates of CRM software hover around 60 percent for all business sizes, with another 20 percent hoping to adopt the technology within the next 12 months.

The good news is that this rate of adoption has fast-tracked the development of the software, so the current set of vendors providing CRM software is extensive and competitive. This is great news for companies adopting CRM now, as a wide array of options and price points are available to suit every organisation and pocket.

The move to cloud-based systems or software as a service (SaaS), has fast-tracked the deployment of product improvements, and the major CRM providers are rolling out updates and enhancements on a monthly basis.

Lastly, this rapid development has also given rise to a plethora of features and license options, which has made CRM systems somewhat hard to evaluate. The ‘key features’ section above covers what you need to consider in more detail.

9. Implementing and managing your CRM (Support)

Our top 6 CRM's all have great support in South Africa, but these are the considerations you need to apply to your decision when choosing you CRM. The move to cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) systems has definitely decreased the amount of administration required to deploy and maintain a CRM system.

That being said, enterprise-level systems definitely need an IT department to manage the system. Depending on the level of integration into other company systems the level of maintenance required will vary.

Most SMB systems will not require too much management, however, they do need a champion in the business to manage rollout, avoid CRM failure, and drive continued usage.

In terms of onboarding, enterprise systems require an outside implementer, whether the vendor themselves or a vendor partner to implement correctly. They have the experience and process knowledge that make a CRM succeed from day one. They can train the IT department to manage the CRM and the users to use the CRM.

An SMB can do it alone if the business is very small, but it is highly recommended to engage with a vendor partner for onboarding. Training the users, the IT team, and managers correctly can make or break a project. 

Setting a CRM project off in the right direction is key to its long-term success. Generally, these vendor partners will offer a 60 or 90 day onboarding program to up-skill the business and its staff to use the CRM effectively.

Let us help you

We've helped countless businesses implement CRM systems and marketing systems to drive business growth. We continue to work with many enterprise clients to improve their CRM processes as they relate to business development, marketing and lead generation. 

Give us a call we'd love to hear from you. 

If you're not ready to chat, you might find this eBook useful. 

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