Do-it-Yourself CRM

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When creating its CRM strategy Optimus Solutions followed the adage, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." The IT solutions reseller and integrator couldn't find a CRM solution to meet its in-house needs without major modifications, so Optimus decided to build one. Based on Lotus Notes, the system is called OSCAR (Optimus Solutions Customers and Relationship Manager) and is used for all of the company's contact management and sales force automation. "Since we have a CRM practice, we did formal requirements gathering, used cases, and applied that to CRM packages that were available," says Mike Ostrowski, managing principle at Optimus. "What we found was that the amount of modifications needed was so great that it would take more time to modify the software than to build our own. Prior to deploying the new system, Optimus had 40 people (mostly sales reps) using an internally developed "rudimentary sales force but mostly contact management system," according to Ostrowski, who joined the company just as the discussions about a new CRM system were beginning. He says the old system had serious limitations. The Atlanta-based company couldn't do mass mailings or newsletter subscriptions. It could not easily manage customer accounts and had trouble cross-selling products. To develop the new system, Optimus devoted two full-time IT people and one systems integrator. "In essence Optimus became a customer of itself," he says. The company, which uses Lotus Notes, built the new system on top of Notes because the workgroup application enabled Optimus to rapidly deploy the new CRM system, Ostrowski says. Now the company has 120 of its 160 employees using the new system, which includes contact management, calendaring, meeting scheduling, and prioritizing accounts. For sales reps that efficiency has translated into having the equivalent of two extra hours per day. In addition, remote consultants and sales reps can use a Palm Pilot, laptop, or Sprint phone to access the system and update account and contact information and provide pricing for clients. The marketing and business development departments are also reaping the benefits of OSCAR. "We have better lead management by writing a module that lets us track leads from start to finish, and tells us which is the better method for leads over time," Ostrowski says. The marketing department can track the number of leads generated; qualified prospects targeted; opportunities identified, won, lost, and withdrawn; ratio of opportunities won/lost/withdrawn; campaign cost per lead generated; campaign cost per prospect; cost per qualified lead; cost per opportunity identified; and cost per opportunities won. All of this can be captured over any time frame, such as by duration of a campaign, by month, by day, or over a period of months. There is an opportunity section that includes forecasting and a sales pipeline. Ostrowski says the pipeline management allows him to have the right number of people available for the amount of work that needs to be done. He says that saves money by not having to hire people that are sitting around or paying high-priced consultants overtime fees. "Sales managers can view opportunities in the pipeline thirty, sixty and ninety days out," he says. "That allows them to hire, predict how much they will make, set budget. It helps with partners, because they feed them information from their pipeline." Employees have access to the most up-to-date marketing documents, price sheets, and HR paperwork; they can check order status for customers and can determine if a customer is over his credit limit. Ostrowski says this has cut down on the amount the company spends on printed material by 30 percent. Sales reps can "subscribe" their customers by product line to newsletters so the system automatically sends them updated price lists or specials. "We have seen an increase in sales, because we run specials on preowned equipment that we have in inventory," Ostrowski says. "Our response from these emails has been around twenty percent, which is quite good, as most marketing newsletters get a one to two percent return. The newsletters have made sales and have generated leasing sales, but their main goal has been to increase customer awareness." The Payoff Optimus Solutions' homegrown CRM system has delivered myriad benefits, including:
  • increased customer awareness
  • pipeline management that allows the company to have the right number of people available for the amount of work that needs to be done
  • efficiency that has translated into the sales reps having the equivalent of two extra hours per day
  • lead tracking and analysis that helps the marketing staff determine better methods for leads over time
  • opportunity management that allows sales managers to hire, predict how much they will make, set budgets
  • a 30 percent reduction in the cost of printed sales and marketing materials
  • a 20 percent response to customer email newsletters
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