As a consultant, you know clients to be the lifeblood of your work. They're the bread and butter that keeps your business afloat and growing. Unlike large B2C corporations that could possibly afford to lose or disappoint a client here and there, you need to be able to build and nurture relationships with your clients in order to succeed – and that's where a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system comes in.
A CRM helps you manage customer interactions, keep track of sales opportunities and leads, organize contact information, plan marketing campaigns, and more. It's an essential tool for any consultant who wants to make sure their customers have the best experience possible.
Wondering which CRM will take your business to the next level in 2023? Let's explore the best CRM for consultants (as well as how to choose the right one for your business).
What is CRM (customer relationship management) software?
Once upon a time, the systems we used for client management were incredibly rudimentary. We relied on paper-based systems and spreadsheets to keep track of customer information and interactions, which made it difficult to manage our relationships with clients effectively or efficiently.
CRMs are designed to change that. By making use of the most advanced technology available in 2021 – such as cloud computing, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) algorithms – CRM software helps you automate processes such as lead generation, contact management, customer segmentation and more.
This automation makes it easier to manage sales pipelines and track customer data, while also providing valuable insights into how your customers are interacting with you. It also gives you the opportunity to save time for other important tasks, such as developing relationships and building trust.
Why is CRM such a crucial element for consultants?
Over half of businesses consider their CRM to be the most important part of their tech stack – but why, exactly, is that the case?
Consultants manage lots of clients
Moreso than other businesses, consultancies need to manage tens, hundreds, and even thousands of clients on a personable level. It's not like a B2C situation where customers use your service or products without ever needing to interact with you directly. With consultants, a personal connection is essential.
You need to be able to keep track of each client's needs, preferences, and history so that you can provide them with the best possible experience – and a CRM allows you to do just that. By using a reliable CRM system, you can store all your customer data in one place and access it quickly whenever needed.
Consultants need to stay organized
Consultants also need to be highly organized in order to succeed. It's not enough to just manage customer relationships – you also have to keep track of schedules, appointments, tasks, projects, and more.
With a CRM system in place, you can easily organize all your data and ensure that no task or appointment slips through the cracks. The best CRMs will also provide you with automated reminders and notifications to ensure that nothing is ever forgotten.
Consultants need to be able to trust their data
Finally, consultants need to be able to trust the data they're working with. In order for your business decisions to be effective and reliable, you need a CRM system that is secure, reliable, and up-to-date. A high-quality CRM includes features like data encryption and real-time analytics, so you can trust that the information you're working with is accurate.
How to choose a consulting CRM?
A CRM is an excellent tool to add to your stack – but that doesn't mean any CRM will do. You need to choose a system that is tailored to the specific needs of consultants. It should be secure and reliable, but also feature-rich enough to provide you with the data analysis and insights you need.
Let's briefly run through the things to look for when choosing a CRM system:
Cost. This is a tricky one – you get what you pay for, but a high price doesn't always guarantee a good CRM. Do your research and look for a system that provides the features you need at a price you can afford.
Flexibility and tool integration. There's no point sinking hundreds of dollars into a system that doesn't fit into your existing workflow. For instance, do you have an ERP or invoicing system that you need to integrate with? Make sure the CRM software you choose can handle integration with your specific tools.
Data security and analytics. Data security should be a top priority; after all, you're dealing with sensitive customer data. Look for features like encryption and analytics to ensure that your client information is secure – and that you can access the insights you need with ease.
An all-in-one solution. We already mentioned integration, but imagine if you could get all your tools in one solution? Some CRM tools (like ours) are designed to provide all the features you need in one package, from invoicing and payment processing to customer relationship management and analytics.
Automation. Automation is the key to success for most businesses, and that's especially true for consultants. Choose a CRM system with automated reminders, notifications, and insights so you can focus on what matters: managing relationships and creating value for your clients.
Conversation tracking. Whether you're dealing with clients over email, phone, or social media, it's essential to have a CRM system that can track each conversation. This will help you keep track of customer inquiries and ensure that no questions go unanswered.
You might be thinking – how on earth can one tool cover all of these bases? Rest assured that there are tools out there with everything you need to thrive as a consultancy. Let's take a look at some of the best.
Introducing Bonsai – our very own CRM solution designed to provide comprehensive business support for consultants across various industries. We've designed an all-in-one business management tool covering invoicing, client management, project management, and more. Enjoy a highly flexible and functional tool packaged in an aesthetically pleasing design; it's a great choice for anyone who wants to focus more on their clients and less on the paperwork.
Best for: consultants, freelancers, and small businesses who need an all-in-one solution
Eliminates the need for multiple integrated tools
Comes with a client portal that can be fully customized
Designed primarily to help with sales and outreach, Free Agent is a highly-rated tool that will help you manage your client relations and close deals quickly. The tool is extremely intuitive, easy to use, and comes with features such as process management, task automation, powerful integrations, reporting, workflow management, and more.
If you've ever tried to learn and implement a new tool, you'll know how painful it can be. That's why Less Annoying CRM was created – to be simple right out of the box. The interface is very intuitive, the automation capabilities just make sense, and only the essentials are included (although this may be a downside if you need something more powerful).
Best for: Solopreneurs and small businesses who want an easy-to-use CRM
Designed with simplicity in mind – no complex setup or learning curve needed
Set up within just minutes
Loved and highly rated by thousands of users
Limited features and integrations compared to other solutions
Monday.com blew up in popularity in recent years due to its user-friendly workflow management tools. Since then, the company has launched CRM features so that you can keep track of your customer activity as well as manage your pipeline. With plenty of features designed to help generate and capture leads, as well as analyze customer data, it's a great option for consultants.
Best for: Consultants looking for a straightforward, visual CRM solution
Covers both client management and project management
Simple UI that anyone can pick up
Provides email tracking and performance monitoring
No accounting tools for payments, invoices, and billing
Hubspot is one of the biggest names in the CRM industry, and for good reason. Their Sales Hub provides a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to manage customer relationships as well as close deals quickly. With powerful automation capabilities, an intuitive sales pipeline, contact management features, tracking tools and more – it's hard to go wrong with this scalable choice.
Best for: Mid to large consultancies
Scales up with your business as it grows
Tools for both landing clients and building relationships
Highly customizable with plenty of integrations
May be overly complex for smaller consultancies
Pricey if you don't need all the features
Although the baseline tool is technically free, its features are restrictive until you invest in one of the paid plans. Professional features will cost around $30,000 per year and Enterprise will cost closer to $60,000.
Salesforce is undoubtedly one of the biggest players in the business software space. The company has a lot of solutions for different types of businesses, and one of them is Sales Cloud – its CRM software dedicated to helping consultants close deals faster. If you already use other Salesforce tools, it's a great choice as it can all be integrated seamlessly.
Best for: Large consultancies
Can be used as an end-to-end sales solution
Highly customizable with a wide range of features and integrations available
Priced only according to what you use
Expensive compared to other solutions on this list
Can be over-complicated if you don't need all the features
Unlike large platforms such as Hubspot and Salesforce, ClaritySoft really tries to strip things back to the basics. It is designed specifically for email marketing and tracking client interactions – so if that's something you find yourself doing a lot, this is a great option. It makes the entire sales pipeline highly transparent.
Best for: Sales-driven consultancies
Simple, intuitive workflow automation
Reporting and KPI tracking
Comprehensive mobile app for accessibility
Limited scalability for larger companies
3 user minimum for pricing levels
Professional – $39/user/month
Accelerator – $49/user/month
Enterprise – $69/user/month
Our Pick: Bonsai
When it comes to client management, no tool does it quite like Bonsai. There's a powerful simplicity to the platform; it’s an excellent choice for consultants who don't have time to learn overly complex tools. It's highly intuitive, incredibly easy to use, and provides the exact features you need – without all the bloatware.
A powerful CRM can truly take your consulting business to the next level, and thankfully there are plenty of great options out there. Whether you want something super simple or a more comprehensive solution, we hope this list has helped you narrow down your choices.
And remember – if you're looking for an all-in-one solution that covers client management, project management, and billing all in one place, our platform is the way to go. Try Bonsai for consultants free for 7 days!