AT A GLANCE
Vendor: Salesforce.com Inc., San Francisco
Problem: How to provide a single system for tracking customer contacts, leads, prospects, and salesmanship without wasted time, money, and opportunities.
Solution: Salesforce.com delivers a hosted system for tracking sales, prospects, and customer contacts for about $65 per user per month.
During a time when companies are watching every penny, but not wanting to forego the benefits CRM can provide, some firms have discovered that using an online CRM solution can be an inexpensive yet comprehensive alternative to traditional multimillion-dollar installations.
Salesforce.com Inc. President and CEO John Dillon is careful not to use the word "cheap" when he talks about the two-year-old San Francisco-based company's online sales, support, and marketing solution. But the fact is, at $65 per user per month, salesforce.com is a bargain compared to competitors that charge millions of dollars for similar software products. And that is good news for companies trying to curb costs in today's current economic climate.
Dillon measures salesforce.com's value in terms of both time and money. "The customer doesn't have to buy the hardware or software or do the installation, hire the IT person, find room for the server, [or] put up the firewall," he says. "The customer doesn't have to build from scratch the whole technology before they can get one iota from CRM. Our customers can get value from CRM in a week or two, where as traditional solutions may take six to twelve months for implementation."
Because salesforce.com is hosted, it is infinitely scaleable. All maintenance and technological improvements are handled by salesforce.com. That means any salesforce.com customer needs only a browser and an Internet connection to dial into an automated tutorial and start using the solution in an hour or two.
What salesforce.com can do for any company is pretty basic--especially in a business climate where hanging on to customers can mean the difference between bottom-line success and failure. With the solution, clients can standardize sales, marketing, and support processes, theoretically managing time better and therefore reducing cost. The solution allows all members of a company to create and access complete
customer histories, including sales support and marketing details, allowing those users to see at a glance how a customer has been treated in the past, and how they are likely to respond in the future.
Salesforce.com is also an internal tool for in-house management. It allows managers to track lead conversions by salesperson, by office, or by region. The service allows for precise customer tracking and analysis, so managers can determine which marketing initiatives are working--and for which customers. Salesforce.com can even track customers before they buy, capturing and routing leads directly from company Web sites, trade shows, seminars, and direct mail and e-mail marketing--which salesforce.com is also equipped to send.
"You wouldn't dream of running your business without having a system for handling your finances," Dillon says. "But many companies don't have anything to handle their customer transactions."
If Dillon and the rest of salesforce.com have their way, that won't be the case much longer. Salesforce.com's growing customer list includes Adobe Systems Inc., Autodesk Inc., and First Union Bank. "A few years ago a big vendor like Siebel looked like the low-risk alternative," Dillon says. "Today we look like the low-risk alternative."
A Vision of Beauty
And for some companies they are just that. When BroadVision Inc., based in Redwood City, Calif., was looking last spring for a solution to streamline its sales data, salesforce.com just made sense.
"The company was looking for a sales forecasting tool," says Peter Downs, vice president of finance for BroadVision,
an e-business applications provider. "During the prime of the Internet bubble, when everything was really looking good, we were growing by leaps and bounds. We were piling on new sales, [but] our sales force was spreadsheet-based. You get to a certain point where it just doesn't work. You have people working with different spreadsheets, and multiple versions. It just doesn't scale."
BroadVision needed a predictable forecasting system, one that would provide information about referrals, and about what products were selling and not selling. And if the company could save a little money in the midst of some tough times, well, that would be just fine, too. Salesforce.com offered just the kind of tracking BroadVision needed without a lot of wasted time, effort, and money.
"It's just simple to use," Downs says. "There's no magic to it, it doesn't necessarily increase the likelihood that you are going to close a deal, but it makes things a little smoother and shortens the time on the reports the reps have to do, plus [it includes] the CRM and the management tools."
According to salesforce.com, based on figures derived from an analysis by the Yankee Group research firm, BroadVision derived a 600 percent return on its salesforce.com investment in just three months. That estimate might be a little high, Downs says, but he looks at the savings in two ways: actual positions saved by having better tools and opportunity costs saved from having accurate customer tracking and forecasting. Then there are the intangibles of saving time learning complicated system-based sales solutions. "You don't have to worry about [salespeople] getting up to speed," Downs says. "They go in, and within two hours they're out selling."
BroadVision Sees the Future
Problem: BroadVision needed a predictable forecasting tool that could be shared across the sales force and could scale easily.
Solution: Using Salesforce.com, BroadVision derived a 600 percent return on investment in just three months. The firm also garnered two other opportunities for savings:
1) actual positions saved by having better tools; and
2) opportunity costs saved from having accurate customer tracking and forecasting.
Additional benefits included the time savings for learning the system: salespeople were up and running on it within two hours.
• Supports Netscape or
• Microsoft browser.
• Can be used with Outlook
• Express and Palm-devised
• Completely scaleable.