Tuesday, January 30, 2007

From the First Contact

Medium sized companies once got relatively little attention from sales automation vendors. Large companies were well served by the big-time CRM suppliers and major consulting firms, while small businesses could make do with contact management-based systems. But not much was available for firms with 100 to 500 users. That's changed recently with the introduction of several good products aimed squarely at the mid-range.

Client Management Software (CMS) from ON!contact Software Corp. is an example of a program designed to help medium-sized enterprises keep their marketing, sales and customer service on track.

CMS is an excellent fit for companies looking for easy-to-use, feature-rich automation in which all users across the entire enterprise can work on one system for sales, marketing and customer service. Companies should consider CMS if they are looking for software that can be integrated with third-party applications (such as financial management and ERP) to enable true enterprise-wide sales and workflow management. What's more, CMS can be customized to mirror a company's exact business methodologies and requirements.

Keeping Track of Contacts
This program's powerful enterprise-centric view gives you great flexibility when managing contacts. The main screen is based on the enterprise, and you can see all contacts associated with the entire enterprise. Vital enterprise information is also maintained in the left-hand portion of the main screen - including the enterprise name, address, city, state, zip, phone, fax and Web address. For your convenience, the Web address is integrated with a Web browser so you can automatically bring up the enterprise's Web page. In the right-hand column of the main page is the contact tree; the view of the individual contacts can then be expanded to show other information, such as contact title, phone and fax number. Enterprise history, contact history, attachments, opportunity management and profiles are some of the other tabs that come standard with CMS.

You can enter an unlimited number of contacts, and the data entry logic can be customized for ease of use and data validation. The program has a zip code database that automatically completes the city, state and country codes fields. Fields can also be set with security measures to prevent changes.

CMS has robust, customizable features for scheduling - you can schedule one activity at a time or assign one activity to many contacts simultaneously. The software is easy to navigate, so you can quickly move from one record to another.

Working Your Opportunities
Designed for a team selling environment, the software's Opportunity Management System (OMS) is a customizable module that lets you configure an opportunity, set objectives, chart the organizational hierarchy, track interest levels, identify a competitor's position, share activity data and send important reminders between various team players.

Each business opportunity can be tracked for source, interest, opportunity type, opportunity worth, opportunity status and likelihood of closure. OMS can also track when the opportunity was opened, where it is located, when the opportunity is expected to close and when it actually does.

If you have sales opportunities that involve a variety if contacts, this software can track that, too. for example, a particular sales opportunity might involve players from ABC software company and XYZ consulting firm. With OMS, you can track all the contacts associated with the opportunity as well as the different rules they play in the opportunity, be it strong influence or decision making.

The OMS also tracks opportunity workflow steps. Depending on the type of opportunity, specific workflow steps can be automatically assigned to an individual or to a sales team. As these steps are completed the percent to closure can be automatically updated. With this workflow tracking, sales management can have a more meaningful indication of the true percentage to closure, since it's tied to performance on the opportunity.

When an opportunity reaches 50 percent potential to close, the software's Agent can automatically send an email to the sales manager noting that the opportunity should be reviewed for further action. Another useful Agent is the OMS Wizard Agent, which is invoked when a new opportunity is defined. The Wizard brings users through a set of screens and prompts them to enter appropriate information to effectively define a new sales opportunity. Again, Agent technology can be invoked from anywhere in the OMS.

Making an Impact on Sales
One of CMS' guiding principles is effective Sales Cycle Management (SCM). Combined with Client Management Software Agent technology, SCM is a direct vehicle for putting your sales methodology into an automated application on an enterprise-wide basis. SCM and CMS Agent technology do much more than just automate sales cycles, however. Together they can also serve as a prompting and chaining system, improving the system's usability and saving your staff time and effort. This application complements and reinforces the actions you take, guiding you through every stage of the sales process and preventing leads from falling through the cracks. Because no two sales are alike, you can also easily tailor the application for individual opportunities.

Because an automation system is only as good as the data you enter, this software's prompting feature pulls you through the entire sales process so that consistent and accurate information is obtained without having to remember what to do next. Prompts ensure that all activities, and notes regarding those activities are entered into the system. Prompts can be created anywhere in the application to pull you to the next appropriate steps a workflow or sales process. There are many areas where command shortcuts can also be customized to your specifications, using the toolbar, tabs, right mouse click and command buttons available on any screen.

Chains, for their part, allow you to control the sequence of activities that take place throughout the sales cycle. By setting up a chain, the system automatically schedules the next activity. For example, you could set up a chain related to an activity or result code. Once a call is entered into CMS, that activity can trigger a chain for information to go out later that day and for a call to be scheduled 10 days later as a follow-up.