Explaining the D-Tools Zoho CRM System – Sales Roles

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As I previously mentioned we have a lot of leads in our CRM system. Without some sort of solid process for managing these leads we would never be able to see the forest through the trees. Good lead management is a critical aspect for our company (really, all companies) because nothing happens without the sale and most of our sales start out as leads. The reality is the future of your company hinges on how you currently manage your leads. You need to plant your seeds before you are hungry.

In order to manage leads effectively each person on the sales team needs a specific role and set of tools in order to do their job as effectively and efficiently as possible. Once again Zoho CRM rises to the challenge and allows us to manage the entire process with a minimum of setup. In fact, I have spent more time defining and documenting the process than I have configuring the software.

We have three main sales roles at D-Tools: Sales Administrator, Sales Assistant and Sales Consultant. Each role has a distinct set of job functions attached to it.

Lets look at the life cycle of a lead and how it relates to each role. When a lead first comes into the system it needs to be approved. Since we have a public web to lead form on our web site we get a fair share of crap leads. Instead of these leads going directly into the system and mixing (infecting) with the other leads they go to a waiting for approval section and anyone with a Sales Admin role in Zoho gets an email announcing a new lead. I should mention that the web to lead form, lead approval process, and email are built-in Zoho workflow functions.

On a daily basis the Sales Admin (SAM from now on) looks at all the unapproved leads in the system and checks each lead to make sure all of the required fields are accurate. If it looks like a bogus lead then it is deleted. Next the SAM attempts to pre-qualify the lead by the email address (as explained in this post). If a website can be deduced through the email address the SAM subjectively evaluates the quality of the website and scores appropriately. Next the SAM assigns the lead to the proper territory, sub-territory (more on that later), and then assigns the lead to a specific Sales Consultant based on the territory assignment.

However the lead is still “unqualified”, meaning we have not had a one-to-one conversation with the lead by either voice or email. This is where the Sales Assistant role comes into the picture. In general I do not want our Sales Consultants talking to unqualified leads. The Sales Assist (SA from now on) job is to contact the lead, fill in any missing information, ask questions that will determine how our software can benefit the prospective customer, do a web demo of the software (if appropriate), answer any basic questions and ideally move that lead up to Qualified A, B, or C status or (not as ideal) move them down to Dead or Inactive (it happens). In general our Sales Consultants do not get involved until the lead status is at least a “Qualified C”.

Since we have so many leads this Pre-Qual Score field makes it stupid easy for our SAs to sort the lists, or “views” as they are called in Zoho by this field so the most qualified leads get acted on first. Before we had this Pre-Qual Score process it was just hit and miss, not a good way to manage 11,000 leads. Below is a list view of what our SA’s use to qualify leads.

Here is the criteria from the above list view.

As the SA is in the qualifying stage with each Lead Zoho makes documenting this process stupid easy again. All notes, phone calls and emails relating to the contact are included in the lead record. Outgoing email is automatically added to the lead record and by using the Zoho CRM to Outlook interface a SA can automatically sync a response email to the lead record. (red icon in the pic below) We do all this so when it comes time for a Sales Consultant to step in we don’t make the potential client re-state all of their objectives, concerns and questions. Saves everyone time and frustration I should add.

Basically the main job function of the SA role is to communicate with the Lead, document ALL of the communication and move them to a “qualified” lead status. Once they get the lead to that point the sales Consultant steps and the SA starts the process over with another Unqualified lead.

Once a Lead gets to Qualified C or above and they want to talk to a Sales Consultant (SC from now on) a SC will automatically be notified by the SA using the Zoho Task functionality All the SA has to do is fill out this simple form. Since all of the information is contained in the lead record this eliminates all of the questions, emails and conversations that are usually associated with this type of hand off.

It is now the SC’s job to work with this lead and convert them to an “Account” where the Account Type = Prospect. But this post has gone on long enough so process will have to be explained another day.

Adam Stone is a Zoho CRM customer and CEO/Founder of D-Tools Software.

Zoho Projects : Export all Timesheet Data as a Spreadsheet

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Zoho Projects has had this feature for quite some time now – to export an employee’s Timesheet as an xls or csv file. And one of the requests from our users has been to enhance this and allow the timesheet data of all employees to be exported as a single file. This is available now in the latest Zoho Projects update.

Managers and Administrators can now export timesheet data of all users under a project and all users across all projects. Once the timesheet data gets exported, an email containing a link to the file to be downloaded gets sent.

Export timesheet for a project’s users (Project -> Timesheet -> Export)

Export for all users across all pages (My Home -> My Log Calendar -> Export)

Try this new feature in Zoho Projects and let us know your comments.

Support for currency symbols in Zoho Invoice

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In the past few weeks we had been really busy adding some nice little features to our service.  One such feature is the support for currency symbols.  Now you can have your currency symbols ($, €, £, ¥) on your invoices instead of the standard currency code (USD, EUR, GBP, JPY…).

As you may know, we already support multi-currency in our service.  Now you can configure a unique symbol for each and every currency that you use.  You can configure this in “Currency & Time” settings.

To configure your currency symbol, follow the steps below-

  1. Click on the “Settings” link at the top right.
  2. Click on the “Currency & Time” link on the left, this will take you to the currency and time zone configuration page.
  3. In the currency and time zone configuration page, you have the “Currency Details” table, where you can add as many currencies as you want and for each currency you can specify a unique symbol.
  4. In the same table you can also specify the format for the currencies and select the currency that has to be used as your base currency (the currency, in which you do all your accounting).

Hope this makes your invoices look much more professional.  Give it a try and share your comments.

Happy Invoicing!


Zoho Turns Three

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Three years back on Sep 15th, we launched out first application Zoho Writer. Since then, as you notice, lot has changed in Zoho. We have added 17 other applications, 4 utilities and many add-ons. Most important of all, we now have over 1 Million users using our applications.

What makes Zoho unique is the broad set of applications we offer. The real power of these suite of apps will be in display when the applications are integrated with each other. Integration between apps will continue to be the focus for the next year apart from enhancements to the existing ones.

On this occasion, I’d like to take a moment to thank all our users for supporting us during this marathon.

Explaining the D-Tools CRM System – Lead Management

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Introduction here.

We have a LOT of leads in our system. The current count is 11,192 and I archived any lead that was created before 2006 during the last conversion of CRM systems. Thankfully, Zoho CRM handles leads really well. This is the process we use to separate the forest from the trees and allow our sales team to focus on the most productive leads.

The way I define a lead is a person (contact) who works at a company (account) who has expressed some sort of interest in our products or services and has not purchased anything from us in the past. Leads come into the system from four main marketing activities.

  • Trade shows – Import list
  • D-Tools website – Web to Lead form
  • Google Adwords and SEO – Web to Lead form or incoming call
  • Download Trial – Import list

These are called “Leads Source” in our CRM system. This is a mandatory pick list field. In addition to a Lead Source field we also have a related field called “Sub-Lead Source” that contains the specific information relating to the general Lead Source. For example a Lead Source that = Trade Show and Sub-Lead Source = CEDIA 08 is the name of the specific trade show That way we can easily track where revenue is coming from on a global or granular basis.

In order to better target our marketing message to each lead we categorize every lead into a specific Industry and Category. Industry refers to what industry the lead is in like AV-Automation, Broadcast and so on. Category refers to what type of customer they are. For example Residential or Commercial.

It sounds kind of confusing and a lot of extra work but we do this because the messaging to a company that is involved in AV-Automation for the residential market is different than what a commercial AV integrator would expect. In some cases a company could be involved in both residential and commercial work and in those cases we use a multi-pick field for the category so the user can tag the record as both residential and commercial.

We also have a mandatory “Lead Status” field with the following choices below: All Lead Status start out as “Unqualified” and then we change the status as we move them through the process. This is extremely helpful because we can give all of the “Unqualified” leads to a sales admin and let them fill in the blanks without getting a senior salesperson involved until the lead expresses real interest.

  • Qualified A – Interested in purchasing in 3 months or less
  • Qualified B – Has gone through a needs analysis or a demo
  • Qualified C – We have had a one to one conversation or email
  • Unqualified – Have not had any personal contact
  • Inactive – Interested but “not now”
  • Dead – Not interested

A new feature I just added to the system to help us focus on the most productive leads is the Pre Qualification Score or “Pre-Qual Score” field. Since it is so hard to to actually get someone on the phone these days I came up with a simple system for the sales person or sales admin to score the lead by just subjectively looking at a few key details that are usually part of every lead in the system without actually talking to them on the phone. The three lead Pre-Qual Scores are:

  • 1-Lame – If the email domain address is a free mail service like Hotmail or a home based service like Comcast and no website or a lame website like under construction.
  • 2-OK – If the email is a corp address or there is a professional looking website and a free or home based email service
  • 3-Good – If the email address is the same as the corp email address and there is a professional looking web site

Please let me explain before someone accuses me of calling some of our potential customers “Lame”. That is not what I mean. At the recent CEDIA Expo we received “X” number of leads. Most of these came from our booth scanner and were converted to Excel (more on this process later) and some came through business cards. Most of the business cards had a website address but unfortunately the scanner information did not have the lead website information. So I hand picked through every lead that did not have a website and by using the corporate email domain I attempted to find and add a website attached to the lead.

This is what I found out. 18% of the leads used a free (yahoo, hotmail, gmail) or home based (aol, comcast, sbcglobal) email. 21% had a corporate email domain but not a website that matched that email domain. 59% had both a corporate email address and a matching website.

So close to 40% of our potential customers from this show do not have a website and/or use a free email address. That is “Lame”. There are couple of things you can do to be taken seriously in this world, especially if you are in any industry that professes to be of a technical nature. Getting a real email address and a real website would be at the top of the list. Speaking to the system integrators in the 40 percentile, would you do any business with a manufacturer who did not have a website or someone with an aol.com email address? Everyone does research on the internet now, why do you think your potential customers are any different? You could be excluded from a project just based on this criteria.

Zoho CRM makes it very easy for users to create and sort lists into custom views so our sales team can filter by Lead Status = Unqualified and sort by the Pre-Qual score. This allows the sales team to focus on the most productive leads first, while the marketing team drips on all the leads with email marketing as appropriate.

The last custom field we use to target our message to our prospective clients is the “Job Function” field. The reason for this is that our software can be used by many people in an organization. People involved in the installation side of a company would perhaps be interested in our integration with Brother wire labels while a salesperson would be more interested in making his proposals look more attractive. This is pick list field with the following standardized choices:

  • Design/Engineering
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Installation/Service/Training
  • Operations/Administration/Management
  • Owner/Partner/Executive
  • Sales/Marketing/Consulting

The picture below is what a well qualified lead would look like in our system before we have had any contact with that person. In this specific case all a sales admin would have to do is contact the lead by phone or email, find out how many employees are in the company, what the specific title of the lead is and change to the appropriate Lead Status. Once the lead gets “Qualified” it becomes much easier for a Sr. Salesperson to step in, identify the opportunity and move the Lead to a “Potential” and eventually a “Client”.

The reason we go to all this trouble in geting our leads in order is to make it as easy as possible for the sales team to focus on the customer needs and move them through the pipeline. In addition we can now easily send VERY targeted emails based on the Category, Industry, Lead Source and Job Function. With the proliferation of email messages on a daily basis it is very important to target each message to the needs of the individual.

Zoho Writer now available offline on Safari

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When we rolled out offline support for Zoho Writer, it was available on IE and Firefox. The Google Gears team have now come up with support for Safari. And Safari users can now access their Zoho Writer documents, even when offline.

For Zoho Writer to work offline, you’ll need to have Google Gears plug-in installed in Safari. In Zoho Writer, click on the ‘Go Offline’ link at the top-right to access your documents offline. By default, we download 15 documents each from ‘My Docs’ and ‘Shared Docs’ section. You can change the default setting by clicking on the down arrow beside ‘Go Offline’ link. The documents are downloaded based on the ‘Sort Order’ in your ‘My Docs’ section.

When you are not connected to the internet, you can visit http://writer.zoho.com/offline to access and edit your documents offline. When you are back online, clicking on ‘Go Online’ will let you to synchronize the modified documents with the online versions.

Mac users, do try Zoho Writer offline on Safari. And, any guesses on the Zoho Apps that will next be available offline?

Explaining the D-Tools CRM System

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One of the luxuries of being the boss is that I can choose what projects I want to get to get involved in here at D-Tools.  For the most part all of the core software development, marketing, sales and finance/operations are handled with great care and competence by the D-Tools executive and management team.  This means that the bulk of my time at work can be devoted to improving our internal business processes and looking down the road at what products and services we can add to our mix.

Just as D-Tools SI becomes an integral part of our low voltage system integrators clients’ business process our CRM system is an integral part of our business process.  Anyone who has read any of the previous posts on this topic could come to the conclusion that that I am somewhat of a CRM freak or superfreak.   I have found that a good CRM system can always be made better by constant tweaking of the business process and work flow.

In the past I would send these updates and tweaks by email to the sales team and post specific business process documentation to the D-Tools internal wiki.  That works OK but all of that information stays behind our firewall and does not help anyone else trying to implement Zoho CRM or any other CRM system for that matter.

So moving forward I am going to “open source” our internal business process on how it relates to our CRM system.  I am doing this for two reasons.  One, I tend to get kind of lazy when I am writing for a small audience compromised of company employees.  This will help me explain the processes better.  Two, at the recent CEDIA Expo a colleague mentioned that one of my memorable quotes was “high tide floats all boats” as it relates to sharing information.  I don’t remember saying that but I agree with the statement.  In any case a well functioning CRM system can help all companies of any size be more successful and chances are that some of those companies are in low voltage integration space and will eventually need more seats of our software.

OK, three reasons.  Add greed to the list.

Stay tuned for follow-up posts under this title.

Adam Stone is a Zoho CRM customer and CEO/Founder of D-Tools Software.