7 Best CRM systems for small businesses in 2022

Covid-19 has drastically altered the way businesses interact with customers. Here are the top CRM software tools on the market that will keep you driving sales in 2022.

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Finding the right CRM system for your small business depends on your specific priorities. You might want to focus on value for money, functionality, ease of use or the ability to scale as you grow.

What is the best CRM software for SMEs?

Overall, we recommend monday.com as the platform with the best value for money for SMEs.

But no small business is the same. We've been working with SMEs for more than two decades, and we know that every firm has a unique process when it comes to engaging new and existing customers.

Thankfully, there are some brilliant CRM software options that can satisfy these needs and more:

  • monday.com is our number one small business CRM solution. As an affordable and visual sales platform, it is quick and easy to get started on. It even offers predefined templates that you can completely optimise to your business needs.
  • Pipedrive is best for experienced CRM users, as a system that integrates with your existing technology. Because of this, it's also a great, user-friendly solution for aligning your sales pipeline with other teams.
  • Zendesk is a excellent for getting the most out of a large customer base with powerful customer support tools. We think it is a very effective way to streamline your customer service and boost sales at the same time.
  • Freshsales is one of the few CRM systems to offer a free tier, making it ideal for solo entrepreneurs or small teams. It's also rich in key sales features, for a very reasonable price.
  • Hubspot CRM is a our top choice for marketing-focussed SMEs in the early-stages of growth. It has an amazingly-competitive free plan and impressive marketing functionality.

To help you find the best solution you can compare these most popular CRM tools for SMEs on pricing and key features in the table below.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually):
Free trial?
Features:
Get started:

HubSpot

Zoho CRM

Salesforce CRM

Free plan, or £12 per user

£38 (flat rate)

£12 per user

£20 per user

  • Excellent ecommerce integration
  • Webforms
  • Email integration
  • Unlimited contacts
  • Unlimited contacts permitted
  • Communication, ecommerce, and accounting integrations
  • Allows unlimited custom fields
  • Communication integration
  • Custom fields
  • 2 million contact limit
  • 3 user limit
  • Unlimited contact each month
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Autoresponses
  • 2,000 emails per month
  • 5 active contact lists
  • Up to 3 dashboards permitted
  • Chatbots
  • 100,000 contact limit
  • 5 webforms allowed
  • Email integration (250 limit per day)
  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit
Looking for a bespoke recommendation?

If you’re new to CRM systems then our expert team has built a quick and easy comparison tool to match you with the best provider for your specific needs. It's completely free of charge, and designed to give you personalised quotes from the top CRM solutions on the market.


How to choose the best CRM solution for your small business?

Having a smooth and efficient CRM system is becoming an increasingly important way to drive sales.

However, as a small business owner, you've also got to contend with rising costs. Budget is still a major concern when shopping for the right platform.

Our expert team of researchers has worked with SMEs for over two decades; and we've been carrying out extensive research into the CRM market for five of those.

Below, we'll outline our results to show you the seven best CRM platforms available for small businesses, including their costs (up-front and hidden) and how well each app performs against specific priorities for small businesses.


monday.com

Best CRM for small business overall

monday.com might be primarily known as a project management tool, but it's also a full-featured CRM tool thanks to its fantastically customisable interface and huge arsenal of creative tools.

We identified monday's top strengths as usability, customisation, and pricing. That's because its an incredibly easy-to-use system that is also very wallet-friendly.

Once you sign up, you’re prompted to fill out a user-profile. This includes identifying an area you’d like to focus on (contact management, sales pipeline etc.).

The app is organised around a simple traffic-light system that categorises your workflow as either green (it’s completed), orange (I’m working on it), or red (I’m stuck), helping you to design a system that personalises the status of every customer relationship.

Monday.com screenshot

monday.com Kanban board view

What type of small business is monday.com best suited for?

We recommend monday.com to small businesses that don't have a lot of software development experience and need a tool that's simple to get started with. Its set up process is extremely quick – for instance, it took just 8 minutes, 20 seconds for our testers to import all of our mock customer data into the system.

Whether you’re looking to track and organise your marketing activities, deals, client onboarding, or projects, monday.com also hosts lots of customisable elements, including:

  • Custom fields
  • 200+ dashboard templates
  • Full mobile CRM
  • Document management
  • Custom apps
  • Unlimited contacts
  • Unlimited users

For these reasons, we think monday.com works best for small businesses in creative industries and businesses with unique client needs, such as design or estate agencies.

Of course, the app is not for everyone. If you've already tried monday.com and want something similar, but different, read our top 5 monday.com alternatives for CRM.

monday.com pricing

monday.com has a distinctive payment structure which is based on a set number of seats. For more information, read our monday.com pricing guide.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
Users

monday.com Individual

monday.com Basic

monday.com Standard

monday.com Pro

monday.com Enterprise

Free

£9 per seat

£11 per seat

£18 per seat

Contact sales

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

According to a survey by PwC, people are willing to spend 16% more on products and services for a good customer experience, meaning there is a cost benefit to your purchase.

Pipedrive

Best for: Usability

Pipedrive is a CRM system with a focus on usability – its highest-scoring category in our research.

The app's clean interface supports a tidy visual pipeline – viewable from the ‘deals’ screen. Pipedrive has preset stages but you can easily edit their name, add, and remove them to create a custom pipeline that accurately reflects your unique customer relationships.

It might take a more dialed-back approach but sophisticated CRM tools are still available with Pipedrive.

And, thanks to its user-focussed design, you won't have to suffer through complicated set up processes for new functions.

For example, it took our testing team just over 1 minute to set up a chatbot, and 2 minutes to design a webform.

Pipedrive dashboard

What type of small business is Pipedrive best suited for?

Thanks to its huge list of integrations, Pipedrive users can install almost any add-on to the system to customise your CRM process to your teams’ specific sales channel.

This makes Pipedrive an excellent choice for small, tech-based firms wanting a CRM tool that works alongside their existing software.

Other features include:

  • 150+ integrations, including Google Meet, Zapier, Slack, and Microsoft Teams
  • Pipeline management 
  • Email integration
  • Calendar integration 
  • Activities and goals 
  • Data import and export
  • Sales forecasting 

Pipedrive also has excellent security features that protect your customer data, so you needn't worry if you're handlying sensitive information like medical records.

Pipedrive pricing

Pipedrive does not have a free option, although there is a 14-day free trial available for newcomers. Its lowest paid-for plan is Pipedrive Essential, which costs £14.90 per user when billed annually and is the most affordable plan for small business users.

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Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
Users

Pipedrive Essential

Pipedrive Advanced

Pipedrive Professional

Pipedrive Enterprise

£15 per user

£29 per user

£59 per user

£119 per user

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Zendesk

Best for: Contact management

According to a survey by Microsoft, 96% of consumers across the globe say that customer service is an important factor in their choice of brand loyalty. In other words, being able to assist your clients in their time of need can be a key influencer in their decision to purchase your product or service.

Zendesk screenshot

Zendesk messaging tool

Zendesk is a powerful name in the business software market. The brand offers two main CRM products: Zendesk for sales and Zendesk for service.

Zendesk for Sales takes a powerful approach to sales monitoring and generation, but it's Zendesk for Service that really impresses us. It provides an all-in-one customer helpdesk solution with truly intelligent support elements designed not just to monitor client bugs, but also to analyse your performance when fixing them and identify the areas to improve.

What type of small business is Zendesk for service best suited for?

If your business provides a specialist service, such as software development, then Zendesk service is the smart way to manage customer issues and requests in one handy database.

The platform’s ticketing system allows users to record, organise, and track all your customers’ issues in one dashboard that’s accessible to your entire team, so you can keep a clear and up-to-date ticket pipeline.

Other features include:

  • Triggers and automations
  • Staff management
  • Pre-built analytics dashboards
  • Google Analytics for help centres
  • Data exports

Zendesk pricing

Below, we’ve outlined the pricing information for both of Zendesk’s products. Both also have a 30-day free trial available if you want to try before you buy.

Zendesk for service:

The difference between Zendesk’s two lowest-tiered plans is minimal, however the Suite Growth plan, which costs around £26 more per month than Suite Team, does offer more workflow capabilities including multiple ticket forms and conditional ticket fields.

We think if you're looking to grow your customer list then Suite Growth is the best plan to purchase.

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Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
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Suite Team

Suite Growth

Suite Professional

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Zendesk for sales:

Sell Team and Sell Professional are the two tiers designed for small businesses. Sell Team is only suitable for three users, and works better as an organisational software for sales.

You’ll find more opportunity-based tools with Sell Professional, which boasts integrations with email marketing software, as well as more powerful reporting tools.

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Price per month (billed monthly)
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Sell Team

Sell Professional

Sell Enterprise

£19

£45

£79

£21

£49

£99

Up to 3

Unlimited

Unlimited

Freshsales Suite

Best for: Functionality

Freshsales Suite is a product from CRM software company, Freshworks CRM. It combines both sales and marketing strategies and is billed as one easy-to-use platform for small businesses.

Freshsales boasts a genuinely impressive list of features, including an advanced AI tool, nicknamed ‘Freddy’, that can carry out basic CRM tasks without you needing to lift a finger.

Freshsales screenshot

Freshsales dashboard

What type of small business is Freshsales Suite best suited for?

Freshsales was launched in 2011 after its co-founders struggled to find a CRM system with enough features to cater to their demands. You can see this goal reflected in the system’s huge number of available tools and integrations. Even its lowest-tier payment plan, Freshsales Growth, includes:

  •  1,000 marketing contacts 
  •  Freddy AI
  •  Web forms 
  •  Website tracking 
  •  Built-in phone and email integration, as well as a mobile app 
  •  Lists and Segments 
  •  Drag-and-drop journey builder
  •  Visual sales pipeline 
  •  Collaboration with Slack 
  •  20 workflows 
  •  5 sales sequences 
  •  Custom reports and dashboards 
  •  Migration from other CRMs 
  •  Freshdesk integration 
  •  Freshworks marketplace for add-ons 

This USP means small business owners with a more complicated sales pipeline – such as construction SMEs – would benefit most from a Freshsales subscription.

Freshsales pricing

Freshsales Suite is competitively-priced. It offers a free version suitable for solo users, with only 100 contacts permitted. One tier up is the Growth plan which, at £12 per user, per month when billed annually, gives you access to a wide array of sophisticated tools.

Freshsales Pro costs £35 per user, and is an expensive upgrade for SMEs. Nonetheless, we recommend it for larger companies with distinct sales teams (Freshsales Pro permits up to 50 users).

You get what you pay for with the platform's long list of features, but we would recommend you try the free version before committing to Freshsales CRM long-term.

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Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
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Freshsales Free

Freshsales Growth

Freshsales Pro

Freshsales Enterprise

£0

£12 per user

£35 per user

£55 per user

£0

£15

£35

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

HubSpot

Best for: Marketing tools

We think HubSpot is an excellent choice for budget-conscious small businesses in the early-stages of growth. It has an amazingly-competitive free plan, short setup time, and impressive functionality.

As we mentioned in our full guide to the HubSpot platform, HubSpot’s humble origins are as an inbound marketing company. This specialism is immediately apparent when you look at its most-popular paid-for plan: the Marketing Hub.

HubSpot Contact File

What type of small business is HubSpot best suited for?

HubSpot is a favourite amongst small business owners for its fantastic library of marketing and outreach features. Its free plan is noticeably generous for these – even offering users access to a chatbot tool.

For £0 per month, you'll also get:

  • Free CRM
  • Landing pages.
  • List segmentation
  • Email
  • Workflows
  • Paid ad tracking
  • Social media integration and management
  • Dashboards

Marketing automation is also available to handle all of those repetitive, lead generation tasks, such as emailing customers. HubSpot also integrates well with most website and online store builders, like Wix or Shopify.

HubSpot's weak points aren't many, but they are also significant. The app is not built for high-volume sales. HubSpot also doesn't have a lot of customisable features – so you might need to change your sales process to make it fit with your business operations.

We recommend it to SMEs that are in their early-stages and looking to engage in brand-building, such as startups. Overall, HubSpot is a great way to build up your online presence in competitive markets, such as ecommerce.

HubSpot pricing

HubSpot Free is the most popular choice amongst small business HubSpot users. It acts as an ‘all-in-one’ CRM solution that provides all of the core features for zero charge.

In terms of paid-for plans, HubSpot has three. These are all strategy-specific: Marketing, Sales, and Service. Compared to HubSpot Free, they offer users more control over what they want to prioritise.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
Users

HubSpot Free

HubSpot Marketing Hub

HubSpot Sales Hub

HubSpot Service Hub

£0

£38 (flat rate)

£38 (flat rate)

£38 (flat rate)

£0

£42 (flat rate)

£42 (flat rate)

£42 (flat rate)

Unlimited

Unlimited

Two free users

Two free users

Zoho CRM

Best for: Customisation

Zoho CRM is our top-rated CRM system for small businesses overall for customisation. Surprisingly for its low-cost, Zoho CRM demonstrates lots of sophisticated sales, service, and marketing tools for you to create a bespoke CRM solution for your firm.

Different page layout options mean your sales representatives can view and edit personalised customer data. Using Zoho, they can also create separate workflows to function independently – handy if you're a business that works with siloed, long-term clients, such as talent agencies.

Zoho also boasts custom fields, and a business card view so you can create unique task lists for each customer.

Zoho CRM screenshot

What type of small business is Zoho CRM best suited for?

Zoho CRM also took the crown for sales features, achieving 4 out of 5 in this area.

Using Zoho, you can assign leads to sales reps based on different criteria, so that customers with more specialist requirements can be directed to dedicated members of your sales teams. You can also generate leads from the Zoho CRM mobile app, live chat, and social media.

On Zoho's lowest-priced tier, Zoho Standard, you'll get:

  • 100,000 contact limit
  • 24/7 live chat, phone and email support
  • Customisable sales pipeline
  • Custom fields
  • Custom dashboard
  • Custom tasks

We think Zoho CRM is a good option for any small business. However, it particularly stands out for customisation and help and support tools. Because of this, we think it's a good option for small businesses that have longer onboarding processes, such as equipment rental or IT support firms.

Zoho CRM pricing

In terms of pricing, Zoho CRM is a very scalable option. There are five plans available overall, ranging from £12 to £42.

This brings us to another one of Zoho's biggest USPs. It can grow alongside your business, so it's a good long-term investment.

There is a free plan available with Zoho CRM. This is fairly generous for features, and helpfully includes a calendar view. However, you'll miss out on a few attractive CRM functions, including workflows and the ability to have multiple pipelines.

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Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
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Zoho CRM Free

Zoho CRM Standard

Zoho CRM Professional

Zoho CRM Enterprise

Free

£12 per user

£18 per user

£35 per user

Free

£16 per user

£28 per user

£40 per user

3 Max

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Salesforce CRM

Best for: Scaling businesses

Salesforce was founded in 1999, and is one of the most well-known CRM systems on this list thanks to its varied range of software products.

For speciality sales functions, Salesforce can truly serve as a one-stop-shop for small to large businesses looking to improve their operations. This makes it an excellent choice for scaling businesses – as we highlighted in our full guide to the Salesforce platform.

Naturally, more sophisticated capabilities equals a longer setup time. Some users have reported that Salesforce can lag when used with bad broadband connections.

Salesforce customer card

Salesforce customer card

What type of small business is Salesforce best suited for?

SMEs that are looking to expand their company will want a system that can develop alongside them.

Salesforce comes in three cloud-based editions. The idea is that you can pick and choose which features you want in your plan based on the area you’d most like to prioritise growth in, whether that’s the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Marketing Cloud. 

Salesforce Essentials is the most basic paid-for tier in each of these products. It is also (confusingly) the name of Salesforce's small business-oriented package.

Salesforce Essentials gives you:

  • Account and contact management 
  • Opportunity tracking 
  • Lead management 
  • Task and event tracking 
  • Customizable reports and dashboards 
  • Mobile access
  • Email integration

If you don't think Salesforce is for your small business, you can always read our guide to the top Salesforce alternatives.

Salesforce pricing

At £20 per user, per month when billed annually, Salesforce is a splurge when compared to more budget-friendly CRM systems like HubSpot.

As we pointed out earlier, you can purchase extra features as an add-on at any point in your plan, which means that Salesforce can be excellent value for money if used wisely.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
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Salesforce Essential

Salesforce Professional

Salesforce Enterprise

Salesforce Unlimited

£20

£60

£120

£240

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Up to 10

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

How did we choose the 7 best CRM systems for small businesses?

Having worked with SMEs for twenty years, we know that you have to contend with different issues when compared to larger or mid-sized companies.

As a small business owner, you’ll have less time and money to spend on CRM.

With this in mind, we’ve picked out the top CRM systems on the market, and compared them using five specific metrics that small businesses need to think about when purchasing a CRM system.

These metrics are:

  • Pricing – do you want to find the best low-budget CRM system?
  • Functionality – do you want the most features for your budget?
  • Usability – do you need something you can easily learn how to use?
  • Customisation – do you want more creative control over your CRM system?
  • Help and Support – do you need expert help and guidance when using and setting up your CRM system?

How do the CRM costs compare?

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually):
Price per month (billed monthly):
Free trial?
Get started:

HubSpot

Zoho CRM

Salesforce CRM

Free plan, or £12 per user

£38 (flat rate)

£12 per user

£20 per user

£42 (flat rate)

£15 per user

Contact sales team

Budget is always an important factor for SMEs looking to purchase new technology.

To help our small business readers find the best CRM deal, we've designed a specialist Startups' online comparison tool, that matches you with the most suitable provider based on your business's specific ways of working.

Unsurprisingly, monday.com is the most affordable option on this list at £7 per seat, per month.

At the higher end of the list is Salesforce at £20 per user, due to its capability for mid-sized businesses.

HubSpot is the best free CRM option for SMEs. It has enough features to rival a lot of paid-for plans, including a sophisticated chatbot integration.

Which is the best CRM for small businesses?

We’ve picked out the seven best CRM systems for today’s SMEs and reviewed them against five common small business priorities, to find the best option based on your specific business needs.

monday.com is our top-rated CRM system for small businesses overall. Low-cost and user-friendly, it's a great colour-coded method for organising activities, projects, and information. monday is particularly well-suited to creative teams.

Pipedrive is a smartly-designed CRM that gets top marks for usability. Its strong list of integrations means it can be easily tailored to your business' unique CRM needs.

Zendesk is a great choice for getting the most out of a large customer base if you need complex customer support tools. Outstanding contact management tools mean you'll never miss a sales opportunity again.

Freshsales has probably the biggest feature list of all the brands on this list – for a very competitive price.

Hubspot CRM specialises in marketing and outreach, and is the best tool for growing your customer base. Plus, it's 100% free.

Zoho CRM is our number-one solution for customisation. Users can tailor every aspect of the software to your business’ unique needs – handy for those specialist industries, like insurance.

Salesforce is a powerful CRM tool that is best for larger teams with a specialist sales department. Its tools are geared towards managing large sales volumes, so it's perfect for SMEs with ambitious growth targets.

Our recommendation is based on thorough research carried out by our expert team alongside an independent analyst.

Still, you might prefer a more personalised approach to your CRM requirements. Fill out our free Startups' online comparison tool to be matched with provider quotes and plans tailored to your small business.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What does CRM software do?
    CRM software handles all of your customer interactions, both existing and prospective. It lets you store contact information, identify sales opportunities, record service issues, and manage marketing campaigns, all in one central location.
  • Why is a CRM system important?
    CRM systems automate a lot of fiddly and time-consuming CRM admin tasks, freeing up your time for more important sales tasks. They help to nurture customer loyalty and retention - which can also drastically improve profits.
  • How much does CRM cost?
    Low-maintenace software like monday.com costs as little as £7 per user, per month. If you have lots of customers and need a larger, more sophisticated database then it makes sense to invest in Freshsales, which costs £12 per user. Research will help you to work out whether a platform is good value for your business or not.

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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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