Top 5 (out of 653) Best CRM Software Ranked in 2021

Published: May 20th, 2021. Last Updated: July 8th, 2021.
by Chris Von Wilpert

Today there are 653 different CRM software tools. We spent 41 hours comparing the top 50 to find the five best you can use to increase your sales in 2021.

Our Top Picks

Header

BEST OF THE BEST

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK

BEST FREE ALTERNATIVE

BOTTOM LINE

Built By Remote Salespeople, For Remote Salespeople

If you want a CRM without all the technical pain in the ass, Close is for you. It’s a breeze to use, allowing you to focus on turning more leads into revenue, instead of the CRM itself.

Everyone In Favor Of A Smarter CRM, Say “AI”

Freshworks CRM, powered by Freddy AI finds your best leads to take your sales through the roof. Super intuitive. Integrates with a lot of third party tools. You get a great mobile app to have all your data handy, on the go.

Totally Free For Your First ONE MILLION Leads

No credit card is required for a HubSpot Free account. It’s one of the best options for growing companies that need a lightweight CRM to improve sales efficiency… without nasty surprises on their credit card!

PROS

Built-in dialer with power tools for efficient calling. Call coaching helps get your reps up to speed. Incredibly easy to set up and use.

Built-in email and phone system. Freddy, the artificial intelligence worker will save you time with his actionable insights. Create and track your outbound campaigns right from your CRM dashboard.

HubSpot offers a full suite of sales and marketing tools. Their free service is better than some paid ones. Their mobile app is surprisingly good.

CONS

Lead limitations are low on the Starter plan. SMS capabilities are limited to just a few countries. It doesn’t integrate with Quickbooks directly.

Behavioral segmentation is only available on the higher plans. You get low contact limits on your plans, and gotta pay for extra. It feels like they try to keep their free plan hidden.

There are hefty onboarding fees on the paid plans ($250-$8,000). The price gaps between plans are HUGE ($450-$700/mo). All of the best features are tiered, and limited to the higher plans.

How We Decided

— We look at every tool in the market.

— We shortlist 50 for in-depth research.

— We recommend our top 5 picks.

653

Tools In The Market

50

Tools Considered

41

Hours Researched

Header

BEST OF THE BEST

BOTTOM LINE

Built By Remote Salespeople, For Remote Salespeople

If you want a CRM without all the technical pain in the ass, Close is for you. It’s a breeze to use, allowing you to focus on turning more leads into revenue, instead of the CRM itself.

PROS

Built-in dialer with power tools for efficient calling. Call coaching helps get your reps up to speed. Incredibly easy to set up and use.

CONS

Lead limitations are low on the Starter plan. SMS capabilities are limited to just a few countries. It doesn’t integrate with Quickbooks directly.

Header

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK

BOTTOM LINE

Everyone In Favor Of A Smarter CRM, Say “AI”

Freshworks CRM, powered by Freddy AI finds your best leads to take your sales through the roof. Super intuitive. Integrates with a lot of third party tools. You get a great mobile app to have all your data handy, on the go.

PROS

Built-in email and phone system. Freddy, the artificial intelligence worker will save you time with his actionable insights. Create and track your outbound campaigns right from your CRM dashboard.

CONS

Behavioral segmentation is only available on the higher plans. You get low contact limits on your plans, and gotta pay for extra. It feels like they try to keep their free plan hidden.

Header

BEST FREE ALTERNATIVE

BOTTOM LINE

Totally Free For Your First ONE MILLION Leads

No credit card is required for a HubSpot Free account. It’s one of the best options for growing companies that need a lightweight CRM to improve sales efficiency… without nasty surprises on their credit card!

PROS

HubSpot offers a full suite of sales and marketing tools. Their free service is better than some paid ones. Their mobile app is surprisingly good.

CONS

There are hefty onboarding fees on the paid plans ($250-$8,000). The price gaps between plans are HUGE ($450-$700/mo). All of the best features are tiered, and limited to the higher plans.

How We Decided

— We look at every tool in the market.

— We shortlist 50 for in-depth research.

— We recommend our top 5 picks.

653

Tools In

The Market

50

Tools

 Considered

41

Hours 

Researched

653

Tools In

The Market

50

Tools 

Considered

41

Hours 

Researched

Bonus: I put together a list of the 10 best (out of 2,671) online business tools to grow your business. Every tool has a link to the software company’s best free trial offer. You can get access to all the free offers I found inside this “best of the best” list of 10 Best Online Business Tools.

Top 5 CRM Software

  1. Close — best of the best
  2. Freshworks — best bang for the buck
  3. HubSpot — best free alternative
  4. HighLevel — best for marketing agencies
  5. ActiveCampaign — best for 100,000+ active contacts

🏆 Close

Our Verdict — Best Of The Best

Close is a time-saving machine. The software is more focused on communication, less on data entry. The incredible array of app integrations make it a breeze to introduce Close into your existing tech stack.

Get it if you want to reach your leads on multiple channels, to keep them engaged throughout their buying journey.

If you plan on collecting thousands of leads every month or have a sales team with over 100 people, check out ActiveCampaign, instead.

I recommend you get started with the Starter plan ($25/mo for 3 users) if you have up to 2,500 leads, or on the Basic plan ($65/mo for up to 30 users) for unlimited leads.

(free 14 day trial, no credit card required)

What We Like

Built-in Dialer

Close comes with a built-in dialer, right out of the box.

Not only does this make it super easy to use and track calls, but also allows Close to have some interesting features added to their phone solution.

One of those features is the Power Dialer. It allows your reps to call through their lead lists automatically and double their outbound call volume. 

Your sales reps will have the ability to make 300+ calls a day, effortlessly.

With the predictive dialer, Close dials from a list of telephone numbers and uses algorithms to screen out busy signals, answering machines, disconnected phones, and no answers, so it can connect sales representatives to leads fast.

They claim to cut the gap between answered calls to a mere 3 seconds… which is kinda mind-blowing. You hang up, within 3 seconds, you’re talking to a new lead.

This means your sales team will spend their time on calls, talking to leads… instead of wasting time on hold.

Call Coaching

Users on the business plan ($145/month per user) can improve their sales performance with the built-in call coaching feature.

The coach can choose to listen on the live call, to “whisper” (talk only to the rep), or to “barge” (talk to everyone on the call, including the lead/customer).

This is a simple and powerful solution for remote sales coaching, without any complex third party apps.

A Breeze To Set Up And Use

If you’re a small to medium business that wants to grow without getting suffocated by a convoluted system, Close is the perfect match for you.

Close automatically tracks every lead on a visual timeline. This allows you to skip the “busy CRM work” and focus on closing deals.

It’s got many features to keep your day productive, such as the Power Dialer, one-click SMS, and super detailed reporting. Some features are only available on the higher plans, though.

What We Don’t Like

Low Leads Limit On The Starter Plan

The Starter plan ($25/month per user) limits you to 2,500 contacts only, which could be low for some businesses.

If you get any other plan, though (starting at $64/month per user), you’ll get unlimited contacts.

Limited SMS Support

Close’s SMS system only works in 10 different countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Israel, Puerto Rico, and South Africa).

If you’re getting leads from a lot of unsupported countries, be aware you won’t be able to reach them through SMS, with Close.

No Direct Integration With QuickBooks

If you’re a QuickBooks user, you’ll need to rely on Zapier to integrate both apps.

A small nuisance, but we’d like to see a direct integration with such an important software.

Close Reviews From Experts

Jeremy Mozlin

Zbrains

Close CRM is fantastic for heavy phone sales, and they give you the ability to connect to many different business apps you may already use.

Yusuff Mohsin

Build Real Businesses

Close is a feature-packed CRM tool with so many channels you can connect with a prospect or a customer. Excellent value for money.

Jenny Chang

Finances Online

Close is built with the aim of helping users spend more time communicating with their existing customers and potential clients and do less on data entry.

(free 14 day trial, no credit card required)

🏆 Freshworks

Our Verdict — Best Bang For The Buck

Freshworks is a fine CRM with AI-based lead scoring. You get built-in phone and email systems. It’s sooo easy to use… even for total beginners. 

Freshworks is perfect if you’re getting started in the CRM world.

If you’re looking to migrate from your current CRM, check out Close, instead.

I recommend you get started with the free 21-day trial, then upgrade to the Growth plan ($35/month per user).

(free for 21 days)

What We Like

Built-in Email And Phone System

Even on the free plan, you get access to the built-in VoIP dialer and a 1-to-1 email system.

One click to set up, one click to call. That’s all you need.

I love that you only pay for minutes on call. There’s no charge for added features like automatic call logging and recording… and the rates are really competitive.

Freddy, Your AI Friend

Freshworks’ artificial intelligence bot is called Freddy, and he’s pretty damn cool.

Freddy gives you actionable insights throughout the customer buying journey, so you can deliver the right, personalized message, at the right time. 

Freddy’s even got a deduplication feature, where he scans for duplicate contacts, so you spare your contact limits of duped information.

Outbound Sales Campaigns

You can send and track your outbound campaigns right from Freshworks’ dashboard.

With this kind of data centralization, you’ll be able to analyze your customers’ entire lifecycle, which will enable you to make better marketing and business decisions.

There are two types of campaigns you can create: Classic and Smart.

Classic sets your campaign to run on specific days, with a specific amount of steps. You could send emails, do some reminder calls, SMS... all automatically.

Smart campaigns act based on your prospects’ behaviour. Once they execute an action, such as “adding to cart” or “clicking a link”, you can automate the next steps you want to take.

What We Don’t Like

You’ve Got To Pay For Behavioural Segmentation

Freshworks offers one of the most powerful ways to deliver the right message at the right time, with its behavioural segmentation.

This allows you to deliver messages to people who have engaged with a post, clicked on a link, or visited a specific web page.

The fact you only get behavioural segmentation on the Pro plan ($69/mo) or higher is a real bummer, as this is one of their most interesting features.

Low Contact Limits

The Growth plan ($35/mo) only gets 1,000 active contacts to work with.

For businesses that run a lot of lead-gen campaigns, this can get exhausted in the blink of an eye.

To add insult to injury, you’ve got to shell out an extra $100 per every extra 5,000 contacts you want to manage (up to 25,000).

If you’re not careful, and are collecting a TON of leads… your bill could get out of hand, fast.

“Secret” Free Plan  

When you visit Freshworks CRM pricing page, you’ll only ever learn about their free version if you scroll almost all the way down.

Some people might get caught in comparing plan features, and not realize there’s a free version.

Freshworks Reviews From Experts

Mike Markus

CRM Advice

If you are a small – medium business with no technical staff and need assistance with data migration and ongoing support without any additional cost, choosing Freshworks CRM is a great idea!

DP Taylor

Fool.com

Freshworks CRM is outstanding. It provides a nice balance between an affordable small business price with enterprise features. Great customer support and easy-to-use interface.

Gabriel Nwatarali

Top 5 CRM

The developers of Freshworks CRM have done a fine job making the software easy to use, even for absolute CRM beginners. If you ever get stuck, there’s plenty of helpful resources to use.

(free for 21 days)

🏆 HubSpot

Our Verdict — Best Free Alternative

HubSpot is one of the best options for growing companies which need a lightweight CRM to improve sales efficiency. The 1,000,000 leads cap on the free plan means you’ll have a free CRM for pretty much as long as you need it.

Get it if you’re interested in getting started with a free CRM for your business, or if you’re paying for a CRM which you don’t really use.

If you’re a big business with very complex needs, take a look at ActiveCampaign, instead.

I recommend you get started for $0/month on the Free plan, then upgrade to the Starter plan for $50/month when you need more features.

(free for 1,000,000 leads)

What We Like

It’s Free And It’s Good

HubSpot’s free CRM gives you far beyond what most free CRMs are willing to offer. For small and medium businesses, it’s possible that the free version is all you’ll ever need.

The free version includes stuff like live chat, chatbots, lead generation tools, web forms, advertising tools, helpdesk tools... even a few free minutes per month on their great dialer (15 minutes per user on the free plan).

HubSpot’s Mobile App

HubSpot’s mobile app is surprisingly good.

It’s perfect for sales people who are always on the go… or for those anxious people who like having access to information at all times (checking your sales while on the potty again, Timmy?)

There’s even some nice little features, like business card digitization and a caller ID.

It’s available for both iOS and Android.

Call And Email Tracking

Be notified the moment a lead opens an email, so you can follow up at exactly the right time and close deals faster. 

This type of tracking capability allows you to figure out how hot a lead is, and how aware they are of your solutions.

You can then make and record calls directly from your web browser, and automatically log them into your CRM.

What We Don’t Like

Onboarding Fee

HubSpot’s onboarding system is very interesting.

You’ll get customized technical advice and actionable guidance. They help you simplify and scale your sales process, according to your goals and tech stack... so you can close more deals. 

The problem is that they charge a hefty fee for onboarding new users.

The onboarding fee starts at $250 for companies on the Starter plan ($25/month) up to $8,000 on the top plan.

Price Gaps

HubSpot pricing has a HUGE gap in price differences, between plans.

It feels like there’s a few steps missing, when you look at it.

You can start free… the next plan goes for $50/mo… then, the next one jumps up to $500/mo… then, finally to $1,200/mo.

The fact that some of the best features only come on the most expensive plans might be a little frustrating for some.

Tiered Features  

Some of the most advanced features like marketing automation are limited to the higher plans. This feature allows you to automate marketing to your contacts along the customer journey, and use an easy, visual editor to track it all.

Same thing for a/b testing. If you want to run split tests, you’ll need the Professional plan ($500/mo).

HubSpot Reviews From Experts

Mike Markus

CRM Advice

With HubSpot CRM you will no longer have to juggle between platforms to market to potential and existing customers. You can develop relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel and through every step of the buyer’s journey.

Simone Johnson

Business News Daily

HubSpot is unique in that it offers a completely free CRM, with no expiration date, for unlimited users and up to 1 million contacts. It also has a great click-to-sync setup for Gmail and Outlook, which makes it super simple to integrate your existing email.

Carina Duffy

IMPACT

If you’re a growing company looking to implement a lightweight CRM that improves organization and efficiency for sales reps and creates closed-loop reporting on sales and marketing initiatives, then HubSpot CRM is for you.

(free for 1,000,000 leads)

🏆 HighLevel

Our Verdict — Best For Marketing Agencies

HighLevel is a CRM for marketing agencies. It might be the new kid on the block, but they’ve got some serious punch. They offer an amazing platform and community of successful agency owners to grow your agency.

Get if you’re an agency or freelancer working for clients, and need a software which will replace up to 12 other softwares, all in one place.

If you’re not a marketing agency or your sales rely on actively making lots of phone calls, check out Close instead.

I recommend you get started on their Agency Starter Account ($97/mo) and move to the Agency Unlimited Account ($297/mo) if you need unlimited sub accounts.

(14 day free trial)

What We Like

Auto-Phone Calls 

HighLevel can automatically call your sales reps once a lead comes through, so they can get connected within 5 mins.

This will ensure your sales team talks to leads while they’re red-hot, and never miss leads from poor follow-up, again.

Multi-Touch Marketing

HighLevel gives you a ton of ways to get in touch with your leads.

You can call them, send an email, SMS, drop ringless voicemails, and send Facebook Messenger chats.

This will allow you to keep your offer top of mind for your leads, as you engage with them in several different venues.

Smart Lists 

This is list segmentation on steroids. With Smart Lists, you can automate list segmentation based on your agency’s needs. 

Once people take specific actions, they can be segmented, and trigger a marketing campaign.

For example, let’s say every time a lead opts-in to your list, you want to add them to a “phone only” list, where you’ll send them a sequence of SMS messages, drop a voicemail, or even call them.

You can do that with HighLevel Smart Lists:

If you’re not sure how you could best use smart lists for your agency, just reach out to HighLevel support, and they’ll help you figure it out.

What We Don’t Like

Steep-ish Learning Curve

The software and its dashboard are both incredible. The problem is that HighLevel has sooo many freaking tools (it combines 12 different tools into one).

This means all of your agency’s marketing, sales and client delivery can be done inside one tool for one flat price. But it also means it can be a little overwhelming to learn, especially for first timers.

There’ll be a bit of a learning curve, and you’ll likely wish navigation was a little more intuitive.

I suggest you focus on learning only two things, at first: 

  1. How to set up triggers.
  2. How to use them to automate your sales campaigns.

That’ll ensure you’re getting the most juice out of HighLevel ASAP.

Payment Integration

If you’re gonna be using your CRM to charge clients, then HighLevel might lose some of its charm, for you. The only payment gateway you can integrate with the software is Stripe, which is not even available in all countries.

If you intend to charge people on a different shopping cart software, then you don’t have to worry about this.

No Predictive Dialer

For such a robust software that thrives on automation and efficiency, this is HighLevel’s Achilles’ heel.

We do understand that this isn’t a trivial development, and it does seem like their team is intending to release this in the future.

Predictive dialers take a list of phone numbers, then use computers to screen out busy signals, answering machines, disconnected phones, and no answers to connect sales representatives.

If you want to get a CRM with a robust predictive dialer, go with Close.

HighLevel Reviews From Experts

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell SEO

HighLevel is a very powerful tool that allows you to track and automate a large part of a businesses sales. From capturing leads to nurturing them, there isn’t much the platform can’t do for you.

Denis Brandao

Smart Tech Commerce

HighLevel is an all-in-one automation platform dedicated to agencies/marketers. All their tools have been made with the sole purpose of making agencies’ lives easier.

Sam Rexford

Chill Reptile

HighLevel is easy to use and will save you time and money. It’s designed to get leads and nurture them into paying customers.

(14 day free trial)

🏆 ActiveCampaign

Our Verdict — Best For 100,000+ Active Contacts

ActiveCampaign offers corporate-level marketing and sales automation, at a price point affordable even for startups. 

Get it if your company generates a TON of leads every month, and you’re willing to spend some time learning how to properly use behavior-based automations.

If you need your CRM to help you make more phone calls, get Close instead.

I recommend you get started for $70/month for up to 25 users and 1000 contacts on the Plus plan, then upgrade to the Professional plan (with contact scoring) for $159/month and up to 50 users.

(free 14 day trial)

What We Like

Deal Management

The Deals feature makes it a breeze for you to manage your deals pipelines.

You can create custom sales pipelines, and manage them with an easy drag-and-drop interface, just like any Kanban-based software (like Trello).

You can assign as many steps as you need to each pipeline, and with a click of your mouse, you can drag each deal to the next stage.

You can combine marketing automations with each step, too, to make powerful sales funnels.

For example, you can set up an automation that triggers an email follow-up plus a sales rep notification, once a deal is moved to a specific stage.

Lastly, you can build as many deals pipelines as you want. This is particularly useful when you have more than one product, or more than one customer persona.

Seamless Marketing + Sales Integration

ActiveCampaign’s automations can go back and forth, from marketing to sales.

That means you can set up automations to trigger marketing and sales actions, based on leads behavior.

Let’s say you have moved someone into the next stage in your pipeline. You can have an automation send them a follow-up email, then invite them for a call if they haven’t replied within 48 hours, for example.

Or maybe you could move them up a stage in your pipeline if they click a specific link on an email you’ve sent.

With this level of automation, you can make sure your prospects are always being taken care of.

Deal Assignment

If you have more than one salesperson, you can have ActiveCampaign distribute deals with the auto-assign feature.

You can set up deals to be distributed in a round-robin fashion, based on value, geography… or any automation rules you want to base it on.

What We Don’t Like

It’s Not A CRM-first Company

Although ActiveCampaign’s CRM is solid, it’s not their main business. The CRM is a tool inside an entire marketing automation suite.

It’s a trade off. There’s a little less raw CRM power to it, but you get incredible automation capabilities.

One example: ActiveCampaign uses email as the unique identifier for your customers. That means a lead won’t be able to be associated with more than one email address.

All in all, if you’re more interested in getting enterprise-grade automation to boost your follow-up capabilities, then ActiveCampaign will do its job just fine.

Lacks Leads And Accounts

ActiveCampaign treats every person as a “contact”. 

Everything is managed from the same place, contacts and associated deals. The concept of “leads” and “accounts” doesn’t really exist inside ActiveCampaign.

Might Feel Pricy For Newbies 

You won’t get the same level of report granularity as you would with a CRM like Salesforce, nor can you customize your reports as much.

That means sometimes you might not be able to find some deep data correlations, if that’s your thing.

If having hyper detailed reports is what you’re looking for, go with Close instead.

ActiveCampaign Reviews From Experts

Roberta Phillips

EmailToolTester

While it might not be as advanced as some of the other specialized (and more well-known) CRMs in terms of reporting, it has a few really strong points: slick automations, seamless integration of sales and marketing tasks and an unmatched email deliverability.

Marcus Taylor

Venture Harbour

Unlike other CRMs we had tried, ActiveCampaign’s CRM could be almost entirely automated using rules and workflows. I wholeheartedly recommend ActiveCampaign on a daily basis.

Darren Gordon

Top 5 CRM

ActiveCampaign is a CRM that combines a rich set of features like marketing automation, sales automation, contact management, report generation and email marketing in a simple-to-use, aesthetically pleasing interface.

(free 14 day trial)

Bonus: I put together a list of the 10 best (out of 2,671) online business tools to grow your business. Every tool has a link to the software company’s best free trial offer. You can get access to all the free offers I found inside this “best of the best” list of 10 Best Online Business Tools.

Top 10 CRM Software Questions

What Is CRM Software?

CRM software is what you use to manage relationships with your customers and prospective customers, throughout different buying stages (from first call through to final sale). Its goal is to turn more leads into revenue by keeping track of leads in one central place, not in your head. CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”.

What Is The Best CRM Software?

The best CRM software is Close. Close gives you the most advanced CRM features for an incredibly reasonable price point, starting from $25 per month.

What Is The Cheapest CRM Software?

The cheapest CRM software is Apptivo starting from $10/month. We recommend Freshworks if you’re looking for the cheapest and best CRM software.

What Is The Best Free CRM Software?

The best free CRM software is HubSpot. HubSpot has a totally free option which caps at an impressive 1,000,000 contacts with no credit card required.

How Do I Choose The Best CRM Software?

The five most important factors you should consider when choosing the best CRM software are:

  • Apps Integration - does it integrate with your current tech stack?
  • Free Version or Free Trial - can you test it and get a feel of its functionality?
  • Customization Features - can you set it up to reflect your company’s sales process?
  • Training and Support - how fast can you get unstuck from your questions?
  • Unique Features - do you need heavy automation features? Do you do a lot of sales calls? Do you want to migrate from another CRM? Pick based on your unique needs.

What Is The Best CRM Software For Small Business?

The best CRM software for small businesses with less than 20 employees is Close. Close gives you the best CRM features for smaller companies, starting from $25 per month.

Does Google Have A CRM Software?

No, Google doesn’t have a CRM software. But you can turn Gmail into a CRM using a tool like Streak. Most popular CRMs like Close, Freshworks, HubSpot, and ActiveCampaign also offer a Gmail chrome extension so you can see individual contacts and update them in Gmails sidebar.

Does Microsoft Have A CRM Software?

Yes, Microsoft’s CRM is called Microsoft Dynamics 365. It has modules for sales, marketing, and a help desk.

What CRM Does Amazon Use?

Amazon uses their own CRM, which is developed in-house.

How Do I Keep The Sales Pipeline In My CRM Full?

You keep the sales pipeline in your CRM full without outbound cold emailing people by following the ski slope strategy. This is the step-by-step strategy I used to get 1,000,000+ visitors, 100,000+ leads and 1,000+ recurring revenue customers in one year.

Top 50 CRM Software We Considered

The Content Mavericks editorial team researched 653 different CRM software based on customer reviews, expert reviews, ease of use, affordability, and features. We then chose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.

What Is The Best CRM Software?

Here are my top picks for the best CRM software:

  1. 1ST PLACE: Close — best of the best
  2. 2ND PLACE: Freshwork — best bang for the buck
  3. 3RD PLACE: HubSpot — best free alternative
  4. BEST FOR MARKETING AGENCIES: HighLevel
  5. BEST FOR 100,000+ ACTIVE CONTACTS : ActiveCampaign
Bonus: I put together a list of the 10 best (out of 2,671) online business tools to grow your business. Every tool has a link to the software company’s best free trial offer. You can get access to all the free offers I found inside this “best of the best” list of 10 Best Online Business Tools.
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