CRM or Shared Inbox — What’s the Best Solution?

Closing sales and ensuring that customers have a good experience with your company is crucial for business success, and having the right tools can make all the difference. If you’re struggling to manage communication with prospects and customers, it may be time to consider upgrading your business toolset.

Depending on your needs, a CRM might be the right choice for you.

What is a CRM?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. A CRM system is software that helps you keep track of all of your customers and your sales pipeline. Most CRM systems let you add notes to contacts and log email and other communications that you have with a contact. CRMs that focus on sales can also track what stage a contact is in during the sales process.

Why use a CRM?

The chief benefit of using a CRM is to centralize all knowledge of your customers and prospects. Instead of checking between notes in one document, a call log in your phone, and your emails in yet another system, a CRM can help organize and centralize all of this information so you only have to look in one place to see everything. This ensures you have a record of each interaction and that any vital information is easily accessible for all prospects. 

A CRM can be useful even if you’re a one-person business, but the value grows significantly if you’re working with a team. Different people in your company may have interactions with the same contact and it’s useful to make sure the complete history of all notes and call logs is in one place for anyone to see.

With centralized information, you can know who’s doing what and what the last conversation with a client was. This way you can easily pick up where someone else left off.

Sales teams especially benefit from CRMs. They can use them to track their sales pipelines and handoff deals to the right person.

Is a CRM right for your business?

Although CRMs are great in theory, they’re not always great in practice. 

First, if you’re introducing a new tool to your company, training and adoption can be a challenge. Learning a new system might be easy for some, but challenging for others. Plus, you’ll have the added overhead of training new employees on the system whenever you bring them on board.

Second, even if your team knows how to use a CRM, getting them to actually use it can be a challenge. Will your team log every call that they make or copy every email into the CRM? If it takes extra time and the benefits aren’t immediately clear, getting a team to really use a CRM can be a challenge.

The reality is that most business communication takes place in email, so getting a team to move out of their familiar email system and into a CRM can be a challenge. 

Integrating email with your CRM

Some CRMs offer email integration through the use of browser extensions or allowing users to BCC a special email address for the CRM in all of their communications, allowing emails to be copied into the CRM as they are sent.

These methods can work, but again, getting everyone on your team to remember to add a BCC to every email they send to customers and prospects can be a challenge. But there’s a simpler solution that may be better for your team.

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Using a shared inbox as an alternative to a CRM

An alternative to a classic CRM is to use a shared inbox tool to manage your communication. A shared inbox allows everyone on your team to work out of the same inbox –, for example. Everyone can easily see what everyone else is doing and all email communications stay in one place instead of getting spread out among multiple personal email inboxes.

You can even take it a step further and set up multiple shared mailboxes, one for each member of the team –,, etc. This way, sales and support teams can email from their own email addresses, but it’s also easy for anyone to jump in and pick up where someone else left off to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

The benefit of using a shared inbox is that there are no new tools to learn and your team can work in email the way they’re used to working, but with the added benefit of total visibility and transparency.

A shared inbox keeps everyone on the same page:

  • All email conversations are automatically shared.
  • Team members can add notes to conversations to avoid fwd’s and cc’s.
  • A shared contact list makes it easy to look up the full history of any customer or prospect.

If you’re interested in trying out a shared inbox solution for your team, give Outpost a try. It’s free to get started and works the way you expect email to work.

Posted in: Customer Service Productivity

Noah Parsons

Noah Parsons

Before joining Palo Alto Software, Noah Parsons was an early Internet marketing and product expert in the Silicon Valley. He joined Yahoo! in 1996 as one of its first 101 employees and become Producer of the Yahoo! Employment property as part of the Yahoo! Classifieds team before leaving to serve as Director of Production at He is a graduate of Princeton University. Noah devotes most of his free time to his three young sons. In the winter you'll find him giving them lessons on the ski slopes, and in summer they're usually involved in a variety of outdoor pursuits. Noah is currently the COO at Palo Alto Software, makers of Outpost and the online business plan app LivePlan, and content curator and creator of the Emergent Newsletter.

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