Saleswhale Blog   |   4 Min Read

Anti-usage products: Email as an extension of product interface

27 October 2020 by Gabriel Lim

In an article I wrote on anti-usage products, I mentioned -

"If our users are logging in too often, it means that our software isn’t autonomous enough, and we have to work harder to sand down the product."

For a subset of our users (sales reps), the last thing they want to do is to log into yet another app. And we needed to find a way to meet them where they are at - their email inboxes.

Email-first strategy

At Saleswhale, we chose to pursue an email-first strategy where we actually used emails as an extension of our product interface.

For most products, email is used transactionally to deliver messages to users.

However, we decided to use emails as a mechanism to extend our product's core functionality. And give our users a secondary way to interact with our products.

The thought process was -

Humans use emails to trigger workflows and processes all the time.

"Hey Sam, can you take a look at this spreadsheet attached below, segment out existing customers, load them in our CRM, and then invite them to our upcoming webinar?"

So, we asked ourselves, "What if we could use emails to trigger workflows in our application as well?"

Could a given problem/workflow be triggered in email first, before we required someone to log into the app?

How far could we push this paradigm?

Here are three examples where we used email to extend our product functionality.

  1. Handing off qualified leads conversationally to sales reps

  2. AI assistant's human review escalation

  3. Closing the loop on leads handed over

Let's see how each of these use cases work.

1. Handing off qualified leads conversationally to sales reps

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 10.18.07 PM

When a lead "raises their hands" and expresses interest, Saleswhale ropes in the relevant sales rep (based on territory, round-robin or account ownership) into the email conversation.

From the perspective of the sales rep, they receive a "hot" new lead directly in their email inbox, without having to log in to another application.

All they have to do is to hit "Reply All" to take over the conversation.

In our opinion, this workflow is critical. Because modern sales reps are already drowning in tools. From Salesforce, to Outreach/SalesLoft, to LinkedIn Sales Navigator, to Google Calendar, to Chrome extensions.

The last thing we want to do is to burden them to have to log into yet another application, and run the risk of hot leads slipping through the cracks.

This works well, because sales reps are already living 24/7 in their email inboxes, and Saleswhale is able to meet them where they are at.

2. AI assistant's human review escalation

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 9.59.25 PM

When a conversation goes "out of scope", our AI assistants trigger a Human Review workflow so that administrators can gracefully handle the conversation.

Using this email interface, Saleswhale administrators can quickly handle the "out of scope" conversation by replying to the email. Or click on buttons such as "Assign to Sales Rep: Brandon Gargan", which kicks off a series of automated workflows in the background.

Users can also handle Human Reviews from within the Saleswhale application:

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 11.01.15 PM

However, a secondary "email interaction interface" gives our users the shortest path to their goal.

And again, this means less friction - reducing the likelihood that leads slip through the cracks, which can be very expensive in opportunity costs for our users.

3. Closing the loop on handed-over leads

Screen Shot 2020-10-28 at 10.05.23 PM

Modern marketing teams are goaled on not just leads created, but also pipeline creation and opportunities sourced.

This is why it's important for marketers to (a) get visibility into leads they hand-off to sales; and (b) help to follow through to make sure qualified leads turn into meetings.

For many product teams, the first instinct would be to build a dashboard, or some sort of a visualization.

However, we decided that the last thing revenue teams need is another dashboard. Dashboards are not autonomously actionable.

Hence, by integrating with the sales team's calendars - we are able to quickly discern if a marketing handed-off lead actually turned into a meeting.

And so, the AI assistant is able to quickly send an email to the sales rep - and ask if they need help with re-engagement and/or with scheduling the meeting.


In conclusion, we want to push the boundaries of email, and leverage it to become part of our product's core functionality.

We want people to perform actions within email, through buttons and conversational UI (users replying conversationally to our AI assistant via email).

This may seem like a tangent to the concept of "anti-usage products".

But the idea is congruent. We want to keep users out of our software as much as possible. Even if we have to use email to approximate / extend the product interface.

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Posted under topic:

Revenue-Driven Marketing

Gabriel Lim

Co-founder & CEO at Saleswhale

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