We recently took a look at CRM platforms and how they can give businesses actionable insights based on their customer data. In this post, we break down five of the best CRM tools out there for growing businesses.

Features to look for

There’s a lot of variety in the CRM industry. What started out as a set of tools to help sales teams manage their deal pipelines has grown into a robust suite of tools that many marketing and customer support teams consider indispensable.

Also be aware that, as with many industries, machine learning and artificial intelligence have begun to transform the CRM industry. The most advanced options (like Zoho and Salesforce) have invested heavily in AI assistants who can use the data gathered by their respective CRM systems to automate certain processes and generate recommendations for users.

Before you spring for a platform, make sure you’ve gone over their features carefully and matched them against your business needs. Also, be sure to take advantage of free trial periods — if your team is small enough or your needs basic enough, you might even be able to get away without paying for anything.

Below, we round up five of our favorite CRM platforms, taking a brief look at their feature sets and price points.

Zoho CRM

Part of Zoho’s big suite of office solutions, Zoho CRM is one of the best budget options around, no matter what kind of team you’ve got. It’s free for up to three users, which can make it especially appealing to smaller sales teams that are just starting out.

At the free level, you’ll get basic sales lead, contact, and account management, but to access any of the cool features — forecasting, marketing automation, etc. — you’ll need to upgrade to one of the paid tiers. Fortunately, the Standard and Professional tiers are only $15 and $20/user per month when billed annually, and both these tiers give you access to some pretty advanced features at a lower price point than many competitors.

At the Enterprise level and above, you’ll get access to Zoho’s Zia AI. Zia helps salespeople identify anomalies and predict which deals are likely to close in the next 30 days so salespeople can target their efforts more efficiently.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

Salesforce’s CRM platform is the big gun in the CRM world. As one of the oldest and most mature platforms, it comes with a slew of advanced features, including AI via Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics, report history tracking, and territory management, though these are only available at the higher tiers.

In addition to its robust feature set, Salesforce brings a level of customizability that other CRM platforms don’t generally offer. This makes it easy to tailor your dashboard to your role, whether you’re a sales rep, manager, or business owner. You can even create and maintain different dashboards for different use cases and data sets. Salesforce’s market standing also means that it can integrate with pretty much any other business system out there, including the rest of Salesforce’s suite of SaaS products.

All this functionality and customizability comes at a price, however. The Lightning Enterprise plan, which goes for $150/user per month gives you the AI forecasting and workflow automation features that are lacking at the lower tiers.

Apptivo CRM

Nearly as customizable as Salesforce, but priced more like Zoho, Apptivo is a good, feature-rich CRM platform for growing businesses. At $8/user per month when billed annually, Apptivo also offers some of the best bang for your buck.

Apptivo takes a modular approach to set up, prompting users to add or integrate apps depending on their role and needs. It integrates with G Suite, Office 365, Slack, and a host of other services. The result is that, with a little upfront effort, you get a platform that feels tailored to your team’s needs.

Apptivo’s lowest paid tier you also get access to several features that are generally only available at the professional and enterprise levels of other platforms, including marketing automation, campaigns, custom reports, and APIs. Higher tiers also give you access to greater storage and email sending limits, as well as win/loss/lead analysis and territory management.

Hubspot CRM

The first thing you’ll notice about Hubspot CRM is that, like Zoho CRM, it’s free at the most basic level. The difference is that Hubspot CRM doesn’t limit the number of users you can add at the free tier. This can make it appealing to teams on a tight budget.

With the free version, you still get unlimited accounts and up to one million contacts, deals, and tasks. You’ll also get a clean, basic dashboard, automatic contact logging, and a limited amount of calling, Snippets (basically boilerplate email or chat responses), and notifications. Paid versions lift some of those caps and also add workflow management, lead scoring, email automation, and more, starting at $50/user per month. Be warned, though, beyond the Starter tier plans can get rather pricey.

Hubspot CRM integrates with the rest of Hubspot’s suite, as you would expect, but it also integrates with Twilio, Gmail, Outlook, and Office 365.


In contrast to some of the other platforms named here, Insightly offers a somewhat more limited feature set geared toward sales contact management. Where it distinguishes itself is with its ease of use, which can make it appealing for teams who are new to CRM.

Insightly is built around pipelines and Activities, which help automate some of the more tedious tasks associated with managing leads and projects. At the Plus tier ($29/user per month, billed annually) you get access to all the workflows and reporting tools available, as well as Oauth Single Sign-On, a feature not generally available at this price level for other platforms.

Looking for more tips on building long-term, profitable relationships with your customers and users? Check out our explainer “Understanding the Customer Lifecycle.”