We are the Champions
Larry Nipon: True Believer
Larry Nipon oozes confidence. He is technically astute and willing to take the outrage hurled at him by his sales force. What's the source of that outrage? The CRM system that Nipon pushed to implement last year for the North American sales organization of Worth Global Style Network (WGSN). "I was the Antichrist," says Nipon, president of the Americas for WGSN, which supplies research and trend analysis for the fashion and style industries. "I was the most hated person in the world, because I was asking people to change."
Nipon was accustomed to the abuse--he'd implemented CRM at two other companies before joining WGSN's New York office in 2001. He's also a true believer in CRM since beta testing ACT! in 1985. "The more I used ACT!, the more it gave me ideas on how to manage a sales organization," Nipon says.
From inspiration has come the conviction that a well-implemented CRM system would give Nipon--and his company--a better handle on each salesperson's daily productivity, and provide an early window into the sales cycle. But first, he had to convince WGSN's cofounders in its London headquarters that the results would be worth the effort. The key, Nipon says, was to make them comfortable with the time and expense.
To make the peril palatable Nipon opted to go with hosted CRM vendor Salesforce.com. For Nipon, that meant no IT overhead and the ability to shut off the system with minimal risk. Nipon got the go-ahead in 2002. "[The cofounders] let me do it on a test basis, but they didn't realize that once CRM gets its tentacles in an organization, you can't extricate from it," he says.
Before Nipon unleashed Salesforce.com on his sales force, he personally spent three months modifying the system to reflect WGSN's business processes and customer data. The software went live December 2002, and the grousing began: People spent too much time entering data. It was different. They didn't see anything wrong with the old way of working.
So how did Nipon make sure everyone used Salesforce.com? "People ultimately realized that their performance evaluation was predicated on the things I saw them doing in Salesforce," Nipon says. "They realized it was in their best interest to use it."
Today, 23 people use the Salesforce.com system. Since last December WGSN has seen productivity increase 20 to 25 percent per month, per person, and group sales increase 60 percent. The company also attributes a 30 percent revenue increase to its deployment of Salesforce.com.
"If I say you aren't working that hard, it's based on what Salesforce can quantify," Nipon says. "It removes the personality from the equation, and that's the great contribution of CRM."
Larry NiponPatrick Harris: Stealth Fighter
Patrick Harris knows how to be political, nonconfrontational--and extremely manipulative (in a good way). He has to. Over the years Harris, the IT director of Sealing Devices, watched two sales managers forced out, because they'd been vociferous in their views that the company needed CRM tools. The people who'd spent years at the 150-person producer of gaskets, seals, and lubricants didn't feel their sales processes needed fixing. So when Harris implemented a CRM system five years ago (in response to the call of that first sales manager), he saw less-than-stellar adoption.
Fast forward to 2000, when Sealing Devices' text-only ERP system had to be overhauled. Sealing Devices chose to go with an all-Oracle system, including modules to handle previously existing functions like that ill-used CRM application. "Now publicly, all management said we needed these tools; they got sucked up into the CRM movement when I started championing it," Harris says.
Harris delivered a CRM system by stealth that people actually use. He started by recruiting a cross-section of managers and staff to write down their business processes and suggest ways to streamline them. Given that every function would reside in Oracle, Harris felt that accommodating those managers would be relatively simple. For example, there would be no more having to start a lead in Lotus Notes, walk it over to accounting to set up a file in the ERP system, and then have to set up third file in Microsoft Access. Just enter customer information once, and Oracle would take it from there.
But the real key to adoption was accountability. "These guys ruled their own world for a long time, going where and when they wanted without having to account for their time," Harris says. "Now we put all of their assigned leads into the CRM package, and they know that we know when they don't follow up on those leads. So fear was a useful tool."
Sealing Devices does not yet have hard numbers from its new system, but Harris does know it now takes one person two minutes to enter a new customer, versus the half day it previously took. "We have a fully integrated suite, so for me there's no cutoff as to where CRM ends and ERP begins," Harris says. "CRM is part of the enterprise, and that's how it needs to be."
Company: Sealing Devices
Title: IT director
CRM project team: 8 people, including managers who had been opposed to CRM
Biggest CRM obstacle: resistance to change and fear of accountability
Key CRM lesson learned: The value of statistical information
Best advice received: Never stop training; it's a continual process.
His best advice: These are very deep tools, and people need to be exposed to the best practices on how to use them.
David McGrath: Patient Innovator
David McGrath has been in sales his entire working life. But selling CRM to his sales force has been the most difficult sales task of his career.
"Our sales force is very senior, by age and experience, and before we brought in [CRM], they didn't know what Windows was," says McGrath, sales and marketing director at Senior Flexonics Pathway (SFP), which engineers and manufactures metal and fabric expansion joints for heavy industry. "It's tough going to take guys who are successful and confident and put them in an environment where they have no experience. We overcame by persistence. It was not a question of if, but one of when."
Slowly tailoring his approach to match the personality of each sales rep, McGrath has pulled his organization of 45 inside and outside salespeople into the world of CRM. "This is an instrument of cultural change. You have to let it decide its own path, nurture it, and let it grow organically in the company--to let it take root and sprout. Otherwise you won't see all the benefits."
It started because McGrath needed a better grip on which of the 1,000 to 1,200 active quotations a month needed attention, and which could be ignored. He also wanted a way to communicate and exchange inquiries, quotations, orders, engineering drawings, and leads. After evaluating six enterprise-level packages, the company chose Maximizer Software's Maximizer Enterprise. The system manages more than 2,500 opportunities, with sales cycles that range from three hours to five years. Every quote has an accompanying engineering drawing. But despite these and other enhancements there remains some resistance.
That's about to end thanks to an improvement to the system soon to be launched: When sales reps want to see any information related to a quote, customer, or prospect, that information will automatically download to their hard drives. But there is a catch. "We are about to turn off the fax machines, and [reps] won't get any information if they don't use Maximizer," McGrath says.
Even without total compliance SFP is seeing hard benefits from CRM. The company has nearly tripled its revenue and profits since installing the system in 1999; its salespeople now close 72 percent of the deals they quote on; and SFP has captured 50 percent of the market, up from 20 percent.
As far as McGrath is concerned this success is just the beginning. "CRM is a cornerstone of what we want to do five years from now," he says. "When you think about CRM you really need to put on your visionary hat, because it lets you redefine territories and processes. This costs about $1,000 a person. Who can't afford to spend that for the future?"
Company: Senior Flexonics Pathway
Title: sales and marketing director
CRM project team: 5 people, including an outside consultant
Biggest CRM obstacle: cultural aversion to technology
Key CRM lesson learned: Use a consulting service intimately familiar with the product.
Best advice received: Keep the system simple.
His best advice: You have to believe and have the moxie to see it through. Don't lose hope or the vision of the original objective.
Richard Marks: Fearless Visionary
Richard Marks gets what he wants. Of course, being in the top-management ranks helps: Marks is executive vice president of Total System Services (TSYS) and group executive of TSYS Business Process Management, a division of 600 call-center representatives that handles credit card services on behalf of its customers.
In 2000 Marks wanted a CRM system that would support TSYS's customers by phone, at the point of presence, over the Web, and via PDA--with standard business rules regardless of the communication channel. He also wanted to expand beyond the call center and into collections, fraud detection, and fraud management. To do so he spent "millions of dollars" and more than five months attempting to adapt a well-known CRM package. It was a disaster. Marks decided that no commercially available software could meet all of his division's needs.
So, with the help of consulting firm Extreme Logic, he decided to build what he needed using Web services and the Microsoft .Net framework.
"The biggest issue I had was convincing people that we had the right solution and that we could build it," Marks says. "We had to convince the CIO, the CEO, and the CFO. And we had to build it and demonstrate more than proof-of-concept, and do it without the heartfelt backing of the CIO."
Six months later Marks's organization switched over a client with 10 million accounts. "Once we had a working prototype, we started going full bore on persuading the CIO, the CEO, and the entire executive group at TSYS that we had an application that would fulfill our internal needs and also meet the requirements of our external customers," Marks says.
They were persuaded. In the 16 months since the TSYS ProphIT system went live in February 2002, it has gone through four releases. It's also much more than just a CRM system in that it allows TSYS to manage and automate business processes across the entire organization.
The effort already appears to be paying off. ProphIT has delivered a 15 percent productivity gain for the division's 600-person call center, equivalent to labor-cost savings of $2.7 million per year. It is expected to reduce server costs by more than 95 percent.
"CRM is a much bigger canvas than people had realized," Marks says. "It has to encompass much more than a call center or a CRM application--it has to manage processes across platforms as well."
Company: Total System Services
Title: group executive, TSYS Business Process Management
CRM project team: 130 people
Biggest CRM obstacle: being able to balance the business requirements with the available technology
Key CRM lesson learned: Be willing to take on early failures.
Best advice received: Keep your head low for the first few months of development.
His best advice: If there's something out there you can buy, buy it. If you can get away with off-the-shelf, then do it.
Rob Humphreys: Quick-Change Artist
Rob Humphreys is used to the mantra that in technology change is a constant. It's one thing for Humphreys, application development manager for Viewpoint Construction Software (VCS), to marshal a team of developers to an evolving beat, but it's quite another to encourage transformation in the change-averse personalities that populate the rest of the company. Yet that's just what Humphreys did when he implemented Epicor Software's Clientele CRM software.
Today all of VCS's 74 employees spend at least some of their day on Clientele. From sales and marketing to application development, customer support, quality assurance, and internal administration, VCS uses Clientele for everything from managing sales to scheduling customer training, tracing bug fixes, handling support calls--even tracking office supplies and noting the capital equipment in each employee's cubicle. The transformation has occurred through constant change. "I don't think Clientele has been unchanged for two weeks since it went live," Humphreys says.
So how did Humphreys become VCS's CRM champion? He persuaded management to look for an off-the-shelf package, because the company's six incompatible systems had become painful to use.
One system stored customer purchases. Another handled call tracking. A third listed prospects. Addresses and phone numbers were out of sync. It was anyone's guess as to which system held the correct data for which customer. Everyone agreed the company needed one application for tracking customers, prospects, call notes, and support to its collection of homegrown applications and databases.
"We had come to the point where we couldn't do a good job for this and our own products at the same time," Humphreys says. "We convinced management to dedicate our resources to our own products."
And yes, there was resistance, since everything about a customer had to be keyed into the system. "I tried to get people interested by [creating] excitement," Humphreys says. "I ran demonstrations, did tests. After about three months, people started feeling good about the system." Today, the company is tracking more customers with better information in less time.
"CRM has allowed us to pull together all the information about our customers," Humphreys says. And that's why it's now used in nearly every aspect of running the company.
Company: Viewpoint Construction Software
Title: application development manager
CRM project team: 5 people
Biggest CRM obstacle: convincing people that change was a good move.
Key CRM lesson learned: Never underestimate all of the capabilities of CRM.
His best advice: Evaluate the needs of the overall organization, and not just the sales, support, and marketing groups.
Rochelle Garner is a freelance journalist based in San Carlos, CA