The process of manually entering sales activity and customer data into Salesforce is often extremely tedious and frustrating, decreasing the chances that your sales reps will actually take the time to do it.
The only real solution is to find a way to eliminate manual data entry entirely and make the whole process automatic.
Ideally, your sales reps would never have to even open Salesforce. They could perform their work as they normally do, and all of their sales activity and customer data would be synced from their email inbox and calendar to Salesforce automatically.
Fortunately, many products in recent years have been developed to enable this capability. In fact, there are now so many options for integrating email with Salesforce that it has become difficult for many sales teams to decide which one is the best fit for their specific needs.
In addition you will have access to a breakdown of the differences, strengths, and weaknesses of the top Salesforce email integration tools that you can use for reference in your research.
Steve is a CRM expert with 14 years as a Chief Information Officer for a software firm which relied heavily on CRM and email integration before founding a highly successful CRM practice, CRMCulture for 8 years.
Over the course of 6 months, Steve and his teams installed each application to test user stories, performance, and usability. They identified 5 main criteria to evaluate the performance of Salesforce Email integration solutions.
Adding further complexity, depending on the version of Microsoft Outlook or Exchange Server you use, only certain methods of providing a sidebar (aka side panel, plug-in or extension) will be able to support your needs through the available API’s from Microsoft.
Although every organization will have different needs with different priorities some of the most common email tasks you will want to evaluate are:
Another important criteria is simply the number of email clients supported. Beyond just looking at whether or not they support your particular email client, support for a large variety of clients is a predictor of the future stability, performance, and innovation capabilities of a vendor.
In fact, most Salesforce consulting partners and their customers prefer not to navigate through these complexities and would prefer a single vendor who can support their integration requirements regardless of email environment as email clients and services are upgraded or migrated.
Email clients supported may include:
When comparing Outlook support, you need to look at mainly two factors:
Additional Outlook criteria to consider:
If your organization relies on Google’s email and calendar apps, there are a few criteria you will want to keep in mind when making your evaluation:
Is there a chrome extension to support Gmail?
How does the solution link inbound/outbound email/calendar items to the corresponding Salesforce contact/lead? Automatically or with a prompt after sending an email?
Is the interface different for Gmail than it is for Outlook? Some tools offer completely different interfaces for Gmail with fewer features than the interface for Outlook.
Does the sidebar also support Gmail Calendar? Is the calendar sidebar useful for preparing for meetings, identifying and adding new contacts that appear in the meeting attendees, and for taking notes about the meeting?
How fast is the sidebar at retrieving and pushing data to/from Salesforce?
Does the sidebar experience caching issues when navigating through emails quickly, or performing certain actions and then moving on to another email?
Does the sidebar disconnect itself and log the user out after a period of inactivity?
In addition to providing a side panel (or plug-in) for email systems, check if your vendor also provides a mobile phone version of their product offering a similar experience to that of their Side Panel and delivered via both Android and iOS.
The main evaluation criteria for mobile options are:
Is the mobile application is available from both the iOS and Android app stores?
If one is using the Outlook application from their phone, does the product offer an add-in that works on both iOS and Android? Does it provide all the same linking and sidebar experience of the desktop or web apps?
Does the mobile application provide a fully functional email client, including Calendar, Contacts and Tasks?
Does the mobile application allow users to link incoming email to Salesforce records, including linking to Opportunities or other objects?
Does the mobile application allow users to select contacts on the To/Cc/From lines and see relevant Salesforce data and related lists?
Does the mobile application gives users the capability to search for Salesforce contacts and initiate a new email to them while simultaneously linking the sent email to the appropriate Salesforce records
It’s also important to gauge the amount of technical support that may be required. Most larger orgs will sacrifice features for stability to ease their implementation and support burden.
Generally the former is preferred because fully-automated solutions that link emails and calendar items automatically, without any user interaction, are prone to creating a lot of duplicate and junk data in Salesforce.
Sales enablement and acceleration features are the collection of features such as:
Calendar Booking Tools are now critical in the sales workflow and most of the vendors now offer options for making the users availability known to the customer and also allow the customer to then book a meeting, without all the back and forth emails.
There are two approaches that the vendors take, each with their own pros and cons:
The Fully-Available Calendar as a link
The absolute best customer experience. Empowers the customer to pick a time that is convenient for them.
Embedding the link in your signature “Book a Meeting” is a one-time only event
The customer is more likely to find a time that works for them and ultimately the meeting is more likely to get booked than pushing them for a certain day/time.
Well suited for early lead development when getting the meeting is more important than a big push for a specific date/time.
The user needs to keep their calendar accurate and block out times that they don’t want to meet. However, we find that it’s not a big deal once the meeting is booked to change the time, 99% of the time the customer accepts the new time.
A calendar with a lot of open meeting slots can give the customer the impression that you aren’t very busy and therefore not in demand.
With most products, the meetings generated are named with generic subjects requiring the user to then update the Outlook Meeting to something meaningful after it has been created.
The Time-Picking or Choose Availability method.
Sales user picks specific time slots and those are offered as buttons in the email.
Sales users surveyed initially preferred to pick the times rather than offering a wide-open calendar. They believe that it’s the job of the salesman to drive the customer to do what they want to do and on their timeline.
However, we mostly found this was just an insecurity in having the full calendar published even though no details are shown.
This often provides a poor customer experience, as you are pushing the customer into timeslots that may not work for them, or when they get around to picking the slot, the time slot is no longer available.
If the sales user doesn’t offer up a suitable time slot, it’s back to the same old game of emailing back and forth for a mutual time.
This method is considerably more time consuming for the user to pick time slots.
Often, the times chosen are no longer available when the customer eventually gets around to booking the meeting. Most vendors handle this scenario well, though, and do not allow double-booked meetings, but it is indeed frustrating to the customer.
Many customers and specific industries require every email interaction and calendar item to be captured in Salesforce. Not many vendors offer the capability to do this automatically.
A few vendors offer a solution both on the email side (where emails automatically link to opportunities) and on the Calendar, where they make a distinction between meetings with and without attendees (so that if desired one can disable sync for calendar items that aren’t customer related, i.e. Doctor’s Appointments, Job Interviews, etc).
If your organization needs to capture email interactions and calendar items in Salesforce, make sure that the product you’re considering offers the ability to sync these activities automatically.
Very few solutions offer any sort of Marketing Automation type features, but here are a few to keep in mind:
Many vendors offer Email Open tracking or notifications, as well as Link tracking features. Here are some criteria to consider when evaluating products with Analytics capabilities:
Some products require global impersonation, giving admins unlimited access to every single mailbox on your company’s Exchange mail server. This kind of direct server access is inadvisable, as it could potentially expose your network to unauthorized individuals.
Make sure that the product you’re considering provides enterprise-level security, where connection paths of data are completely configurable and secured with single sign-on (SSO).
According to OneLogin, single sign-on (SSO) is “a system that enables users to securely authenticate with multiple applications and websites by logging in only once—with just one set of credentials (username and password). With SSO, the application or website that the user is trying to access relies on a trusted third party to verify that users are who they say they are. Authentication requests and information are passed using standard, secure protocols, such as SAML or OAuth.”
A common example of SSO is a website, service, or application that allows you to sign in using your existing Google or Facebook account, rather than having to create an entirely new account.
According to Salesforce, there are many benefits to using SSO:
You will want to evaluate products according to the following security considerations:
You will also want to evaluate how the vendor handles data storage. Ideally, the product should store the bare minimum amount of data possible to provide the feature. In order to ensure the security and privacy of your data, make sure to ask about the following:
Integrating your email and calendar with Salesforce can help achieve several related objectives in your organization:
In 2018, Steve Roch and his team conducted an independent study of the top Salesforce email integration tools. Steve is a CRM expert with 14 years as a Chief Information Officer for a software firm which relied heavily on CRM and email integration before founding a highly successful CRM practice, CRMCulture for 8 years.
Over the course of 6 months, Steve and his teams installed each of the top 6 Salesforce email integration applications to test user stories, performance, and usability:
Download Steve Roch’s 2018 Salesforce Email and Calendar Integration Market Landscape Report
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