• January 1, 2010
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Selling to the Sales Experts

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Dr. Tom Sant founded his business-communications consulting firm, The Sant Corp., 30 years ago. Fifteen years later, he developed software to help companies increase sales efficiency by automating the creation of proposals, documents, and presentations, which is now the core of the company’s business. Yet, despite the consultancy’s expertise in sales, Brian Vass, its vice president of marketing, needed a remedy for an obsolete sales process. What he got was Salesforce.com—a solution that brought the entire company out of its technology slump and into the cloud.

Sant first signed up with Salesforce.com to replace a three-year-old sales force automation system that was really “just a glorified Rolodex,” Vass says. Sales forecasts were done in Excel, where data was only “as good as the last time someone emailed a spreadsheet.” Customer support was handled manually. Accounting was bombarded with one-off emails about services billed. Information, Vass recalls, inevitably fell through the cracks. But with just 55 employees, Sant didn’t have the people or the budget to manage the technology in-house—Vass knew he had to look on-demand. 

In January 2007, the company implemented Salesforce for sales and marketing. Finally, Sant could connect leads with campaigns, track marketing effectiveness, and project future growth based on current data. “We understand our pipeline and key metrics in ways we never could before,” Vass says. Since implementation, Sant has seen 83 percent revenue growth. “It’s improved the way we do every part of our business,” he says. This year’s revenue is projected to meet or exceed 2008’s levels, despite budget cuts.

Success in sales and marketing only reaffirmed Vass’s conviction to extend the solution throughout the organization. By June 2007, Salesforce.com was the platform for Sant’s technical support, where every customer case is logged and tracked. Having all the information in one system enhanced team collaboration and enabled salespeople to reference past resolutions more easily. Sant has since improved its service-resolution rate by 60 percent.

By the summer of 2008, Sant was ready to take the next step with the technology, but chose not to involve its technology staff. “Our [technology] people aren’t Salesforce.com administrators,” Vass says. Instead, he and a fellow marketer created a solution for the company’s professional services team—consultants and trainers who go on-site to help implement Sant’s products and services. Previously, sales had no visibility into the services that customers had purchased; now, they’re able not only to follow up, but to upsell and cross-sell as well. Moreover, all of the billing is handled in a single place, sent directly to the accounting team.

In October 2008, the two marketers rolled out a customer feedback solution. Monthly customer satisfaction surveys from each department and annual companywide surveys are distributed via the Salesforce application, as are results—with all of that information associated with the appropriate customer. Data is then rolled up into dashboards, allowing the entire company to view its progress in real time. If a particular set of scores is especially low, a Sant representative immediately calls the unsatisfied party. According to Sant’s most recent customer survey, the company’s Net Promoter score—an industry metric for customers’ willingness-to-recommend—has increased by 27 percent. 

This past February, Sant implemented Salesforce Content, a repository for all of the company’s internal content, from vacation calendars to handbooks to white papers. While every employee has access to this knowledge base, the most-frequent users are sales and professional services staffers—to, respectively, obtain up-to-date marketing and sales collateral such as case studies, and prepare for on-site training sessions. 

“Content was all over the place,” Vass says. “We didn’t know where to go to find what.” He recalls one instance, prior to Salesforce Content, when a sales rep used an old PowerPoint presentation found on the network drive for a client meeting. It wasn’t until mid-conference that the rep realized the slide depicted a product that Sant no longer offered. With Content, only one version of any document exists at any time, eliminating the burden of finding the most-accurate information or updating versions both off- and online, which required the involvement of the technology team. 

From the very early days, Vass and his team made a priority of ensuring that no “garbage” entered the new Salesforce.com system. “We had years and years of leads that were in the system—bad information,” Vass says. “We wanted to start with a clean slate on this.” Salespeople were told to input only their most-valued leads. The old database was kept around until everyone was comfortable letting go. 

For a company with 30 years of history—and 30 years’ worth of data—moving to a new solution might have seemed an insurmountable task, but Vass contends it was surprisingly easy. “We got off on the right foot from the very beginning,” he says, with the help of a Salesforce.com rep who spent four days laying the foundation. Looking back, he admits the company was pretty nervous about the massive undertaking but says that it was ultimately a good decision. “There’s nothing,” he says, thinking back over the past two and a half years, “that I liked better about the old way.” 



With Salesforce.com, The Sant Corp. was able to achieve:

  • an 83 percent rise in revenue since implementing the system; 
  • a 60 percent increase in support resolution; 
  • consolidation of all the company’s internal content; and
  • a 27 percent improvement in the company’s Net Promoter score from 2007 to 2008.


For the rest of the November 2009 issue of CRM magazine — a look back at the first 10 years of Salesforce.com — please click here.

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