Zoho came out with four announcements today. Among them is the launch of SalesInbox. Zoho calls it the first email client just for salespeople . SalesInbox prioritizes customer conversations, instead of displaying emails strictly in chronological order.
Also announced were upgrades to Zoho’s popular CRM system, as well as an expansion into the European market.
But perhaps the most broad ranging news from a strategic perspective is the launch of the Zoho Marketplace and Zoho Developers Program. In the Marketplace Zoho users will be able to buy extensions and custom-built applications to expand the capabilities of Zoho products, customize them for vertical markets, and integrate with other third-party software a company uses. And developers who create these applications can sell them commission-free in the Zoho Marketplace.
Zoho has been quietly and steadily growing since its founding two decades ago. Zoho now has 20 million users across its 30+ products. The company, based in Chennai, India but with a U.S. operations headquarters in Silicon Valley, has offices in Austin, China and Japan, and has over 4,000 employees.
Zoho made today’s announcements against the backdrop of rolling out a wider strategy to penetrate more deeply into the midmarket. CEO Sridhar Vembu said during a recent analyst presentation that Zoho will continue to provide offerings to small businesses, while expanding its footprint among larger customers.
Here’s a breakdown of the announcement details:
Zoho SalesInbox: First Email Client for Sales
Zoho SalesInbox uses customer data from Zoho CRM or Salesforce to organize emails automatically according to their importance. This organization enables salespeople to prioritize and focus on critical customer and deal-related communications, says the company. It works with Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo Mail, Zoho Mail and other email hosting services.
“Email clients have been horizontal for the last few decades — it’s the same email client for sales, marketing, accountants, consumers and families,” said Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist at Zoho, in an email to Small Business Trends. “For the first time, we are introducing a specialized email client, built from ground up, optimized for sales people.”
He added, “Email and CRM are the two pieces of software most critical for salespeople. Up to now, they haven’t worked together well. SalesInbox solves that problem.”
Product highlights include:
- Hands-free email prioritization and organization. SalesInbox uses a multi-column layout to organize incoming emails automatically based on the information stored in the user’s CRM account, so salespeople can easily spot messages that require immediate attention. The platform also allows them to sort emails by several criteria, including lead source and associated customer value.
- Full context in every email. Salespeople can view a timeline of previous conversations with an individual contact, and see the size of their current and past deals, overdue tasks, missed calls, support tickets, social media mentions and other relevant information — all within the email client.
- CRM updates right from the inbox. Instead of logging into the CRM, salespeople can now take customer- and sales-related actions right from their inbox. “When an email comes in from an interested lead, the salesperson can simply drag and drop the email from one column to another,” the announcement says.
- Reminders and Response Watch. Salespeople can set a time limit by which they can expect to hear back from customers or prospects whenever they send an email. SalesInbox monitors incoming email using the Response Watch feature, If it doesn’t detect a reply during the time specified, it lets the user know so they can follow-up.
- Mobile client integration. Zoho CRM users can configure SalesInbox on their iOS and Android devices and map it to all popular email services, including Zoho Mail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Outlook.
- Better email feedback. When integrated with Zoho CRM, users can receive reports on how well the emails they send are working. They can also see statistics about which email templates perform best and receive detailed metrics on how many emails have been opened, read or clicked through.
SalesInbox is currently available by request  for all Zoho Enterprise customers and Salesforce users. It is free of charge for Zoho CRM Enterprise subscribers and $15 per user per month for Salesforce users.
However, Vegesna told Small Business Trends that any salesperson from any size organization could use it.
“We include it by default for Zoho CRM’s Enterprise Edition users,” he said. “Users of other editions can purchase SalesInbox separately. Similarly, we are launching SalesInbox for Salesforce as well, with no restrictions on business size.”
Zoho Developer, Marketplace Help Create Partner Program
Zoho Developer is a program that provides independent software vendors (ISVs) and application developers with the tools and resources needed to create extensions and build custom applications, which are then sold via the Zoho Marketplace to Zoho users.
“With Zoho Marketplace and Zoho Developer, Zoho evolves from a product suite into a platform,” Vegesna said in the announcement. “On one hand, Zoho Marketplace empowers our customers with tools, extensions and applications that complement their Zoho products so they can focus on their business. On the other, Zoho Developer gives ISVs and software developers a platform to develop solutions and access to Zoho’s vast user base, to whom they can sell these solutions.”
Some of Zoho’s major partners for Zoho Marketplace include:
- Zendesk, the customer service platform provider;
- Eventbrite, the world’s largest self-service ticketing platform;
- SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading survey platform.
Zoho CRM Updated to Reduce Friction
Zoho CRM  is the “industry’s first multichannel customer relationship management software,” says the announcement.
The platform builds on Zoho’s current CRM application and supports email, social media, live chat and phone communications, enabling salespeople to engage with customers and prospects across a range of channels.
Zoho has simplified the user interface to reduce friction in the sales process and help move prospects through the pipeline. Salespeople can see their customers’ historical data and interactions with their team all in one place, and view any upcoming assigned action items as well.
“Today, every progressive sales team needs a CRM that connects with customers and prospects regardless of their preferred communication channel,” Vegesna said in the announcement. “Our aim with this release of Zoho CRM is to provide the multichannel support that connects salespeople, prospects and customers and provides the usability enhancements that close more deals.”
Gamescope , a feature also being used with Zoho Projects , incorporates gamification techniques to let sales managers created contests and invite sales staff to “play a game for a friendly wager.” Sales activities, such as making calls and closing deals, permit employees to win points, trophies and badges.
The new version of Zoho CRM is available now and keeps the same pricing structure as the earlier version. It is free for up to 10 users. Paid plans begin at $12 per user per month.
Zoho Expands Footprint in Europe with New Data Centers, Website
Finally, Zoho has opened two data centers in Europe — one in Amsterdam and another in Dublin — to ensure that the data of its European customers stays within the continent, says the announcement.
“Zoho has always been committed to protecting the privacy of its users and their right to use our products without intrusion,” said Raj Sabhlok, President, Zoho Corp in the announcement. “With these data centers, all the information that our European users trust us with will be stored securely within the borders of the continent.”
Zoho also launched www.zoho.eu , to cater exclusively to the growing European customer base.