There are exactly one gazillion online CRM systems nowadays, and a weird lack of summaries online, so I thought I’d publish some of the rough notes I pulled together as part of a recent review. The situation is important, as different CRMs are best suited to different purposes. The company I was working with had a requirement for the system to drive sales activity, and a small team using Google Apps and Android phones. That means the solution I settled on is the one I thought best for this particular focus.
Lovely UI. Sales-focused, and specifically designed around tracking and managing a sales pipeline. This makes the ‘it just works’ and initial barrier substantially lower. I’d estimate maybe one day to set up and train on. Supports multiple pipeline types. No Android app although one appears to be in the works. Full two-way Google Calendar and Contacts integration. Has a custom email address to bcc or forward emails to, but no GMail widget to link everything together, although one appears to be in the works. ~£18/month for up to 5 users.
Verdict: Very suitable. We went with this and it’s been a joy to use so far, and really helps to improve the sales focus. Some of the more advanced features aren’t as useful as they’re presumably intended to be, specifically the activity statistics, which has a habit of double counting activities if you e.g. set and complete a task to send an email and then import the email into your account as well. Proper GMail and Android integration will improve things further, but it’s really rather good already.
Lots of functionality, possibly too much as it can be tricky to understand what goes where at first, and all the tabs get confusing. This means it would have a higher initial barrier, and I’d estimate at least three solid days to set up and train on. Has a nice GMail widget that shows all contacts, tasks etc. related to an email and allows connecting in. The task functionality is something of a disaster zone compared to Asana, and trying to run both simultaneously could get pretty confusing. Free for first three users or £18.50/month for up to 6. Two-way Google Contact and Calendar syncing for paid users. Full functional Android app.
Verdict: I tried this out. It’s cheap and comprehensive, but the interface is a drag, and it doesn’t particularly drive sales.
Simple UI, if still fond of tabbed interface. Obvious usage. Has decent Android app. Good pipeline viewing. Looks like Google Apps integration is reasonable - there’s an Add to Capsule button for emails from new contacts, and added contacts can have emails attached to opportunities, tasks, general contact feed. Task handling is a bit grim. £8 / month / user. Recommended by a friend, and appears to be UK-based.
Verdict: I tried this out. It’s cheap and simpler to use that Insightly. It still doesn’t drive sales though, and the UI is another of those tabbed interfaces. Probably the second choice after Pipedrive as adoption was more likely to succeed than Insightly.
Synchronises well. Google Spreadsheet’s lack of features is a good thing in this context, give or take MI creation. Not good for reporting, MI.
Verdict: Too prone to data errors through entering or pasting data in the wrong place, and not suitable for history or MI. Good for a team of one person.
Some kind of shared note system
Evernote or Google Keep or some such. Idea is that you use a to do list or spreadsheet, with individual notes for each potential customer. That way you can have the basic information and action management, and also keep detailed information in longform. Worked well with a specific project a while back. Relies on people making sure they keep both the spreadsheet and notes synchronised and up to date. Not great for large numbers of organisations, or MI.
Verdict: probably not.
Interesting social integration - automatically imports all friends from everywhere and merges their activity into individual records, then tracks their activity and suggests who to contact each day, shows who’s changed jobs etc. Google integration is terrible, no Android app, not the greatest on CRM generally. Here’s what the FAQ says: ‘Nimble is not intended as a system to monitor and report on sales people. It is a social selling tool that makes lead generation and relationship building easier and more airtight.’ Oy vey.
Verdict: I tried this out. It’s potentially valuable for someone relying on social media to drive sales activity, but isn’t a sales management or tracking tool, so it’s a nope.
Doesn’t work with Firefox. Doesn’t support Android. Shame as it looks like the only one approaching genuine full-on Gmail integration.
Doesn’t have reporting, pipeline or MI functionality. Already in use. Good to do list functionality, obv. Android app is a bit woeful. Difficult to see how to link it in to any kind of reporting for sales management purposes.
Easy to get multiple conflicting file versions. Works offline (but may produce incompatible versions). Not good on mobile. Not good for reporting or MI functionality.
Solve360 / Norada
A late discovery, so less fully explored than the other options. Looks like it does almost everything, but it’s just too damn big to get a proper handle on. It replaces all parts of CRM, project and task management, and internal storage, and has specialist deployment companies. This makes it more suited to the ‘complete CRM’ approach, that we’re not looking to follow. It’s $39/month for three users.
Originally published at
https://danieljohnston.co.uk/2013/12/02/driving-sales-crm on December 2, 2013. This post is included for historical curiosity only as its recommendations are super-outdated.