Zendesk Sell Review: Pros & Cons

You may be familiar with the name Zendesk because of its origins in the help desk industry; however, the company released Zendesk Sell, its customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a few years ago.

This year, Zendesk released a significant update to its original offering, which focuses on advanced analytics and was primarily focused on improving customer satisfaction. Despite the fact that these features impressed us (especially its help desk Smart Lists and reporting options), Zendesk Sell is not quite as good as Zoho CRM, the winner of our Editors’ Choice award for SMB-friendly CRM.

This is primarily due to the fact that Zendesk Sell has a significantly higher price tag for noticeably fewer features. Zendesk Sell is a CRM application that is simple to use and has a lot of appeal to small and medium-sized businesses.

What’s New in Zendesk Sell?

As was previously mentioned, Zendesk just recently issued a significant update to the CRM application it offers. The two most expensive items are the advanced reporting capabilities of Explore and the prospecting capabilities of Reach. In Zendesk Sell, the only way to generate a bespoke report is through the Explore tab. Even without it, the application possesses reporting capabilities; however, these reports are pre-made with limited scope for customization.

Explore provides users with the option to create brand new reports in addition to a comprehensive library of pre-built reports, reports that include extensive editing and personalization tools, and more. However, in order for users to make full use of the feature, they will almost certainly need to complete the training that Zendesk offers for free and can be accessed online. The builder is straightforward, with all of the data and variables that you desire to define located on the left, a report preview located in the middle, and various options for selecting graphics and manipulating results or operations located on the right. Again, this isn’t trivial information, but once you get a handle on the concepts, the interface is straightforward and can provide a wealth of additional insights.

The new Reach feature of Zendesk Sell functions in a manner that is comparable to that of a number of other customer relationship management (CRM) applications, namely the capability to search a wide variety of third-party data sources for additional information. You can use that to look for new opportunities based on selected criteria, such as your industry or product, and you can use that to your advantage. In addition to this, you can conduct additional research on a particular contact in order to compile a profile that is more comprehensive. Because Zendesk claims to have database access to more than 44 million businesses and 350 million contact records, you have a relatively large pool of options to rummage through. This information can even be used to flesh out a conversation or to step through a sequence. For instance, you could set up a trigger that alerts you to communicate with a contact through a specific social media channel.

Zendesk Sell: Getting Started

When a user with administrative privileges logs into Zendesk Sell, the rest of your sales team can be onboarded quickly and easily by simply sending out email invitations to do so. You are able to build teams inside of that structure by assigning roles to users. This enables managers to pull in their direct reports and keep track of them on their own dashboards—provided, of course, that you have paid for the permissions capability, which is only available at the Professional tier. If you are thinking about doing that, you should make a plan first before sending out invites so that users won’t be jumping between teams or being managed by different people.

The primary dashboard is very comparable to what is provided by the majority of the mid-tier CRM competitors that we analyzed, such as Act! CRM, Insightly, or Zoho CRM. The user interface isn’t quite as visually appealing as Insightly’s, but it’s simple to read and easy to personalize (so you can up the hues if you want). In the same way as its competitors, Zendesk presents information in the form of cards that the company refers to as “widgets.” When you click the Add Widgets button, you’ll have access to a wide variety of pre-configured widgets that you can use.

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The list that you see above will be updated to include any custom widgets that you have created based on live data or reports. You can move widgets around on the home screen by dragging and dropping them, which enables you to quickly locate the information you require. In addition, you have the ability to set up multiple home pages, similar to what is possible with other CRM options. This way, you’ll be able to have a home page for each product as well as each region. Or, if you’re a manager, you can keep track of your personal sales in one and the team’s performance in the other.

In the same manner that we did with all of our CRM entries, we imported our initial contact list from a CSV file. This time around, however, we cut the sheet in half and imported one half as a comma-separated values (CSV) file and the other half as a standard Excel file because Zendesk supports both of these formats. There were no problems with the import of either contact list. You simply drag your file into the import box on Zendesk, and then you wait a few moments while it processes it. After that, you will see a screen for data verification, which means that you will simply be matching the data in your file to the default columns in Zendesk Sell. This screen will appear after you have completed the previous step. This is a straightforward process that can be completed in a few simple clicks, and there are numerous examples provided to clear up any ambiguity.

However, Zendesk doesn’t recognize US states by default. It only has a Regions field, most likely so that the default field set can be used in more places around the world. It’s possible that initially, this will throw off some users, but in reality, it won’t make much of a difference. Because it is a text field, you will need to manually enter the names of the states or their abbreviations. In the Settings tab, if you require a State field, you can create a new one that is specific to your needs. Be sure to get this done before you import any of your data, though, just to be safe.

That would have prevented one more minor difficulty, namely: Each contact in the sample CSV file that we used assigned an owner, identified by that owner’s name (Oliver). When we imported that file, Zendesk prompted us to map the file’s owner name to one of the demo system’s pre existing owner roles (Press Demo). Before we could get “Oliver” to show up as the owner, we had to first configure that user to be able to act in that capacity and then import the data. If we didn’t do that, all of the owners would have been displayed as Press Demo, and we would have had to manually change that. To reiterate, this is not rocket science, but it is something you should do before adding a file that contains more than a thousand names altogether.

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Zendesk Sell’s Smart Lists

After you have imported leads, you will be able to view them in a list view by clicking the Leads icon located in the navigation on the left-hand side of the screen. When you first look at the view, there isn’t a lot of information there; however, you can quickly fill in the blanks by converting the view into what Zendesk refers to as a “Smart List.” This is just the basic list with any additional data columns and filters that you decide to add to it. In the Edit view, you will make the necessary adjustments, give it a name, and then save the settings. You won’t just be able to see a contact’s name, organization, and owner; rather, you’ll also be able to see their addresses, states, zip codes, and email addresses, as well as any other information you deem relevant.

Because Smart Lists are constructed using live data, the filters you apply to them will be automatically updated after you create one. For example, if it’s a contact list, Zendesk will add or remove contacts based on whether or not the filters you’ve set up continue to apply to them (for example, if a contact changed owners to another sales rep). However, since there is no alert for this, you may check a list and find yourself wondering what happened to a particular contact. Once a custom field has been added to the primary display of a Smart List, there does not appear to be any way to remove it. This was one of the aspects of setting up a Smart List that we found particularly annoying.

When it comes to the smooth operation of the Zendesk system, Smart Lists play a significant role. For instance, when you switch to the contacts view from the default view, you’ll see a long list of names for contacts, companies, and organizations. Everyone is presented as its own individual entry. It’s possible that this will throw you off if you’re coming from a system like Onpipeline that separates these into individual entries.

In order to view names of contacts or organizations, you will need to construct a Smart List. If you click Settings, you’ll be able to find the option to create a Smart List template for any major data view, including Contacts, Deals, and Leads. This is a fortunate feature. You have the ability to save it as a template, and an administrator has the ability to assign it to a team. The process of creating a template is the same as it is for an individual user (or it can just pop up as an option for users when they first get into the system).

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A Look at Leads and Deals

In the same way that Insightly’s Leads and Contacts are two separate elements in the left-hand navigation, Zendesk Sell’s Leads and Contacts also require two separate data entry operations. A lead will not become a customer until you click the “Convert” button. After it has been converted, the lead will be moved to contacts, and if it hasn’t already been given an organization and a deal, those things will be given to it. The view of a contact is identical to the view of a lead, with the exception of the option to convert the lead.

This view is broken up into three different columns. The fundamental information regarding the lead or contact can be found far to the left (name, address, phone, and the rest). There are three tabs located in the middle of the interface, and each one allows you to add a note, send an email, send a text message, or make a phone call, depending on whether or not you integrate with a business VoIP system like RingCentral. When you initiate a communication with a contact, Zendesk will track it, along with any email responses, return texts, or voice messages you receive from that contact.

However, the column that is located to the far right is where you will find the most information. There, you will be able to view all of the information that Zendesk has about this contact. If you have a sequence set up (described further down), its information will also display on the screen. Any upcoming appointments or tasks associated with a sales rep who you collaborate with are also listed; quotes, contracts, and other documents can be attached and accessed here as well. If you work with a sales rep, this feature is available to you.

The integration that Zendesk is most proud of, its very own help desk system, can be found at the very top of the column to the far right. Customers who have access will be able to view their ticket history and browse through it. They will also look at any tickets that haven’t been solved yet. The only drawback is that if you don’t already have Zendesk for Service, you’ll have to integrate it with whatever tool you already use if you want to use it. If this is not the case, you will only see blank fields.

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The Deals view is where the vast majority of salespeople will spend the majority of their time, with the exception of adding new people. This screen is organized around your sales pipeline, and as a result, it is very straightforward and easy to comprehend. The stages of the pipeline are presented at the top, followed by a list of the deals that are currently active in each stage. To view each one, click through the various stages. You can also customize this view as a Smart List, just like you can with Leads and Contacts; indeed, you should do so. Your default information only includes the name of the deal and the revenue associated with it; therefore, you will need to add details such as the owner, the region, or the product.

When you click on a deal, you will be taken to a detailed view that is organized in the same manner as the ones in Leads and Contacts. This makes it simple to learn how to use the entire system. The only difference is that there is a summary of the deal in the column to the far left, which includes information like when it is expected to close, how much revenue is expected, and where it currently stands in the sales pipeline. You are able to send communications to the primary contact for that deal, as well as keep a history of those communications and the responses they receive. Finally, the most information can be found in the column to the right. This information includes any and all contacts that are connected to the deal, any and all other sales representatives who are working on the deal or with the contact, and any and all help desk information that is associated with the deal.

Deal-related tasks and appointments are housed in this section, and you have the option to attach separate Deal documents in addition to the Contact documents. All of the contacts are connected, allowing you to easily navigate between the deal and its associated data. It’s a great setup, and the way the data is presented makes everything very straightforward.

Back in the Deal summary view, you have the ability to set up individual Smart Lists and choose between multiple pipelines at the top of the screen. One thing that you are unable to do is construct a new pipeline. You can access this feature by going to the Settings screen and selecting the Pipelines option from the menu that appears there.

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After you have clicked the “Add New Pipeline” button, you will be given the opportunity to give your pipeline a name and to define the stages. It is simple, but you need to add a win percentage likelihood to each stage. Other than that, it is straightforward. Since this is supposed to take place in order, the first stage should have the lowest likelihood of success, while the success of the final stage should be very close to guaranteed. Having said that, you can organize it in any way that you see fit.

There is an additional view that simply lists all active deals to which you are attached if you would prefer not to see your deals mapped to a pipeline. You can access this view by clicking the “Show all active deals” link. You have the option to add custom fields to this Smart List, which will provide your filters with the greatest amount of leeway possible. This feature is fully customizable.

Tasks, Calendar, and Email

The Zendesk calendar is where you can view all of your responsibilities and appointments as well as add new ones. Check out the one-click integrations that functioned faultlessly with our test accounts if you do most of your work in Google Workspace or Microsoft 365. Any tasks that are entered are displayed there, and vice versa.

If you are not using one of these well-known email providers, you will need to add IMAP or POP information in order for this synchronization to work; in our tests, it did not work. If you do not add this information, it will not work. Because of this, you might require the services of an IT professional to run interference.

Even though you are not required to add an email address like you are with Salesflare, you should make the effort because it is well worth it. If your Zendesk Sell account is not associated with an email address, you will not have access to a significant amount of the information that is made available by Zendesk. It is useful to be able to send emails from within the application, but it is probably even more important to keep a record of all of the emails you have ever exchanged with a given contact or lead.

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If you plan to use your mobile device as your primary scheduling tool, Zendesk will notify you of upcoming appointments via the email account that is synced with your account. Downloading the Zendesk app for Android or iOS on your mobile device will allow you to view your schedule. Even so, you will need to synchronize your email address in order to view that information at a glance.

You can find a basic email editor in the detail views for the Contact, the Deal, or the Lead. These views also give you the option to select a template before you begin typing an email. While it is possible to send emails from within the mobile apps, this functionality is not ZenDesk’s primary focus. Both Hubspot CRM and Insightly are superior in this regard. The issue is that if you want to use more advanced options, you have to build your template outside of Zendesk and then import it (this is something that should be handled by the IT team at your company). Zendesk makes it simple to insert specific data fields into your emails, such as adding the contact’s first name to the subject line of a template automatically. However, if you want to add images, you will need to use a link rather than the HTML or the functionality that allows you to drag and drop files.

Tasks are comparable to what you’ll find in other CRM tools in this regard as well. You can generate them from any of the primary views, such as Contacts, Deals, or Leads, and then assign them to either yourself or another user. After that, you’ll be able to find them in the same places as the contact or deal, in addition to the calendar for the person who owns the project. Although this feature is not quite as advanced as the one found in Zoho CRM, managers are able to check on the progress of their teams’ individual tasks (there you can almost use the CRM as a project management tool). Even so, it will be sufficient for the overwhelming majority of SMBs, and it is simple to master.

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Using triggers and sequences in automation

Advanced users have the ability to configure their own unique workflows by going to the Settings tab and selecting the Business Rules heading. On the other hand, this is organized not so much around workflows as it is around the various stages of the conversation with the customer. It is almost as if you are constructing automations that are unique to each stage of your pipeline. Sequences and Triggers are the two most common forms that automations can take.

You are able to define a series of steps, each of which is associated with an automation task, through the use of a sequence. These steps are, to some extent, performed by an automated system. They will automatically appear in the task list of the appropriate person or in the view of the associated contact or deal; however, the Zendesk system will not send out emails on its own without the intervention of a human user. That is a positive development. If you use a sequence for an upsell email, for instance, it means that an email prompt appears in a contact view, the view of the associated deal, or the view of the person who owns the deal or the contact at the appropriate point in the conversation. This prompt already has the appropriate template associated with the view, so all you need to do to send it off is modify, sign, and send it. You have the ability to define an unlimited number of sequences and then assign them to stages, users, or teams. You also have the option to select them, add data pertaining to leads or deals as required, and then have the sequence run in this fashion on demand.

Actions that are triggered automatically when certain predetermined criteria are satisfied are known as triggers. Triggers are exactly what they sound like. Consider them to be statements that begin with “if” and “then.” For example, the trigger could be configured to update a custom field with a “Modified” indicator whenever a deal is modified by a user. This field would be updated whenever the trigger was triggered. Even though the language used on the screen for configuring Triggers is somewhat reminiscent of that of a database, it is still simple enough to understand once you have experimented with it for a while.

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How to Buy Zendesk Sell

Zendesk’s prices are definitely on the higher end of the CRM market when compared to those of its primary competitors. The Team tier that is the least feature-rich costs $19 per user per month to subscribe to. This grants you access to the contact and lead features, as well as the ability to personalize deal pipelines, track activity and deals, and generate basic reports. However, due to its limited feature set, it is unlikely to be useful for any business other than the most basic ones.

The Growth tier has a better feature set that includes the Reach capability, forecasting, and more advanced reporting options. It costs $49 per user per month to subscribe to the Growth tier (though still canned). It offers mass emailing as well as customizable templates.

The Professional tier, which costs $99 per user per month, includes all of the bells and whistles, such as the complete set of automation features, Explore analytics, lead and deal scoring, as well as permissions and roles (that last one really should be available at least at the Growth stage, though).

In addition, there is a higher user capacity available with the Enterprise plan, which can be purchased for an additional $150 per user per month. This plan builds upon the Professional plan.

To put this into perspective, the price of the Professional tier of the Editors’ Choice–winning Zoho CRM is $23 per user per month. Its Ultimate tier, which is analogous to Zendesk’s Enterprise tier, is only $52 per user per month, which is roughly a third of the cost of Zendesk’s Ultimate tier.

In a nutshell: An Effective CRM Program With a Help Desk Emphasis

Even without the more flashy features, Zendesk Sell is a full-featured product when viewed through the lens of a small to medium-sized business (SMB). If you are already a Zendesk customer, it is highly recommended that you sign up for Zendesk Sell. It maintains its competitive edge over other CRM offerings thanks to the Explore and Reach tools, and its user interface is intuitive enough that most users won’t require extensive training to get started with the platform. Its price and its concentration on help desk features are the only things that hold it back. You’ll be content if working the help desk is your thing. Having said that, Zoho CRM, our overall Editors’ Choice pick for SMB-friendly CRM, is a good option to look into if your business is more concerned with marketing automation than it is with help desk data.


  • Excellent integration with the help desk software provided by Zendesk
  • Explorer’s report-generation capabilities are quite helpful.
  • Features that make onboarding simple and the formation of teams
  • Utilizable and Intelligent Lists


  • After moving up a tier, even the most expensive Limited pipelines become prohibitively expensive due to the rapid increase in price.
  • Simple email client with integrated template editor
Techexplains Team

Techexplains Team

We are a team of digital marketing experts with years of experience in website builders. CRM tools, project management software helping businesses of all sizes achieve their marketing goals. We are writing about benefits of using SaaS for businesses, and sharing our top picks for the best tools currently available on the market. Whether you are a small business owner looking to streamline your marketing efforts or a larger enterprise seeking to improve your marketing efficiency, we hope that you will find this useful and informative.