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Fresh Wind for SME CRM?

It appears to be demo time for me. After Jon Ferrara gave me a deep dive into the leading social sales application Nimble and I got a dive into the new travel management solution Traform by my old friend Balamurugan Kalia, Sreelesh Pillai introduced me toFreshsales, the new social solution by Freshdesk, a company that got founded in the second half of 2010 only and until now focused their efforts on customer service and support.
An interesting twist in Sreelesh’s story is that Freshdesk built Freshsales initially to accommodate their own needs and to deal with the demand caused by their growth. Growing at about 50% over the last year or so, the Freshdesk team realized that the applications (yes, plural, including tier 1 solutions) that they used did not really fit their needs.
The Freshsales solution covers simple applications for leads, contacts, accounts, deals (opportunities). Leads and contacts can get imported into the system by means of a csv upload. This way it is also possible to migrate Salesforce data into the system. Google contacts or contacts from Office365 are not automatically synced or used.
E-Mail and phone conversations that are initiated within Freshsales are tracked against the lead/contact to provide a historic context about what is going on with the person. In case mails are sent directly from an email account one needs to bcc the own Freshsales email address (e.g. sales@aheadcrm.freshsales.io) in order to have the interaction tracked by the system. This then transparently creates a new lead if the recipient e-mail address is not yet known to the system.
Using territories and rules on territories a lead can be automatically assigned to a sales team member. Essentially we have here a way into territory management, including territory realignment; simple, yet powerful.
Deals are tracked via a Kanban-style view of stages. These stages unluckily do not seem to be configurable, but this should be a very easy fix.
A connected Google calendar can get synchronized and shows as an agenda view. This seems to work better for syncing Freshsales appointments into the Google calendar than the other way round. The polling of the Google calendar does not happen frequently enough, which is something that the team wants to work on. Appointments that are created within the Google calendar do not show up in Freshsales in real time, whereas incoming e-mails from leads/contacts show a notification.
For marketing purposes there is the ability to send out trackable e-mails including a mail-merge functionality that offers simple mail templates that one can create within Freshsales. Mail-merge recipients can get selected via filtering the leads or contacts using a number of categories. This is enough for building simple one stage email campaigns. Not having telephony connected to my system I assume that this process is the same for generating call lists. Telephony integration is provided via twilio.
Freshsales also offers a pretty interesting lead scoring solution, which is probably one of the most distinguishing features of the application.
A lead score is a way of ranking leads based upon profile attributes and engagement levels. Freshsales implements this by offering a rule engine and 3 standard views to group leads (hot leads, warm leads, cold leads) along with the ability of creating additional views. This ability is necessary for several reasons, one of them being that a customer’s definition of hot, warm, and cold is different. In this example he delivered views can get modified and stored into new custom views.
Configuring lead scoring is very simple. Lead scoring happens by creating and then applying rules that evaluate different attributes of the lead/contact and interactions like email open, e-mail click, etc., as well as activity within a web app or web site. To support the latter in a real time fashion some libraries and scripts are delivered via the Freshsales admin area. These scripts need to be embedded into the web site that shall support lead scoring. They provide real time interaction with Freshsales. This functionality is also used throughout Freshdesk and Freshsales in order to support cross- and up-selling.
E-mails are tracked via embedded beacons and web activity is tracked by UTM codes.
A number of preconfigured reports exist that can get adapted. Additionally, it is possible to create new reports.

A Fresh Way towards CRM?

The Freshdesk team has built a clean solution here that shows some interesting features with the telephony integration and the territory management. I really like the territory management and the approach to lead scoring.
So far the application offers a limited choice of prepackaged integration points, which is in all likelihood due to the solution being, well, fresh on the market. As with Freshdesk there is a more matured service solution already available I would expect fairly fast paced updates to come. As with other young solutions that target smaller companies there is only a rudimentary campaign management at this stage. The built-in territory management and the necessity to upload leads and contacts into the system, as well as the Salesforce migration option, suggest that bigger companies are clearly in scope for Freshsales. Adding on here while making this part of the onboarding even easier could become an important attractor for businesses, especially those that do not yet have any CRM system set up.
Overall I think that it is a nifty solution. The automated creation of leads, their automatic conversion into contacts or the automated creation of deals are interesting functionalities that make life for the sales team easier. The same holds true for the automatic enrichment of leads, contacts, or accounts.
However, there is some scope for improvement; there always is – else analysts would be out of business ;-). The Google mail and -calendar integration is interesting although I would argue that Freshsales will be configured against a business e-mail, therefore simply should offer all e-mail in the built-in views. Conversely, there should not be a difference when working directly in the Gmail. The same holds true for the calendar.
There is a limited social media integration. For newly created leads, contacts, accounts there is an identification process for social media profiles. However, engagements with leads and contacts do not show up in the conversation history, nor is there a view that allows the sales reps to actively engage with them, based upon triggers, e.g., mentions on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. With the advent of chat as an engagement platform being able to integrate the main players here (Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, iMessage, Google Hangouts and -Messenger) becomes an important factor. Having this would emphasize on Freshsales targeting ‘high velocity sales teams’ in the online retail, business services, education areas.
Last but not least I would look into an initially simple but extensible multichannel/multi stage campaign management functionality that allows for segmenting customers and addressing them via various channels, based upon different triggers.
By strengthening the marketing functionality Freshdesk has the opportunity to position itself as a suite player that offers (limited) best-of-breed functionality across marketing, sales, and service.
The current roadmap foresees to enrich Freshsales with functionalities in the following areas:
  • Automated email campaigns 
  • Advanced lead scoring
  • Dashboards & reports 
  • Collaboration on deals and accounts
  • Workflow automation based on lead score and events
  • Chrome and outlook plugins
  • More integrations
I am looking forward to seeing these embedded into processes and more refreshing things coming from the Freshdesk team; I really do.

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