The company is using CRM to put the force back into sales force automation.
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The primary application we wanted to develop was sales pipeline tracking. We had in place a 20-year-old enterprise resource planning application, and although we could use the ERP system for SFA, we didn't have any modern CRM modules or much infrastructure connecting us with our salespeople in the field. We didn't even have company-sponsored laptops for our salespeople, so they were all on different platforms. Plus, we had 36 different Excel spreadsheets that had to be aggregated. We needed a CRM solution to manage our sales pipeline, both to manage our territories and to plan production and forecasting.
How did you select a vendor?
I was very impressed with the ability to use QuickBase in a multitude of different manners. You can use QuickBase not only as a customer management tool, but also as a sales force automation tool. There's a lot of flexibility there. Also, there was the price. We priced Salesforce.com and found [that] to service approximately 60 users it would have cost us between $35,000 and $40,000 a year. With QuickBase it would cost us about $10,000 a year.
How did the implementation go?
We were able to develop the initial application within 30 to 60 days. We rolled that out to our sales people and did some Web-based training. The application is very straightforward, so it was very easy to set up. We accomplished the basic training over the phone, and we were up and running within 60 days after the rollout.
How did you get everybody on board?
It's something we're still working on. This is part of our evolution as a company. We're 25 years old, but we're just emerging into the professional management stage. With our sales force it's always been, 'Go out and sell, and we'll catch up with you at the end of the quarter, or at the end of the year.' When you impose processes and structures [like these], you meet some resistance. Our salespeople have been using it, but less consistently than we'd like. This time around it will be presented as a minimum expectation...[and will] introduce some compensation variables to enrich the information content from the application in terms of telling a salesperson where he is from a compensation standpoint. We're going with a heavy dose of "you have to use it" and a sprinkling of "we want you to use it."
What have been the main rewards?
Besides the sales pipeline we're using QuickBase in a much broader aspect. We have an Internet function for it where we use it almost like a bulletin board. For example, when we have an initiative and want to throw a bunch of targets at our sales force so they can talk to a group of customers and update us with their responses, we can post and run those initiatives periodically, just like a bulletin board. Also, we've developed tools from QuickBase that function more like an ERP. Our salespeople can go in and check inventory for customer-specific requests. In essence it's not only our SFA, but it's also our sales portal.
What are your next steps?
We're just about to invest in a new ERP. This summer we'll be implementing it and we'll be using a lot of the SFA tools that are inherent in that because they're very nice. We plan on implementing QuickBase into that new ERP. I have a strong suspicion that the flexibility of the platform will enable us to continue to do things in QuickBase that [can't] be implemented into the ERP.
Align those incentives. When implementing SFA with a sales force it's critical to align yourself behind your goals to make the implementation as quick and efficient as possible.
Start simple. Phase the implementation. Even if the application isn't complex, the best way to change a sales team's behavior and thought process is in small steps, not large chunks.
Customization is crucial. Every sales team in every industry has differing fields of information to work with. Implementing an SFA application that is customizable to fit the needs and demands of your sales force is critical.
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