Quieting the CRM Grumblers
Demantra was a tiny software company when it was launched in Israel in 1996, and tracking sales leads was simply a matter of a few people keeping a mental list of prospects. Five years later, the now international firm is taking advantage of a Web-based eCRM system to update customer information in real time for its field sales force.
The company's product, a software program predicting demand cycles for a wide range of products, started small but caught on fast. Within a few years, Demantra had a field force of sales and marketing personnel sprawling across three continents.
By 2000, Demantra's revenues had more than doubled, and the company was struggling to stay abreast of dynamic account information for dozens of key clients in Israel, the U.S., England and Belgium.
Demantra, with U.S. headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., found itself in the ironic position of being unable to track demand and client satisfaction for its own products, due to the inability of its system to connect the foot soldiers in its sales and marketing departments around the world.
"Half of our sales force is outside the U.S scattered across different time zones, and because we were communicating with each other by phone and e-mail,we were always out of sync and at least a day off from accuracy in our information," says Sharon Kan, senior vice president of business development for Demantra.
Last year, after a careful search for the right field force-based CRM solution, Demantra adopted the eRMNow! package from Waltham, Mass.-based Neteos, designed to pull together all the elements of the company's sales, marketing, customer service and technical operations into a seamless, Web-based solution.
"We wanted a system that would let us follow transactions from initial contact all the way through implementation, covering the entire life cycle of the customer relationship," says Gidi Kroch, Demantra's director of global professional services.
Revamping Business Processes
Getting Neteos' solution to meet Demantra's needs presented challenges for the two companies. Initially, Neteos' product lacked key capabilities that Demantra needed, but significant enhancements have since been added to its core functions.
While Neteos was retooling eRMNow!, Demantra was going through its own gyrations of growth, change and expansion, including revamping its business processes. Despite these obstacles, Neteos ultimately delivered an eCRM solution that met Demantra's most critical needs. Although Demantra has not yet tapped the solution's full capabilities, the software marketer--now boasting 140 employees--declares the Neteos solution a success.
Sales and marketing executives worldwide are now able to track sales, marketing and customer service activities occurring through a variety of channels on a single Web-based system in real time, through diverse devices from PCs to laptops to handhelds (anything that can use Windows Explorer 5.5).
Management can generate detailed reports about the status of sales and marketing campaigns, including the creation of customized reports from anywhere in the world.
Not every sales executive is thrilled with the solution; some complain there are still gaps in the way sales activity data is entered and stored in the system. But management says the company is working to close those loopholes, and improvement has already been documented by increased efficiency and better communication with customers.
The View From the Field
Managers and internal sales coordinators were initially happiest with Neteos, while actual end users in the field grumbled about changing their ways to accommodate the new system.
Demantra users have also identified another feature they would like to see added to Neteos to enhance their mobile operations: alerts sent to them via e-mail or through wireless messaging regarding relevant developments on their accounts.
Jack Spicer, Demantra's Cambridge, Mass.-based director of business development, has used a variety of systems for tracking and managing sales leads in a variety of software sales jobs. Overall, he rates the system as an improvement because Demantra didn't have a system for tracking sales leads, but he says the solution might be too all encompassing at times. "If this system has a flaw, it's that there are too many places to enter data and make notes about a sales lead," says Spicer. "Sometimes these notes are put under a primary contact's name and sometimes under a company's name; the same thing is happening to other users, so we're missing each other's signals," he says.
Spicer works in the field, using a laptop to dial into Demantra's network to access Neteos. On days when he's not visiting clients, he makes up to 50 phone calls to prospects from his home office, and Neteos' rich bank of data is more than he usually needs.
"I'd like the system to be more streamlined, to have fewer areas where information can be stored, but I do appreciate the concept of being able to see, at a glance, where we are on all sales prospects, and how legal is coming on a contract, and what activity tech support is experiencing with a given customer," Spicer says. As Neteos evolves, he expects systems to move into place to centralize data more efficiently.
Andrew Zaneski, a sales coordinator at Demantra who has been intimately involved with helping bring new users onto the system, accesses Neteos through a high-speed Internet connection and says the newfound ability to instantly size up sales activities around the world on a daily basis is revolutionary.
"I do maintenance on the data in the system to backstop problems that might crop up, and I can analyze and follow up on loose ends and lost items, something that was virtually impossible before we had a CRM system," Zaneski says.
No Central System
Prior to adopting the Neteos solution, Demantra's internal sales team relied on a web of different systems and channels to gather and track sales leads. "Each salesperson had a unique system using paper lists and printouts, Microsoft Outlook for keeping track of contact information and an Excel or ACT! file to track their communications with the prospects," says Kroch. "Everyone fed information back to us in a variety of forms, but there was no way to knit the data together usefully, because it was kept on three or more different channels that were disconnected," he says.
Despite Demantra's modest size, its customers include large companies such as Xerox, Hunter Douglas and Bestfoods Israel. Sales to these companies frequently involve several rounds of discussions with various teams. Losing the thread of documented communications in such a complex sales process is a huge setback.
Adding to Demantra's challenges is the fact that its products are now sold through a combination of direct sales as well as through partnerships with consulting companies and systems integrators, including J.D. Edwards and Accenture. The company needs to track and compare the activity in each of those sales channels, say Demantra executives.
In the pre-Neteos days, a Demantra sales coordinator would chase down salespeople each week to try to agglomerate information on the status of sales. But these methods allowed for missing and inaccurate data; sometimes contact was lost with prospects or redundant contacts were made with other prospects.
"We were losing data, and there was a lot of inefficient communication between marketing and sales. When we did a marketing campaign, it was easy to lose prospects who came in through diverse routes, and information about prospects wasn't assigned appropriate priority," says Kroch.
A More Intimate Solution
Early on, the company ruled out solutions from large companies like Oracle and Siebel "because we didn't need the full-blown systems they offered. We knew we would only use 20 percent of the functionality of a big system, and we needed a more intimate solution suited to our small size that could also grow with us," Kroch says. Demantra decided on a short list of potential suppliers including Neteos, but Kroch's first meeting with the company was somewhat unsatisfactory.
"When I first spoke to Neteos in late 1999, their solution wasn't quite what we needed; it was too thin and basic, and we needed to get much richer information from it," he says.
After exploring other potential solutions, Kroch checked in with Neteos in March 2000 and discovered the company had made some major changes to its solution and was ready to demonstrate to Demantra how it could solve the software marketer's needs.
"They showed us a demo, and it was amazing what they had done; we were able to drill down on many levels at a moment in time and see where we were with a particular prospect or customer, on a multidimensional basis. It looked good," Kroch says.
One of the challenges Neteos faced was making its solution fit a range of needs for diverse types of companies of various sizes.
"A lot of people think smaller and midsize companies have less complex needs than Fortune 100 companies, but we've found that, if anything, the opposite is true," says Tom Van Horn, Neteos director of marketing. "Midsize companies are more often going through modifications that involve changing business processes and channels and turning to entirely new business models."
Demantra hoped Neteos would solve specific problems, including managing territory assignments and coping with ups and downs in sales cycles.
Most of Demantra's 20 dedicated sales personnel work from home offices. Although most of them now use laptops, Demantra hopes to provide handheld devices to its sales force soon for on-the-road connectivity, says Kan.
Once Demantra had committed to Neteos, the next steps were analyzing Demantra's existing processes, improving them and moving them on to the Web.
Neteos says its solution is designed to allow users to customize the solution to specific needs on an ongoing basis through a simple point-and-click interface. But first, the user must have business processes in place that fit the logic of Neteos' system.
"The biggest leap for users is usually making the organizational changes necessary to use a system that standardizes information; after that, the user can make Neteos work in a variety of different ways to suit specific business practices," says Van Horn.
Demantra was still defining its business processes even as the Neteos system was being implemented, which is not uncommon, says Adam Cohen, a Neteos client manager who was involved in the initial implementation phase. "We sat down with Demantra and worked with them in using the system, and when we heard 'I don't know,' or 'I'll get back to you,' we saw opportunities to further customize the solution to their specific needs," says Cohen.
Each time Demantra requests capabilities beyond the basic configurations it can do in-house, Neteos tweaks the building blocks behind the scenes, using its proprietary Design studio feature, says Cohen.
"We can add new features to the system at the request of a particular user, then we can enable the function at the user level without a lot of fuss. There is no need to write new code to supply additional capabilities," says Cohen.
Setting up the system required some backtracking and revisions of business process logic.
"In the early stages of implementation, Demantra was debating whether or not telemarketing sales fell under marketing or sales, and this is the kind of flexibility in changing roles and practices today's companies need to do to find the ideal process," says Cohen.
During the transition to Neteos, Kroch took on new, broader responsibilities and in the fall of 2000, he handed the training and implementation tasks over to Cecilia Swinehart, who became the project manager for Demantra's CRM efforts.
It was now Swinehart's job to woo Demantra's busy international 15-member sales force to adopt an entirely new way of handling its contacts and ongoing communications with sales prospects during a particularly hectic growth spurt.
"People are set in their ways and they don't like change. It's human nature, but we happen to be a technology company, which helped us introduce the idea of a new system," says Zaneski.
"Even though we're a technology company, we deal with the same problems everyone else has when implementing a new solution, with people resisting letting go of legacy systems, not trusting the new system," says Kroch. "But if management gets behind it and sets deadlines announcing that from a certain date forward we will only work with reports generated from the new system, people get on board."
Working one-on-one with sales executives, Zaneski was part of the training process that included channeling feedback from users back to Neteos for further customization of the solution.
"I was taking notes, and many of the things salespeople didn't like about the system were great ideas, which allowed us to make adjustments and fixes. Hearing the sales force's hands-on experiences with the system is extremely valuable in such a session," says Cohen.
Neteos foresees continued improvements in its system, including the integration of XML-based programming into the product later this year. "Moving to XML will allow us to do some cooler functionality on the Web that people are coming to expect, such as graphics and animated items. It will allow us to integrate better with other systems," says Cohen.