In recent months, we have looked at several programs that helped pioneer the CRM software category. Though they continue to make contributions, we discovered that their having a large user base can be a mixed blessing. Since the dawn of the software industry, developers have had to wrestle with the conflict of steadily evolving technology standards and their own legacy designs. Preserving compatibility for an existing user base is an honorable objective, but not when it locks the software into obsolete concepts.
ActiveSales from Moss Software is a good example of the kind of CRM program possible when a developer begins with a clean slate. Immediately prior to founding the company, the entire development team, including founder Ken Moss, spent several years developing custom sales applications for several major corporations. This experience gave them a solid foundation in the latest software design and development concepts. Based on this deep appreciation of modern architectural concepts, such as Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) standard, the company set out to develop a thoroughly modern CRM application
The Contacts Module is the central location for managing contacts within ActiveSales. In this module, users enter, modify and retrieve information for personal and business contacts. The Contacts Module helps manage business and personal contacts by tracking contact information, activities, notes and interaction history. The Contact Management Module adheres to the same look and feel as the rest of the ActiveSales Application. This allows users to view all contacts in a list view, and then to "drill down" in a more detailed view of the information. Here, there is quick access to common tasks such as e-mail, Web page viewing, notes and activities.
When entering new contact information, users can assign the contact to an organization that already exists in the database, or create a new organization for the contact. New organization information will also be accessible through the Organizations Module. Other contact information users may assign includes relevant phone numbers, including those for the contact's manager and assistant, if applicable. ActiveSales makes it easy to clone contacts for a given organization. Sales and marketing can efficiently build a contact list within an organization without having to re-enter the organizational information. ActiveSales also identifies contacts involved in multiple organizations.
Within any module in ActiveSales, users have access to powerful sorting, searching and filtering capabilities. In any module that displays listed data, users can sort the list by double-clicking any column heading. For example, users can sort opportunities by priority, status or opportunity name, if they choose. To locate a specific record of information, such as a particular opportunity or a specific contact, users can enter search criteria to help narrow the search. They can also obtain a customized (filtered) view of records, such as activities or opportunities, by specifying the particular characteristics of those records they want to view. For example, in the Opportunities Module, a user may wish to view only those opportunities that are scheduled to close on or before Wednesday, June 10, 2000
ActiveSales features powerful cross-referencing abilities. For a specific opportunity, a user can create or have access to information about contacts, activities, notes, product information, sales quotes and a list of other sales team members that are directly related to that opportunity. Links to cross-referenced information are available in all ActiveSales modules. When users click one of these links, the cross-referenced information displays in a list located in the bottom half of the ActiveSales window. This allows them to view both cross-referenced information and the selected module records at the same time. Most cross-referenced categories of information can be viewed in detail by double-clicking on them. For example, if users double-click a cross-referenced contact in the Opportunity Module, the Contacts Module appears, displaying detailed information for that contact.
In the Activity module, users can view a history of activities associated with a contact, schedule a new activity-such as a meeting, phone call or letter to send-or modify an activity. Users can also assign activities to another sales team member. Activities listed for a contact may have originated in another module, such as the Opportunities Module. Activity information is also seamlessly integrated with Microsoft Outlook. Activities entered or modified in ActiveSales are reflected in Outlook automatically, even if Outlook is not open at the time the activities are entered or modified.
The ActiveSales contact management capabilities are very good.
ActiveSales provides strong sales management capabilities. It is easy to create multiple sales cycles that match a unique situation. A company may begin the sales process by creating a number of marketing campaigns. These campaigns may include prepared telemarketing scripts and a list of contacts that represent targeted potential customers.
ActiveSales supports distribution of campaign information via the Internet or other networking methods to telemarketing departments, indirect sales channels or direct sales professionals. Critical to acting on leads is the ability to properly assign each lead to the correct individual or channel. With ActiveSales, an organization can establish business rules to automatically distribute leads to the appropriate sales professional or sales channel based on designated assignments. This alignment insures that leads will be distributed correctly. Should a lead assignment change, it can be realigned at any time. In addition, the business rules governing lead pass can be adjusted on the corporate server to reflect territory shifts, and all leads going forward will be realigned accordingly.
When an opportunity is generated from a qualified lead, all available information for that lead is brought into the Opportunity Module. Sales professionals can specify additional information about the opportunity type, estimated revenue potential, current probability of closing, unit of currency, sales stage and estimated close date. ActiveSales then carries out all calculations and conversions automatically, yielding a weighted dollar value on the opportunity without sales having to deal with manual calculations. The opportunity can now be effectively managed and tracked. Opportunity information can now be shared with other team members, thus improving communication and customer awareness.
Users can view, enter or modify estimated revenue potential and the current probability of closing, which together yield a weighted dollar value that can be placed on the opportunity. Users change the probability as they track the opportunity. They can also track an opportunity's current status and stage in the sales process. The options for the sales stage depend on the opportunity type selected (OEM, for example). Opportunity profiling further defines the customer's technical requirements, giving users more background information about their client's business.
Managers can edit the opportunity information included in the direct report's forecast. Each member of the sales force can create forecasts based on a variety of different factors, such as product, revenue, salesperson, territory, region, close date and probability of close. Each salesperson can produce a forecast for his or her individual territory, which a manager then reviews and consolidates. There are two general types of forecasts: opportunity forecasts and roll-up forecasts. An opportunity forecast includes all opportunities between two specific dates. The salesperson defines the criteria for selecting opportunities. A salesperson can then deselect any opportunities he chooses not to include as well as add others without having to search again. Total and expected revenues for all selected opportunities are automatically calculated and displayed.
A roll-up forecast is built from the opportunity forecasts of the manager's direct reports. Multiple levels of roll-up are supported to allow salespeople to produce forecasts for their individual territories, which can be consolidated for review. Successive levels of management can roll-up forecasts, review opportunity details and adjust forecasts as necessary.
ActiveSales' sales management capabilities are very good.
I review sales automation programs with the premise that they should help you make more sales. With that in mind, I ask two questions. Does the program help you cover basics like periodic phoning and follow-up letters? Simple stuff, but the problem is finding time to do it. A good sales automation program not only vigilantly reminds you to do these things, but also makes them easier to do. In this regard, ActiveSales is a strong performer.
The second question I ask is whether the program breaks new ground. Does the program help you take steps you might not have taken otherwise? Here I look for things like automated strategy assistance. Does the program automatically help you plot sales strategies, or help you notice if you are spending too much time with one prospect? In this regard, ActiveSales has room for improvement. Though the program can clearly be adapted to perform any new task via the COM-based architecture, the current release does not provide the kind of out-of-the-box capabilities I look for under the heading of sales impact.
Ease of Use
ActiveSales fully supports the Windows interface standard by closely following the Microsoft Office navigation, command and dialog box styles to minimize training requirements and maximize productivity. With any good Windows programs, there are tool tips for reminders and Help files to guide users to the correct answer. In addition, ActiveSales' interface never requires the sales professional to drill down more than two levels to access detailed information.
When users launch the program for the first time, the ActiveSales Window appears with the ActiveSales Navigator Bar and the ActiveSales Explorer Tree open. No modules are opened upon start-up. The ActiveSales Window contains the following main components:
The ActiveSales Navigator Bar provides users with an easy way to open a module. Each module is listed with its name and icon. When the Navigator is sized too small to display all module icons, arrow buttons appear. To scroll through the module list, users choose the arrow button at the top or bottom, then simply click on an icon to open its corresponding module. They can view the Navigator with either small icons or large icons. To do so, they would right-click anywhere in the Navigator and select the appropriate option from the pop-up menu. The Navigator is a dockable window; that is, users can click and drag it to another position anywhere on their screen.
The ActiveSales Explorer Tree is another method of opening modules. It is similar to the directory structure used in Windows Explorer. The module name is at the top level, with its individual records listed below. Users click the plus sign to the left of the module name to expand the module tree and click the minus sign to collapse the module tree. Users click on a module name to open the module, or click on an individual record in the module tree to navigate directly to the selected record's Detail view. The Tree is a dockable window.
ActiveSales was designed to support rapid application deployment, scalability, customization and integration. Moss Software addressed these architectural objectives through the use of the Microsoft COM architecture as the development environment. Microsoft's Component Object Model (COM) enables distributed applications to be designed and built from individual, discrete software modules or objects. COM simplifies the creation and use of software components and provides for interoperability of software components within the COM environment.
Moss Micro's decision to standardize on COM provides ActiveSales with very good interoperability with other desktop applications such as the Microsoft Office Suite, Internet Explorer and common e-mail and calendaring packages.
ActiveSales may be deployed on most common operating systems and database platforms. Because of ActiveSales' "N-Tiered" architecture, organizations can choose between server operating systems including Windows NT, UNIX or VMS, and any SQL-compliant database server. ActiveSales is not tied to a specific database engine. The company has successfully implemented the application in Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and Microsoft Access.
The core modules of ActiveEnterprise are written in Microsoft Visual C++ using ATL (Active Template Library)/MFC (Microsoft Foundation Classes). The application modules of ActiveSales are written in Visual Basic. Users can quickly create new business components or tailor existing ones to meet the sales team's unique requirements.
ActiveSales' thoroughly modern architecture ranks it among the most rapidly adaptable programs that I have seen.
The Bottom Line
ActiveSales is a powerful CRM system that takes full advantage of the latest Microsoft-centric architectural standards to deliver a highly adaptable solution that will grow as your company's needs evolve. The very attractive user interface gives salespeople complete access to the information they need to take better care of their customers with minimal clicking around.
At a Glance
Moss Software, Inc.
28 Executive Park, Irvine,
Telephone: (800) 608-6585
FAX: (949) 260-0325
Pricing: ActiveSales is priced at $1,995 per user. This price reflects full client/server pricing. Volume discounts are available, depending on the volume of seats involved. Customization and implementation prices vary depending on the amount of customization required and the number of legacy applications that must be integrated into the new ActiveSales environment. Moss Software does not offer special SDK/Administrative Users/Developer Seat-pricing, but instead charges a percentage of total license fees for Admin/Development environments which is the equivalent of 10 percent of our per seat charge.
Current ActiveSales Web client pricing is $595 per seat.
Hit or Miss?
Contact Management 3
Sales Management 3
Sales Impact 1
Ease of Use 3