December 05, 2009

Quick introduction to

A customer wanted to know a bit about CRM, which we use at 1300 Web Pro. I wrote the following reply to him, and thought I would post it on our blog in case it is of use to anyone else... is an American, publically listed company and is part of the S&P 500. In other words, it isn’t going anywhere. Their flagstone product is the Software as a Service (meaning hosted by them and charged by the month) CRM product.

A few qualifying points before deciding to use CRM:
  • If you already have a CRM system in place, consider carefully switching. A lot of historical data cannot be transferred (or can be difficult and time-consuming to do). 
  • If you have more than 5 users, the price goes up substantially. I am looking at switching to an Open Source web-based system (either vTiger or SugarCRM) as we are going to hit that 5 user point soon. The main downside of these other systems being you have to host and support them yourself. I'm not saying it is not worth the money after 5 users... just putting all the cards on the table.
  • Being web-based, you need a fairly reliable and quick Internet connection. We have ADSL2+ at the office which is sufficient.
Access to Salesforce CRM is entirely web based, with the exception of an Outlook Sync plugin and a Microsoft Word mail merge template plugin.

Using it is fairly self explanatory. The main types of records are:
  • Leads — People you are hoping to win business from. Our website consultants enter people they meet at networking events, people who ring in, etc. as leads. Any forms submitted through our website also go directly into Salesforce as a lead. 
  • Accounts — A business that you have a relationship (ie. Supplier or customer). When you sell something to a “lead” you convert the business to an account. 
  • Contacts — People associated with an account. Each contact must have one (and only one) account. For example, you might have 1300 Web Pro as an account with two associated contacts, Nury and Monita.
The Outlook sync plugin allows you to push the contacts to Outlook (and in our case this in turns pushes them to our iPhones). I find this useful, especially since it pushes the entire company’s contacts, not just yours (optionally). This way, if Monita adds “Brad Ison” from Instyle Homes and Loans it will appear in my iPhone next time I sync Outlook!

There is a fairly powerful reporting engine. There are a number of built in reports, or you can build your own. I generally build my own. The process of building a report is straightforward. You select the type of record you want to report on (eg. Leads), the columns you want in the report, and limiting criteria (eg. Created in Dec. 2009) and away you go. You can view the report online or export to Excel.

There is also a very good mail merging system for both Microsoft Word and e-mail. To use the Word system, you install the Word plugin which will provide you with access to mail merge fields (note: these are not the same as the Microsoft Word merge fields). You then save the Word document and upload it to Salesforce. From there you can run the merge from any record. E-mail merging words similarly, except you just build the template within Salesforce. Because e-mails are sent directly from Salesforce, they don’t appear in your Outlook sent items.

There is a calendar and to do list for each user, cross-referenced with leads, accounts, and contacts. We don’t use this as extensively as we could. I believe this integrates to Outlook using the sync plugin.

My suggestion would be to create an account using the 30 day free trial link that Salesforce always seem to have.

I have a copy of for Dummies, 3rd Edition. It gives a good overview of things.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro

1 comment:

  1. A few additional links...

    A list of the top 10 CRM platforms (as of Feb. 09)

    Two comparisons of vTiger to SugarCRM (open source CRM platforms mentioned above)
    1. Siteground
    2. Simple Thoughts


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