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Ask HN: Recommended CRM solution for a SaaS startup?
87 points by eshlomo on Oct 1, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 69 comments
Like every startup our customer dwfinition is pretty flexable at this point, so any recommendation on lean and efficient CRM proccess is appriciated

What is your sales process going to look like? Figure out your requirements and it will make your search easier.

I really like Close.io for cold outbound sales. If you're doing social media then maybe look at Nimble. As someone else said you can get started for free with Hubspot. Intercom might be something to look at as well if your going for a more automated process.

You can obviously use Zapier to tie your software together so you can use best in class software for whatever processes you end up putting in place.

I work for Base (getbase.com) and recently put this spreadsheet together with 45 vendor details, links to pricing, etc. Whatever you select, just make sure it scales with your business and you have a solid plan around implementation/process. Happy to answer any questions about Base (or any others if I can).


Hubspot CRM is free, Hubspot Sales has affordable tiers, and they also have special discount programs for startups. I don't have any affiliation with them.

Close.io -- clean, stays out of your way, very extensible API for when you want to tie it directly into your site/dashboard/various marketing mechanisms.

WJ has it right. Figure out your sales process. How many customers? How do you identify suspects / prospects / likelies? How long is the sales cycle? Do your first US$50K of deals managing with tools you already own, like a whiteboard or spreadsheet or quickbooks, or with tools you have to have, like payment card processors like stripe.com and/or braintree.

Once you've got the beginnings of a process, you'll be much better positioned to decide on tools.

Tools don't close deals. You do. Go close some. Seriously.

Salesforce.com because you’ll move to it anyway.

On that note, nobody pays list price for Salesforce - just because they let you purchase licenses self-service doesn’t mean you should. Call sales, negotiate your contract - your discount will scale some based on volume but there’s no reason to not ask for one.

Salesforce is the Jira of CRMs..

Jira is so terrible. Just switched from trello to it, so regret it.

Indeed. And when you grow, and get a proper head of sales, they'll migrate you to Salesforce if you hadn't already.

Hoping to counter that trend with our own simple CRM tool: Orchestra.


We chose Salesforce, and haven't regretted it. The thing you need to keep in mind if you are doing any semi-complicated B2B sales, is that you will need to do some customizations, and Salesforce is a king of this. We have heavily customized it, and especially workflows have been quite helpfull for us.

It does come with a hefty price-tag, but when moving forward you will eventually outgrow most other CRM solutions, and it will be quite time consuming to switch later on.

It also helps with recruiting, since most people have used Salesforce previously.

Office365 comes with a complementary Outlooks Contacts Manager that lives straight in outlook (well, exchange). It's a great tool for a 1 man shop with a few simple products and leads.

You need a business premium license though. (10eur/MO)

ERPNext (https://erpnext.com)

Open source, self-hosted.

This looks really good. That's a lot of functionality.

It indeed is. Check out the open source community edition https://erpnext.org

Since you're at the beginning of it all, you might want to take a step back and think about your sales process. Here are some other questions to ponder as you're thinking about your CRM:

- Are you a B2B or a B2C startup?

- What are your goals for your CRM? (i.e. close more deals, relationship management, etc.)

- How many people are in your organization? How many people are in your sales team?

- What existing systems do you have already? Do you need the sales data to feed into other systems?

- How do you plan on updating your customer information?

- How skilled is your sales team? Will they primarily be in the office, working remotely? Do they need additional capabilities from the CRM software?

- Which communication channels do you expect your customers to be?

Without a clear picture of your organization and your sales process, it's difficult to pinpoint the right solution. I used to be a consultant and have seen clients implement all kinds of software without fully understanding their own capabilities and the software's capabilities.

However, given that you're at the beginning of things, what would make the most sense might be to try a few different free tools to see what works for you. I wouldn't spend too much at this point - something simple and easy might be best. Heck, even Google Sheets or Excel might suffice at this point.

Whatever you use, here's the trick we learned from trying to use Msft Dynamics XRM: Do not make the core of your application a bunch of custom functoids. Also plan custom changes very carefully; always use what's out of the box first. Also, don't hesitate to hire pro consultants; they will reinforce what I just stated.

Even given all that, would I use XRM again? No. It just isn't there yet for a large enterprise app.

Turbosales.io is a good one [disclaimer - I made it]

It's great because it bundles mass email, automated email and a CRM into one so you don't have to run around stitching a bunch of pieces together.

Once you make an account send me a message or call me (number is in the app) and I'll work out a special deal [basically free till it's actually bringing in revenue] for you since you're a startup.

Hubspot is great since their product is designed with marketing in mind, this makes it a great fit for SaaS companies as they heavily rely on digital marketing channels to grow. They also have some great integrations with tools such as Proposify, Lucky Orange, etc. Our SaaS company just switched to Hubspot from Streak and we are happy to have made the jump.

Second Hubspot, great for SaaS companies that focus on inbound marketing. The CRM product is free. If you're a startup, they have a program to get 90% off their other products.

Whatever CRM you use, look for one that integrates with any customer related tools that you're using. Larger players like Hubspot can attract more developer integrations. For example, we use Drift (Like Intercom but much cheaper) for customer support and sync events in Drift to Hubspot.

Thanks. Which plan are you on, if you don't mind me asking.

The free plan only has 5.5 of the 32 features in the next paid tier ( 600$ / year).

Thinking of using it to market my side projects.

Also, did you start with free tier for your SaaS and then upgraded once you got sales, leads, or did you directly start with 1 of the paid plans?

We are on the Pro plan. They were having a promo so I think we got it for $8500 with some add-ons and more contacts. Yeah, depending on your use-case the other plans before pro can be somewhat limited in their features. I would recommend using Hubspot only once you can do Pro or higher with add-ons like the social media automation. I could see it being useful thou if you could lump multiple side-projects into it and streamline the marketing process. We started with the paid plan coming off of Streak. We simply outgrew Streak as we were using that plus Proposify, Google Docs, Mailchimp, Drip, etc. and pulling everything together with Zapier, so it was just getting complex.

Thanks Mike! Very useful info.

Use the cheapest and easiest one to install. Once you use it you will start finding more about what you need in CRM. If you are really a startup, it shouldnt be that hard to switch to a different one later. We started with excel files, then used Zoho for 1 year before switching to SalesForce. Based on size and scenarios, I would recommend all of them.


Basic version is open source but the premium is only 200$ a year if you self host it. They have out of the box Debian packages so it's easy to run. It's the most feature packed crm we have found and we have used it for clients the last 8 years.

Google spreadsheets are pretty good

once you really need automation features, then something like insightly or hubspot can be useful

Yes, I agree. I tried multiple CRMs in the past like SugarCRM and Vtiger and the main issue was not the lack of features but the time you should spend to integrate with your company flow (e.g. adding customers from your inquiry managing systems).

This issue happens mainly in small companies with tiny sales and marketing teams.

Zoho all the way! (Zoho fanboy here) Main reasons: 1. Good coverage in terms of features and customization. 2. Pure play on Zoho is very advantageous. There are numerous apps, products that play well, which are deeply integrated (Survey, Sign, Campaigns, etc). 3. Amazing price point!

Probably worth mentioning that you work for Zoho as well...

Yes! Ran a couple of small businesses before and was a proud Zoho user then. One thing led to another, work for them FT now and continue to be a (proud-er) Zoho user. :)

We used Zoho too at work. We integrate it with Socketapp for quoting side and Quickbooks for accounting.

But honestly, there's so many CRM out there, and most will have some free tier / trial period. What you want to look at is a CRM that can integrate well with your workflow / other apps that you can use. Either by integration/API support or maybe through something like Zapier.

Streak CRM, fantastic if on G Suite.

Thanks for the shoutout! For OP - Streak (YC S11) works on both Gmail and G Suite and we have both free and paid versions. Give me a holler at weston(at)streak(dot)com with any questions! I'm on the support side and would be glad to help.

Have you looked into Pipedrive?

We use Pipedrive at Faraday and love it — it's the Trello of CRM

We also use Pipedrive at STOMT. Can recommend it!

Next company I start is going on pipedrive.

Pipedrive is excellent.

Whatever you do, don't over complicate it with systems and processes. Do what works today and possibly tomorrow, because your startup is going to go through plenty of changes anyway. We started out using Google Sheets and then migrated to Asana (free), which we've sorta "hacked" to do CRM the way that works for us. One thing I've learned is to not waste too much time in these choices because it's not the core value in your org, at least not at an early stage.

I've been using https://agilecrm.com for my startup and it's worked well. They even have a free plan.

We are using FreshSales.io. so far, it is good. https://www.freshsales.io

Cool Forzo. Nivas from the Freshsales Team. Thanks for the mention.

Have you tried using Freshsales CRM? - https://www.freshworks.com/freshsales-crm Has AI-based lead scoring, built-in phone, email, activity capture, workflows and more. A lot of SaaS startups have been using it and found it to be really helpful for their teams.

[Disclaimer: I work for Freshsales (Freshworks)]

Why the new domain? Was there an issue with the io?

Both work. Just that the product under Freshworks will move under the domain.

If you want to follow Predictable Revenue ( by Aaron ross) give Alore CRM a try ( https://crm.alore.io) .

Alore CRM offers everything needed to run a sales team at scale - from finding business email addresses to running automated drip campaigns to monitoring the performance of sales teams.

We have special price for startups with less than 5 team member.

We put together a free CRM designed for startups that works 100% over Slack. Sudo.ai, is free for our own CRM version and integrates with Salesforce. It's zero-input collects everything from your email and calendar and automagically organizes it on a CRM. Disclaimer: CEO founder here.

You might setup a Trello board as your CRM: https://trello.com/b/lrAIa0JW/sales-crm-pipeline

WORKetc[1] is pretty feature packed and their support is supposedly second to none. (Disclaimer: I have worked with them in the past)

1: https://www.worketc.com

We just founded https://prospekt.ai for automatically finding and contacting leads. Might be a good fit for you. Get in touch for an HN discount.

It really depends of your sales flow. In any case, I've heard a lot of people are happy with https://prospect.io/

[Disclaimer: I work for HubSpot]

HubSpot has a startup "scholarship" program, I think it is a 90% discount. Not sure about the details for applying, but it's worth looking into.

Check out salesflare.com

https://lime-crm.com Enterprise ready without the bloat and bullshit of Salesforce.

https://getsynap.com, awesome email sharing and pipeline building tools.

Thanks for the replies, havnt tried any of those. Adding to the list

Agile CRM is my preferred, particularly because it sucks in Gmail.

I read that as "It automatically imports from Gmail", not "It is bad when using it with Gmail"?

Using Central Station CRM over here.

I've heard of Highrise (came out of 37signals) and Salesforce (because they put their name on buildings in many major cities)


We use PropsperWorks and it works great. Amazing integration with GMail. However, watch out for their contract. We had to let go of some sales people and we're still trying to re-negotiate our seats with them.




I just open to beta at Wooster, https://wooster.io/ after getting frustrated with salesforce - it has integrated calling and automated workflows.

Close.io or getbase.com

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