Article

Salesnet hopes to take SFA all the way

Jon Panker

At a time when some of its competitors are broadening their focus, hosted CRM provider Salesnet Inc. makes no bones about the fact that its bread and butter is sales force automation (SFA). And it plans to stick to its SFA guns.

The company's senior vice president of sales and marketing likes to think of Salesnet as "the Google of CRM." Just like Google stuck to search while its competitors added portal features, Steve Dahill says Salesnet won't abandon its commitment to SFA.

Boston-based Salesnet offers two versions of its hosted SFA software: Salesnet Standard, which sells for $65 per user per month, and Salesnet Extended, which makes available APIs for added customization and integration, features a snazzier user interface and basic analytics, and sells for $99 per user per month. Both versions include offline access.

Meanwhile, prime competitor Salesforce.com in San Francisco has announced plans for a hosted billing application, its first move into the back office, and already offers a broader CRM selection -- including marketing and customer support software.

Salesforce.com, which boasts 6,000 customers and, by some estimates, $100 million in revenue, has also set its sights squarely on market leader Siebel Systems Inc.

"I'm not trying to be a giant killer," Dahill said, admitting Salesnet is content to grab smaller groups within the enterprise space, as it has with customers like American Express Co., British Telecommunications, and Software AG.

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One customer impressed with the SFA-only approach is Quill Corp., a Lincolnshire, Ill.-based direct marketer of office supplies and a division of Staples Inc. The company needed a better way to manage the sales process after it abandoned an outdated version of FrontRange Solutions' GoldMine, which it had used "basically as a place to take notes," according to sales manager Lori Wilson.

Wilson considered Best Software Inc.'s ACT and other low-end offerings, but was turned onto Salesnet by colleagues at Staples who were using it.

"What sold [Salesnet] for me was that I could go in and customize my sales process," Wilson said. In September 2002, Quill went live with roughly 20 users on Salesnet Extended.

Wilson created several custom reports, easily added fields to forms and can identify leads by zone, an important feature in her sales process. She also used Salesnet's reporting capabilities to track a dip in December sales, identify its causes and then forecast a similar downturn for next year.

Denis Pombriant, vice president and managing director of CRM at Aberdeen Group in Boston, said Salesnet offers "a very nice process builder for organizations with the need for well-detailed sales processes." Yet he isn't convinced that carving out a straight SFA focus is a vendor's best approach for CRM survival.

"I see a lot of potential demand for hosted CRM," Pombriant said. But right now, he estimates that there's a greater need for hosted customer service and support applications than for SFA, even though sales remains the biggest segment of CRM.

Pombriant sees Salesnet looking up at Salesforce.com and also Mountain View, Calif.-based competitor UpShot Corp., which offers SFA, marketing automation and analytics.

But those who doubt that the CRM industry can support multiple hosted providers may want to keep in mind why Microsoft created its own CRM tools. It estimates that only 10% to 15% of small and midsized businesses currently use CRM software.

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Article: Should you implement CRM or be hosted?

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