Should a CRM Give Everyone Complete Visibility?

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ECS Business Services has a competitive sales environment where reps are very protective about their leads and clients. If they deployed a company-wide CRM application it would reveal all that intimate information. Zoho worked with ECS Business Services to come up with a solution.

The business

ECS Business Services audits utility invoices, such as electric and garbage expenses, for large commercial properties. They make sense of complicated utility bills. They look at each line item to make sure their clients are not being overcharged, and if not, they look for ways to help them save money on an ongoing basis, explained Joel I. Kruger, Vice President of Business Development.

The challenge

“It was archaic…It was old school. There was no method to the madness,” admitted Kruger of ECS’ organization method for leads, prospects, and clients that existed all of just 12 months ago. Each person managed their own client case. And there was a big filing cabinet where much of the data was stored. Some was copied into an Excel spreadsheet. There was tons of overlapping information.

If a rep wanted to know if someone had spoken to an existing client or a potential client, they’d have to call into the office and hope somebody knew. It became very poor for client relations and attracting new clients because they’d have two different reps from ECS calling the same potential client. It looked horribly unprofessional, admitted Kruger.

Finding a CRM solution for their internally competitive environment

Given that a few people in the office had some knowledge of CRM, they knew they needed a CRM solution. It took them quite a while to come to a decision as they did trials with multiple CRM vendors and looked at quite a number of solutions such as Salesforce, ACT!, Goldmine, and anything that was web-based. They wanted their reps all across the U.S. to have access to the system, even on the go, so having a mobile solution was important as well.

What they didn’t like about the big companies is you really had to take it as is. There was very little easy customization they could do.

They had one request that wasn’t that unusual at all when you look at traditionally competitive sales environments. Each rep wants to keep their client base as much to themselves as possible. Meaning they don’t necessarily want other sales reps to see their clients, their notes, and relationships. But at the same time, they don’t want anyone accidentally stepping on their work by calling an existing client or prospect without knowing there had been previous contacts, explained Kruger.

ECS wanted a general search feature within the CRM where a rep could search a company, see if it belonged to anybody, and when was the last day of contact. It would reveal nothing else. That would signal to the other rep that it was either owned, or had been languishing. The inquiring rep could contact the other rep to ask the status. Kruger’s research revealed that none of the other CRM programs had that feature, including Zoho.

Zoho was eager to listen. They set up a conference call with ECS and asked what they wanted in the CRM application and why they wanted it. Even though Zoho didn’t have this feature, they were intent in creating the feature and making available for ECS and all their clients. This was just a few months ago and while the new feature is not 100 percent ready yet, Zoho has a variable that ECS is using now, explained Kruger.

“As a small company it’s all about the way you’re treated. You want to be treated just like the big guys are,” said Kruger about how well they were treated by Zoho. “Expectations were blown out of the water…They were really interested in us and our needs.”

We’re always talking about CRM offering complete transparency to all, but in a competitive sales environment, that’s not always desired. You want a certain level of visibility and non-visibility.

CRM became transformative to the business

We saw an instant change because everyone has visibility and you can collaborate on projects, said Kruger who discovered, thanks to the Zoho implementation, that one of his prospects was actually the best friend of one of his coworkers.

“If you’re in a small business, one, two, or three people, it doesn’t matter, you need to get some kind of program that will help you get organized, and remind you to call people when you need to call them and not lose out on a major opportunity,” said Kruger. “It is such a great organizational tool that will help your business grow.”

Announcement: Zoho Creator API now supports Authentication Token

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Previously, an API included a ticket that had a lifetime of 7 days, after which it would expire. The API had to be updated with a new ticket once every 7 days. This was getting tedious as there was no way you could automate this process. As a measure of minimizing manual effort involved, we introduced Authentication Tokens to API’s.

The Authentication Token is bound to an account. Generating it is a one-time activity, and is valid for eternity. This token can be used in all your API calls. All the tokens associated with your account can be managed in Zoho Accounts.

Authentication Token is certainly better in every way, so we strongly recommend all Developer API users to switch. Here is how you can generate the Authentication Token. In order to enforce this better alternative, we intend to discontinue support of API tickets and API key. API users will be notified well in advance.

Changing How Salespeople Do Email: Introducing MailMagnet for Zoho CRM

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Email is a necessary evil these days. It’s the most widely used form of communication across companies, and yet precisely because of that widespread use, most people’s inboxes are cluttered with messages.

So, along the way we’ve invented labels, folders, SPAM filters, rules, stars, flags, smart algorithms and more as different ways to prioritize your inbox.

But none of that helps salespeople stay on top of customer communications easily, because they were not designed specifically for salespeople. One of our CRM customers was recently telling us that about 60% of the email their salespeople get is NOT related to the deals he is working on. We know, too, from our own experience that a high percentage of the emails that our sales team gets is not directly related to the deals they are working on.

So we decided to look at this from a fresh perspective, and we asked ourselves one question: Who knows best about the deals you are working on? It’s not your email system – it’s your CRM. So expecting your email system to prioritize your email for you is nonsense – it should be your CRM system.

And that’s why we want to change how salespeople do email. Salespeople will, in the long-term, do email within their CRM system. And that’s why today we’re introducing Zoho MailMagnet.

It works just like the name implies – like a magnet for mails. Which mails? The ones that are relevant to you, right now, depending on what deals you are working on. Only your CRM system knows this. And when you turn on MailMagnet for Zoho CRM, it instantly looks at your inbox and presents only those emails that are relevant for you.

We’ve had for a while something related available for our Zoho CRM Customers – the Zoho Mail Add-On. The Mail Add-On allows customers to keep track of all incoming and outgoing customers messages from within CRM – even share customer communications given the right permissions, of course. And it doesn’t require you to cc: anyone – and it works even when using your mobile phone’s email client.

But our Mail Add-On didn’t solve the problem of sorting what is important (customer/leads/deals mails) from what is not – and do so directly inside Zoho CRM. We’re combining what until today was the Mail Add-On and this brand-new functionality into the new Zoho MailMagnet. Existing Mail Add-On customers will get this automatically, at no additional cost. It’s important to note that MailMagnet works with pretty much any modern email provider you might have – Zoho Mail, Gmail, Google Apps, your ISP, etc.

MailMagnet is not just a feature – it signals our vision and aim to change the way salespeople interact with their email. Today we’ve taken the second step. We’re already getting some feedback from some beta customers we gave a preview of this to and it’s positive – we’d love to hear what you think.

Get Better, Faster and More Exact Search Results

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Searching qualified candidates within your own database is just as important as to search for and import new candidates into the system.

We have made a major enhancement to the existing Advanced Search, to help you search the right candidate by any keyword within the candidate profile, candidate form fields, attachments, etc. This reduces the search time and increases efficiency.

You can narrow or broaden your search depending on the option you choose:

A “Match All Keywords” search will search every candidate record that include ALL of the supplied keywords, no matter what order those keywords are located in the candidate profile.
For example: Search for Robert Florida would return all candidates record containing the words (Robert and Florida).

A “Match Any Keyword” search will return results where just one, some or all of the supplied keywords is found.
For example: Search for Java Oracle C++ would return all candidates record containing any of those words (Java or Oracle or C++)

A “Exclude Keywords” search will return results with Candidates records which doesn’t contain any of the supplied keywords.
For example: Search for PHP Cobol would return all candidates records that does NOT contain PHP and does NOT contain Cobol.

“Specify Criteria” search returns results with Candidates record for the specified search criteria. This option allows you to add multiple criteria.

Hope you will like it. Please try it and let us know your feedback.

Happy Recruiting!

Zoho CRM Advanced Analytics: Create Region-based Reports

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As a Zoho CRM user, we believe you are taking full advantage of the Advanced Analytics Add-on for Zoho CRM. If you haven’t yet, do try it now as it lets you dive deep into your CRM data and get real insights about your business.

We continue to hear from you about how such and such report would be very useful to have. Sales target (quota) report was one. Here’s one more that can be ultra useful – region-based sales reports.

For building the regional reports, you need the address of each client of yours. And it is there in the Accounts module of Zoho CRM. By default, the address fields aren’t synced from Zoho CRM to Zoho Reports. So, login to your CRM (Admin) account, click Setup -> Apps & Add-ons -> Zoho Apps -> Advanced CRM Analytics -> Settings. Choose Accounts under Modules and check the Billing City, Billing State and Billing Country fields. Click Save.

When the next sync happens, all the addresses of your clients are there in the Accounts table of your Advanced Analytics add-on. You can now create the desired region-based reports that you may need, by pulling in the desired columns.

Try creating your own region-based sales reports and let us know how it went.

New in Zoho CRM – SMS alerts using Webhooks

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Has this ever happened to you?

You have a customer meeting in two hours. But accidentally, it slips out of your mind and you schedule a meeting with another customer. Oops!

But this scenario could be different.

You have a customer meeting in two hours. An hour before the meeting, you receive an SMS with the customer’s name and the time of the meeting!

Isn’t that great? And you can do this using our Webhooks.

Yes! Webhooks now allows you to trigger SMS alerts to your sales rep and customers about upcoming meetings, demos, payments and other events. Just schedule the SMS alerts about the event details and get notified on time.

SMS Alerts using Webhooks

So how do you setup SMS notifications? It only takes a few steps. The online help will tell you how.

– Radhika

Debunking the Myth: “You need to spend money to make money”

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

How many small businesses have gone under because they believed the myth “You need to spend money to make money” at face value? Following this phrase literally has led too many business owners on the wrong path, forgetting the first rule of business success–be profitable.

Remember this simple equation: Income – Expenses = Profit. If your profit isn’t where it needs to be, take a closer look at your expenses. You only have so much control over your income, but you’re fully in control of how much money you spend.

Many business owners automatically believe they need a loan to operate a business based on their estimated operating costs. Try reversing your thinking: can you lower your operating costs so you can borrow less or eliminate the need to borrow any money at all? The less money you owe, the less money you’ll spend each month on debt payments.

Tax deductions
You’re not the only business owner who has fallen into the spending trap of thinking, “It’s deductible.” Deductions only matter if your business is making enough profit to owe significant taxes in the first place. Even when your business has reached that point, you can have it both ways by making a contribution to a business retirement plan–you get the deduction without spending any money.

Employee expenses usually make up the bulk of most income statements–payroll, unemployment taxes, benefits, etc. Before deciding you need more employees or even any employees, consider lower-cost alternatives like hiring an independent contractor or temp as needed.

Besides being one of your largest monthly expenses, renting commercial space usually involves lengthy lease timeframes, reducing your flexibility to cut costs in this area. New business owners often dismiss the idea of starting out by working from home, but choosing this route could put you on the fast track to profitability by keeping your expenses low. When that’s not an option, start out with a lower rent at first by choosing a smaller space or less trendy area. You can always expand and upgrade once your business income can support a higher rent without affecting profitability.

Social media has created low-cost advertising options that never existed before. If your target markets use social media, you can reach large numbers at a fraction of the cost of advertising in traditional media.

Stop following the crowd before you fall off the cliff. The reality is, “You need to spend less money to make money.”

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