Your Guide to Software Selection

The Big CRM Feature Comparison Chart and Matrix

Knowing which features are most important in CRM software (customer relationship management) can seem like an uphill battle. So many vendors, so many features, so many choices. How can you know what to prioritize?

We get it. It’s a challenging process, and understanding what CRM features will best meet your needs and fit all of your company’s requirements is no small task. If you’re feeling lost, we wrote this article — complete with a handy CRM comparison chart — for you.

You don’t have room in the budget to choose a system outfitted with the wrong or less-than-ideal tools. Even if you do, it might be difficult to get people on board to switch only a few months after you roll it out. So, yes, comparing CRM software features to find what meets all of your specific requirements can be overwhelming.

Compare Top CRM Software Leaders

Today’s most popular CRM vendors provide a wide variety of features. Many of these are pretty standard, as they’re found in most CRM solutions. However, other features are newer or more specialized and you may find that only a handful of CRM vendors offer them.

Further complicating things is the fact that some vendors handle certain features better than others. Not to mention, the market’s growing like a teenage boy. Market Research Future projects the global CRM market to reach $35 billion by 2023, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2017 and 2023.

To help you in your search, we put together a list of CRM capabilities that you can refer back to anytime you need.

CRM Comparison Chart

The CRM feature comparison chart below outlines what our analysts consider a comprehensive guide to CRM features. While it’s not fully exhaustive, it’ll give you a solid idea of what a typical CRM can do.

CRM Comparison ChartNow that you’ve seen our top choices, it’s time to get a little more in-depth. Let’s go over the CRM features highlighted in this chart and explore the ins and outs of each.

CRM Software Features Comparison

Contact Management

Contact management tools make it possible to effortlessly reach out to current customers and manage their relationship with your company. Let’s look at some of the main components.

Online Case Management

Track, close and reopen existing cases with this useful feature. Online case management also allows you to manage any confidential information in a secure environment. Manage each customer case individually and efficiently to improve customer satisfaction levels.

You can ensure that your customers’ and leads’ sensitive information is kept away from prying eyes. This is an essential feature because it helps you avoid cybersecurity issues. The last thing any business needs is to get in trouble due to data breaches.

Activity Management

Which customers have placed an order? How many customers renewed contracts during the last quarter? With tools that help you track each contact’s activity, you don’t have to be in the dark.

CRM solutions give you comprehensive, real-time views into what actions your contacts are taking. You can also look back on historical data to track a customer’s journey. This helps you make better decisions and adjust strategies to optimize your customer relationship.

Standouts

Contact management is a fundamental part of CRM, along with features like lead management, campaign management and sales automation. It comes as no surprise that the majority of top vendors have robust features to help in this area:

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Client Interaction Tracking

Keep tabs on every interaction a client has with your business, across all departments and levels. In particular, this feature is helpful for uniting sales, marketing and customer service — the three main departments people are most likely to interact with.

Several tools are available for tracking the customer experience journey. And many solutions provide the ability to gain a holistic, comprehensive view of each customer.

Segmenting customers into lists and managing payments are a couple key abilities.

Customer Segmentation

Enhance your insights and streamline your filtering by dividing your customer base into groups. The criteria can be based on current pipeline stage, purchase history, location, responses, interests, lead score — pretty much any predefined rules you would find useful.

With your list segmented, it’s easy to filter based on certain criteria. Doing so strengthens your marketing efforts by enabling you to send targeted content to the right contacts.

Payment Management

Easily track data related to payments using payment management tools. The software compiles data from a range of sources: billing, invoicing, order status and purchase history. This facilitates more efficient sales management and greater cost-effectiveness.

Some solutions integrate with apps such as PayPal or Stripe, which can send real-time alerts and reports on a particular customer’s payment status.

Standouts

Though client interaction tracking doesn’t gain as much attention as say contact management, many products include such features. However, a few stand out above the rest:

Database Management

Get smart, effective data management thanks to elements like comprehensive records, links between individual databases and master data.

The CRM database acts as the central library where all the information about your prospects, leads and customers gets housed. And like a library, the software includes sorting, filing and categorizing rules so you can easily track and access whatever data you need to.

Database management tools eliminate duplicate entry. The system handles data entry for you, as well as offering the ability to scan and clean your records. You can also automatically sync the data any time a new contact enters the system or when you update an existing record. You’ll have a real-time view, and you can be confident in your data accuracy.

Standouts

You can have confidence that the following vendors offer strong database management:

Marketing and Campaign Management

This integral feature allows you to plan, execute and analyze campaigns from beginning to end. From a single window, you can create and manage a full-fledged campaign to interact with your customers across a variety of platforms. This includes events, email, social media, mobile and even direct mail.

Some especially useful elements are customer targeting, campaign delivery and analysis, and batch email marketing. Let’s see what each of these do.

Customer Targeting

Customer targeting allows you to establish marketing strategies that target specific types of customers. By tracking key characteristics like spending patterns, product likes/dislikes, geographic location and age, this feature automatically builds a file for each group.

The result? It’s that much easier to effectively market to each customer as an individual, rather than sending generic content.

Campaign Delivery

Creating a campaign is your first step in the process of gaining more leads and driving more revenue. For that reason, it’s crucial to ensure that campaigns unfold as planned.

Campaign delivery features allow you to track the progress of your campaigns with ease, monitoring them in real time. Make sure that messages are sent out as scheduled and that they go to the correct recipients.

Without campaign delivery tools, it’s difficult to tell whether your marketing efforts are reaching your intended audience. That makes it hard to decipher whether or not your marketing spend is capable of producing the desired results.

Campaign Analysis

What kind of return are you getting on your marketing investment? You can find out quickly by selecting a CRM software with high marks for its campaign analysis features. The best programs are loaded with features to gauge the revenue and profit generated from your various campaigns, in addition to the cost of running them.

Compare Top CRM Software Leaders

Batch Email Marketing

Although it’s been overshadowed by social media and various mobile technologies, email marketing is still an effective marketing tool. Batch email marketing features let you quickly design emails and newsletters through the use of simple design tools.

Drag-and-drop functionality is a must-have for less tech-savvy marketers. With it, you can create professional and custom email templates that look as unique as ones that are coded, catching your customer’s eye and keeping their attention.

After building your templates, you can send emails in batches to different groups, tracking the progress of all of them. You may also have the option to run A/B tests (using two different subject lines to evaluate which has a higher click-through rate, for example). That helps you optimize the efficacy of your campaigns.

Standouts

Given the vital role of marketing and campaign management, they’re a component of most CRMs you’ll find. However, we’ve picked out the front-runners for functionality and execution.

Lead Management

No company in their right mind would say “no” to attracting viable, high-quality leads. But while lead generation sounds great in theory, it’s harder to put into practice.

That’s where built-in lead management functionality can make a big difference. It lets you zero in on potential customers based on their likes, interests and various demographic data points.

CRM platforms include tools to score and categorize leads, create web forms for lead capture, define rules to automatically assign new leads to sales reps, manage the sales pipeline, and enable personalized communication.

All of this helps you maintain relationships with your leads so your sales team can reduce churn and close more deals.

Standouts

Since lead management and lead generation is so critical to growing and thriving, it’s an in-demand feature that most CRM solutions do well. These include:

Sales Automation

Once you have leads in the funnel, sales force automation features help you nurture them through the process to the close. Look for capabilities like quoting, territory management and sales collaboration. You’ll also want opportunity management and win/loss analysis, which we’ll go over briefly.

Opportunity Management

Identify and leap on promising opportunities with this dynamic feature. Opportunity management focuses on collecting real-time data on potential customer conversions at various points in the sales pipeline, which you’ll be automatically alerted to.

This allows you to focus on the most promising prospects so you can allocate your time more effectively. It includes deal routing and end-to-end tracking, as well as the tracking of products, milestones and competitors. Optimize your sales process by working smarter, not harder, and nurture customer relationships that are more likely to last.

Win/Loss Analysis

Find out how many leads sales converts to customers. As the name implies, win/loss analysis gathers data from multiple points to give you an overview of your conversion success (or lack thereof). The software sorts through reports from sales cycles, sales forecasts, campaigns and profitability to provide you with an accurate picture of overall performance.

You also have the ability to model scenarios using probability information. This helps sales reps discover quality prospects and make data-based decisions on where to focus their efforts.

Standouts

Several vendors do an excellent job when it comes to sales automation, as it plays a critical role alongside other fundamental elements such as lead management and reporting:

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Workflow Automation and Employee Management

The best solutions will support robust automation. After all, one of the biggest perks of a CRM is letting the system handle time-consuming tasks, and in a way that already fits with your organization’s processes.

Effective employee management is another element of a strong CRM. This feature supports schedules, performance tracking and other aspects of your workforce.

Group Calendar

The ability to share a calendar is valuable for sales reps. The single view lets them see information related to appointments and leaves, as well as helps them avoid scheduling conflicts like double booking.

Many solutions also enable calendar integrations with apps such as Gmail and Outlook. This streamlines the entire process of connecting with leads, leaving sales reps more time to focus on offering personalized interactions and closing deals.

Workflow Management

Features like workflow alerts, configurable workflows, automatic notifications that trigger based on preset rules and other elements make for a seamless process. That, in turn, leads to a more productive, effective sales team.

Task Scheduling and Tracking

Schedule tasks for recurring activities, connect tasks to specific contacts and set up notifications for tasks that require action. Giving sales reps a clear picture of what tasks need their attention, and in what order, keeps them focused in the right areas. Automating task actions also saves time.

Standouts

While workflow automation and employee management are pretty standard, some vendors offer a more comprehensive toolkit. Our favorites are:

Reporting and BI

Reports

Early on, most CRM applications simply offered an array of predesigned reports. If you needed one that wasn’t there, you were out of luck. The good news is, that’s changed in recent years.

Most programs these days allow you to quickly create custom reports, so you can get information that matters to your business.

Business Intelligence

Keep track of how well your company manages customer service with this must-have feature. Business intelligence (BI) is an analysis feature that helps users gain insight into their customers and users.

A good BI system accurately measures and monitors data trends, like customer satisfaction, to help users improve their sales processes. It also offers a variety of helpful customer service factors. Dashboards provide a visual, interactive way to view the data. This enables 360-degree visibility into every KPI you want to track.

BI tools help you improve customer retention because you can jump in and take corrective action when needed. They also enhance the acquisition of new customers while increasing the rate of customer referrals and overall sales.

Standouts

Every company needs reporting and analytics. To that end, most if not all CRM vendors are up to speed regarding custom reports and business intelligence insights. Here are our top picks:

Compare Top CRM Software Leaders

Knowledge Management

While this may not strike you as a fundamental part of customer relationship management, we still included it because execution is only as good as the people doing the tasks. And those people are only as skilled as the training they receive.

Knowledge management plays a vital role in that training by supporting document creation, search capabilities and knowledge creation workflows. This gives employees access to a knowledge base, where they can search for documents that contain important information. These include best practice manuals, presentations, employee guidelines and standard policies.

Some applications also enable the creation and storage of documents that sales and marketing team members will use many times — things like email templates, welcome and thank you letters, and proposals.

Standouts

Although knowledge management receives less attention than basic capabilities like lead management or campaign management, it’s still a strong point for many vendors. Here’s the breakdown:

Mobile CRM

No, we’re not talking about the ability to plan campaigns for mobile. We’re talking about the ability to use a CRM on your phone, tablet or other mobile device. This is a must-have feature if you need access to your CRM data without being tied to your desk. Or if you have sales reps that travel a lot.

After all, they need to be fully equipped when they’re on the road talking to current and potential customers. For a cloud-based solution, the best mobile CRM apps offer a full lineup of features available in the desktop version. In other words, the mobile version isn’t watered-down.

In addition to accessing and syncing data from mobile devices, users can send messages so that your team is always connected to each other and to their contacts or accounts. In some cases, solutions use integrations to accomplish mobile connectivity.

Standouts

Many top solutions support mobile CRM. These products in particular stand out:

CRM Functional Requirements

Knowing standard feature packages is crucial. But it’s also important to keep your functional requirements in mind when looking for a CRM system. Here are the top ones to consider:

  • Email Utilities
  • VoIP Compatibility
  • Audit Trail
  • Customer History
  • Social Media Integration

What’s the Next Step?

Congrats! You’ve reached the bonus round. We’ve looked at the top CRM capabilities you should watch for, along with some functional requirements. But why stop there? In this section, we’ll quickly cover where to go next.

A CRM matrix comparing features is helpful, but it’s like a recipe — now that you have all the ingredients in mind, it’s time to start shopping. Before you begin researching the market, we recommend that you define your requirements.

Get our CRM Software Requirements Template

Using our CRM system requirements template, you can define and rank your most important CRM features and requirements. Start with the CRM comparison guide above, and then ask your organization to see what other requirements you need.

A common method that many companies turn to is the RFP (request for proposal). Check out our CRM RFP template and guide if you’re unfamiliar with this process or want to make sure you get the most bang for your RFP buck. It goes in-depth on the steps you need to follow to successfully select a CRM.

In the initial phase, you’ll compare CRM features and requirements. Defining which are most pertinent to your organization will help you create a list of matching CRM vendors.

Then it’s a matter of managing the process and conducting follow up. Those steps include assessing vendor capabilities, negotiating price and, finally, making a selection. Following the CRM comparison spreadsheet above can help you organize the shortlisting process, ensuring you don’t accidentally skip a step.

Compare Top CRM Software Leaders

Wrapping It Up

You made it! And now you have a better understanding of the most critical considerations when comparing CRM features. From here, finding the right solution for your customer relationship management doesn’t have to be the business version of piñata.

However, navigating the massive CRM market can still be tricky. That’s why we’ve put together some free resources to act as your compass. Our comparison report will take you on a deep dive into the top vendors, and when you’re ready to build your requirements, our template is here to help. We also have a CRM pricing guide so you can weigh solutions against your budget.

What CRM features from our comparison chart are your favorite? Leave a comment to let us know!

Zachary TotahThe Big CRM Feature Comparison Chart and Matrix

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