Bring It, Don't Build It

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UpShot.com President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Raffel uses this analogy to describe why his product makes good sense in today's business world: In the nineteenth century, faced with the lack of a readily available power source, textile mill operators built their plants next to waterways so the mills could generate their own power. But what was a sensible arrangement in the 1800s is, of course, sheer lunacy today, Raffel says. A modern business would never struggle with the hassle of trying to generate its own power.

While most companies are happy to leave the practicalities of doing business--such as electricity--to the experts, many are still grappling with the challenges of creating and maintaining databases and systems for automating the sales and customer relationship management processes.

For Raffel, this isn't necessarily the best business practice. "In looking at industry trends, one of the most important is the idea of Internet business services, which people also call application service providers," he says. "An ASP offers a way of delivering what you need without having to hassle with setting up a database and having a big IT staff. We manage all that for you."

He continues, "In the old days, companies generated their own electricity because they had to. But why the heck would a company struggle with setting up and managing their own computer equipment and information technology today?"

Democratizing CRM
Enter Raffel's UpShot.com, a browser-based application that offers businesses the power of a customizable sales management solution available completely over the Internet. "What we're talking about is democratizing CRM," Raffel says. "Instead of saying just larger companies with large IT staffs can afford it, now small companies can afford it."

Priced at $55 per user per month, UpShot.com offers an all-in-one sales management solution with contact, time and customer management capabilities, as well as reporting and forecasting features. With its browser-based, intuitive interface, UpShot.com doesn't require the purchase and installation of additional software or IT resources. Anytime, anywhere access for the mobile sales professional is guaranteed through data synchronizing capabilities that include integration with Palm platforms and Microsoft Outlook. And, UpShot.com now synchronizes with wireless platforms.

UpShot.com offers a variety of features to improve the sales process, including ways to identify and target best prospects, help the sales teamwork more effectively and shorten sales cycles. The user-friendly interface offers agents their own calendar, a to-do list, and even a way to catch up on company news and developments. Upon log-in, users can choose from one of nine modules designed to support each portion of the sales cycle.

The What's Up module keeps agents abreast of the latest news, including new accounts and deals, or new action items they have been assigned from managers or co-workers. A To-Do module lets users enter and track action items for themselves and others in the company. Each event can be connected with accounts, contacts and deals to provide an overview of open action items for each entry. The Calendar provides a place to keep track of appointments and can also be used to schedule meetings with co-workers. Users can manage account information in the Accounts module, and keep track of and communicate with important contacts through the Contacts module. For a comprehensive view of every deal in the sales pipeline, from an overview to its complete history, or to track leads, use the Deals module. Or, for a more graphic view of important deals, the Radar module--configured like a giant bull's-eye, with key sales actions appearing like "blips" on a radar screen--lets users see at a glance how items are progressing through the sales process. The Reports module lets users summarize and print information, and go to the Café to catch up on company news and developments.

Through UpShot, the sales force is kept in the loop, managers can track sales and deals and the information is available through all channels, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "What we really help you do is move a deal through the cycle more efficiently," Raffel says. "We also let you focus on deals that are of the highest potential--that's at the heart of what we're doing."

Turning Leads into Profits
The need to identify hot leads, and ensure that agents were following them up and securing the sale, led Andrew Wilkinson to UpShot.com. Wilkinson is an e-marketing consultant for a division of Hewlett-Packard that uses UpShot.com. The division, which manufactures Procurve network switches, holds about 60 licenses for UpShot and has been using the solution for nearly two years.

The system fit Wilkinson's needs on two levels: It fit in with HP's corporate initiative to embrace CRM; it improved the department's sales practices. Finding leads, Wilkinson says, was not a problem. A telemarketing agency provided plenty of leads; what Wilkinson wanted was a way to take those leads further.

"To me, success was not the fact that a telemarketing agency told me they uncovered $1 million in potential leads," he says. "To me, real success was how much of my investment yielded a return." The drive to secure that success led Wilkinson to the UpShot application. Very quickly, he says, the solution began to pay for itself.

"We had a situation where a lot of leads were being created by telemarketers," he says, "but when I looked at the system to see if the leads were being followed up on, I could see that was not the case."

UpShot, however, makes it easy for users to track and follow leads. Plus, the system helps winnow information to point out which leads are the hottest, thus allowing the sales force to follow up with contacts who are more likely to close a deal. "I found that this very simple, very inexpensive form was yielding strong results," Wilkinson says. "It was the only tool that made this visible to us. And in addition, when leads weren't being followed, I could round down the investment until I fixed the problem and made sure leads got followed."

And the results are highly visible. "I could see that for every activity, we were getting lots more dollars back in converted business, which meant we were shipping more product," Wilkinson says. "We can actually track and see this metric, which is how much did the activity cost and how much business did we get out of it."

The system also provides "a nice repository of customer information," he says. Inbound, electronic communications from customers are fed into UpShot, as well, which keeps the sales staff from having to input information manually but still ensures up-to-date data is readily available.

One big benefit, Wilkinson says, has been the "ability to fine-tune my investment. That alone, to me, paid for the implementation. The ongoing ability to monitor programs and decide in what order we start to tackle things is key. In any sales organization, you've got 10 things hitting you at once. You've got to know which you need to respond to first. This has definitely helped us in that area. Over history, we can see which has become more lucrative."

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