Test Drive Review #2 – SugarCRM

I am evaluating the SugarCRM test drive called Sugar Professional On-Demand which is part of their open source product suite. This is the 2nd review of the series starting from this post –> Which CRM Vendor Provides the Best “Test Drive” Experience?

SugarCRM is very different from all other CRM software providers since it’s software is considered open source. There is also some discrepancy as to how SugarCRM can call their product “open source” when it’s not part of the open source initiative. They claim to be the leader in “commercial open source CRM” which is probably true since there aren’t really any other open source CRM providers out there. Don’t be fooled however, since other CRM software providers like Salesforce.com and Siebel On-Demand allow you to completely customize their applications.

Let’s move on to the test drive review. Here are the 5 questions SugarCRM must answer:

  1. Is a free trial or demo available – Yes. SugarCRM provides a very easy to find test drive and role-based demo right from their home page.
  2. Ease of finding the free trial from their home page – Their main flash banner has rotating promotions one of which includes a free trial. They also have a small collection of call to actions beneath the flash piece. I count two fairly noticeable links to their free trial.
  3. Number of fields and/or steps needed to complete before accessing the trial – SugarCRM takes a different approach and requires you to create a user account before you can access the free trial. They only initially require you to fill out five fields which is nice but then on step 3 (or 4) you need to fill in another nine fields plus four checkboxes. Total sign up steps if you don’t already have a SugarCRM account is high at seven.
  4. Type of free trial or demo provided (30-days, white paper, flash demo) – Test drive, role-based demo, and you can actually download the entire SugarCRM product.
  5. Quality of the trial – After a long tedious registration process, it was time to finally get started. Right away I received an email instructing me how to login to my new SugarCRM instance. This made me happy and excited since I could immediately play around with my own instance without first dealing with a sales rep.

Here are the steps I needed to follow in order to complete a test drive registration. SugarCRM has a great free trial but does a poor job with guiding you from the home page all the way to the end of the sign up.

Sugar CRM Home Page

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 1

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 2

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 3

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 4

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 5

CRM Free Trial Confirmation Page

SugarCRM Free Trial Step 6

The good: Pretty easy to find test drive links from the home page and I only had to complete a small five field registration form (so I thought. It turned out to be 14 fields plus 4 checkboxes). What I really liked is getting an email explaining how to login to my 30-day test drive account. This is what all CRM companies should provide to their evaluators so you get instant gratification. Their role-based demo doesn’t require any registration which gives you a nice overview of how you’d succeed based on each role.

The bad: Despite a somewhat short registration process at first, I got lost. Before you can access the free trial, you first need to create a SugarCRM account. Ok, no problem but after you fill out the form and click the register button, you are presented with a “thank you for registering” dead end page. You have to wait for a confirmation email, click on the link and then make your way back to the free trial sign-in page. It feels like the free trial was just dumped into their existing registration system without proper usability integration. On top of that, once I tried to access the free trial again it asked for me to complete nine other fields and 4 checkboxes. Clunky and not very user-friendly. The total sign up process took me 5+ minutes and a lot of back and forth from email to their website.

The bottom line: CRMSugar makes it easy to find their test drive from their home page but you cannot demo anything until you create a SugarCRM account. It’s five fields plus another nine fields later (total of 14) to fill out and a clunky “register –> get email –> click verification link –> find my way back to the free trial –> login to my new account” process makes it easy to get lost along the way.

Once I did get past all the roadblocks, I was pleasantly happy with an unlimited 30-day free trial account where I could do whatever I wanted. This is a strong selling point for SugarCRM and if they could shorten their sign up process, I’m sure a lot more leads would be in their queue.

Recommendations: If any SugarCRM marketing person happens to read this review, here’s my advice. First, pat yourself on the back for a great free trial experience once someone gets past all the registration roadblocks. Second, slap your hand because you need to try and focus more on the user experience than just getting more “leads” in your system. What good is a lead if they are totally frustrated by the time they get to your free trial? I know you’re targeting a developer community but if you want to reach further, make sure it’s easy to view a demo. The number of screen shots above just to get a free trial going is ridiculous. Shorten your reg process and watch your form completion rates increase by at least 20%.

Too many companies get caught up in trying to capture as much lead data as possible for the sales team and forget about the user experience. They have it all wrong. Prospects need to get their hands on something before they’d even consider buying your product so don’t make it so darn difficult to sign up. A five field registration form would be totally acceptable but don’t ask for the prospects entire profile right away. I’m not just picking on SugarCRM. This is a universal problem with all companies.

Despite a long and tedious registration process, I applaud SugarCRM for providing a full-blown free trial of their product. What better way for individuals to actually see what life would be like within their product. After your 30-day trial has expired, it’s easy to upgrade to a licensed version.

Final score: review crm imagereview crm imagereview crm grayreview crm grayreview crm gray (4 out of 5)

Make sure to continue reading each review as it comes out. There are 8 reviews left and the first post is Which CRM Vendor Provides the Best “Test Drive” Experience?

Update: Since completing the test drive, I received an email from their sales rep within the first 24 hours. Here’s the very detailed email I received from Shane the sales rep.

Dear David Cowgill,

Thank you for your interest in Sugar Professional On-Demand. This email outlines what you need to know to get up and running quickly.

My name is Shane Karlin. I am here to make you successful with Sugar Professional. Please contact me at any time for assistance. Here’s my contact information:Shane Karlin
(408) 454-6969

About your evaluation

Your evaluation offers you a unique URL, administrative user ID and password and free email support. You should already have received an evaluation confirmation email from sales@sugarcrm.com. If not, please contact me immediately.

Important: Your evaluation will expire 30 days from 2007-05-13 12:08, PT.

Please save this email for your reference throughout the evaluation. The information below can be shared with other users who are helping you evaluate SugarCRM.

Become a “Sugar Ace”

Sugar University offers end-user training to ensure your company gets the most out of SugarCRM.
Try our self-paced online training courses:

Sugar University offers several additional courses and training paths based on user roles.
Read more now

In addition, the Sugar Professional’s User GuidePDF provides documentation about the application.

Connect your Sugar On-Demand to Microsoft

Anyone who is evaluating SugarCRM has the opportunity to see how convenient it is to connect with Microsoft Outlook. The Sugar Plug-in for Microsoft Outlook allows users to merge and archive contact, account, calendar and email information into Sugar.

Take your Sugar solution to the next level

SugarCRM’s trained consultants can help your company fully leverage Sugar’s features and functionality in order to obtain maximum business benefits.

Get SugarCRM’s help with:

  • CRM migration and data cleansing
  • CRM strategy development
  • TCO/ ROI analysis
  • Customizations with modules, reports and interfaces
  • System integration
  • Installation and configuration
  • CRM design reviews
  • Custom administrator and user support

Find out more

Get help from SugarCRM

Your sales representative is here to help you through your deployment. If you have any questions, please contact me: Shane Karlin at shane@sugarcrm.com.

Online resources for your reference:

  • Sugar Professional Documentation for getting your users and administrators up to speed.
  • Support Wiki is a knowledgebase containing tips and tricks, troubleshooting steps and other information about installing configuring and using Sugar.
  • Developer Wiki is the developer knowledgebase containing developer documentation for extending and customizing Sugar. Some customizations you will be unable to do because you are running an evaluation account.
  • Customer Forums are dedicated to the Sugar users who are interested in interacting with the Sugar community.


I hope this gets your evaluation started on the right note. If there’s anything else that I can assist with, don’t hesitate to contact me at 408-454-6969 or toll free 1 87 SUGARCRM. Otherwise, I’ll check in with you soon.



Shane Karlin


12 thoughts on “Test Drive Review #2 – SugarCRM”

  1. An interesting and well documented article which supports our own findings (as we have just implemented Sugar CRM ourselves).

    What are your experiences to date with configuring & tailoring SugarCRM to your own specific requirements? As we’re starting to look in to this we’re beginning to appreciate and understand exactly what SugarCRM’s capabilities are “very extensive” to say the least and certainly a lot more comprehensive that I had first thought.

    Mark Hutchinson

    The actual set up and configuration (including compiling php for the IMAP mail server etc..) to get to a base line out of the box install with a single html email newsletter, 100 records correctly imported and a basic report set up was around 6-7 hours (most of which was spent either trying to guess how things worked or reading the user manual).

    Now we are just starting to look at configuring the fields, integrating the lead capture forms in to our website (read new website & blog, that will be live in June) and implementing the support portal functionality so our clients are able to log change/support tickets through a web based portal.

  2. Hi Mark-

    I actually haven’t installed nor configured SugarCRM quite yet but from what I understand, it’s not too difficult. There might be a slight learning curve depending on one’s development experience or lack there of.

    Your 6-7 hours basic configuration seems pretty fast to me but I’m sure there’s much more left to do. Have you used a CRM system before or is this your first trial by fire?


  3. Hi David,

    The technical side of the configuration was done by one of my developers, if I had attempted it myself the 6-7 would be weeks not hours!

    I actually come from an IT sales/commercial background and have worked for a number of large corporate IT/Service Provider type organisations in the UK. During 15 or so years sales experience I have used a number of CRM systems ACT, Goldmine, An inhouse solution developed with Microsoft Access, Siebel CRM and a horrible system based on Lotus Notes/Lotus Domino which had a load of integrated work flow processes built in (and that never worked).

    Coming from a sales/commercial/marketing background and understanding these areas I am actually planning to introduce a CRM offering (SugarCRM) in to our service portfolio that we can sell in to our customer base.

    Most of the organisations that we deal with are in the

  4. Mark, It’s always nice to have a developer to help with the configuration. 🙂

    Seems like you’ve had your share of many different flavors of CRM over the years. For better or worse right?

    SugarCRM is great because you can download and install it right away without dealing with sales.

    If you’re looking for another CRM solution to compare it to, I’d recommend salesforce.com. Not because I used to work there, but because it’s a great product and very easy to setup.

    The way I see it is SugarCRM is more like Linux and Salesforce.com is more like MS Windows. Here’s what I mean. The true IT guys like having more control and getting their hands dirty in the actual files and database which you can do with Sugar and Linux. Salesforce.com is great because everything is essentially windows-based but you can do more if you need to (API, create custom database fields, etc).

    Regardless of your choice, either system will be just fine and keep me posted on your outcome!


  5. We evaluated Salesforce.com at the same time. Whilst I’m sure that it would have done the job and provided everything that we needed there is a sizeable difference in the costs (We run Sugar internally) even taking in to account out internal IT resource requirements.

    Salesforce also had a coupple of annoying features like including a “Powered by Salesforce.com” in all outbound emails and calendar/meeting invitations.

    I am also aware that Salesforce.com suffered a series of high profile outages (up to 4 days downtime for some clients) around 18 months ago and whilst I would liek to think that they have resolved them I don’t really feel comfortable being 100% at the mercy of a service provider when there holding the most important data we own – sales leads.

  6. SugarCRM is not the only open source crm out there. Unless I missed something about how you define what an open source CRM actually is in this case…

    My organization/product, Democracyinaction, is built with open source programming which you can download. But let’s be honest: there is also Civicspace CRM, which is harder to use, but still – it’s open source.

    Great blog! thanks

  7. I could not find a contact on the website, but the company that I work for has a great CRM application. Please e mail me for the web address. I was wondering if you could possibly review our product. Thank you for your time.


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