Beware of the Hidden Cost of Free CRM Software

Free CRM Software

Free stuff is tough to resist, and that’s not your fault. Behavioral economists have spent decades analyzing the effects of this magical four-letter word, and how even the savviest buyers are bamboozled into using inferior tools that cost more time and money in the long haul.

Why free products look so good

We like the word free because of something called the Zero Price Effect. This behavioral phenomenon occurs when we see big zeros on a product or service, making its intrinsic value skyrocket from our, sorry to say, irrational perspective.

Advertising something as free is therefore an excellent way to communicate added artificial value, particularly because we perceive free things as low-risk. This not only appeals to our budget books, but to the loss-averse human mind that places more value on losses (including cash) than it does on gains (even when you get great value for your money).

Free software, for example, is often sold as a simplified version of the real deal. They are said to offer the same great benefits without the cost and risk of paying for robust features. Features that you think you don’t need.

We like free, but we don’t like change

Investing in CRM software is risky, even when it’s free. That’s because organizational change, however small, is costly and time consuming. This is particularly risky when you’re in the business of sales where every minute and conversation counts.

While free CRM software may seem like the perfect, risk-free solution for “right now”, keep in mind that these solutions are designed to be temporary. What’s the long term solution? A premium product that is far from what you signed up for.

Thousands of companies make this mistake, Sendify being one example, and eventually end up going through the pain of switching. That’s where the hidden cost for free CRM buyers comes from, but let’s have a look at how companies can even afford to offer these solutions cost-free.

What free CRM software really is

Free software, especially for SaaS products like CRM, are designed to appeal to the buyers using the Zero Price Effect, then create pain points that are only alleviated by purchasing the “real deal”. By intentionally shredding benefits from the so called free version, you are often left with software that comes with:

  • Zero customer service
  • Reduced data security
  • Little to no customization
  • No essential features
  • Major limitations and restrictions on important features
  • Constant prompts to upgrade to a paid version

How things can go wrong with a free CRM

So, you’re looking for CRM to organize your team’s sales process and ultimately boost their chances of winning deals. You’re looking at some options on the market, and found a nifty, free CRM service which, at first glance, offers all the capabilities required by your sales team.

A month in, and you’re enjoying the free subscription. Your team, on the other hand, is beginning to encounter one roadblock after another along their sales process. Below are the most common questions teams forget to ask themselves before going for free CRM, and where it goes terribly wrong.

1. Is the user limit lower than the size of my sales team?

Business is going well, your client base has grown and your team along with it from 5 to 12 salespeople. Your aim is to quickly set your newcomers up with the same CRM so they can join the veterans and start winning deals.

To your dismay, the free CRM you’re using comes with a maximum user limit of 10, meaning that 2 team members can’t be added to the account. Your new muscle won’t be able to take advantage of the software, and it’s tough to be a team when you can’t focus your efforts within a single platform.

2. What is the max. number of contacts my company can add?

Team issues aside, you still have an impressive database of 20,000 leads. But after trying to import them all, you notice that your CRM only imported half. Why? There’s another maximum limit that’s hindering your growth.

Your free plan only supports 10,000 contacts, forcing you to cut half of your potential prospects out of the system along with the two promising sales reps that just joined your forces.

3. Can I fully sync my emails?

Long before CRM was in the picture, you used your trusty email client to stay in touch with the 20,000 leads in your database. The idea of switching to another email client is, needless to say, out of the question.

Full email sync lets you keep all your communication history and client data, and seamlessly connects your CRM tools with it. This is, however, a feature that is reserved for paid plans only, and what you get with your free plan is a feature that:

  • Limits history to only the most recent weeks or months
  • Accommodates a few (or often just one) email client
  • Restricts the total number of emails you can sync per day

4. What is the limit on Email Templates, and how does it affect sales?

Your team wants to create and use multiple Email Templates. This would allow them to send personalized communications to their unique leads. Sadly, your free plan only comes with five templates per account, leaving your team stuck with a limited number of templates to use for thousands of diverse clients.

Any seasoned sales manager knows that the key to closing is being genuine, and that a one-size-fits-all approach to communications just won’t cut it.

5. How many Custom Activities and Custom Fields are included?

The best sales reps are able to have meaningful conversations with clients. Some leads want to be wined and dined, others appreciate the convenience of talking via email or text. The activity that gets a close, therefore, depends a lot on the style of the sales rep and needs of the client.

Being able to create custom activities makes documenting different methods of closing simple. However, free plans often set limits to that functionality. For example, one of your sales reps just created the custom activity, “Dinner with client”. Another salesperson in your team thinks a different approach will work better with their lead, and wanted to create “Send an Instant Message” as a custom activity as well.

Guess what? Your CRM’s free plan comes with just one custom activity, and is one more way the oversimplified software limits your team.

Complex doesn’t have to be complicated

No matter what way you look at it, CRM software is inherently complex. That’s because it’s designed to streamline all your sales activities. If you opt for a free plan that’s missing the features you need, what you’ll end up with is a Frankenstein’s CRM system that uses a messy bundle of loosely integrated software tools.

Needless to say, that’s far from being lean and even further from being ideal.

Simple can be powerful, and customizable can be affordable

The salespeople behind Pipedrive have experienced the pains of having to mess around with too many tools. That’s why we built a single platform that unifies hundreds of apps and integrations.

Our CRM software may not be free after the first month, but it offers an affordable CRM tool that is fully adaptable to your team’s needs as they evolve over time. The money you put in, we invest in top of the line data security, live support, and continuously improving our product in the hopes of making selling beautiful.

Start a 14-day free trial of our real-deal CRM software and find out why over 70,000 sales teams choose to invest in our light-touch platform.

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Marco Certa

Customer Research Manager - Marco spends his time trying to identify people’s needs and struggles by speaking to Pipedrive's customers. He's also always on the lookout for interesting stories and profiles for customer marketing.