ABOUT THE VENDOR
UpShot was created to alleviate the frustration of a sales executive whose team didn't have the resources to purchase an enterprise sales force automation application. So he decided to build one, and when he realized how much his own team was benefiting from increased productivity -- and how much more predictable and pleasant quarter ends were -- he realized he might be on to something. The company began hosting their application on secure servers in August, 1999. Users accessed UpShot with their standard browsers on an affordable subscription basis.
UpShot is privately held and has received $61 million in equity investments from ABN AMRO, Advanced Technology Ventures, Alloy Ventures, Intel Capital, New England Partners, and Talon Ventures LLC.
ABOUT THE CUSTOMER
IDEC, which has been in business for more than 50 years, produces industrial automation products and industrial control products, from electromechanical relays and switches to programmer controllers.
ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
For a small fee per user per month, UpShot's Sales Force Automation solution includes:
* Real-time access to sales information from anywhere at anytime.
* Consolidated listing of information (deals, leads, progress, etc.).
* Calendar, to dos, what's up page, and historical data on all deals.
IDEC was looking for
SearchCRM: Why did you decide to evaluate CRM solutions?
Salhotra: We sell through wholesalers, and the problem we were facing was with consistency of information. We always measured what we sold or how a distributor did with us, but there was very little understanding of the end customer itself. We wanted to get to know them and their business processes better.
Secondly, we were slowly moving from third-party rep organizations to our own direct sales force. With a direct sales force, you want more control and more reporting mechanisms, because you're investing a lot of money. We also wanted to improve the service and support we provide to our customers by integrating our customer service, technical support, and product marketing personnel with the sales people, so everyone has the ability to communicate better.
SearchCRM: Did you look at any other solutions besides UpShot?
Salhotra: We looked at a couple of ASP solutions. The main problem was that the big CRM solutions were expensive for a company of our size, and the cost of implementing and maintaining the system was high compared to what UpShot would bring to us.
SearchCRM: What were the challenges of the evaluation?
Salhotra: When we started evaluating about two years ago, sales force automation and CRM were still in a very infantile stage. There were issues with speed and with Internet infrastructure around the country. A sales force is not stagnant; they're traveling and they're located in different parts of the country, so we wanted easy access for them.
SearchCRM: What sort of implementation did you have at your end?
Salhotra: We had to set up the screens and data structures and decide what people were going to put where. As an ASP, UpShot used generic terminology, which is not specific to our business, so we had to train people as part of that process.
SearchCRM: Have you experienced any internal resistance?
Salhotra: We still have third party reps in our system, and getting them to participate has been a challenge. Third party reps would usually represent multiple lines and have multiple salespeople, so getting them to consolidate data, put it in the system, inform us of what is happening through reports -- you have to literally force them. I'd say we have 50 percent participation at this time. We're going for at least 70 or 80 percent if we can; I know there are a few who will never participate.
SearchCRM: How do you use the CRM system in your day-to-day operations?
Salhotra: We can communicate about our customers much better within the organization -- we know what we're doing, how we're servicing the customer, what we're selling them, and what's needed from various members of the organizational team to support these customers. We're able to maintain a long enough history so that when a sales person goes in or a tech support guy talks to a customer, he knows exactly where we stand and what needs to be done. We can also focus our sales force on the right accounts and the right deals. It's all about where we'ree going to get the most bang for our buck, and the system helps us do that.
SearchCRM: Do you have any advice for companies thinking of starting a similar project?
Salhotra: One, look for a tool which you believe is easy to use. Two, find the members who will participate and encourage them. It's all about showing value to your customers, and your customers in this case are your team.
SearchCRM: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Salhotra: I'd sit down and reduce the initial number of members that we had on the team. There was a lot of data that wasn't needed in hindsight. The initial two or three months were wasted in definitions which were legacy-based. Whenever you implement a new system it's a great opportunity to reinvent the wheel -- in a better form. We didn't do it that well this time; there was a lot of old garbage and baggage that didn't have to be there.
Linda Formichelli's writing appeared this year in Woman's Day, Wired, Writer's Digest, Family Circle, Psychology Today. Contact her at email@example.com, or check out her Web site http://www.twowriters.net
This was first published in November 2001