Business without boundaries


26 Jun 2003

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As any start-up company will know, time often is of the essence. Once a product is ready for market, it’s a challenge to get out there and start winning customers as soon as possible. To achieve this, it often means having a dedicated sales team on the road. The longer it is out there, the better your chances are of winning new clients. This is where CRM (customer relationship management) solutions come into play, in particular, sales force automation.

It enables a centralisation of customer and sales team data, allowing all members of the marketing team to gain a better picture of its progress.

One company that has gone down the route of sales force automation is Similarity Systems, a start-up company specialising in the development of data quality management products. The company was founded in 2000 and began selling in late 2001. In layman’s terms, the company specialises in solutions that clean up data prior to a client implementing a new data management system, SAP for example. The company’s core product, called Athanor, is designed to provide data quality analysis and reporting. It includes data correction and enhancement functionality to correct data problems in real-time as data flows into or between systems.

The company employs approximately 25 people in total. This includes a sales team consisting of six people and a further seven consultants who often act in a pre-sales capacity. Its sales effort covers all of Ireland and the UK.

According to Fiona Costigan, marketing manager at Similarity, the decision to employ sales force automation was taken earlier this year. With so many people out of the office, it was felt that such a solution would better enable the company to co-ordinate its sales effort.

Similarity opted for Salesforce.com, whose CRM solution is specifically tailored towards sales automation. “I’d used it while working with another company and was quite happy to recommend it,” says Costigan. The company implemented the new solution in January of this year.

According to Costigan, ease of use was one of the prime motivations for choosing Salesforce. “It can be set up out of the box and the fact that it’s web-based means that all you need is a web browser to access the database,” she says. In addition to this, Costigan cites the reporting functionality of the product as a key tool for marketing use.

Costs were another factor in the decision. Salesforce.com charges €70 per user per month for the standard edition. According to Costigan, developing their own solution would have been a huge burden for the company.

The Irish-based team uses the standard edition of Salesforce.com’s CRM solution. The UK-based team uses the offline edition. This allows an individual to take a limited amount of information from the database with him on the road, usually comprising 300 to 400 contacts. This information can be viewed and updated offline and, when the sales person has an opportunity to go online, can by synchronised with the central system. According to Costigan, this eased the workload of the UK-based people, enabling them to spend more time on the road visiting potential clients.

According to Fergus Gloster, vice-president of marketing and business development at Salesforce.com, Similarity is typical of the type of application for which its Irish customers are using Salesforce.com. Aside from the standard and offline editions of its service, the company is also now selling a wireless service, priced at around €170 per user per month. This application is designed to be used with handheld devices and supports the major platforms such as Palm, Windows Pocket PC and BlackBerry. “There has been renewed interest in mobile solutions of late,” he says. “I think initially people were disappointed with early solutions such as Wap. However, with the introduction of GPRS and the resultant change in the mobile data pricing structure, the area is beginning to pick up again,” he explains.

By Dick O’Brien

Pictured, Fergus Gloster of Salesforce.com: ‘There has been renewed interest in mobile solutions of late’