• August 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Back From the Dead Lead Management

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National telephone hardware sales and repair company Edge Telecom needed something more than contact management. The company's diverse sources of business in the buying, selling, and refurbishment of telephone systems required sales agents to go beyond a simple database of contacts and prospects to tie all aspects of the company's relationships together quickly to turn sales. The company's focus on telephone hardware might seem straightforward, but the specifics--buying used enterprise phone systems, refurbishing and reselling them, selling new systems and parts, fulfilling service and installations contracts, all for both end users and wholesalers--require the management of complex relationships, not just contact wrangling. "I've been a user of conventional contact management for a long time, including Maximizer, which I was happy with," says Bob DeGraw, president of Edge Telecom. "Unfortunately, there were conflicts at a basic level where Maximizer didn't play well with our accounting system. I migrated the company over to ACT!, which integrated much more smoothly; I was proficient with it, as my employees were, but I knew there was a lot more functionality than we were using." The goal for DeGraw became making ACT! a better tool for what Edge does. DeGraw decided to speak with somebody who had experience with integrating ACT! into business operations, and he already had a contact: Craig Harrell, president of Rainmaker Marketing. "Bob and I had met through another company by way of a marketing campaign," Harrell explains. "The offering wasn't what he needed at that time, but we stayed in touch." As it turns out, that sort of relationship skill was just what Edge needed to implement company-wide. "Contacts might not need you now, but you must stay in touch down the road in this business, calling people up and asking if there's an opportunity to do business," DeGraw says. "We were collecting information to use later on, but we had no effective means of using it." The trick, Harrell notes, is in understanding that a company's needs change over time. "If you make one hundred calls and get maybe five responses, you pounce on those five," Harrell says. "But sometimes the prospect responds that they already have a vendor, or they have no need at this time, or they just bought a system. The salesperson needs the opportunity to maintain that relationship, so they don't feel it's a wasted call." That's where Rainmaker Marketing's Lazarus comes in. Lazarus is a customization of the ACT! database that includes a lead follow-up system to help Edge sales reps take advantage of the prospect data they collect. By automating follow-up activities, organizing data on clients and prospects, and matching them based on certain criteria, agents had a way to send highly relevant, personalized pitches in a fraction of the time it would have taken, and with better targeting. One of the reasons Lazarus was so effective for Edge was Harrell's experience as a salesman. "Craig's sales experience helps him understand what's needed to improve those operations," DeGraw says. "There's lots of horsepower in ACT!, or any contact manager, that goes unused. From the start, the sales team and I were actively involved in building program involvement, working with Craig to get the sales tools we need." Byron Carney, Edge's national account manager, presents a compelling example of Lazarus's effectiveness and the training provided by Rainmaker: "Lazarus has enabled us to gain new business opportunities with passive efforts. The power of ACT! and Rainmaker can be seen in a transaction that fell into my lap when I utilized ACT! the way it was taught by Craig," Carney says. "One Monday morning I received a call that six hundred sixty phones became available. I did a lookup of large wholesale customers that frequently purchase that type of phone. I sent a quick, personal mail merge to fifty-two wholesalers that fell into the lookup criteria. Thirty minutes later, I had an offer for all six hundred sixty phones and closed the largest deal of my career." According to DeGraw, that one sale more than paid for the cost of hiring Rainmaker. The Payoff By switching from conventional contact management to ACT! and Lazarus, Edge Telecom was able to:
  • raise annual sales to $1.5 million, an increase of $300,000, as much as double individual agents' sales;
  • grow the company 15 to 18 percent in one year;
  • help an experienced sales manager close the largest deal of his career in 30 minutes; and pay for the Rainmaker engagement with one sale.
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