Inside story of why we built Freshsales

Today is a very proud moment for all of us at Freshdesk as we announce our brand new CRM product, Freshsales. It is the fourth addition to our lineup, which already includes Freshdesk, Freshservice and Hotline.

I can imagine you thinking “what’s the big deal?” or “why does the world need another CRM?” when you are reading this. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to over the past few months (before showing them Freshsales) asked me the same questions. In fact, about 2 years ago I was also in your camp, thinking that CRM was a solved problem and there was no room for a new player to come in and change the game. And yet, here we are today announcing our new product.

This blog post is an account of our journey as a fast growing product company, the challenges we faced using multiple sales tools along the way, and how we decided to do it ourselves.

This is the story of Freshsales.

Finding a CRM Solution

When we launched Freshdesk in June 2011, we used to watch people sign up for the product one after the other, and wait till they reached out to us themselves. It wasn’t long before we became popular and a year later, we needed a better way to manage contacts than just using excel sheets. So we decided to purchase a cloud-based CRM.

Our requirements were simple: we wanted a place for our “sales team” (we had a very small sales team at that time) to store our 5000+ contacts, and we wanted to integrate our signup form into the CRM so that new leads would get added automatically.

After doing some research, we found that there were only a few big-name solutions that could handle a growing list of contacts and still be able to function properly. Everything else had issues with importing contacts or was too slow with basics like navigation or search. Given our shortage of options, we went ahead and purchased the most popular CRM in the market.

Making the CRM work for our SaaS business

As soon we got our new CRM setup, we realized that we needed an important feature – the ability to update contact details using APIs and keep them in sync with our CRM. Unfortunately, we found that the support for APIs was available only on the $125/month/agent plan and were forced to pay for it. This was quite expensive for a small business like us, considering that our requirements were pretty straightforward.

We also had to assign developer resources to work on integrating our signups into the CRM and ensuring that regular changes to accounts like trial expiry, renewals and upgrades were being captured automatically. After considerable effort, we got it to work like we wanted it to.

Meaningful conversations with prospects

As we started using the CRM tool, one of the things that we observed was the way our sales reps called prospects and asked them “How is your evaluation of Freshdesk going?” I felt that this was a very dumb question to ask customers when you are in the SaaS business.

Sales reps should have been able to know what prospects were doing on the website and inside the product. They should have been able to find out who was active during the trial and also keep an eye on people who haven’t logged in. In our case, we wanted them to call active prospects and send emails to nurture dormant ones.

In order to do this, we had to evaluate event analytics tools to track user behavior and see if people performed around 8-10 important actions during the trial. We didn’t find anything that worked for us so, we built our own event tracking module that let our salespeople to choose an account and look up what features it had enabled. Armed with this knowledge, they started having the right conversations with customers.

Getting more productive with automations

One of the things that I was happy with, at Freshdesk, was the solid pipeline we had built for inbound leads, so much that we were always growing faster than our ability to hire salespeople.

When our incoming leads started growing beyond the point where we could have one on one conversations, we purchased a marketing automation tool to do drip campaigns. To make this work seamlessly, we had to build a mechanism for our reps to stop these automated emails when customers replied so that they could continue these conversations on their own.

Similarly, when we started doing outbound sales, we needed a tool to see if people were opening the emails we sent them using the CRM. This would help us send timely follow ups and improve our chances of getting a response from prospects. Our sales people purchased an email tracking software to achieve this.

Overwhelmed by multiple tools

Despite all our effort, this wasn’t an ideal way to work. We found that our sales reps had to juggle between 4-5 different tools to do their jobs. This didn’t even include the part where they had to send out emails, make phone calls and manually log everything into the CRM.

The worst part was, it didn’t stop there. Every time we needed something, we had to go out and spend on new tools – like a lead enrichment solution to autofill contact details, or a lead-scoring tool to prioritize leads.

On top of that, when we wanted to switch our marketing automation provider, we had to embark on a massive, three-month-long development project to ensure that there was a smooth rollout without breaking the previous integration.

It was a vicious cycle – we kept throwing more money at the problem and making it more complex by the day. What we had expected to work as an out-of-the-box SaaS solution had become a complex setup on its own with our developers maintaining it like an in-house IT team.

We were a product company, and the amount of engineering time we spent maintaining these tools instead of building our product was a joke.

At this point we decided that there had to be a better way to do this. Sales teams shouldn’t need a CRM and four other tools to do their jobs well. Businesses shouldn’t be spending valuable time and resources getting these tools to work.

With our expertise in building easy-to-use business software, this was an opportunity that we did not want to pass on. So, we decided to go ahead and build a solution – not just for ourselves, but also for all those businesses out there that deserved a better CRM.

Freshsales – a full-fledged CRM, and everything that goes with it

Today I’m happy to bring you Freshsales, a full-fledged CRM that gives you everything you would expect in a CRM, and so much more. We set out to build a very special product for fast-growing businesses like us and I believe we’ve done justice to what we set out to do. Our sales teams have switched over to Freshsales and we are already seeing a huge improvement in the way they work.

In addition to our standard CRM features, here are some of our key differentiators.

  1. Integrated email and phone: The first thing you’ll like about Freshsales is that it’s integrated with email and phone right out of the box. You get to make or take phone calls, send and receive emails and even see who has opened or clicked on links from within the CRM. Messages and recordings get logged automatically, no questions asked.
  2. Event tracking: Trying to figure out what your customers are doing on your website or your app? Freshsales comes with libraries for JavaScript, Ruby, Python and more, that you can use to feed deep insights about every user into your CRM. No third party integrations, no additional cost.
  3. Powerful automations: We want to help you automate day-to-day tasks and focus on talking to your customers instead. Freshsales lets you automatically capture leads from your forms, enrich their profiles with information, assign them to the right reps, and do lead scoring based on user activity.
  4. Great usability, affordable pricing: Freshsales is designed to provide a simple, easy-to-use experience that our products are known for and you can get your team on board in a matter of minutes. We have a free plan for up to 10 free agents, and our pricing is perfect for growing teams that need a hassle-free CRM.

At Freshdesk, we’ve all been looking forward to this release, especially the Freshsales team who have been working hard to ship the product. So make sure you take a look and let us know what you think.

Expanding our vision

With the launch of Freshsales, I believe we are taking an important step towards expanding our horizon as a company and changing the way we do things at Freshdesk. We are not just in this to change the way businesses do customer service any more; we are in it to change the way they do business.

The future of CRM just got a little more exciting today, and I can’t wait to see what it holds for our customers and us.I would encourage you to try Freshsales and let me know what you think.