CRM system: meaning, options + how to choose one? 

14 February 2024

CRM, which stands for Customer Relationship Management, is software that lets you organize data from your contacts and customers. With a CRM system, you store contact information within a central place. Think of contact data, call history, scheduled appointments and data around preferences. 

From this central database, you can easily plan follow-up actions. This helps you to enthuse potential customers about your product or service. The data within your CRM also make you more customer-oriented. You know exactly what contact moments have occurred and what your customers' preferences are. 

Here above you found an immediate answer about what a CRM system is. Fortunately, this short (and hopefully clear?!) explanation is only a small part of this page. In this article, you will also learn more about the following topics:

This is how CRM software works: a practical example

Want to know how a CRM system works? We'll explain it to you using a practical example. Let's use our process and system as an example. Our process roughly involves two steps:

Step 1. Adding leads as contacts

Our Software Vendor Specialist Joep Sangers, searches the internet for potential partners (leads) for on our platform. When he finds a personal email address, he adds it within our system. Creating a new contact is essentially the starting point of potential follow-up actions.

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Step 2 Convert leads to customers

The new contact is now in our system. Now we want this contact, to do the action we want. In our case, we want the contact to become a partner of ours. This requires follow-up actions from our side. 

Our system allows us to have adequate insight into follow-up steps and actions. The goal of these follow-up actions? Bringing in new customers! 

As you can see below, our system displays the follow-up actions. For each contact, it shows whether we should email, call, or do other follow-up actions.

We also see by whom and when a follow-up action needs to be done. See below an example of a reminder sent to us by HubSpot (our software):

Main functionalities of CRM software

Below are the main modules of CRM:

CRM modules

Greatest benefits of CRM software

The biggest benefits of CRM at a glance: 

  • 360-degree customer view: you get a complete picture of every customer. 
  • Sales and marketing better aligned: your marketing and sales departments all work together within a single system. 
  • Digital marketing tools: with email marketing and social media integrations, you improve your communication towards leads and customers.
  • Better predictions: using forecasting features, you better predict customer behavior. This enables more personalized experiences.
  • Streamlined content creation and distribution: within most CRM systems, you easily create blogs, white papers and share them with the world through social media features. 
  • Significant ROI: a well-functioning CRM package leads to improved customer relationships and increased sales efficiency = more leads become customers!

Want to take your business to the next level? Fill in our CRM comparison tool and find your CRM in 5 minutes!

The cons

Below are the biggest cons:

  • High implementation and licensing costs: setting up a CRM system involves costs such as implementation, licensing and training, which can be a financial burden for organizations.
  • Troublesome data migration: Transferring data from legacy systems to a CRM can be problematic if data is not properly organized and cleaned, which can lead to functional problems.
  • Employee resistance: Using a CRM system can create resistance among employees due to changes in tasks, which requires investment in training and change management to overcome this resistance.
  • Complexity of systems: CRM systems are complex, and adapting them to a company's unique needs can be time-consuming and affect the operation of the organization.

This is what CRM systems look like

Below you can see what CRM systems look like. See screenshots of two different systems and get a better idea of what this type of software looks like. 

Want detailed explanations of these CRM examples? You check it out on our page: 10 examples of CRM systems [+ screenshots].

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Let's start with Microsoft's CRM. We were using this software before we switched to HubSpot. Take a look at the initial screen of this package below. Within this section, you'll find basically the most important information.

In the screen below (the customer card) you can see all the information about your individual contacts. This includes call history and contact information. 


The next CRM package is that of Alexion. This system is considered one of the simplest CRM packages within this market. Also, Alexion is one of the best affordable systems! 

See below what Alexion's solution looks like. You first discover the customer card and then see how to add items.

This is how you add a product in Alexion's CRM:

CRM systems to choose from

Below are several CRM systems. This list is a mix of widely used packages, such as HubSpot and Microsoft, and lesser-known players.

  • Alexion
  • Dynamics 365 (Microsoft)
  • Efficy
  • HubSpot 
  • Odoo
  • Retailrocket
  • Salesmanager
  • Superoffice
  • Webenable
  • ZOHO

Want to discover whether one of the systems above comes out of our comparison tool as your best match? Fill in our CRM comparison tool and find out in 5 minutes!

Dedicated resources: find a CRM for your specific sector

For every industry, different advice is needed. Therefore, we made dedicated pages for the sectors below. Use the insights and find a system for your specific situation:

How to choose a suitable CRM package?

Here are four tips to help you choose a CRM package:

Tip 1: Test your CRM software!

It is difficult to determine the true quality of CRM systems, as manufacturers are often overly positive about their products. 

Therefore, we recommend that you try out a demo or free version of the software before making a choice.

Tip 2: Involve key stakeholders in your selection process.

Different departments have different needs and requirements when using a CRM system. 

Therefore, involve various stakeholders, such as sales, marketing and management, to ensure that the chosen package meets all requirements and has broad support within the organization.

Tip 3: Carefully check the functionalities within the chosen package

Avoid disappointment by carefully checking whether the chosen CRM package has all the necessary functionalities. By checking carefully, you avoid having to upgrade to a more expensive package later.

Tip 4: Don't make it too complicated

Select a user-friendly CRM system. This will prevent users from having trouble using the software. 

An overly complex interface can lead to incorrect data entry and inefficiency. Therefore, look especially at the amount of manual input work for the sales department when selecting a CRM package.

Tip 5. Look at the human aspect when choosing an implementation partner

When selecting a CRM system, it is crucial not only to look at the business side. Our Software Specialist Joep therefore advises you to look at the human aspect when picking a CRM partner. The cooperation with the supplier often lasts for years, so look for a good click and open communication.

The difference between ERP and CRM

A customer relationship management (CRM) system focuses on managing contact and customer data, with the goal of both attracting new customers and better serving existing ones.

On the other hand, an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system is more versatile, with functions such as accounting, financial accounting and warehouse management, aimed at improving various business processes.

Want to learn more about the differences between ERP and CRM? And even want to see a table with the biggest differences? You'll find out on our page about the difference between ERP and CRM.

When do you need a CRM?

Often we see companies still using Excel. In our opinion, keeping track of your valuable contact data in it is not ideal. In addition, this is an error-prone way of working. Excel also lacks the more advanced functions such as forecasting and automation. 

Have you noticed that your sales processes and customer contact are not running smoothly? Or do you think you could get more out of your organization with the right tools? Do you answer these questions with “yes”? Then you require a CRM system!

How much does such a CRM solution cost?

On average, a CRM system costs between €10 and €300 per user per month. The simplest CRM systems cost about €10, while advanced software such as Salesforce and HubSpot quickly cost €300 or more per month. 

These monthly costs only cover licensing fees. Also consider training and implementation costs. Fortunately, these costs are often one-time in nature.

Want a quick price indication? Fill in our CRM cost calculator to find out!

Here's how to find a customized package

Do you have a better understanding of what CRM is? And what you can do with it? Good, because the next step is to choose a suitable system! 

Every situation requires different advice, different systems and different implementation partners. So the decision you make is very personal. 

Do you want 100% customized advice on which systems fit your needs and requirements? Fill out our free comparison tool and find out which software suits you:

Want to know more about how, using our comparison tool, to find a suitable system? Watch the video and find out!

Peter de Bruin
CEO & Sr. Software Specialist
With over 15 years of dedicated experience in the enterprise software industry, I have seen firsthand how crucial it is for an organization to find the right software system for success. In this rapidly changing marketplace, a fair playing field is not always a given. My mission is to create a fair match between companies and vendors, putting the importance of appropriate and effective software first. Our independent selection tool is designed to fulfill this mission, with the goal of creating a future where everyone can effortlessly find the perfect software package, with a smile. Let's strive for that effortless future together.
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