[This post is part of the series “Sales For Your Startup”. This time we talk about free CRM tools]
Sales is all about lead generation and the ability to manage these leads through the sales funnel, i.e. your pipeline. To properly manage leads and make sure these convert into a closed deal, tracking activities is crucial.
Regardless of how complicated sales is and how most people think about it, organization is key to successful sales people. If you are running a startup, you will be doing sales, my friend, so better get organized and start closing some deals.
When you start doing sales, there is nothing more important than keeping track of your pipeline. If you do sales and you don’t track your deals and how they develop over time, you better be lucky or you will fail.
Successful sales people have developed over years not only a huge network of contacts, but most importantly a methodology. I have never sold industrial machines, for example, but I am quite sure that I could apply the same methodology learnt and used in my industry to be successful.
I won’t get tired of saying that organization is key to success. No matter what you do. In sales, it matters even more, because its’ a number game. If you ever see the sales pipeline of a common sales-person, you will find that he/she is working constantly on at least 300-400 leads, and the whole pipeline can be more than 1000 leads.
CRM sales tools are the best investment you can make in terms of resources and results.
If you want to spend some (or a lot of) money, there are numerous CRM tools that you can use and benefit from. In startup land, however, we need to find quick fix to problems (possibly without spending money).
Here below a list of free CRM alternatives in the market for sales activities (Yes! All these have a free version for your pleasure!)
Note: We consciously left out of this list all those CRM tools that have a free trial, as we don’t consider these to be free for real. The suggestions you will find here have all a free version!
Yes, Google can be your friend. Does your company use Gmail? Then you might not need to look that far away. Google gives you the ability to use Google Contacts as a CRM tool. It does look similar to an address book; however some of the features are very powerful and can be used as a basic CRM tool.
What do we need to make the most out of Google Contacts? Well, a little bit of patience (like any other CRM). When we enter a new contact, with Google Contacts we can also add company names, nicknames and any other custom fields needed. You can also add notes to the account and connect that to their Google+ profile, of course.
This is not the end of the story. Google Contacts can also be used as a collaborative tool. You can organize contacts in multiple lists, and then share these with any of your team member.
Positive: Easy to use as it’s part of Gmail and it requires very little “maintenance”, considering most of the matching is done automatically by Google.
Negative: If you are not using Gmail, you can’t use it.
It does look familiar because it has a design that is very similar to a Gdrive spreadsheet; but it’s a little bit smarter than a simple spreadsheet. At the moment, you can join their private beta and start taking advantage of the familiar design.
You can add columns to help you track different fields for each contact, from company names to addresses, passing by notes, revenues and number of employees.
Positive: Easy to use and familiar interface, integration with ToutApp
Negative: Limited functionalities
CapsuleCRM could be a good solution if you are just starting up, because it has for free only 2 accounts, with 10MG and 250 contacts, unlimited opportunities and notes.
Positive: Integration with 33 services (Mailchimp & Freshbooks)
Negative: Limited storage
Really Simple System
Really Simple System wants to make CRM… simple! The tool is designed especially for small to medium size businesses. The cloud CRM software needs no tech stuff and it seems to be very easy to set up and use.
There are different interesting features that users can benefit from, such as integration with email marketing module, allowing users to send email marketing campaign without leaving the platform. On top of the integrations, its blog gives a ton of useful insights to small biz owners.
In the free version, you can have 2 accounts for free (forever) and 100 accounts. To this they add unlimited contacts, opportunities, activities and notes.
Positive: Easy to use and set-up
Negative: Limited functionalities that could not suffice if your startup grows
Insightly is another CRM tool targeted to small businesses. Their offer is quite interesting and definitely better than many other freemium CRM tools on the market.
It is free for up to 2 users, and it has 2500 records (defined as anything you save), 200 Megabyte of storage, and the ability to add 10 custom fields. To these, lately they have added 5 email template and the possibility to send mass emails (up to 10/day).
Positive: More storage than other CRM tools
Negative: Only email support
FreeCRM seems to offer a very interesting plan for free users.
If you sign up for their software, you will have 100 “licenses” for free, 100.000 contacts, 30 minutes voice CRM. However, this little dream is free for only 1 year, after that you need to choose one of the two premium plans.
Positive: Interesting plan for 1 year and it’s web-based
Negative: Free option is only available for 1 year.
Zoho is a pure cloud-based tool, which means no installation required. It is quite interesting as it has useful features. However, the free version is limited, obviously, and it offers 10 licenses for free, basic leads, contact, notes and opportunities as well as email templates. It offers 1Gb of storage (quite interesting compared to others CRM tools). It seems to be one of the most complete CRM tools with a free version.
Positive: Cloud-based no installation, big storage and 10 licenses
Negative: No mass email feature
Raynet states to be an easy-to-use-does-it-all CRM tool. The free version offers 2 user licenses, 150 accounts, 50MB storage, and full customer support.
The design is more user friendly and it kind of remind me of SalesForce design (perhaps that’s why I find it friendly). Raynet offers also customizable accounts and contact lists as well as giving its users the ability to export everything at any time.
Positive: Friendly interface
Negatives: Limited functionalities in the free version
SalesBox is one of the few CRM tools that is only mobile, designed for those companies where sales people are always on their way. At the moment it’s only on iOS, but hopefully soon it will be available on Android (and perhaps also desktop).
It’s free for 2 users and in terms of functionalities the free version is fully featured.
Positive: Fully featured free version
Negative: Only iOS
Odoo is much more than a simple CRM tool. It can help you and your company track pretty much all activities needed.
For the CRM side, it’s an open source tool and it helps you set up contacts (with social info as well) and convert them into leads when the sales process starts. The interesting approach in Odoo is the use of the Kanban board to keep track of the sales process. It also helps you keeping track of team performance through graphs.
Having additional functionalities outside of the CRM tool alone, if you decide to keep track of other activities with Odoo, you can actually see how prospects come in touch with your company from different points and how quickly you close them.
Positive: Fully customizable (code is available as being an open source tool)
Negative: It can result complicated due to its wider coverage
No, I am not kidding. Sometimes the best tool for you is the easiest one to create and use. BYOCRM (Build Your Own CRM) is simply getting all your work on a spreadsheet, create some rules and keep track of everything. You can either use GDrive (recommended as it can be shared with more team members) or even Excel.
I have used GDrive several times, when I had my own startup to track potential leads, or even when working in proper companies to start sorting out certain contacts that I still didn’t want to put in the CRM.
Positive: Super easy to easy and accessible by multiple people
Negative: Can be complicated to use once the pipeline grow
Do you find this list to be complete? Do you have any other suggestions?