Top 10 CRM Systems: An Independent Software Ranking

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: June 24, 2021

When evaluating potential Customer Relationship Management systems or CRM software is there are many options in today’s marketplace. There are choices for small and midsize companies, larger companies, and they all have pros, cons, strengths, and weaknesses.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of CRM systems ranging from small startup upstart types of vendors to well-established CRM vendors to ERP vendors that provide CRM capabilities. Navigating this terrain can be very difficult and overwhelming.

To help you navigate, we put together a top 10 list of CRM systems. Before we start, I want to be clear that this ranking is 100% independent and agonistic. No third-party or vendor paid or influenced this content in any way. At Third Stage, our only priority is finding the best system for our clients – doesn’t matter to us which software that is as long as it meets their needs.

There's a lot of different criteria that goes into this ranking of the top 10 and so without further ado, we'll jump right in and talk about the top 10 list.

10. HubSpot

HubSpot is a system that's better known for its marketing automation capabilities, but it also has CRM capabilities. It allows you to track your sales pipeline, opportunities, assign probabilities, and track multiple tasks.

The beauty of HubSpot is even though it's not a super robust or complex CRM system, it still has free options for users and it's a way to hook you into the platform so that eventually you might use a marketing automation system which you then later end paying for.


The strength of the HubSpot CRM system, in addition to being free and simple to use, is that it can be great for any small business. If you're looking for basic CRM capabilities, or you just want to try out a CRM system, HubSpot can be a great place to start.

One big advantage of this system is that it ties into marketing automation. If you have email marketing campaigns, social media, blog posts to your website, and landing pages, It will allow you to take those marketing automation processes and the leads that come in through these functionalities that then go straight into your pipeline.


The downside is if you're a complex organization, HubSpot can be pretty limiting. You're essentially getting a non-luxurious CRM solution for large business which might not help you achieve your business goals the way you want them.

For a lot of small and mid-sized companies that aren't large and their sales teams, HubSpot can be a great place to start. With all that being said, that's enough to land HubSpot in number 10 on our list.

9. Odoo CRM

Another great product for small and mid-sized companies is Odoo CRM. You may actually know Odoo better as an ERP solution if you have worked with it before. They provide broad capabilities that span inventory management, financials, manufacturing, and supply chain.

They also have a fairly strong CRM module as well. Odoo as you may know, is also an open-source ERP system, meaning that generally it's going to be less expensive and it's going to be more flexible.


A big advantage of Odoo is that you can change the code and you can modify the product. There's a whole third-party ecosystem of apps that tie into Odoo. If we look at the CRM module, in particular, not only is it suited for small and midsize companies, but it's very user-friendly. It does all the basic things that you need for a CRM system and it's also a very modular product.

If you're a small company or a growing company, you can start off with CRM and know that you can add modules of other capabilities that extend beyond CRM to build or grow into a broader ERP solution.

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The downside of Odoo is it can be somewhat limiting in its capabilities. If you're a midsize organization, a larger business, or a more complex sales organization - Odoo is probably going to be a bit limited. The rest of the products in our top 10 list (as you keep reading) can do more and they have more power if you're a larger organization. With all that being considered, that's enough to land Odoo at number nine on our list.

8. Sage CRM

An ERP provider that has strong CRM capabilities, is a product called Sage CRM. Sage is an ERP system that's used by a lot of midsize companies and some smaller organizations as well. This CRM system is a bit more robust than some of the others we've talked about so far. It can do a bit more in terms of forecasting and planning and It can do some marketing automation for customer service.

If your customer intensive organization and you have a high-touch customer service function, Sage CRM can help support through sales and provide the initial sales automation. It can also offer ongoing support and customer service.

Sage allows you to handle quotes, proposals, and orders. The best part is that provides integration to other third-party systems as well. Which is a big advantage if you are looking for something like that.


Even if you're not using Sage ERP, and you have a different back-office ERP system or might at some point in the future. Sage CRM has pretty open integration capabilities with those third-party systems.

Another thing worth noting about Sage is that you can deploy it on-premise or in the cloud. It's one of the few vendors that are still giving you the option of deploying on-premise. You are going to want that flexibility in the end.


The one downside of Sage is that if you're a larger organization, and you require more robust capabilities, Sage may not be the best fit. But for most midsize organizations, it's enough to land stage number eight on our list.

7. Sugar CRM

Sugar CRM is a product that's been around for a long time. It is very specialized in CRM capabilities. It can handle a lot of robust needs and a lot of complex capabilities that sales organizations may have.

This system is used heavily by financial services firms, companies that do wealth management, and also staffing and recruiting. Those are some of the industries that find the most benefit from Sugar CRM and one of the unique aspects of Sugar is that it has specific capabilities that are unique.

Let’s take staffing and recruiting, for example, it allows you to not only track your sales opportunities and potential clients that you might be pursuing, but it also allows you to track candidates that you may be interviewing and having in your candidate pipeline. That's a sort of unique functionality for a specific industry that Sugar has owned within the industry.


They have similar capabilities and specific industry processes that they support within financial services and other areas as well. If you're looking for a very targeted sort of solution that can do things that are specific to your industry, Sugar CRM is one that's worth checking out. They are a product much like Sage that can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud.

One other strength we'll point out is that it can also handle customer service.

If you're looking for more of a customer experience type of capability beyond the initial sale, Sugar CRM ultimately has some great options. With all that being said, that's enough to land Sugar at number seven on our list.


Coming in at number six is SAP CRM. This is the first entry into our top 10 list that really focuses on CRM capabilities for larger organizations, and loftier sales teams. If you're an organization that has a big or complex sales cycle, this product can be great for managing territories, commissions, and sales plans. It has competencies that will track marketing and customer service, as well as contracts and billing.


This CRM is a fully integrated suite of capabilities that focuses not just on managing the sales in the pipeline, but also on handling the salesforce, sales team, and all the aspects that go along with that. Along that line, it does well with customer service and marketing, more of a true customer experience type of product versus a pure CRM type of solution.

One thing to note is that many of these systems are migrating from a sales automation tool to more of an overall customer experience type of tool. That's what you see and that's what you get with SAP CRM.

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The downside of SAP CRM is it can be overkill for a lot of organizations. Unless you're a big organization with a complex global sales team, SAP CRM is probably going too much for you.

In those cases, you may want to look at some of the other options in our top 10 list that are more focused for the small and mid-market. Nonetheless, for those larger global organizations that need more robust support, SAP CRM can be a great option.

5. Oracle CRM

Next on the list is Oracle CRM. This system is part of Oracle's overall customer experience, module, and capability. They are one of the vendors much like SAP that is really investing in the overall customer experience and looking at how their product can enhance and optimize all the different touchpoints that a customer may have with your organization. Now much like SAP, Oracle CRM can also handle territories, commissioned sales plans, forecasting, and other sales management capabilities.


One of the things that are unique to Oracle and is considered a benefit is something called configure price quote or CPU capability. If you're an engineering type of organization, or you manufacture products that are made to order, the CPU module will allow you to feed your sales staff with the availability of different parts and products that might go into an end solution.

Oracle CRM can also look for signals in your pipeline. What do I mean by that? Well, it can look for behavioral signals of what your prospects are doing that might trigger a need to reach out to them. They use artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify patterns or signals that might trigger some sort of outreach from your sales staff.


Now, Oracle is a flexible product, but the downside of being flexible is that if you're looking for standardization, or you really want to tighten up your sales operations - go for something a little bit more common or standardized. A product like SAP is probably going to be stronger and some of the other products in our top 10 list might be more effective in terms of enforcing standardization.

Ultimately, if you're looking for something that's flexible that can tie into a broader ERP system that Oracle provides, then the capabilities Oracle CRM is one of you might consider. That's enough to land Oracle at number five on our list.

4. NetSuite CRM

Coming in number four is NetSuite CRM. You may know NetSuite which is also provided by Oracle as a small and mid-size market ERP system. They have a dynamic CRM module within that ERP capability and it's something you can purchase on its own as a standalone product.

The benefit of NetSuite CRM and the reason it rates so high in our ranking is because a lot of small and mid-sized companies find that the CRM capabilities are very strong because they also have ERP capabilities.


A unique aspect of NetSuite CRM products is that if you're the type of organization that not only sells to customers but perhaps you forge partnerships with other firms, then that might work best for you. You are essentially referring to your business so that it can sell and deliver your product or service. It has a specialized functionality that allows you to track those sorts of partnerships and the partner management function.

That's something that gives NetSuite an advantage and something that's worth considering especially if you're a smaller and mid-market company. You'll want to consider this product even if you're a larger organization because the needs of a large organization are so complex. At the end of the day, NetSuite can be a great option for you and that's enough to land NetSuite at number four on our list.

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3. Salesforce

Salesforce has been around for about 20 years and they were one of those first best of breed systems. That went after the vulnerabilities of ERP systems and one of those weak points historically was CRM. When Salesforce started, they weren't trying to be everything to everyone, they were just trying to build CRM capabilities better than the leading ERP vendors could.

Since then, ERP vendors and other CRM, upstarts have sort of caught up and created capabilities that are on par, but Salesforce still has a head start.


They're the first native cloud CRM solution out there other than NetSuite, which is also a native cloud solution on both the ERP and CRM sides. This cloud solution combined with its depth of capability within the sales automation side of things is given Salesforce a really strong foundation to build on. Now, over time, Salesforce has also created a third-party ecosystem of applications that can extend and enhance the functionality.

Salesforce is a pretty complex product; it can do a lot of different things. Many of the functions I've mentioned throughout this blog that other CRM systems can do and more. It's somewhat difficult to maintain and integrate all these different moving parts, especially if you start getting third-party applications.


One word of warning about Salesforce is you probably want to make sure you have fairly robust internal IT resources to be able to manage this software longer term. If you're a larger organization or even a midsize organization that does have those capabilities, Salesforce can be a great option.

If you're a smaller organization, there are probably better options out there that are a little bit more right-sized for your needs because, as I said, Salesforce can be a bit complex.

2. Zoho

Coming in at number two is a product called Zoho and if you follow the ERP industry, or maybe even the CRM industry, you may not have heard of Zoho. To everyone's surprise, it is actually a very widely used system. A lot of small and midsize organizations have found success with its unique suite of capabilities that are very specialized within CRM.


In addition to doing all the typical CRM type stuff like pipeline management, lead scoring, and things of that nature - it can also do pretty cool things with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

For example, there are predictive sales capabilities within Zoho so it looks at the behaviors and the activities within your pipeline to identify where the priority should be and what the hottest leads might be. It also has some pretty neat integrated social media capabilities.

The Zoho CRM capabilities can tie to your marketing activities, social media posts, platform engagement, as well as more traditional communication methods like phone and email. It really supports that wholesales and customers experience approach. Another great strength of Zoho is it has extremely high MPS and overall analyst ratings.

1. Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Coming in at number one is Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Microsoft Dynamics is another ERP provider, but their CRM capabilities are particularly strong. The thing that lands Microsoft at number one on our list is they have the right balance, in our opinion, of being able to cater to smaller organizations as well as large multinational organizations. They are adaptable to the needs of most organizations and have a good mix of clients on both sides of the spectrum.

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The capabilities that Microsoft Dynamics provides are a range from simple pipeline management, forecasting to managing leads, and lead flow. This flow attaches to customer service as well as artificial intelligence to flag next steps, leads, or prospects that need some sort of follow-up, as well as recommended next steps.

If you're an organization that's selling to other businesses, a b2b type of organization, then Microsoft Dynamics CRM has everything you need and more. The other benefit of Microsoft CRM is that it has that Microsoft look and feel and a lot of our client users really liked that. They're very comfortable with it, they are familiar with all the bells and whistles they have seen before. It integrates well with Office 365, and SharePoint, and other Microsoft products.

Another unique aspect of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is that they have an app source third-party ecosystem much like Salesforce. They also have third-party applications that are being built that can extend the functionality of Microsoft CRM and fill in some of the gaps or industry-specific needs of the product. If you were to ever opt to go to their ERP system, it's a great starting point to begin with a CRM solution.


Now, the downside of Microsoft is it does have a great deal of flexibility. Why do I say that? Well, that can create some complexities and difficulties for organizations that don't have a clear vision of what they want and how they want their business processes to look. It can be difficult to configure the product and to make all those decisions around what the product needs to look like.

With all that being said, that's still enough to land Microsoft at number one on our list a last at number one.

Final Thoughts

To summarize this top 10 list, we've given you our general ranking across industries and company sizes. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to your business needs, sales, automation, customer experience, types of capabilities, and what product best fits your organization.

If you're a small organization, your top 10 list is probably going to look different than a large multinational organization but hopefully this gives you a good starting point of understanding what those different capabilities are and what some of the strengths and weaknesses to consider.

If there are any products you feel I should have made the top 10 list, or if you have any additional product-specific questions – please feel free to reach out. I am always happy to be an informal sounding board to your CRM initiative and what products might be best for you.

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Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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