The Third Implementation's the Charm

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Back in 1999 Outstart, an e-learning software and solutions provider, had one salesperson, two customers, and a contact manager with some rudimentary SFA capabilities like account management. But 25 sales representatives, three sales channels (inside sales, field sales, and a reseller network), and more than 5,000 customers later Outstart had certainly outgrown its first hosted CRM solution. So at the start of 2003 the Boston-based vendor turned to another hosted SFA solution: Salesnet. "It has really evolved into a very complex sales model," says Daniel Kossmann, the company's CFO. "As with any company trying to grow in this environment, we were concerned about how many people we hired and our deployment of resources. We wanted to invest in sales training and coaching and make the sales process as productive as possible." Kossmann, who was part of the team that selected Salesnet, says it's perfect for the company, because it models Outstart's sales processes and coaches salespeople through the sales cycle so that they sell more effectively. To date, 40 of Outstart's 95 workers are using Salesnet; 25 of those 40 are sales reps (15 inside sales, the rest field sales), the remainder is business partners, Outstart executives, telemarketing folks, system engineers, and some workers in the finance department. "All of us use it is every day--even the CEO," Kossmann says. Outstart is pleased with the new system, but Kossmann claims that after less than five months using it, it's difficult to determine specific ROI. "This was not put in place for cost savings, but to get sales effectiveness," Kossmann says. "That being said, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about the benefits of the system." Considering that Kossmann is the company's CFO, he says that he will be looking closely for both hard and soft ROI associated with the system. Outstart has already attained significant benefits: an increase in quota attainment, the ability to more effectively manage sales processes, and an improvement in the ability to accurately forecast sales, he says, adding that these are the metrics that the company will be using to measure success and ROI. Kossmann says this is the third sales force automation solution of his career and hope the third time is the charm. "As far as I can tell this is the only one that you do not have to fit it, it fits you, and does it in a way that is really flexible," he says. Salesnet is one of the key factors that has helped make Outstart effective and successful, Kossmann says.
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