Better customer tracking

SearchCRM spoke with Mike Fenn, Jeeves Solutions' vice president of sales operations, about his company's CRM project.

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ABOUT THE VENDOR Interact is a provider of relationship management software for mid-sized companies and small office/home office businesses. The company's products include SalesLogix, a mid-market CRM product, and ACT!, a contact manager. ABOUT THE CLIENT Ask Jeeves Business Solutions is a provider of natural language navigation solutions that deliver essential customer intelligence. Through an interface that allows users to ask direct...

questions, Ask Jeeves connects customers with the information, products, and services they are looking for. By learning from every online customer interaction, Ask Jeeves Business Solutions aim to help companies increase sales, decrease support costs, and guide product, sales, and marketing strategies. ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY SalesLogix is a mid-market CRM solution featuring sales, marketing, support, and e-commerce components designed for mid-size company implementations. By enabling business teams to access collective customer information anytime, anywhere, the SalesLogix solution aims to identify, acquire, and build lasting customer relationships. Jeeves Solutions' employees were using a variety of different means to track contacts and activities. To get everybody on the same track, the company implemented the SalesLogix solution. SearchCRM spoke with Mike Fenn, Jeeves Solutions' vice president of sales operations, about the project. ---------------------------------------------------- SearchCRM: What drove you to evaluate CRM solutions? Fenn: In early 1999, we were a small company but were growing very quickly. When I came on in December 1998, I was probably employee number 25 to 30. Within three months, we were at 75 employees. Our Ask.com Web site was growing phenomenally quickly, and we were launching our Jeeves Solutions business unit -- the enterprise software side of our business. A lot of the parts of our business were taking off, and the market was very hot for anything Internet-related. We needed to hire a lot of people and get them up to speed very quickly, and we couldn't afford to do that in an uncoordinated fashion. We had people using ACT!, we had people using notebooks, we had people using a lot of different single-user point solutions to track contacts and activities -- but we didn't have a coordinated way to do it. It became obvious to us that if we intended to grow, we needed to do it in an intelligent way. SearchCRM: What were you looking for in a CRM vendor? Fenn: We knew that if we continued to grow at the rate we were growing at the time, all of this would become moot in a couple of years anyway, because we'd be so much bigger that we'd probably go back and revisit the decision we made. So in some ways it was a low-risk decision. We just needed to get something better than what we had -- which was nothing -- and we needed to get it into place fast. It would be better to make a reasonably good decision quickly than to make a perfect decision six months down the road. So we were constrained by the need to do something quickly, and we were constrained by certain budget restrictions. We were also realistic about the fact that we didn't need to buy something that was going to do every single little thing. We weren't looking for something that would integrate right out of the box, and we weren't looking for screen pops and all the things you can get in a CRM system. What we did need was a strong and clear way to manage our contacts, to manage the opportunities that we were generating within those accounts with those contacts, to give visibility throughout the organization to the contacts and the accounts, and to manage the progression of our sales pipeline. SearchCRM: So how did you decide on SalesLogix? Fenn: We took a very fast look at some things. We asked ourselves how it would be to use ACT! or something similar. It was very fast and very cheap, but it didn't have a lot of legs long-term. We took a quick look at things like Siebel, but saw that it was costly and the timeline was longer than we wanted. And we looked at some other things in that spectrum. For a whole lot of reasons, the SalesLogix solution ended up looking pretty good to us. It was a straightforward solution, and it had a rich enough set of features and functionalities that seemed to be able to do what we wanted it to do -- but at the same time we didn't feel like we'd be buying a whole bunch of bells and whistles that would never get used. Another thing that pushed it over the edge for us is that SalesLogix has a great partner network and reseller organization. We worked with a local organization called LexNet, which was our interface with SalesLogix. They assigned a team to help with the implementation. SearchCRM: How did the implementation go? Fenn: The implementation went so well that the guy who led the implementation project came to work for us. We felt very comfortable working with LexNet. It went relatively quickly -- within six weeks, we were at or near full production. The solution was not a perfect fit for everything we wanted to do, but that highlights one of the nice things about SalesLogix -- we've been able to make some customizations of our own, and the fact that we can do that is very good. SearchCRM: What kind of customization have you done? Fenn: We've done some changes to the user interface so that the way in which the screens are presented to our users follows more logically the way in which we go through our sales process. We've added certain fields and functionalities because there are certain pieces of information we like to collect from our prospective customers that help us do a better job of determining whether there's a fit between their needs and our products. So we've been able to purpose it pretty readily to our needs. SearchCRM: How did the training go? Fenn: It was straightforward and easy. We had a small group at the time -- probably six to eight people. We had the advantage of having LexNet there to do one-to-one training, and that got us up to speed pretty quickly. As we've grown -- we're up to 48 seats now -- we've done some incremental training along the way. SearchCRM: What has been the most rewarding result of the CRM solution? Fenn: I'd have to say that the most rewarding result has been in facilitating the communication that must exist in any successful sales organization. SalesLogix gives us the common meeting place to discuss, view, and act on our sales pipeline. The reports it generates are the reports we look at in our meetings. When we need to view the contacts we're working with, we go to SalesLogix. When we're curious about how we're doing in a particular region, we go to SalesLogix. It's really created a common ground -- and in doing so, it's dramatically accelerated our ability to sell. SearchCRM: Do you have any advice for companies that are considering a similar project? Fenn: Work with a company that has a strong reseller or systems integrator or partner program where you can leverage those partners to get help with the implementation, the training, and the ongoing customization. Ask how strong the vendor's partner program is, how you feel about the partners, how physically close they are, whether they're skilled in such a way that they'll meet your needs. Linda Formichelli's writing appeared this year in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at linda-eric@lserv.com, or check out her Web site: http://www.twowriters.net

This was first published in August 2001

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