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What’s a free CRM system? A complete guide for 2021 (plus a CRM template)

All of us at monday.com

    When an organization sets out to find the right CRM for their sales, customer support, and marketing teams to use—it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

    The CRM you choose and how you use it could ultimately determine the kind of experience your customers receive, and whether they leave as brand advocates or feeling frustrated.

    So when you read an offer for a free CRM, it’s only fair to question if that is the right choice for you and your organization.

    In this article, we’ll help you understand whether free CRM systems are the right choice for you, or if you need something a bit more complete.

    What is a free CRM system?

    The acronym CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it is the platform or system where your customer facing teams will track and manage customer relationships.

    A few decades ago, CRM platforms were too expensive for the average small business owner. These days, they come in all shapes and sizes, including free and open source CRM options.

    The right CRM solution can help you:

    • Streamline your marketing, sales, and customer service processes
    • Manage and track every customer interaction
    • Keep a close eye on your sales pipeline
    • Score leads based on engagement level

    And much more.

    All of that sounds great, but what makes so many organizations and sales teams feel they can’t live without a CRM?

    CRM sofware for your sales funnel

    Before we can dive into the benefits of using a CRM, it’s important to understand the sales funnel and how it relates to your sales team.

    Graphic representation of a typical sales funnel

    (Image Source)

    As you can see, each stage of the process that the prospect, or future customer, goes through requires a different focus from the sales team.

    In the case of a software development company, for example, that same funnel might look something like this:

    1. Identify target company
    2. Discovery call
    3. Present proposal
    4. Meeting with stakeholders
    5. Customer moves forward
    6. Customer purchases the product

    This process unfolds the way it does in order to nurture, inform, and build trust with potential customers throughout their purchase journey.

    For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to send a proposal to a prospect who’s never heard about you. And scheduling a meeting with stakeholders before structuring a proposal would be a waste of time for both parties.

    Here’s where CRM software comes in.

    The right CRM system helps you manage your sales lifecycle with efficiency, and communicate with prospects in a way that makes sense to them.

    Get started with monday.com

    Why your business can’t survive without a CRM

    With today’s markets moving at lightspeed and customers demanding better and better services, the right software has become vital for any organization.

    If you want to do more, grow faster, and reduce waste of resources, you have to support your team with smart processes and capable CRM.

    Studies reveal that, on average, 50% of the people your sales team talk to won’t be a good fit for your offering. Without the right system in place, you could waste your team’s energy on unqualified prospects.

    And it’s not only your sales team’s time you need to worry about. In a recent study 80% of customers said that the lack of a personalized sales experience is a deal breaker. And the only way to offer personalization at scale is by adopting software where you can track and update your customers’ journey.

    2 common features of free CRM software

    Now that you understand what CRM systems are and the impact they have in business, let’s discuss what a free CRM solution can offer so you can feel confident in what you need.

    1. Contact management

    Contact management, also known as “lead management,” is the process of organizing your customers and prospects in a strategic way to improve your communication.

    For instance, imagine that you run a B2B e-commerce store that focuses on large manufacturing companies (say, 200+ employees). And you embed a form on your website to capture user’s information (e.g., phone, industry, requirements, etc.).

    Where would that information go?

    Well, a CRM tool could help you store and organize that information in the cloud, so you can reach out to those prospects later.

    Contact management in monday.com

    Contact management is definitely a must-have for any CRM system, free or paid.

    The difference between free and paid CRM for contact management? They will essentially have the same features and capabilities, but most free CRM platforms have a limit on the number of contacts you can store.

    2. Sales pipeline management

    A sales pipeline helps you visualize where your prospects are in their purchase journey and which stage of the sales process your team should be focusing on, as well as categorizing them based on different criteria.

    Following the previous example, since you can’t control who fills in the form on your website, you’ll get leads from manufacturing companies in all sizes: small, medium-sized, and big.

    Since you’re targeting C-level execs at large corporations, it wouldn’t make sense to spend your time talking to small or medium-sized companies.

    But even if a company seems a good fit, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy, right?

    That’s why you need a sales pipeline.

    A well-structured pipeline helps you manage all those nuances and organize leads, so your sales team can focus on those prospects who are really engaged and have a high probability to convert to paying customers.

    monday.com's pipeline management features in action

    With an effective CRM software, you should be able to confidently manage your pipeline and see which stage your leads are in at all times.

    Capabilities and limitations of free CRMs

    The features we’ve covered are really the starting point for any CRM tool. But it doesn’t mean that’s all you need.

    If you’re a “solopreneur” handling just a couple of prospects per month, you might be able to meet your basic needs with a free solution, but if you’re looking to truly optimize your marketing, sales, and customer service processes at scale, then you need something a bit more complete.

    More bluntly, “free” always comes with the price of sacrificing features and functionality.

    Some of the main pitfalls of free CRM systems include:

    Lack of scalability

    Because of restrictions such as number of users or leads, a free CRM solution might stunt your growth path.

    Why?

    Because the whole point of CRMs is to grow — to drive more sales and delight current customers. If your software can’t handle that growth, then it is not surving it’s full purpose.

    It is important to be aware that, depending on your team’s size and growth tragectory, the “free” in your free CRM may not last long.

    They might offer a free plan, but as soon as you start adding teammates or exceed your contact quota, you’ll be prompted to pay.

    It’s often better to budget for a CRM tool that meets all of your needs off the bat, instead of getting stuck with a surprise bill.

    Limited integrations

    As you may know, few teams operate with a single tool.

    Sadly, most free CRM systems won’t offer integrations with the tools and apps you already use, which can lead to siloed information, and a lack of transparency.

    To access their full integration options, you’ll probably have to upgrade to a paid plan. Paid CRM solutions, on the other hand, give you more flexibility from the beginning.

    For instance, with monday.com, you get access to native integration with more than 40 other platforms across different functions, including: marketing, sales, customer support, accounting, and more.

    monday.com integrations

    This helps you centralize your information into a single place and work more efficiently.

    To learn more about how our integrations work, we suggest you watch this short video:

    Lack of sales automation

    Automations are critical to the success of any team.

    By letting the “robots” do the heavy lifting while you focus on strategic works, you can reduce the risk of human error and increase profit margins.

    Now, free options do offer some sales automation, but don’t expect them to be anything great. No free solution will help you streamline and automate your entire sales process.

    For instance, you might be able to automate notifications or status changes, but that’s likely it.

    Compare that to the 250,000 human actions you can automate with monday.com and you’ll understand why a paid solution can empower teams to make a big impact and really scale their sales efforts, without unforeseen barriers and restrictions.

    Limited customization

    Unfortunately, free CRM software has many limitations which can make it difficult to keep up with today’s fast-changing market.

    You must find yourself a platform that adapts to your needs and is flexible enough that you can optimize your processes constantly.

    For instance, with monday.com, you get access to multiple customization options from the start, including drag-and-drop functionalities.

    monday.com's drag-and-drop features in action

    This helps you design workflows with ease and build a platform that actually feels yours.

    Incomplete reporting

    Peter Drucker used to say that “what gets measured gets managed.”

    And your business is absolutely not the exception.

    The downside is that free CRM systems are not able to give you full access to all your data. Without transparency into the health of your sales pipeline, your hands are tied when it comes to good decision-making.

    Sure, you might be able to track leads or overall revenue, but if you want to dig deeper into your numbers, then you’ll need something a bit more sophisticated.

    For instance, at monday.com, you’re not only given full access to your data, but also provided with the tools you need to analyze that data.

    From the start, you get access to more than 20 dashboard widgets you can move around at will to design dashboards that look like this:

    monday.com's reporting dashboards in action

    To get a deeper understanding of how our dashboards work, you can check out this full guide.

    Limited training and customer support

    Finally, free CRM solutions don’t offer the type of training and support that teams need.

    For instance, let’s say your sales team is about to close a crucial deal and, for some reason, you can’t find the proposal you uploaded a few weeks ago.

    So you contact support, but they take ages to respond.

    And when they finally do it, it’s too late — you lost the deal.

    When you’ve got a big deal on the line, you want to feel sure that you have customer support behind you to help work through any questions or kinks in your workflow.

    Get started

    Various automation rules for CRM actions

    Is a free CRM tool enough?

    If you’ve ever heard someone say, “nothing is really free” this applies especially to high-quality solutions for your business.

    What you may have hoped would be a “free” CRM system often ends up being a mix of paid extensions that can end up being more expensive than paid options in the long run.

    The question is: are you willing to sacrifice functionality, flexibility, and power in the attempt to cut corners on your budget?

    If you’re interested in learning what a more robust CRM platform has to offer, we explore the basics and advanced features of monday.com below.

    Let’s start with the basics.

    What’s monday.com?

    monday.com's homepage screenshot

    monday.com isn’t just another “CRM solution”, it is a Work Operating System (Work OS) where you can build any workflow that fits your team’s needs.

    monday.com Work OS is flexible enough to build any type of workflow and robust enough to handle your growth.

    Regardless of the size of your project or pipeline, monday.com provides you with all the features you need to work more efficiently and deliver better results.

    But how can such a flexible platform meet your specific CRM needs?

    monday.com is more than just a CRM

    monday.com Work OS is made up of building blocks, which include functionalities such as dashboard widgets, integrations, data visualizations, and column types.

    You and your organization can arrange these building blocks in order to build a platform that meets your specific CRM needs.

    If it’s your first time building out a full CRM workflow or you want to learn form industry experts, you can get started in minutes with more than 200+ customizable templates.

    This gives you all the flexibility you need to build anything you can imagine. From CRM systems to project management platforms and even something completely new, monday.com helps you develop the perfect workflow.

    To give you a more complete explanation of monday.com Work OS, here’s a quick overview of everything you can do with monday.com:

    CRM features on monday.com

    With the vast flexibility of monday.com for all work processes, we’ve outlined below the CRM features available on monday.com.

    • Task management: assign tasks or leads to specific teammates and track progress with ease
    • Data storage: consolidate all your team, tools, contacts, and information into a single source of truth
    • Lead management: build forms with custom fields, store contacts, and prioritize them based on the criteria that matter to you
    • Pipeline management: manage the different stages of your sales funnel with efficiency
    • Customer tracking: track every customer interaction and measure how specific deals are progressing
    • Marketing automation: streamline your processes and get the most out of your marketing budget

    CRM templates

    With our CRM template, you can manage customer relations efficiently. You can prioritize leads, assign them to specific sales reps, and get more control over your sales processes.

    The good news?

    You can start in minutes — no coding skills or training required.

    monday.com's CRM template screenshot

    Investing in your organization's growth

    When your organization decides it’s time to really invest in growing and supporting your pipeline of potential customers, you need to consider which CRM system can support you in all of your needs.

    If you’re looking for a CRM platform that’s simple to use, powerful, and flexible— monday.com might be right for you.

    To decide for yourself, we suggest you try out our fully customizable CRM template — it’ll give you a taste of what to expect.

    Get started

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