CRM South Africa: What CRM System Should You Choose? (2023)

Luke Marthinusen | April 2 2022

CRM or Customer Relationship Management software, is more than software. Customer Relationship Management is a strategy for managing the interactions your organisation has with customers and potential customers.

Why write this CRM guide?

I've been implementing CRM systems for many years now. We've worked on all the CRM systems discussed below. I've written the guide as a single-source overview of CRM software in South Africa.

I hope that it provides a good launchpad to understand the options available in SA and to enable you to choose the best CRM software for your needs. 

Why do you need a CRM system?

CRM systems provide a disciplined approach to managing the customer journey from initial acquisition of the customer, to that customer becoming a high-spending profitable advocate for your company. 

Keep this in mind during your decision-making process. It is easy to get sidetracked by sexy CRM System features. Always ask yourself: 'Will this improve my customer relationship managment?' 'Will it increase company profitability?'

With that in mind, let's jump in. 

The best CRM software to choose in South Africa

At the tip of the African continent, South Africans have a unique set of requirements for CRM. In this guide, I outline what I think the best CRM choices are for South African businesses.

In no particular order, they are:

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

All of the Customer Relationship Management software suggested above are great, but there are subtle nuances within each system. These range from flexibility, ease of use, local SA support, and price. 

What's in this guide?

  1. Factors to consider when choosing a CRM
  2. How to evaluate your CRM choice?
  3. Our top CRMs to choose in South Africa
    1. HubSpot CRM
    2. Salesforce Sales Cloud
    3. Microsoft Dynamics 365
    4. Zoho CRM
    5. Insightly
    6. Pipedrive
  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 rapidly growing CRM marketplace
  9. Implementing and managing your CRM (Support)
  10. CRM migration

1. What to consider when choosing CRM Systems 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 with support centres in Asia and the USA.
  4. Local Support: To set up, consult and maintain if required.
  5. Most User-Friendly: CRM software really becomes valuable when it’s used by the whole team.
  6. Business Headcount: Headcount contributes hugely to the functionality required in a CRM.
  7. Relevancy: Has the CRM vendor kept up to date with modern trends? Some of the original CRMs that are tied to ERP systems have not kept up. E.g. SAP and NetSuite.

2. How to evaluate your CRM System choice?

All of the CRM systems on our list are strong platforms. That being said, each business is unique, and it's up to you to find the right balance between price, features and functionality.

Your choice needs to be made with the current and future state of your business in mind.
Hubspot crm

Image Source: HubSpot

CRM Software features

Core features to consider when choosing your CRM Software

  1. Email integration: Track and automatically log email communications in the CRM.
  2. Calendar integration: Track meetings and automatically log in to 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 and customise deal stages and properties easily. 
  8. Mobile capabilities: Mobile app for users on the move.
  9. Sales Automation: Lead allocation, rotation and notifications to peed us the sales process.
  10. Ease of use: Clean & uncomplicated user interface.
  11. Value for money: Pricing suited to the South African market

Additional CRM feature considerations

  1. CPQ: Configure, price, quote (CPQ) is a sales tool for the sales team and admins to generate quotes quickly.
  2. Marketing integration: Bulk email sends, website lead capture forms, social media integration, and marketing automation.
  3. Communication features: Internal chat, tag members, Slack and Google Drive integration.
  4. Setup and maintenance: Does an external consultant or dedicated employee have to set it up and maintain it?
  5. Integrations: Accounting, ERP, and other CRM systems integration - natively or by API.

CRM Systems and business size 

Why the size of your business matters

The definitions below are very broad, and you need to consider functionality as well as size when evaluating a CRM System. You could be a 10 person company and require enterprise-level features. So as I mentioned - use them as a guide.

The price difference between an Enterprise seat vs an SMB seat can be factors of 3-5 times!

More sales teams require better CRM partitioning, more sales pipelines, process automation and even AI to help with contact management. 

At a smaller company, everyone can communicate easily with each other and collectively manage CRM Systems. A 1000 people in a company, all with the same access rights and views, are problematic.

At our larger clients, we configure CRMs to work slightly differently for each department. Ops, Sales, Marketing, and Management all need to see different customer data to do their jobs and work optimally. 

Small Business CRM Systems

  • 1 - 25 employees
  • Limited budgets
  • Sales pipelines
  • Email integration
  • Website form integration
  • Works well out of the box, with little or no customisation. 
  • Suggested CRM: HubSpot Starter & Professional, Pipedrive, Insightly, Salesforce Sales Cloud Essentials & Professional, Zoho Standard & Professional. 

Medium Business CRM System

  • 25-250 employees.
  • Practical budgets linked to ROI and business goals/strategy.
  • Teams are divided across functional lines: Operations, Internal Sales, External Sales, and Marketing. etc.
  • Integrations with one or two major business systems. Eg. Xero Accounting, ERP, inventory management.
  • Minor customisation is required.
  • Can self-implement or outsource? 
  • Implementation timeframe: 1 month - 6 months
  • Suggested CRM: HubSpot Professional & Enterprise Pipedrive, Insightly, Salesforce Sales Cloud Professional & Enterprise, Zoho Professional, Enterprise & Ultimate.

Enterprise CRM

  • 250+ employees.
  • CRM System must be designed for enterprise use.
  • CRMs must serve large-scale business needs across multiple departments and teams.
  • Numerous enterprise tool integrations.
  • Very customised.
  • Can NOT self-implement. Must be outsourced to a specialist CRM partner.
  • Implementation timeframe: 6 - 12 months.
  • Suggested CRM: HubSpot Enterprise, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce Enterprise & Unlimited.

3. The best CRM software to choose in South Africa

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


Let's jump in, starting with the fastest-growing CRM software - HubSpot.


hubspot crmHubSpot CRM


HubSpot has greatly increased its market share over the last few years. It is fast eating into the enterprise clients that Salesforce, Microsoft and Oracle have long dominated. This is mostly because of its ease of use (for end-users & administrators).

Numerous large 2000+ companies are adopting HubSpot CRM because their CRM requirements are not super complex, and the ease of use and cost benefits of HubSpot make business sense. 

HubSpot was born as a marketing tool which enabled easy marketing automation on scale. They added sales and CRM System functionality afterwards and used the mature marketing automation capabilities to provide sales automation. 

This means the sales and marketing integration is very strong. Some will argue that in today's world, where most sales are done online/virtually - this is of critical importance.

Both sales team and marketing teams can work together on the same system. This concept of one system for all customer-facing functions is further developed with HubSpot's support solution - HubSpot Service Hub. 

HubSpot has 5 x hubs that make up its CRM software. They can be used independently, or together. They are:
  1. HubSpot Sales Hub
  2. HubSpot Marketing Hub
  3. HubSpot Service Hub
  4. HubSpot Operations Hub
  5. HubSpot CMS Hub

Operations Hub is an integration tool it can be used to integrate an accounting package like Xero into HubSpot. CMS Hub is a website content management system, similar to WordPress.


Free trial: Yes, with some feature limitations. Trial period is forever. 
Price range:
  • Starting at $0p/month for HubSpot Free CRM.
  • HubSpot Sales Starter at $45p/month for 2 x licences removes HubSpot branding on live chat and meeting scheduling tool, provides up to 2 sales pipelines, and additional sales tools.
  • HubSpot Sales Professional for $450p/month including 5 x licences ($90/month per additional users). Professional gives access to up to 15 sales pipelines and sales automation for sales follow-up and reminders. These costs include the 20% discount you get when you choose an annual contract.
  • HubSpot Sales Enterprise costs $1200p/month includes 10 x licences ($120/month per additional users). Enterprise offers all HubSpot's bells and whistles. 

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No
Free live support in all plans: Yes, even on the free platform, you get access to the same live support.


Ease of use is a strong differentiating attribute of HubSpot. This makes it a solid choice for small and mid-sized marketing and sales teams. Gartner Peer Insights users noted a favourable balance between the platform’s functionality, flexibility and extensibility.

HubSpot demonstrates a clear understanding of the CRM System lead management market backed by its strong marketing execution and marketing automation. Its has a clear roadmap that aligns with the company’s core audience of midsize B2B organisations (10 - 1000 staff)

HubSpot’s pricing model and solution packaging readily align with business value. It uses a freemium model for its solutions that target both sales teams and marketing teams. This provides a low cost of entry. 

A fully functional CRM software for free. Using free versions of HubSpot Sales Hub provides 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.


HubSpot’s sales strategy is geared toward attracting business decision-makers in SMBs. Larger enterprises will find that HubSpot lacks focus for selling to IT leaders who are typically strong stakeholders in sales CRM and marketing automation initiatives.

Integrating HubSpot Marketing Hub to HubSpot CRM will cause you to be billed for contacts in your CRM System. Additional marketing contacts are sold in increments of 5,000 from $224.72/month for Professional and increments of 10,000 from $100.00/month for Enterprise Hubs.

Support for account-based marketing remains one of the platform’s less robust set of capabilities. Larger enterprises considering HubSpot should determine whether the available functionality will be able to satisfy their needs.

Although the reporting is easy to use and strong for SMBs, advanced reporting can be limited. 

salesforce crmSalesforce Sales Cloud


Considered to be the leader in the CRM space. Salesforce Sales Cloud's market position reflects its sustained strength in product vision, marketing execution and revenue growth.

Salesforce has a wide range of native functionality. SFA core capabilities, particularly guided selling, forecasting and PRM. In the past year, Salesforce has introduced unique forecasting capabilities, with forecasting by product families, product schedules and territories, and quarterly predictive forecasting via Sales Cloud Einstein.

Salesforce has also improved its sales acceleration add-on with new customer engagement notifications and cadence functionality.

It has repackaged Salesforce Sales Cloud, adding AI functionality to the base product, including Einstein Opportunity Scoring and Einstein Voice.


Free trial: 30 days
Price range:

  • Starting at $25 user/month for Salesforce Essentials (up to 10 users)
  • $75 user/month for Salesforce Sales Cloud Professional (Our opinion: The right plan to invest in to get full adoption and success with CRM)
  • $150 user/month for Salesforce Enterprise
  • Up to $300 user/month for Sales Cloud Unlimited
  • All products require an annual contract.

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No
Free live support in all plans: No


Strong market strategy, offering products for different customer segments, from small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to global enterprises. It has one of the largest implementation partner ecosystems in South Africa.

Salesforce delivers a comparatively high number of product enhancements to Sales Cloud.

Salesforce receives praise for its ability to meet complex sales process requirements. Salesforce is highly scalable and flexible, enabling it to meet the needs of different sales teams.

Salesforce Essentials: Strong offering for small firms with less than 10 seats. Basic contact management features, along with task and event tracking, Outlook & Gmail integration, mobile app access, reporting, and Chatter (Salesforce CRM's internal chat tool).

Features are limited only by your budget.


Several of the most advanced functionalities are available only via add-on purchases. Specifically, companies that want off-the-shelf functionality for lead qualification must purchase Salesforce’s sales acceleration product, High VelocitySales. Companies that require pipeline inspection functionality or predictive forecasting must purchase Sales Cloud Einstein

Pricing is always an issue with Salesforce Sales Cloud. Add-ons, as detailed above, extend across the product suite. And lastly, contract flexibility and the overall contracting experience and price elicit complaints. 

Reference customers and Gartner Peer Insights reviewers expressed concerns about the learning curve associated with the complexity of Salesforce Sales Cloud. They state that they will not consider Salesforce because of the complexity of its software, relative to the complexity of their sales process requirements. Source: Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation.

Campaign management requires licensing to Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Pardot, which will cost a minimum of $1500 p/month billed annually.

Salesforce implementation costs can range from R100,000 to a few million thousand Rands. It can be skipped for Salesforce Essentials. 

microsoft dynamics crm
Microsoft Dynamics 365


Microsoft remains a leader in the segment, but its position is due in large part to Microsoft's unified data model for all Dynamics products and Microsoft-related systems such as Office, Outlook, etc.

Dynamics 365's position for 'Ability to Execute' has slipped slightly on the basis of Gartner reference customer scores for its reporting, mobile and forecasting capabilities.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales is relevant to midsize, large and very large enterprise clients. It's applicable to B2B and B2C use cases, and both short and long-cycle sales processes.

Gartner reports that Microsoft has made notable enhancements and innovations in the past year. By improving its forecasting and pipeline inspection functions with embedded predictive capabilities, the platform is stronger. The new forecasting capabilities address a previously notable gap in the product.


Free trial: 30 days
Price range:

  • Starting at $65 user/month (This depends...)
  • $95 user/month for Sales Enterprise
  • $135 user/month for Sales Premium
  • Up to $210 user/month for Microsoft Relationship Sales

Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No
Free live support in all plans: No

Here is the link to their pricing page. I work outside of the Microsoft ecosystem and could not make heads or tails of their pricing model. Good luck. 


Like Salesforce, this enterprise-grade platform offers features limited only to your budget.

Microsoft’s value proposition rests on a unified data model for all Dynamics products and Microsoft-related systems such as Office and LinkedIn. Notable for vendors in this market, Microsoft’s product vision focuses on helping clients build data-driven, optimised sales processes with tools that span Dynamics, Office, LinkedIn and Power BI.

Customers praise the advantages of Microsoft’s platform for integration and rapid deployment. Gartner recognizes the quality of the platform for building custom sales processes and comprehensive customer data profiles with Power Apps, Power Automate, Power BI and Power Virtual Agents.

Microsoft sells to IT and business decision-makers through a “One Microsoft” strategy for digital transformation.


The often stated issue is that Microsoft’s reporting and dashboard features are hard to use, require a lot of building and are too simplistic. Generally, Power BI is required at an additional cost.

In the Gartner report on Sales Force Automation in July 2020, their reference customers gave Microsoft’s application comparatively low scores for account and contact management, opportunity management, mobile functionality, CPQ and lead management.

No tiered discounts are applicable. So midsize and large enterprise clients using Microsoft Relationship Sales are in for a steep per-user per month price. This increases the cost of ownership considerably for midsize and large multiuser deployments.

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. 

zoho crm
Zoho CRM


Zoho's suite of CRM System applications spans sales, marketing, service, commerce and customer experience.

Its sales product, which is a component of the Zoho CRM System product suite, features a full set of sales force capabilities, including lead management and guided selling. It is suitable for most sales organisations looking for a flexible sales platform that will enable them to customise it as their sales processes as they mature.

In the past year, Zoho has enhanced Zoho CRM with a new marketing automation hub, a microservices layer for building custom applications, and integration with virtual meeting applications. The roadmap includes functions platform improvements with augmented reality and prediction modelling.

Zoho CRM is moving very fast. 


Free trial: 15 days
Price range:

  • Starting at $7 user/month for Zoho Bigin
  • $12 user/month for Zoho Standard
  • $20 user/month for Zoho Professional
  • $35 user/month for Zoho Enterprise
  • Up to $45 user/month for Zoho Ultimate. All billed annually.
Unlimited contacts and data storage in all plans: No
Free live support in all plans: No. Paid plans only.


Zoho CRM is relevant to sales organisations with complex B2C sales cycles.

Zoho does not impose long-term contracts on customers. Additionally, it offers refunds to customers dissatisfied with its service.

Gartner Peer Insights reviewers have praised the product’s ease of use, referring to functions like record searchability and an attractive UI. 


Compared with its peers, Zoho has comparatively few global, very large customers for its sales offering. It has comparatively few relationships with global (and South African) system implementers.

Zoho has released comparatively few sales-specific enhancements in the past year, and comparatively few enhancements requested by customers. Instead, Zoho has emphasised platform improvements and capabilities that apply to the entire CRM suite.

Gartner's reference customers for Zoho CRM identified several functional gaps, such as the functionality of the mobile app, the record filtering and limited report/dashboard functionality.

Limited free support; expect to wait. 8-hour turnaround on support queries.

Premium support costs 20% of licence fees and is only available for accounts with 10 or more users.

Expect some custom development to make the CRM system work for you. Budget accordingly. 

insightly crm



Insightly CRM is aimed at small B2B companies. And specifically those in the professional services and manufacturing sectors.

It includes capabilities for sales, lead management, project management and custom process design. The project management module directly integrates with opportunity records — a function relevant for businesses that convert closed deals into implementation projects. Insightly offers freemium and enterprise sales products.

Insightly CRM integrates with a number of popular business applications, such as Gmail, Outlook, Office 365, and

The software is available in both free and paid versions, with the paid version offering additional features such as unlimited storage, advanced customization, and priority support.


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.
  • Professional Plan costs $49/month.
  • Enterprise Plan costs $99/month. (It’s not really for enterprise applications)
  • Month by month prices are higher.
Free live support in all plans: No


Simple, but effective lead and pipeline management, email tracking, templates and bulk email.

Workflow automation, project & task management, multiple integrations with G Suite, Office 365, MailChimp, Quickbooks, and Xero.

Insightly has native lead management, opportunity management and platform capabilities. It is well-aligned with the needs of small and midsize selling organisations.

Insightly has improved its product in the past year, with functions that now compare well with those of other sales force automation vendors. For example, the product now features a lead engagement scoring function. Converted leads are automatically added to active customer journey process flows.

Gartner Peer Insights reviewers have praised Insightly for its usability and the quality of its user interface (UI). They highlighted functions such as its activity feeds and its attractive, intuitive UI.


Insightly receives comparatively low scores for customer support. Issues with getting help outside the Pacific U.S. hours kept by Insightly's main office.

Compared with the bigger players on this list, like Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Insightly lacks the sales resources and system integrators to support complex implementations.

Insightly’s product lacks the advanced forecasting, platform and guided selling capabilities that are common to the players mentioned above. Basic forecasting needs can be met only using custom objects and reports.

Poor onboarding and setup documentation.

The mobile app experience is a source of complaint.


pipedrive crm


Pipedrive is easy to set up and use. It’s a deal-focused CRM System that helps sales teams visualise their sales pipelines and prioritise their next proactive activities.

 It was founded in 2010, and its headquarters are in New York City. The company has a freemium model, which allows users to use the basic features of the software for free, with paid plans that offer more advanced features.

Pipedrive has a simple interface that is easy to use and designed to help salespeople keep track of their deals and progress through the sales pipeline. It also offers features such as email integration, task automation, and reporting. Overall, Pipedrive is a helpful tool for salespeople who want to better manage their sales pipeline.

Orientated around an activity-based selling methodology, Pipedrive monitors, tracks and organises deal activities throughout the sales process to improve efficiency and proactive communications.

Pipedrive is great for small to mid-sized sales teams in the B2B market.


Free trial: Yes
Price range:
  • Starting at $15 user/month for Essential
  • $29 user/month for Advanced
  • $59 user/month for Professional
  • $119 user/month for Enterprise. Billed annually or monthly.
Free live support in all plans: Yes. Chat across all plans. Phone support for Enterprise.


Lightweight and intuitive, Pipedrive automatically organises your contacts, deals, emails and calls for easy access and ultimately helps sales to be proactive in their efforts.

Pipedrives’ visual representation of the entire deal process improves efficiency. It provides quick and easy access to relevant information without having to search through layers of data.

With multiple and fully customisable pipelines, Pipedrive adapts to your specific needs, helping your teams work the way they want most effectively. Along with the mobile app; contacts and activities can be readily accessed from anywhere on the go.

Reporting with Pipedrive is great for both sales and sales managers. Where sales have access to custom sales reporting tools, visual reports and built-in forecasting for total deal overviews. Sales managers also have access to individual and team rep's targets and activity tracking.


Comparatively, Pipedrive offers limited functionality for the price and focuses on smaller sales teams of 1-5 reps. 

With no separation between lists of new leads and contacts and requiring external CRM Systems or mail service for nurturing and newsletters, marketing and sales teams have no clear and connected comms.

Although pipelines are customisable, they are simplistic and might not work well with complex sales processes. Sales teams are busy, and Pipedrive requires a lot of manual entry to work properly; this and the minimal automation capabilities result in a lot of admin.

Scaling businesses may find they outgrow Pipedrive fairly quickly.


How others have rated various CRM:

G2 Crowd: Highest Rated CRMs (CRM Software products based on user satisfaction)
Top 5: HubSpot CRM, Salesforce CRM, Freshworks CRM, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive. 

TrustRadius Top Rated CRM 2021 (CRM software based on user rating, Software Advice’s rating and price)
Top 5: Pipedrive, Freshworks CRM, Salesforce CRM, HubSpot CRM, Insightly.

PCMag: The Best CRM Software for 2021 (CRM software with the highest combined score in affordability, user-friendliness, and popularity.)
Top 5: Zoho CRM, HubSpot CRM, Freshworks CRM, Salesforce CRM, Insightly.

Two CRMs made all 3 lists

HubSpot CRM: 3/3
Salesforce CRM: 3/3
Zoho CRM 2/3
Pipedrive: 2/3
Insightly: 2/3

For 2021 Freshworks CRM made it onto the updated list. When I penned this blog in 2019, it was not a significant contender at all. 

4. What are the key benefits of CRM?

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

1. Increased sales metrics and productivity

Using a reputable CRM system improves 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... I am constantly surprised by how many companies we talk to (big and small) use Excel to manage their sales pipeline and reporting.

2. Improved contact management

Every call, email, meeting, and touchpoint with your contacts can be tracked - automatically. No longer do CRMs require this to be done manually. Customer Relationship Managment with connected CRMs is super efficient and easily connects to your Gmail and Outlook inboxes and calendars. 

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 CRMs 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 emails, and ‘catch-up’ meetings. Build reports on customers that are falling through the cracks. High-revenue customers, that account managers are not giving proper attention to. Identify low revenue high, effort clients.

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 Customer Relationship Management Systems deliver. The number of businesses 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 CRM contacts is key to closing more sales. Whether the opportunities are new customers your salespeople are working, or existing customers that 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]

modern sales strategy

3. Email and calendar integration

Gmail, Outlook and Office 365 will integrate into any good modern CRM software. This is key because all email communication and calendar meetings are automatically logged in the Customer Relationship Management software. This automated logging removes the need to manually log these customer touchpoints. Manually logging touchpoints is the bane of many a salesperson using the CRMs of old.

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


[Image source: HubSpot]

Email integration gives users access to Customer Relationship Management 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 overlook it. 

Salesforce Outlook integration

[Image source: Salesforce]

4. Quoting

Quotes inside of the CRM are important because they help sales teams track and move deals through the CRM pipeline. Some CRMs have very complex quote functions, while others may be simpler but still functional for most businesses.

Depending on the CRM, creating a quote 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 important to understand the scope of your quoting requirements before selecting a CRM. You might also decide you want to keep quoting outside of our Customer Relationship Management software. 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 for it. Salesforce CRM and Microsoft Dynamics can do this particularly well.

But Salesforce, for example, requires a very expensive module called CPQ Salesforce (Configure, Price, Quote). It's expensive and a monster to configure. However, if set up right, it is a very powerful tool.

CPQ, in its simplest form, gives the ability to create a basic quote. In its more complex form, the CPQ system can reference different pricing tables, discounts, and other complicated calculations to spit out a quote.

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. The image below is sourced from this article on how to create a quote in MS Dynamics.

Microsoft CRM Quotes

HubSpot quotes offer an easy-to-use quoting function that is very functional. It can't handle the volume of products and line items that a Salesforce CPQ can. If you have no more than 1500 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. Marketing campaign management

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

This move to digital means your customer data needs to be actioned and driven with a Customer Relationship Management strategy inside a digital system - the CRM. 

The powerhouse in this space is HubSpot Marketing Hub, but significant competition is developing with Salesforce Marketing Cloud. That being said, Salesforce Marketing Cloud is specifically targeted at B2C. HubSpot is stronger in the B2B space.

Salesforce's B2B system is Pardot which has suffered in recent years from a lack of new feature rollouts. It's looking and performing like an old dog. 

Microsoft Dynamics is commonly paired with Click Dimensions a third-party software to accomplish this. However, their native marketing suite - Dynamics 365 Marketing is gaining some momentum.

Salesforce and HubSpot take the lead on both effectiveness and usability in Customer Relationship Management, marketing automation, customer data actionability, and campaign management.

There are some lesser players in the space, but they 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 Customer Relationship Management and marketing automation space. 

Our choice in this space is HubSpot. The only other vendor that has the level of marketing integrations and automation detailed in the HubSpot image below is Salesforce, with Marketing Cloud.

Workflows based on interactions with email

[Image source: HubSpot]

6. Email marketing

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

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

7. Customer segmentation & targeting 

By segmenting your customer data 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 to their outreach. Full property customisation is a must. All the Customer Relationship Management systems on this list tick the box here. 

8. Customer service and ticketing

Holistic Customer Relationship Management requires knowing who the customers are, managing support requests, and maintaining regular contact. Customer satisfaction can be tracked at multiple customer interactions and 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 turnaround times can be tracked, customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, customer experience can be better managed. Reporting on this customer data will bring recurring issues to light, enabling efficient rectification and proactive, preventative measures for better customer retention.

A popular stand-alone support solution in the customer support space is Zendesk Support. It can be integrated into most CRM solutions via ready-built integrations. Expect to pay a monthly fee for it. However, at the time of writing, all the CRM solutions on this list, bar Pipedrive have a built-in ticketing and help desk solution for customer satisfaction tracking. 

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

HubSpot has HubSpot Service Hub.

Below is a screengrab of the HubSpot ticketing 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. 

These systems all have automation included. The outcomes are the same, but the interfaces are a bit different. See below. HubSpot, as with most of their interfaces, is more visual.

Zendesk ticket automationSource: Zendesk

hubspot ticket automationSource: HubSpot


Measuring customer satisfaction with the built-in survey tools in HubSpot CRM.

hubspot-customer-satisfactionSource: HubSpot



9. Reporting and Dashboards

It's is critical that all your customer data can be collated into dashboards that can be customised for particular functions e.g. 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 dashboards 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.


Better CRM systems will allow cross-object and platform reporting. With the report below from HubSpot, you can report on sales activities and how they relate to marketing activities like Ad spend and blog performance. 

To my knowledge, only Salesforce and HubSpot are allowing this natively at the moment.

hubspot custom reporting

10. Mobile CRM

Most good CRM software has 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 team's performance, and a business owner a birds-eye view of sales, service, and general business performance.


[Image Source: HubSpot & Salesforce]

We used to worry about this a lot Pre-Pandemic, but the requests for a mobile app have decreased Post-Pandemic.

Selling is now happening more and more on the laptop. It's nice that the app is there, but it's not being used to the same extent as Pre-Pandemic.

In our experience, our clients are 99% accessing CRMs via their web browsers. App experiences are always limited to create quick and easy access. We think this limited functionality and remote selling have fundamentally changed the game here.


6. Enterprise vs. SMB CRM Systems

Enterprise CRM Systems

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 Systems

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 small and medium business CRM systems include HubSpot CRM, Zoho CRM, Pipedrive and Insightly. Generally, these are suited to businesses with up to 1000 employees.


7. Cloud-based CRM Systems (SaaS)

CRM software is now the largest software market in the world. It's expected that the industry will reach $80 billion in revenue by 2025.

One of the key factors behind the growth of CRM is accessibility. Companies want access to customer data in real time, with mobile and cloud solutions leading the way.

Cloud-based CRMs also tend to be more affordable, since there is no need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware. In addition, cloud-based CRMs are easier to scale up or down as business needs change.

Importantly, a cloud-based CRM system can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This means that salespeople can access their customer data from their laptop, smartphone, or tablet while they are on the go.

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

It's now 2022 at that number is close to 90%.

In the last 10 years, cloud-based CRMs have changed the game. Gone are the days when 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 users in multiple geographies is far easier and more affordable than it used to be.

Whatever CRM you are evaluating - it must be a SaaS, cloud-based solution. 


8. The rapidly growing CRM System marketplace

The CRM System marketplace is growing rapidly for several reasons.

First, businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of customer relationship managment.

In addition, the rise of digital technologies has made it easier for businesses to track customer interactions and data, making CRM an essential tool for customer relation managment.

Finally, the growing popularity of cloud-based solutions has made it easier for small businesses to adopt CRM systems, as they are typically more affordable and easier to implement than on-premise solutions.

As a result of these factors, the CRM market is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years.

The growth of CRM Software and User Adoption

According to Technology Advice, current adoption rates of CRM software hover around 60% for all business sizes, with another 20% 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 CRM software. This is great news for the consumer because the current set of CRM software vendors is extensive and competitive. For companies adopting CRM Software now, this wide array of options and price points provide excellent scope to find the best fit. 

The move to cloud-based systems or software as a service (SaaS) has fast-tracked the deployment of product improvements. 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)

Day-to-day Management

Firms that have adopted Zoho continually find no specialists in South Africa, and the email and telephonic support based in India is rather lacklustre. 

Pipedrive and Insightly fall into the self-managed and self-deploy spaces. So there aren't providers that focus on the solutions. 

HubSpot, Salesforce, and Microsoft Dynamics 365 each have dedicated partner networks highly trained by the vendors. 

The move to cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM has decreased the administration required to deploy and maintain a CRM system. 

That being said, all CRMs need a level of maintenance. A CRM left unattended quickly moves away from the promise of efficient Customer Relationship Management. The automated nature of today's CRMs means that customer data builds up and can obfuscate the meaningful data that enable accurate, timely business decisions. 

Large enterprise-level systems need the support of an IT department, a dedicated CRM manager, or at the very least, a person in charge of the functional areas of Customer Relationship Management. E.g. Sales, Service, Marketing and Operations.

Depending on the level of integration into other company systems, the level of maintenance required will vary. Deep integrations will require IT involvement. 

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


In terms of implementation (sometimes called onboarding), enterprise systems require an outside implementer.  Leveraging the knowledge of a team who has done it before, makes work go quicker, and prevents backtracking.

Whether the implementer is the vendor themselves or a vendor partner, these teams know how to implement correctly.

They have the experience and process knowledge of Customer Relationship Management strategies at many companies. They can enable CRM success from day one, and add value to you customer data.  They can train the IT, sales and marketing departments to manage the CRM and the users to use the CRM.

A small business can do it alone.

As can a medium-sized business, but, it's highly recommended to engage with the CRM vendor or a vendor partner for implementation/onboarding. 

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

User Adoption

Training the users, the IT team, and managers correctly can make or break a project. We find the hardest people to onboard and get adoption from are the sales team. The sales team often have sales processes that work for them and are protective over their customer data and personal networks. They don't want to add to your company's CRM. 

They must be tracking their activities in the CRM system. They are the source of revenue for the company, and its Customer Relationship Management strategy starts with them. Customer data generally has its genesis in the sales team.  

Convincing the sales team to use a new and improved system can be challenging, and even the most open-minded sales team members resist change. The key here is to demonstrate how adding their customer data to the CRM System can enhance, automate and speed up the sales cycle. 

The CRM vendors aren't the best at user adoption. They tend to believe everyone should be using their software, and they've been trained to think it's the easiest software to use. This can cause problems for you. 

My suggestion is to rely on a vendor partner or a specialist in user adoption. They have tried and tested training and methodologies to drive CRM usage. 

We've found that on-the-job training is needed to link training and workplace practicality. Just because your employees learn to do something in training doesn't mean they'll retain it once they are faced with the job. This on-the-job training can be led by managers or entirely outsourced. 

10. CRM Migration

CRM migration is a complex process. There are two core methodologies to migrate your customer data from a legacy system to a new CRM where your organisation can action a holistic Customer Relationship Management process.

1. Excel

2. API

More coming shortly. 

You can read our page on CRM integration here.

Let us help you

We've helped countless businesses implement CRM systems and marketing systems to drive business growth with a holistic Customer Relationship Management process. We continue to work with many SMB and enterprise clients to improve their Customer Relationship Management in business development, marketing, lead generation and customer support. 

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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