Gone are the days of filing cabinets and Rolodexes. These days, if your team works in sales, customer service, or even marketing, you’re going to need a CRM.

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and refers to software that helps you organize and manage your interactions with customers.

In 2018, companies spent $48.2 billion on CRM software around the world, for a growth rate of 15.6% -- making it the fastest growing type of enterprise software globally.

But with so many CRM options out there, how can you know which one is right for your business? Not all CRMs serve the same purpose, so it’s important that you understand the different types of CRMs and choose the most effective one.

Let’s take a look at the three main types of CRM software -- operational, analytical, and collaborative -- and which kinds of teams they’re best suited for.

Operational CRM

Operational CRMs are designed with one primary goal: to streamline customer service and customer-facing roles. Think of them as integrating all of your data and activities -- from phone calls and emails to online purchases -- into one organized platform.

With an operational CRM, you can automate many of these activities, including email campaigns, SMS messages, live chat, and sales demos.

Operational CRMs help you keep generate leads, close sales, and maintain customer satisfaction throughout the process. At the same time, you can also use the software to manage your team and keep track of their performance.

Anyone on your team can use the software to get up to speed on a customer’s purchase history, help tickets, and any other interactions they had with your company, making it easy for them to pick up where another team member left off.


We can break up the features of an operational CRM into three main functions:

  • Marketing automation
  • Sales automation
  • Service automation

Marketing automation begins as soon as a potential customer comes to your website and subscribes to your email list or engages with an online campaign.

An organizational CRM compiles their information into a customer profile that your sales team can use to respond. You can automate email campaigns and SMS messages, and even schedule follow-up phone calls weeks in advance.

A CRM can keep track of multiple channels of communication, so there’s no confusion if a customer contacts you by phone one week and by email the next.

You can use lead scoring to rank prospective customers by their likelihood of making a purchase, and move them to the next stage in the sales funnel.

Sales automation is typically more personalized than marketing automation. Instead of reaching out to contacts in bulk, you can follow up with them one-on-one, using the data you gathered in the marketing stage to focus on the best leads.

Customers can also use built-in tools to schedule their own meetings with a sales rep for a product demo or sales call.

As you scale up your team, you can set up a sales pipeline that your sales reps can use to streamline the process by exchanging leads, delegating tasks, and more.

Finally, service automation is one of the areas in which an effective CRM can stand to benefit you most. This is the part of customer relationship management that can lead to repeat sales and help you grow a loyal customer base.

What’s so effective about service automation? For one, it compiles all of a customer’s purchase history and support tickets in one place, making it easier for a support rep to solve their problem without having to start the process over each time.

Second, automated chat options and access to a knowledge base can eliminate the need for live support altogether, saving your reps time to focus on other tasks.

A CRM can help you track missing orders, create customer satisfaction surveys, and monitor the quality of the service they received.

With all of these features on hand, it’s no surprise that organizational CRMs are the backbone of many sales teams and customer support departments.

Who Is It Good For?

How do you know if an organizational CRM is right for you? One sign that you might be in need of an organizational CRM is if you have repeat sales and a short sales cycle.

This kind of CRM is all about efficiency, so e-commerce and SaaS businesses are good candidates for an organizational CRM.

But the size and type of your company isn’t necessarily a factor in whether you should use an organizational CRM. It’s all about whether you have a linear workflow that can benefit from automation and a more streamlined sales process.


OnCourse is an organizational CRM with a primary focus on sales automation. Some of its features include email marketing campaigns, a phone dialer, and SMS sequencing.

OnCourse is best for SaaS businesses, and for managing distribution and logistics. It also integrates with other tools, like Gmail and Google Calendar, for an all-in-one task management platform.

OnCourse offers a free trial, and you can contact them by phone or webform to request a sales demo and ask for a quote.

Analytical CRM

An analytical CRM can also help boost sales and improve customer satisfaction, but its primary focus is on data acquisition and analytics.

Analytical CRMs may use data mining, pattern recognition, and artificial intelligence to better understand customer behavior and drive the sales process.

From basic demographic data, like age, gender, and marital status, to more advanced metrics like marketing and sales data, an analytical CRM uses information to help you upsell, cross-sell, develop new products, and more.

You can see how effective a marketing campaign has been, track customer complaints and satisfaction, and anticipate the need for future products and services.


There are three main components that go into a successful analytical CRM:

  • Data warehousing
  • Data mining
  • OLAP (online analytical processing)

To start with, an analytical CRM serves as a data warehouse, which is a repository of all of your customer data -- both historical and current. By incorporating all of this info into a single database, you can eliminate redundancies and improve data quality.

Having access to all of this data is all well and good, but it won’t be any use unless you can figure out what it all means! That’s where data mining comes in.

An analytical CRM uses powerful tools to extract information from the data warehouse and look for patterns. You can use data mining to:

  • Analyze customer behavior
  • Understand the customer lifecycle
  • Group buyers into segmented lists
  • Assess employee performance
  • And plenty more!

It’s also useful for upselling and cross-selling, because you can analyze your customers’ purchase histories to find out who is most likely to buy another product.

You can also use sales attribution techniques to discover which touchpoints -- such as ads or website views -- are most effective at converting customers.

Finally, an analytical CRM also uses OLAP, or online analytical processing, to predict the future. That may sound too good to be true, but that’s essentially what it does!

OLAP uses your existing data sets to run “what if” scenarios that can help you with sales forecasting, budgeting, product development, and more.

As business intelligence tools incorporate artificial intelligence into their products, you can expect even more robust analytical software in the years to come.

Who Is It Good For?

An analytical CRM is only as good as your data, and a small company that doesn’t have a lot of data sources won’t benefit as much from an analytical CRM. This kind of CRM is best for larger companies in competitive markets that sell high-value products.

If your sales model depends on proprietary data analysis to outfox your competition, then an analytical CRM may be for you.

Still, a small company with data-minded employees could benefit from it too. You’ll learn more about your customers’ buying habits and the effectiveness of your marketing tools, and be able to make more data-informed decisions about your sales process.


Zoho Analytics is one of the leading analytical CRMs, with an interface that everyone at your team can understand, from sales reps to your top executives.

You can export reports as spreadsheets, pie charts, heat maps, and more -- or drop them directly into a Slack channel.

Zoho also offers customizable dashboards and widgets, so you can incorporate data into every stage of the sales process and keep track of your KPIs.

Collaborative CRM

The third type of CRM is the collaborative CRM, which is designed to help your business share data between departments -- or even between companies.

Also known as Strategic CRM, this kind of tool can help you integrate data from internal and external teams to form a more cohesive sales strategy.

While the other types of CRM can also be used for collaboration, this one is specifically designed to incorporate data from multiple parties. It may also include tools for Partner Relationship Management to coordinate with vendors, suppliers, and distributors.

A collaborative CRM helps you break out of data silos and work together more efficiently to improve customer satisfaction and marketing strategies.


A collaborative CRM has two main parts:

  • Interaction management
  • Channel management

Interaction management refers to the log that a CRM keeps of every interaction a sales rep or customer service rep has with a customer.

There’s nothing worse than calling up a company only to find out that the support team doesn’t have access to the same information you shared with the sales department.

A collaborative CRM solves this problem by storing all of the relevant data in one place, including any notes that a representative takes about a particular customer or issue.

A sales rep that is aware of a customer’s past concerns is more likely to persuade them to give the company another shot or try a different product.

Your tech team can also have access to this data to find out if an issue is unique to the customer or is a recurring bug.

The other component of collaborative CRMs is channel management, or using the form of communication that each customer prefers.

For example, if you know that a particular customer doesn’t have a smartphone, you can prioritize reaching them by email or phone rather than sending them SMS links.

Or, you can allow customers to open support tickets via Twitter or Facebook, rather than requiring them to fill out a webform.

By enabling multiple channels of communication, you can ensure that your messages reach customers where they’re at, via their preferred channel.

Who Is It Good For?

Collaborative CRMs are especially useful for companies with multiple locations, or at which the majority of interactions with customers take place online.

But they can be useful for any company that wants to improve collaboration between departments and break down information silos.

On the other hand, they’re not a good fit for companies with a lot of confidential data that can’t be shared between departments. Since chat logs and other data can be accessed by reps at all levels of your company, it’s not suitable for handling sensitive details.


Copper is a collaborative CRM that’s designed to be integrated with Google Suite. Tasks can be delegated to remote employees, who can respond to tickets from their inbox.

Copper automatically gathers contact details and keeps a record of every interaction, so that every member of your team has access to it when they need it.

Copper offers a 14-day free trial, with pricing based on the size of your sales team.

Find the CRM That Works Best For Your Business

While each type of CRM has its uses, at the end of the day, they all serve the same goal: to help you make more sales and improve customer satisfaction.

But a CRM is only as effective as the effort that you put into it. An analytical CRM won’t make accurate forecasts if you don’t supply it with enough data, and a collaborative CRM can’t break down data silos if your teams aren’t willing to work together.

Some companies make the mistake of thinking that a CRM will solve their problems right out of the box. But in reality, you’ll need to think carefully about your goals and what kind of CRM will work best for your team.

Do you have employees who are willing to put in the time and effort into learning a new system? Can you afford to pay a representative for a complete onboarding process?

Fortunately, OnCourse makes it easy by offering a data migration service, and can be integrated with Google Suite and other tools you’re already using.

While OnCourse is designed to be an operational CRM, it also contains elements of an analytical CRM, with automated insights and activity tracking built in. Plus, it features a linear history of each account, and multi-channel communication tools, making it ideal for collaborative teams as well.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one CRM that will increase your sales and streamline your workflow, request a demo or call up our sales team to get started today!