Zoho announced a major update to its platform last week, including the release of multiple tools aimed at helping salespeople at every step of the sales cycle. 

The company announced the upgrades over a series of four announcements. They include a number of updates to its CRM platform, the introduction of SalesInbox email client and the launch of Zoho Developer, which opens up the Zoho platform to developers and independent software vendors.

While best known for its customer relationship management (CRM) platform, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Zoho now describes itself as a cloud operating system for business.

Responding to CRM Needs

CEO Sridhar Vembu founded Zoho in 1996 under the name AdventNet, and rebranded to adopt the name of its principal product, the Zoho CRM suite, in 2009.

Over the years the company built out its already robust CRM product to provide marketing, sales and customer support applications, as well as its Zoho Connect line of enterprise collaboration apps.

The CRM update includes over 50 new features, each one solving a different need according to Chief Evangelist for Zoho, Raju Vegesna. 

“Focusing on the CRM update, as large businesses adopt Zoho, they requesting features that deepen the functionality and we keep adding them. On top of it, it is a complete UI revamp. It is a fresh take to improve sales person's productivity,” Vegesna told CMSWire.

Visibility into the Pipeline

Vegesna called out the new SalesSignals as an example.

“Salespeople don't have enough visibility about their leads and customers. With SalesSignals, CRM brings together information about the lead, or customers across channels like chat, email, phone call, support email, survey or submission and offers that info to the sales person. Information from each of these channels become a signal to the sales person,” he said.

The user interface revamp adds Timeline View, Page Layouts and Gamescope, a gamification layer initially introduced in April for Zoho Projects in an effort to make the interface easier to use.

Zoho CRM’s new mobile app for field sales enable sales people to check-in at customer locations, locate nearby prospects, track sales activities, and — ideally — close more deals on the move.

SalesInbox, An Email Inbox Built for Sales People

Zoho also introduced SalesInbox, a dedicated email client for Zoho CRM. SalesInbox organizes emails according to salespeople’s CRM data and places them in context, prioritized to reflect their importance.

Sales people can further customize the inbox, defining their own filters based on criteria they set.

"Email and CRM are the two pieces of software that are the most critical for salespeople. Yet, they usually don't work together very well. With Zoho SalesInbox, we're solving that problem and creating a new product category that transforms how salespeople use and interact with email,” Vegesna said.

Learning Opportunities

The capabilities go beyond organization. SalesInbox also allows salespeople to create new leads in their CRM, directly from email.  

The email client provides a number of metrics including template analysis, version comparison and open rates to ensure email quality improves as it is used by the enterprise.

“Email clients have been around for decades. They have been very horizontal — it is the same email client for personal user to business use and no matter which field you are in, it is the same email client. It is about time we make email clients specific to a field. With SalesInbox, we built a specialized email client for salespeople,” Vegesna said.

SalesInbox integrates with both Zoho CRM and Salesforce and works with Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Zoho Mail as well as other email hosting services.

Opening Zoho Access

Zoho also announced the launch of Zoho Developer and Zoho Marketplace. 

Both aim to strengthen the Zoho ecosystem by providing application developers, independent software vendors, partners and more the Zoho Developer tool, access to Zoho Creator and to the company’s Open REST APIs.  

The Marketplace is a commission-free area where app developers can submit their extensions and apps for approval and once approved, sell directly to the client base.

Responding to Market Trends

These upgrades are part of the regular improvements and updates the company plans to release in response to emerging CRM trends, according to Vegesna.

Two trends currently pushing the market in new areas are the emergence of machine learning to help with customer engagement and the use of digital assistants to increase accessibility of business data more accessible.

The latest version of Zoho CRM has the same pricing structure as the earlier version. Zoho CRM is free up to 10 users with paid plans begin at $12 per user per month for the Standard Edition and increase to $20 per user for the Professional Edition and $35 per user for the fully-featured Enterprise Edition.