This essay originally started on Quora. I was so dismayed by the other answers, recommending startups spend many hundreds if not thousands of dollars every month on over-hyped sales CRM. Sales are not made by software but by people. Yes you need good tools but there are some very affordable ones out there. Here's an overview of CRM software Foliovision have tried first hand.
If you are a startup, especially a bootstrapped one, you should care about the amount of money you spend. A lot of the contenders in this space want $50/month/user or more (Salesforce I'm looking in your greedy direction right now).is another one in that category ($59/month). While talking about greed, even Salesforce doesn't hold a candle to the credit card hammerers over at InfusionSoft (do not even think about it).*
- affordable (about $10/user)
- works well with social media accounts (autodiscovery)
- has great opportunity system to keep track of potential deals
- lets you send email in directly (that's how we have shared historical records)
- tracks/streams for pre-defined workflow
- integrates directly with Freshbooks so once someone signs off we can send them the bills faster without double data entry
- fast and easy global search so it's possible to find people with just the tiniest text fragment, part of a phone number, first name whatever
While I wouldn't say I'm in love with CapsuleCRM (I liked its original name much better Javelin CRM and think their orange and silver logo is an uninspiring bore), I've never been disappointed. We've been steady dating for three years now (i.e. I'm paying a reasonably stout monthly bill all this time but always less than two people on Salesforce).
Others I've tried that meet some of these criteria but which are a bit uglier to use include:
- another weird but wonderful sales CRM that some of our clients use is which completely invades your email client, automatically adds all email and all people to itself and on a semi-random basis makes you email them. Alas it's total spyware put together by some suspicious looking suits in Washington DC of all places. As if Google having lots of our data wasn't bad enough. Lately the pricing is out of control with team accounts at $49/user/month. Pay the NSA to keep very close tabs on you and your business.
- affordable who will allow you unlimited users for $46/month. Alas in use, Batchbook was a low rent CapsuleCRM doing most everything but in a kind of clunky way. I was just not in sync with Batchbook's user interface and visual designers: sort of like fingers against the chalkboard. As a designer myself, it's important to me to like the look and feel of my tools. Batchbook may have gotten better with time. The people running Batchbook are unrelentingly nice and genuinely on your side.
- mail centric . Relenta is another sort of CRM which we still actively use and even played a part in improving at one point (one time substantial payments for major feature implementation). What Relenta excels at is sending emails and sorting people into groups.
Unfortunately the development pace slowed years ago and Relenta has never become as polished as we'd like (opportunities and social integration in CapsuleCRM are miles ahead). Still Relenta is so good at mailing people in groups small large and keeping track of who's who as well as offering triggered email sequences, I regularly think of giving up CapsuleCRM and just doing it all in Relenta (remember, we started with unified database) as of the two I could more easily give up CapsuleCRM.
Relenta used to have per user pricing at about $15/$20/user (it includes shared email accounts for everyone so you are getting good value for money) but they've now gone to some strange packages which are quite a bit more expensive. Hopefully it will spur Dmitry and co. into finishing the application properly. Relenta has been getting our money longest of all: more than six years.
I sincerely hope these field notes help someone at a startup in search of CRM nirvana.
* I've seen InfusionSoft bankrupt a struggling client with empty promises and service packages first hand. Unless you are in the business of hard selling hot air to people, InfusionSoft is the last thing you need. At least Salesforce is about shafting medium to large businesses (they can afford it and should know better). InfusionSoft is about taking small businesses for everything they are worth and more.