Offers Low-Cost CRM Applications offers a suite of sales-force automation applications for a monthly $50-per-user fee, with no up-front costs.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

September 10, 2001

2 Min Read

Dennis Hanna knew his company needed a sales-force automation application to help keep track of customer information, sales opportunities, and reports. But there was a problem.

Hanna, the director of business development for Textron Fastening, a $2 billion division of Textron Inc., evaluated Siebel Systems Inc. and determined the project would cost $3 million to $5 million. "If I went with Siebel, the first check we wrote would have been about $1.5 million," Hanna says. "It's hard to measure the ROI on an implementation like that." He looked at smaller packages, including MultiActive Software Inc.'s Maximizer application suite, but even that would cost about $300,000 to deploy.

Then late last year, Hanna was introduced to Inc., an online customer-relationship management provider that charges a monthly $50-per-user fee to access a full suite of sales-force automation applications online with no up-front deployment costs. Salesforce also let Hanna customize the look and feel of the sales-force automation screens. For example, his sales force doesn't use the word "client" to describe its customers, so Hanna was able to change that to reflect his company's terminology. The application also lets management view all of its salespeople's prospects, making it easier to generate forecasts. When sales employees leave the company, all of their data can be stored in the application, solving a big problem for Textron. In the past, contacts and prospects were often lost when employees left the company, Hanna says.

If the company becomes dissatisfied with Salesforce, Hanna can simply shut off the system and get his data back from the vendor. Feeling as though he had nothing to lose, Hanna deployed Salesforce to 250 users for a total cost of $10,000 a month. But there have been compromises and unforeseen costs. "There's no integration with back-end legacy systems, and that's a downfall," says Hanna, who has to do batch data "dumps" into the company's enterprise resource planning system. In addition, Hanna's mobile sales force of about 40 people had a difficult time accessing the applications. "It's hard to get good access using a common modem," says Hanna, who had to provide his mobile workers with broadband access, cable modems, and digital subscriber line connections.

Salesforce is trying to overcome the integration problems. This fall, the company will unveil an Enterprise Edition that will feature integration hooks to legacy systems. Meanwhile, Hanna says his company is looking to expand its use of Salesforce's CRM applications to other areas of its business.

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