Zoho Creates an Inbox for Sales Professionals

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted August 01, 2016

Email is a trusty communications medium, but Zoho believes the industry can do better. Practically all workers, regardless of their industry or role, are familiar with the stock email experience. Whether composing a new message or sending a reply, incorporating email into a workflow typically entails wrangling file attachments, bouncing between applications, a dash of copy-paste, and a dose of double-checking data.

That may work just fine in staid and predictable office environments, but in the fast-paced and competitive world of sales, wrestling with an inbox can sink a deal. Zoho, the accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) cloud software specialist, recently rolled out Zoho SalesInbox, a new email client built exclusively for salespeople.

[Don’t miss this CRM article: CRM for Small Personal Service Companies]

"If you look at salespeople, they use two applications: email and CRM," Raju Vegesna, senior vice president at Zoho, told Small Business Computing. Apart from a few tweaks here and there, email applications have failed to keep up with the needs of today's sales and customer service professionals, he asserted.

Folks have become accustomed to using similar email clients for professional and personal use, a "very horizontal" experience that helped turn email into a go-to communications technology, Vegesna said. "I think it's about time email clients become vertical," Vegesna said.

Instead of a "Jack of all trades" approach that has come to define email software, he Zoho envisions inboxes with functionality that are tailored to specific business functions. Zoho's answer is SalesInbox.

Zoho SalesInbox

Email for Sales Professionals

Zoho SalesInbox is a completely new product "built from the ground up, combining CRM and email," said Vegesna. Intelligent filtering capabilities enrich email by displaying related CRM information within the email client without having to consult a separate app to organizing emails into their current status in the sales process.

"SalesInbox cuts through the clutter by organizing emails from leads, prospects, and colleagues into separate columns," Vibhav Vankayala, a product marketing manager at Zoho, wrote in a blog post . That post details the launch of SalesInbox along with the new features in Zoho CRM 2016. In addition to providing the typical email views (Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Unread, etc.), SalesInbox uses data from CRM to create columns based on pending deals, contacts, leads, colleagues, and contacts not currently in the CRM system

New tools let salespeople take immediate and appropriate action when an email lands in their inbox. "Set follow-up notifications with ResponseWatch and check in with customers and coworkers if they haven't gotten back to you," continued Vankayala. "And when you get that email saying that the big deal is sealed, just drag and drop the message into the Deals column, and Zoho CRM automatically updates the record."

During a live online demonstration, Vegesna showed how email previews from potential buyers will display the size of the deal in dollar amounts using attention-grabbing labels. If an email from new prospective customer arrives, either from an online form or simply from out of the blue, adding them into the Contacts and Leads column is a simple matter of dragging and dropping it into place. The CRM system automatically updates, and it pre-populates fields to reflect the changes and to help sales professionals get the ball rolling.

SalesInbox Email—and Salesforce—Compatibility

SalesInbox works with practically all email systems, including Microsoft Exchange and Gmail, assured Vankayala. "All you need to do is configure IMAP," he said. And in an interesting move, Zoho has made SalesInbox compatible with a rival CRM provider, Salesforce.

Naturally, SalesInbox tightly integrates with the Zoho ecosystem, but don’t worry. If you're a Salesforce customer, you won't have to settle for a subpar experience when you link your Salesforce accounts. You can expect more than 80 percent of the native functionality—the bulk of the useful capabilities—to work with Salesforce, said Vankayala.

Zoho SalesInbox is, of course, free for people who use Zoho CRM. It costs $15 per user per month for Salesforce customers, and it's included in the CRM Enterprise plan ($35 per month per user).

The Zoho CRM 2016 refresh also includes SalesSignals, which provides salespeople with real-time information on their organization's multichannel customer engagement activities. Resembling a social feed, SalesSignals alerts you when prospects or returning customers visit your website's pricing page, chats with customer service reps, open marketing emails, and more. This new level of visibility helps small businesses provide the same level of customer service, support, and attention that large organizations shower on consumers, according to Vankayala.

Finally, GameScope adds a little friendly competition to sales organizations. The configurable gamification module enables companies to establish goals, create contests, and award kudos for jobs well done.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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