Salesforce.com announced a significant new feature to its Inbox email, adding a Calendar feature that integrates with the company's CRM platform.
The idea is to make sales reps more efficient, particularly on mobile devices, by giving them information on clients and prospects without having to launch a separate program.
The news comes after an earlier Salesforce announcement of integration with Microsoft's popular Outlook email program. Salesforce Inbox is available for iOS and Android mobile devices.
"We believe sales reps' workflow is fragmented," Stephen Ehikian, general manager of SalesforceIQ, told eWEEK. "Sales reps spend most of their time in email and calendar, but they have to proactively spend a lot of time looking for information elsewhere, and that's time not selling."
In a demonstration, Salesforce showed how from within Inbox a sales representative could click a calendar icon at the bottom of the screen to see upcoming appointments complete with links to information about people in the meeting automatically accessed from their Salesforce record, such as current customer, prospect, recent orders and so on.
A study by CSO Insights found that sales reps may search as many as 15 different internal and external sources, including customer relationship management (CRM) systems, LinkedIn and other social media, to find information on customers and prospects.
"Instead of forcing reps to go out and get information, we bring it to them. We automatically map to every email and now every calendar event and CRM record so there is context for a meeting," said Ehikian.
You can also use Calendar to schedule appointments dynamically. So, for example, after a preliminary meeting, you might send a prospect a few options for a follow-up meeting, such as 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on a certain date that can be simply checked off to confirm.
The invitation is tied to the sender's calendar, so if one of those times is filled before there is a confirmation, it disappears as an option so there isn't the back-and-forth emails offering another time.
Another time-saving feature within the calendar is a button to join a conference call. Just click the button to join with no dial in or pass codes required. Ehikian said this will initially work with GoToMeeting and WebEx.
Calendar is also tied to Leads and Contacts in the Salesforce Sales Cloud, so updates are logged in real time, saving the time that would typically be expended entering that information separately. Another feature, Meeting Notes, lets sales reps log a meeting and attach notes directly to the account in Salesforce from their calendar.
Analyst Alan Lepofsky said he is impressed that Salesforce has done something that improves "in the moment" productivity. "We talk about goals and tasks and project management, and that's fine. But most people, particularly salespeople, are guided by their calendar and what they need to do in the moment," Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst with Constellation Research, told eWEEK.
"A calendar entry has names and phone numbers. But if you can have more information right there, like this customer has four open support tickets, this is really important to know going into a call, and Salesforce has made it more seamless by integrating Calendar with the CRM system."
Lepofsky said that by integrating all these features in Inbox, users don't have to toggle between apps to get the context they need. Going forward, he expects Salesforce and competitors such as Microsoft and Google to offer more proactive features associated with artificial intelligence where the system will do more to suggest, for example, the best people to call at a company for a particular pitch and other contextual information.
The Calendar feature, which is set to be available in the 2016 fourth quarter, is based on Tempo, a smart calendar app Salesforce acquired last year.