CRM Packages - Market Research


Not totally sure if using this forum for this purpose is frowned upon but I thought I would try it as a way to start a debate focussed less on simply reviewing current market offerings and more on looking at what customers want.

We are currently designing a customer relationship management / Sales Team Management package (nothing to show yet) aimed at Small and Medium businesses who want something more aimed at maximising sales effort rather than just a fancy version of MS Access or at the other end of the spectrum something like that can be really overwhelming if you aren't a Fortune 500 company.

I read the recent question about recommending peoples favourite CRM package (a real popular thread) but though I would take it in another direction:

So, I thought I would ask the general question that rather than which package do you use and what does it do well (or not), "looking solely at your business, what do you look for in a CSM/sales software package? What functionality is key for your business? How much customisation do you use? How much customisation is too much or too little? Is there anything that you feel isn't offered by the current market incumbents? "

To also help focus this wide ranging question, I will also give some options that people can rank in terms of importance:

  1. Simplicity of use ("I want to be selling not spending all day on this!")
  2. Customisation

  3. Package helping to guide you though the sales process (with tips etc)
  4. Easy Communication between users (i.e. spreading good news)
  5. Quick and easy e-mail marketing
  6. Sales force automation (i.e. workflow management)
  7. Storage and easy access to customer sales information (& track against targets)
  8. Record customer activity (meetings, phone call, support cases)
  9. Produce quotations
  10. Management information (i.e what are my sales team doing?)

Sales CRM Market Analysis

asked Jan 18 '10 at 23:29
Dr. Phil
86 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • You might want to check out 37 Signals Highrise. It's a simple CRM that is useful. They don't have a lot of the features you list but then again, I don't need a lot of features. In my opinion, it's the bare minimum CRM. – Jarie Bolander 14 years ago
  • I highly recommend Highrise too... It's awesome for the simplicity of getting things done. – Daniel 14 years ago
  • Highrise is very good at what it does from what I can see - basically Outlook on Steroids. However, it does seem limited for managing a sales team larger than a couple of people? Would be interested in feedback on this though? – Dr. Phil 14 years ago

3 Answers


At Blue Fish, we have used for about 5 years. We didn't do a full evaluation of the options, we just went with the product that our sales guy was familiar with at the time. Over the years, we've evolved how we use it.

We use salesforce in two primary ways:

  1. To track sales person activity across our sales force - This is the classic use of a CRM, and it amounts to a management tool. We have quotas and metrics that we track, and the CRM allows our sales manager to keep tabs on the activities of the sales reps and the status of the pipeline. This adds little value to the sales reps but a lot of value to sales management.
  2. As a repository for contact information - We try to keep all the contact information related to a lead, prospect or client in the CRM so that if a salesperson transitions the account or leaves the company, we have access to the relevant contact info. This adds value to the sales reps.

We don't really use salesforce's marketing modules that much. Occasionally, we will create a campaign and attach leads to it when we send them an email or when they attend a webinar, etc. But we primarily use salesforce day-in and day-out for tracking sales activities

The things that are most important to us NOW are:

  • Custom Reports and Ease of Getting Data out of the System - We do all of our management reporting in Excel, because it's easy for us to format it exactly the way we want to. Salesforce makes it easy for us to extract the contents of a custom report into Excel where we can use it to drive charts and graphs.
  • Custom Metadata - We have lots of custom fields that we use to track aspects of our prospecting system, such as which products we think are relevant, what the prospect's decision making process is, etc.

The things that were most important to us WHEN WE WERE STARTING OUT were:

  • A Sales Process Framework - Starting out, we were not sure what sales process to use or how to track progress. Salesforce has an out of the box process that was useful as a starting place, with default metadata, reports, etc.
  • Cheap and Easy to Get Started - Not knowing if CRM was going to be useful for us, it was important that the initial investment was small. Salesforce didn't quite deliver on this. It was more expensive than I wanted it to be, and it was hard to understand how to use (I still feel like I don't fully understand some of the basic concepts).

The things I don't like about salesforce are:

  • Too hard to understand
  • It's kind of ugly
  • Not very good for cold calling - there could be a special UI just for cold calling that lets the user get a list of people to call and with one click update the status (whether they left a message, talked to a secretary, etc.)
  • Lots of clicks required to do some basic updating

To answer your specific question about ranking features, here are my thoughts (in order of importance):

  1. Management information (i.e what are my sales team doing?) - Critical, most important
  2. Simplicity of use ("I want to be selling not spending all day on this!") - Management won't know what's really going on if the sales team doesn't use it
  3. Storage and easy access to customer sales information (& track against targets) - Critical
  4. Customisation - Our sales process and the data we track has changed several times in the past 5 years. While we don't really need customization, we DO need heavy configuration
    (custom fields, custom reports, custom sales process stages, etc.)
  5. Record customer activity (meetings, phone call, support cases) - We use this a fair amount to track sales activity, but not support cases (we use a different tool for that)
  6. Quick and easy e-mail marketing - Ideally, this would be part of our CRM, but I've found that other services (Campaign Monitor, MailChimp) are so much better at email marketing than the built-in features in a CRM system. So unless you can do it as well, I wouldn't use it.
  7. Package helping to guide you though the sales process (with tips etc) - I don't think our sales people would use tips like this, but our sales manager would use tips on how to define a sales process, create a sales compensation model, set goals, motivate sales people, etc. It wouldn't need to be integrated into the software, though - a blog or series of articles would be fine.
  8. Sales force automation (i.e. workflow management) - Not particularly interesting to us; we are small enough and simple enough to do this manually
  9. Easy Communication between users (i.e. spreading good news) - Not at all important to us; We have other methods of doing this that work for us.
  10. Produce quotations - Not important to us; we have other templates for this
answered Jan 19 '10 at 03:54
Michael Trafton
3,141 points
  • Thanks for the effort in posting such a detailed reply - this is really helpful! Just out of interest, what version of Salesforce are you on? I can't get away from the fact that it is really expensive! – Dr. Phil 14 years ago
  • Unless I'm mistaken, everyone is on the same version of Salesforce since it's a SaaS. The current version when I log in appears to be version 10. – Michael Trafton 14 years ago
  • Sorry, clumsy terminology - I meant to ask which Edition do you have, i.e. group, professional or enterprise? – Dr. Phil 14 years ago


I have been researching CRMs over the last month specifically for order/quote management. I am nontechnical. I looked at SugarCRM, VTiger, Zoho CRM,, Info@Hand, NetSuite. I am presently using Outlook Business Contact Manager which is not really a CRM. I plan to switch to Zoho CRM (as it is free) and use a SasS platform for order/quotes. This is what I looked for.

  1. A simple user friendly and intuitive design that does not require lots of learning time or enough free documentation, videos, support to learn quickly.
  2. Ability to customize the platform where no programming or design expertise is needed.
  3. Quote/Order Management integration with the CRM would have been ideal. (I decided not to do this as it would have required me to use enterprise but I did not need the enterprise features.)

Polling can be done on Linkedin.

answered Jan 19 '10 at 09:56
Starr Ed
948 points


Allow me to quote something from an essay I wrote about branding in todays landscape.

*" ...
It used to be that if you had a bad experience with a company or a specific product you might tell your friends and family. These friends and family members might or might not be in the market for the same product as you.
Criticism would exist in relative obscurity until it would eventually die out as your frustration couldn’t be channeled anywhere. Now, because people are connected as much on an affinity level as by geography, a company’s customers can be connected around a product without the company ever being aware of it. This leads to the emergence of what we could call crowd campaigning. Now the customers themselves can initiate campaigns that either hurt or help you...." and a little later *"Competition is no longer just happening between brands, it’s also happening between brands and customers. Perhaps even with time between customers of competing brands. In other words your potential competitors and marketing department can be every guy and girl armed with a Twitter or FaceBook account who is not afraid to use it." I think the real trick is to look for the stuff we don't know we don't know.

So a good CRM platform will not only look at your relationship with customers you know by name and email address but instead they will look for what customers you didn't know you didn't know says about you.

Hence the term Social-CRM by companys like Lithium

answered Jan 22 '10 at 21:11
Thom Pete
1,296 points

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