11 Apr 2017 12:54 PM By Paul


Zoho has just announced a raft of new CRM functionality (the full report can be found here). This is the first upgrade since the new user interface was rolled out 7 months ago. To help you make sense of this, here is Bernard McLeod's (a Zoho Partner and Prodigm Associate) take on what you need to know. 

We’ve also noted which features require which (minimum) edition of Zoho CRM.

The usual disclaimer applies - these are our opinions and not necessarily those of Zoho Corporation. As always, if you have further questions or would like to learn more just let us know.

Scoring Rules (Standard Edition)

This is a simple but hugely useful addition - particularly when applied to Leads and Opportunities. In essence it allows you to define rules to add or subtract “score points”. For instance, if the lead source is a personal referral, the lead has an approved project and is operating in the financial services sector, then you might add 10 points to that Lead’s score. Conversely if an opportunity has been stalled for 6 months and is worth less than $1,000 you might deduct 8 points. Scoring Rules are a powerful tool to sort and prioritize large numbers of Leads or Opportunities and thus pursue those that are likely to yield the best outcomes.

Conditional Fields (Enterprise Edition)

This is a major CRM interface enhancement - designed to remove clutter and hide distraction. You can now build layout rules that determine when record sections / fields are visible and which fields are mandatory.

For example - say you sell insurance. The CRM Insurance Module would display as a spartan page, with a single Select Insurance Type field. If you select “Car Insurance” multiple fields appear - requesting vehicle type, vehicle age, etc. However if you select Travel Insurance you instead see fields related to destination, medical condition and so on. 

Also if you state that you are married than the Spouse Name field becomes mandatory. This is a big productivity boost and there are any number of scenarios where this becomes valuable.

Blueprint (Enterprise Edition)

Blueprint is a game changer that is relatively unique in the CRM world. Zoho believes that this will become a key product differentiator.

Blueprint is used to control workflows and information capture through any CRM process. We expect it will be used primarily for sales processes but it is available for all standard and custom modules.

Consider how sales pipelines work today. If you have an opportunity tracking process with 6 stages (e.g. New, Qualification, Quotation, Negotiation, Won and Lost) - there is nothing to prevent the opportunity owner changing the opportunity stage from “New” to “Won” or to “Lost” with little explanation. So what just happened?

Using Blueprint you can now enforce a repeatable sales process. You map out the transition between each stage and the requirements that must be met in order to transition. For instance you are only permitted to move from Qualification to Quotation (not jump to Won), you are not permitted to offer a discount of more than 10%, a deal worth $10k+ must be approved by person x. You can also mandate which contextual information is captured each time the opportunity advances through the workflow. To set all of this up Zoho has built an intuitive drag and drop interface.

The Blueprint feature will become increasingly important as organizations grow or when teams are geographically dispersed. It enforces best practices and provides the necessary management controls.


Slack Integration (Standard Edition)

Not a major change but Slack (the popular business messaging and collaboration platform) can now integrate with Zoho CRM. You can share reports, dashboards and other information via a Slack channel.

Zia Artificial Intelligence (Enterprise Edition)

Cortana, Alexa, OK Google, Siri et al - meet Zia. Zia is Zoho’s AI engine for CRM. While it doesn’t have a voice interface (at least not yet!) it does do trend analysis, identify anomalies and make suggestions based on past CRM interactions or behaviour patterns. It can recommend the best time of day to call a client, flag a slowdown in deal closures or suggest a macro to automate repetitive tasks. There is nothing to enable or configure - Zia runs continuously in the background.

AI and expert systems are an emerging trend in CRM. We have not yet had the chance to judge its real-world performance - but suffice to say AI is here for the long term and will become ever more powerful. The tech world has moved far beyond the old Microsoft Word “it looks like you are trying to write a letter” days.

 Other Feature Updates  

Voice over IP Telephony integration (Standard Edition) for 10 additional cloud telephony partners. Important if you wish to integrate VOIP and CRM and are using one of those vendors.

Office 365 Integration

Office 365 Integration (Standard Edition) to sync users / contacts / calendar / email etc. with Microsoft’s Office 365 service.

Sales Signals

Sales Signals (all editions) enable CRM to accept real-time “signals” from a range of 3rd party cloud apps such as MailChimp and SurveyMonkey. Zoho has also developed an open API for integration with many more cloud services.

All of these new features will be made available by Zoho in the upcoming weeks. We have significant experience in implementing sales process control and other advanced features. We will be happy to assist your implementation project for any of these enhancements. 

Contact us to book a call to discuss these options and how they will help your business to grow.