Reviews Online Contact Management Software

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Share your contacts online. Stop using desktop contact managers and consider switching to web based contact management applications. We review the best sales contact management software and give you our comparison.


Share your contacts online. Stop using desktop contact managers and consider switching to web based contact management applications. We review the best solutions and give you our comparisons.

Pick our Brain: Tired of browsing through all of these contact managers and trying to find the best match for your business? Outsource the legwork to us – $20 for 20 minutes gives you access to our expert advice based on hundreds of hours of reviewing these tools. Don’t wait and get in touch today.

sales contact management systems reviews and comparison

Using desktop tools to manage your contacts, particularly if you share them to any extent with others, is no longer efficient.

Whether you’re currently using Act, Maximizer, Goldmine or going overboard with Salesforce.com, you need to know there are alternatives that are worth your attention. Some are free, some are expensive, some offer basic contact management functionality, others provide exciting, unique features and benefits. All are evolving…rapidly.

Below is a list of some of online contact management systems, with a summary and review of what they provide and why you should consider them. If you know of, or are creating, other online contact managers who should be on this list, let us know.

Check back often, we’ll update this contact manager review list frequently.

UPDATE: We received a quite a few emails from readers requesting for this information in a side-by-side table. We thought that was an awesome idea. So here it is – an overview of contact management systems.

UPDATE 09/15/2008: We now have Batchbook, BigContacts, Oprius, Highrise, Relenta and PipelineDeals done. More updated following soon.


Review Online Contact Managers

BatchBook – a sales contact manager from Batchblue Software

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The bottom line up front: We really like BatchBook. It’s an excellent web based contact manager that needs just a few tweaks to vault to the top of our list. There are four key differentiators:

Custom fields can be established for a single contact record or for all your records. Simple data-entry fields, yes/no, multiple choice, formatted phone numbers, email addresses, or dates. Very important feature for anyone who likes to customize. In our opinion, this feature will soon become a must for any serious online contact manager.

Contact and company records can be “affiliated”. Beyond simply tying a contact to a company, you can affiliate two contacts to each other, and the affiliation can be peer-to-peer, or supervisor-to-employee. There’s a hierarchy you can apply.

Create contacts and companies on the fly by starting a new communication record. Once you’ve created that phone call/chat/note entry, you can then go back in and edit the contact, adding any relevant info.

Good old-fashioned mailing labels. BatchBook is the only system we’ve found where you can filter your online contacts, then create an email mailing list, or even print mailing labels for them.

Four things that we didn’t like: 1) you can’t attach your todos to contacts; 2) adding communication notes when looking up a contact record takes too much clicking around — edit-in-place would be really nice here (you have to either go to the communications tab, or click the person’s name twice, then click “log new communication”); 3) running standard or filtered, print-ready reports isn’t as intuitive as we’d like; and 4) you can’t demo the contact-sharing features built-in (the free version only allows one person to use BatchBook).

But we’re optimistic. Behind the scenes the BatchBlue team is working on the todo functionality (including syncing them with calendaring systems). We also have word that they’re making the Custom Fields feature more intuitive.

Pricing starts at free (1 user, 200 contacts, 1GB of file storage), with tiered pricing that runs up to a max of $99.95 monthly (unlimited users, unlimited storage, unlimited contacts).

Aside from our few gripes, we really like BatchBook. It’s well worth your deeper consideration.

UPDATE: We’ve edited the BatchBook entry above. You can add communication notes while looking at a contact’s record, and reports are available.

ACT for Web Contact Management Software

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If we were to summarize ACT for Web in one sentence, we’d say it’s a robust and feature-rich contact management application – but with a pricing model that makes it ridiculously expensive to use for individuals and small to medium-sized teams.

Don’t get us wrong, we really did like the ACT for Web product. But Sage continues to sell ACT like a “buy it, install it and use it” product and, in contrast with the many alternatives on this page, not as a “subscription service”. 3rd parties host ACT for Web for you – but charge $35-$40 per user per month, which – again in comparison with the available alternatives – is simply too hard to digest.

Now, if you have an existing database with years worth of ACT contact data, you may not have that much room to maneuver – but if you’re starting with a relatively clean sheet, we think there is better online contact management software available.

You can find more details on ACT for Web here – but our reviews result in a 3.5 rating. Good product, great features for a contact manager -but a pricing and delivery model that we feel really misses the mark.

Relenta Email-Centered Contact Management Software

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With an update to our review of online contact managers, we introduce Relenta. But this is a whole new world. Just to get you setup and running, Relenta requires a pretty web- and techno-savvy person. But if you can get that squared away within your company, or through your computer-neighbor down the street, you’ll become addicted to the features Relenta offers.

Relenta is really an email management and marketing system, all wrapped inside a solid online contact management program. It can free you from using Outlook or any other email client, consolidates all your incoming and outgoing email by tying each to a contact in your database, and includes killer email/newsletter marketing features. You can also share emails, contacts and contact-based notes across a team.

It is a powerhouse: it’s feature-packed and offers far more than typical contact management. But it’s also not for the faint of heart. It takes quite a bit of time to fully appreciate the concept, to get setup and to get used to operating.

But if you’re in this for the long haul, and you want more than a glorified address book, set aside some time and give Relenta a try. Relenta offers plans for $20 or $25 per month per user.

WebAsyst Online Contact Management System

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If you’re looking for a simple way to manage and access contacts online and nothing other than that, WebAsyst Contacts could be an option to pursue.

Compared to some of the other tools we reviewed here, WebAsyst Contacts offers very basic online contact management functionality. The system lets you add or import contacts, it provides a customizable website widget so contacts can be captured online. Contacts can be shared online through a system of personal or group access controls.

WebAsyst Contacts can be used as a standalone application or can be extended through a number of other modules (i.e. Files, Projects, Issue Tracker and Mail) from the same developer. Use their starter plan via the web for free (with subsequent plans from $30 to $200 a month) – or purchase the software and run on your own web server.

In the midst of a tsunami of feature-rich and online contact managers and simple CRM sales tools that we discuss below, WebAsyst left us somewhat unimpressed. Its simplicity and focus on contacts only, however, may just be what you need. Take a look and give them a spin.

Highrise Online Contact Manager

Pick our Brain: Tired of browsing through all of these contact managers and trying to find the best match for your business? Outsource the legwork to us – $20 for 20 minutes gives you access to our expert advice based on hundreds of hours of reviewing these tools. Don’t wait and get in touch today.

We’re torn on this one. What the other online contact managers have in features and fields, Highrise makes up for in simplicity. It won’t report to you on your sales pipeline. It won’t let you enter your contact’s spouse’s information. It won’t let you add anniversaries or birthdays. It won’t even let you maintain a calendar.

Yet the interface, which, when you think about it, completely controls how regularly you use a software product or website, is so extremely intuitive, Highrise is easy to fall in love with.

And its simplicity is merely an interface thing. There’s some pretty nifty features as well. With Highrise, you can share contacts online across a team or company (other Highrise users). Tag contacts with keywords. Share with other users on your Highrise account every dated note, or selected ones, tied to those contacts and/or companies. Add tasks tied to individual contacts or companies. Upload files tied to contacts. Create short- or long-term “cases” that group related notes together. Customize permissions granted to other users on your Highrise account by grouping users however you like.

But again, it’s the ease with which you’ll get up-to-speed that will make Highrise easy to love.

So what’s not to like?

Highrise is fairly expensive, when you consider that their basic plan (6 team members and 5,000 contacts) will cost you $24 per month. If you don’t share your contacts, they offer a Solo plan which includes 20,000 contacts for $29. Included in both plans are so-called “cases” – a way to keep related people, companies, notes, files etc on one single page. It’s a nice touch that could make life easier, especially when you have a lot of contacts!

Outlook and current Act! (V9 only) contacts can be imported via CSV and Highrise supports importing vcards. There’s no support for Gmail or Yahoo address books, unlike what we’ve seen with other online contact management tools we review on this page. Exporting your contact data is easy – but tasks and notes are currently not supported.

So all in all, with Highrise you’ve got an extremely easy to use, albeit expensive, product from a company that knows what it’s doing in the online application world. And while I’ve never seen them lower a price, you may see some of the features get adjusted and enhanced a bit as Highrise’s user base grows and feedback streams in to them.

Oprius Contact Manager

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This is, flat-out, a full-blown Act replacement. It offers complete contact management including extensive contact details, custom fields, contact import and export, groups, a calendar and task list, general notes and history, and the ability to link any task or appointment to a contact. You can even categorize (aside from the groups function) your contacts by customizable “lead source,” if desired.

In addition, Oprius offers the ability to send single and mass, customized emails to your database if your contacts give you explicit permission to do so. It’s all wrapped in a pretty clean interface that helps you find or filter contacts, calendar items or tasks very quickly and easily. Existing contacts can be imported easily from Outlook, Palm, Yahoo, GMail and from a regular CSV file. Finally, all contacts and related data can be exported at any time – a killer feature of which many people forget the importance until it’s too late!

Many readers of SalesMarks.com are managers of small, local sales teams or companies, where the sales manager has influence or even responsbility to edit the company website. If this is you, you can an add a form (called a “lead capture widget”) to your site that adds contacts directly into your database when visitors fill it in (for example, to be added to your newsletter).

For only $14.99 a month, Oprius offers a very complete contact management solution. We particularly liked the “Call Manager” module which lets you organize your to-do calls by the earliest time you can call instead of when they’re due – a clever way to help you avoid procrastination and missing your deadlines – and which includes ready-made phone scripts by cold calling expert Wendy Weiss.

While we enjoyed Oprius, there were a few missing pices. The ability to sync with your mobile devices and the ability to share access to your contact database (short of giving someone your login and password) but this might be something to look forward to in future Oprius releases.

We were impressed. We recommend you giving them a try.

BigContacts Web Based Contact Manager

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Great, evolving online contact management program here that goes beyond the features of Oprius. But like Oprius at its core, BigContacts offers the Act-killing abilities to create and edit contact details, add notes, manage a calendar and tasks list, group your contacts, view your activity history, and more, all within a pretty intuitive interface.

But in addition, BigContacts offers the features of file and photo uploading, tracking sales contacts (and related “opportunities”) within a customizable sales process, assign tasks to other BigContacts users (i.e., other sales professionals or support personnel on your team), and, for an additional fee, send a card (birthday, anniversary, etc.). There are a few other subtle feature enhancements as well, related primarily to contact fields, how quickly you can edit contact fields, and so forth.

Since BigContacts includes opportunity or prospect management features, it also gives you access to a sales manager’s view of your pipeline.

Now, with these advanced features comes a price tag. BigContacts has several service plans to choose from, ranging from free (2 users and up to 100 contacts) and as high as $29.95 per month (2,000 users and up to 1,000 contacts per user) with their common Sales Team Plan going for $20. But again, great stuff here.

Funclient – Free online contact management program

Pick our Brain: Tired of browsing through all of these contact managers and trying to find the best match for your business? Outsource the legwork to us – $20 for 20 minutes gives you access to our expert advice based on hundreds of hours of reviewing these tools. Don’t wait and get in touch today.

Funclient gets a short summary here. The service is free and allows you to easily add contacts, notes tied to contacts, “communications” tied to contacts (a communication must be called a Comment, Phone Call, E-mail, Meeting, Letter or Document), and reminders tied to contacts (which are communications that are dated).

Additional features include the ability to tag contacts and upload files tied to contacts (25mb limit per upload).

Funclient is actually pretty straightforward and simple to use, though it presently offers no sharing of contacts with other Funclient users, no importing or exporting, and certainly none of the advanced features mentioned with the others. Overall, not a bad deal if you take into consideration that it’s free contact management software.

Pipelinedeals.com

[rate 4.5]

Yes, we’ve had a love affair with Pipelinedeals since it debuted. Pipelinedeals is ever-evolving, offering very simple, but very powerful prospect management features for individual sales professionals and teams. While it’s strictly not really an online contact manager, it does what it does extremely well.

Pipelinedeals is the best pure pipeline management tool I’ve found. What they are putting together is a highly focused tool that lets you add contacts, turn them into active “deals,” and track your progress on those leads, within your customizable sales process. Contacts and deals can be shared across a team, or not. It’s your choice – it’s a powerful opportunity to manage your contacts online.

As you read above, BigContacts offers the customizable sales process feature along with advanced contact mgmt software features too, but here’s the thing: many, many sales professionals and sales managers don’t want all those bells and whistles; they want a tool that’s extremely easy to use, yet powerful. Ask yourself this: how many of the multitude fields that Act allows for do you really use? Pipelinedeals, with streamlined pricing of $15 per user per month, targets your use of the system at updating where you stand with your prospect list and when you’ll close deals.

Sales managers love this system, particularly it’s easy to access reporting (with recently added filters to drill down into the pipeline). Managers can assign leads, re-assign them, add lead sources, and so on.

UPDATE: check our post on the new release of Pipelinedeals.com, which covers some of the missing features discussed here.

LeadsOnRails.com

[rate 4.5]

LeadsOnRails is a completely unique service unlike any of the others, but closely related and with a, dare we say it, attractive cool factor. It allows you to implement a manageable, accountable lead tracking system across your team. While the learning curve is steeper than with the other tools profiled above, it will change the way you think of your follow-up routine with leads.

Basically, LeadsOnRails has you enter new leads (importing is possible as long as your file is pre-formatted just the way they ask), add limited contact details, and assign the lead to one of any number of customizable “tracks” you establish. The track you put them on determines the steps you then take to sell the deal. The steps you take are also customizable and can be assigned to other users of the service that are on your sales, marketing, or support teams.

The track concept is obviously the power feature here. Instead of reporting what has been done (typical pipeline reports ask for this), LeadsOnRails tells you what this, plus what needs to be done and when. As you add custom steps to your tracks, you can also include when the step should be completed, for example, 3 days after the previous step. Talk about helping with accountability! No more, “What’s the next step? And when are you doing it?” from sales managers. It’s all there, on display for everyone on the team, and again includes who is responsible for completing the step. Pretty insightful.

There’s much more that could be shared about LeadsOnRails, such as its reporting features, email capabilities (with templates), and team concept, but you really should check it out. Really anxious about how they expand this product, but keep it relatively simple for the new user.

Etelos CRMforGoogle

[rate 3.5]

If you want complete and total customization of your contact management program, and you want a breathtaking multitude of advanced features, and you’re willing to incur a significant learning curve, Etelos is worth your evaluation.

Way too many features to list in a few paragraphs. It has everything the others have, with a huge assortment of additional capabilities: integration with your customized Google home page, integration with Google calendar, extremely fast contact search lookup, auto-save when updating contacts.

You can also create automated follow-up messages to prospects (somewhat similar to LeadsOnRails does) via email, full opportunity/pipeline management with revenue projections), and far more. Etelos’ team has created several demo videos you can watch online. You’ll feel like you need to take a deep breath after watching them — the feature-set is astounding.

Again, Etelos’ system is more than we initially intended to review here. The extent to which you can customize the system will be daunting for a small business owner or sales manager. Sales execs in a large enterprise can delegate this to someone more web-savvy. Excellent features, complex setup and customization. Hence, the 3.5 rating.

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135 Responses

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  3. Mark
    Mark January 1 at 12:14 pm · Reply

    I have used salesforce.com & ACT in the Corp world. I have a new start-up and I’m looking for a great solution for a small business start-up contact management system that is great at sales and lead tracking and syncs with Outlook! I don’t want to manage two calendars or contact list. I’d also like the CRM to be able to grow with my business.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Angie
      Angie February 9 at 1:56 pm · Reply

      Mark, I am in the same boat. Have you found a decent CRM yet for your business. I am overwhelmed with all of the choices and disappointed that I can’t try out more of them online prior to committing to one. Any advice/suggestions would be great.

  4. Sean Teacht Ban
    Sean Teacht Ban March 15 at 3:26 pm · Reply

    I run an expanding furniture business. My most important criteria for CRM are to drive a sales process, step by step, offering up the next ‘to do’ to the user in a list or report, with date and time stamps on the activities. Then, to be able to report on the key sales indicators, ie no. of leads, no. of visits, no. of quotes, no. of sales, etc, and average time elapsed between stages.

    My second criteria would be to able to easily process a monthly ‘push’ to clients of a newsletter/info sheet/etc from the database as it builds, and properly manage subscriptions/desubscriptions, no. of viewings, click thru’s. etc.

    My 3rd criteria would be to receive emails or web requests as entries into the leads section of the process, loading the customer data automatically into the database, or by sycnhronising.

    The number of CRM systems is daunting. Is what i need available in one package? Is Oprius a good contender?

  5. Walter OBrien
    Walter OBrien March 24 at 10:25 am · Reply

    I used Maximizer for probably 10 years. Happy with it.

    About a six months ago, I switched to ACT! 2010.

    Customer service is non-existent unless you want to pay for EVERYTHING, most of which appear to be problems with THEIR software.

    Calendar switched to the year 2025 and won’t let you change it back to today’s date. “Solutions” didn’t work.

    About two months into the program, it wiped out all of the comments for my contacts. Their “customer service” forum solutions DIDN’T work.

    Yesterday, I found that there was an update. WOW. I thought that this would solve some of my problems.

    Not only did it NOT solve my problems, It wiped out all of my secondary phone numbers AND all of my email addresses.

    I’m now to the point where I truly don’t trust the software whatsoever.

    Be CAUTIOUS!!

  6. Executive Admin
    Executive Admin March 29 at 2:47 pm · Reply

    In those instances when we lose internet connectivity, do we also lose access to our contact management database (per any of these profiled)?
    If so, this begs the question, what contact management system allows offline functionality? I cannot live without access to contacts, even when I’ve lost (temporary) access to the web. How is this handled?
    Thank you for all this helpful information, as I am learning by your experience, before I select and start to use any. Your insights are valuable!

  7. Katrina
    Katrina April 5 at 2:19 pm · Reply

    I am trying to research CRM’s and need some help. I work for a company that is a franchise of a big brand. We have 3 properities with sales managers in each so we will need to share information through the software. We also need to still maintain a separation of particular segments in groups/businesses. These are some things I would like. I looked into sales force and like most but also need to know…

    1.Contacts Name & Business (and possible subsidaries or bigger brands business belongs to)

    2.Times contacted with notes about what was said ect.

    3. When creating and sending documents a record for that. I like sales force record segregation.

    4. Types/Categories for the contacts, a referral, lead, prospect as well as that ability to add my own types and categories business types like government, school, other groups. If I want to print off my list of a particular group lets say churches or send a document just to them I like that feature.

    5. Ability to set reminders, appointments, designate tasks to other people in my sales force.

    6. Upload contacts from excel, outlook, or other specified sources.

    7. I like sales force being able to print reports on how often I contacted my accounts and when with notes.

  8. Megan
    Megan April 25 at 11:55 pm · Reply

    We are just a small business looking for a contact manager with perhaps not as much pizazz as the larger companies out there. We are searching for something that can tag contacts, give minimal information, keep dated notes, and really just do small business work. Sales based, but growing, would prefer something that can add a lot of contact, perhaps rate them in groups similar to what Relenta does. We really like that one, but a bit pricey. Please let us know what you recommend for the small guy. Thanks so much, your input is very appreciated, as you seem to be the experts.

    1. Peter
      Peter May 16 at 7:58 pm · Reply

      Megan,

      I’ve used most of the ones above and many others including Salesforce.com, JavelinCRM and Zoho CRM. I think you’ll find that you get a very powerful relationship manager in Batchbook, that can also help you segment, set tasks and integrate with other marketing or accounting support services.

    2. Cecilia
      Cecilia June 16 at 3:13 pm · Reply

      Hi Megan,

      My company is similar to yours. It’s small and searching for a contact management system.

      What have you decided on and how did you come to it?

  9. Brandon
    Brandon May 20 at 9:58 am · Reply

    Megan,

    If you’re primarily wanting to create your own directory of contacts for internal use, and you want to be able to group those contacts in a variety of ways, I’d go with Batchbook. Very easy to use system (super clean interface) that’s customizable, interacts with a third-party email system easily, has several pricing plans to choose from, and the company offers tremendous support. I can personally vouch for them.

    If you’re really wanting to track leads as part of a sales pipeline, I’m still a huge Pipelinedeals fan. Nothing else compares, in my opinion. You can use it for contact management, too, but it’s a killer sales pipeline manager. JP and Nick are based right there in Pennsylvania, too.

  10. Ebby
    Ebby May 27 at 3:37 am · Reply

    Hi all, I have a few questions:

    Does pipeline deal allow you to send (and schedule send) mass emails to many/all contacts in your database?

    Also does it have a way for me to include/embed my picture in the emails i send so that my contacts always see my pic – and remember who is sending them the email? (i.e. not as an attachment – but like in html format where my pic is actually visible in the email body – at the top or bottom of the page)

    1. Ebby,

      You can track emails sent to your contacts via Pipelinedeals’ inbox tool, but you cannot send them from within Pipelinedeals.

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