A Proper CRM Tool is Necessary to Create a Sales-Based Company

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To build a fast growing company like SpamExperts, CMO Nils Decker needed a CRM tool that converted his technology-only company into a sales-driven company.

Business

Back in 2005, two university friends of Nils Decker launched SpamExperts, a company that had built a new technology for filtering out spam.

While they had a great technology, they had no plans to build revenue as they didn’t know who their customers should be. That’s why the founders asked Nils Decker to join their company as CMO to determine who they should be their target market. By 2008, SpamExperts had found their niche: ISPs and webhosting providers.

Challenge

Decker’s challenge was to turn this technology into a company that was driven by sales. To do that he would need customers. To get customers he would need prospects. To convert prospects to customers would require management of that relationship. At the beginning, all Decker had to manage contacts was a spreadsheet. It didn’t take long before he realized a spreadsheet is useless when you want to follow up and keep track of people.

We need CRM…stat

Decker knew he needed a CRM solution, but didn’t know which one. He started with an open source solution, Vtiger, which “sort of” worked, said Decker. He complained it wasn’t smooth, was hard to define workflows, and most importantly there was no support. There was no one to call if he had a question.

Analysis of a new CRM application quickly turned towards more professional solutions. Decker and his team isolated the competition to just Salesforce and Zoho.

Criteria for CRM solution

The SpamExperts team took a look at the CRM applications based on Decker’s criteria:

  • Wanted a cloud-based solution
  • Great support
  • Integration with Google Apps
  • Calendar integration
  • Easy mobile access
  • Cost

While many CRM applications were cloud-based, it really came down to great support, integration with Google Apps, and easy mobile access. The final criteria, cost, is what ultimately got Decker to choose Zoho CRM for his company.

Unique Use Case of Zoho:

While they toyed with other CRM applications, they are finally rolling with Zoho CRM as of one year ago.

Decker admits he’s not yet an advanced user as he’s mostly using the application for its most basic needs: calendaring plus interactions with potential and current customers.

To evolve from just a technology provider to a commercial email security vendor, the sales staff was forced to adopt a commercial CRM solution, and Decker is very pleased with the results.

“Business results from Zoho CRM, things have become a lot faster,” said Decker. “It has made our sales cycle significantly shorter. I would estimate between 30 to 40 percent.”

Advice for others

“If you want to grow as a business you have to outsource certain services. And having an Excel spreadsheet is not a professional way of dealing with your customers,” said Decker of others trying to grow a startup like he did with SpamExperts.

As soon as you start making money with those customers a spreadsheet can’t accurately track what’s going on, like how big a certain account is for you, said Decker.

“Zoho CRM will simplify your business processes, give you much shorter lead times, and actually allow you to grow your sales team,” Decker said. “Out of my 10 hour workday, I use Zoho CRM about 8 hours nonstop. It will really make it a lot easier for you to create a proper sales organization rather than just having a technology focus, or product focus, or development focus.”

Listen to my entire interview with Decker on Soundcloud.

How it started: Nils reached us through our Facebook Page with a question. Here’s what he said:

Running Multiple Businesses on One CRM Platform

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Young Eric Hans Shaefer organizes the bits of his very busy life and businesses all together on one single instance of Zoho CRM.

The Business

At 23, Eric Hans Shaefer has already become quite an impressive Renaissance man and entrepreneur. He runs a series of successful businesses including a luxury rental service in Hawaii, an online video prayer site, and a web development company. On top of all those entrepreneurial ventures, he is a Christian artist that has worked as a standup comedian, actor, and musician that tours across the U.S. and the world. He used to manage all his life and businesses with a multitude of tools and a very scattered brain. Now he just uses Zoho CRM.

The Challenge:

Shaefer started his luxury rental business with very little organization. While he scheduled lots of online advertising, he really didn’t have a system to manage the calls, the contact information, or payment processing. Realization hit him when the calls started flooding in and the information was being left on scraps of paper and digital files everywhere.

How discovered Zoho:

A woman who ran a companion tour company in Hawaii introduced him to Zoho. It was at this point he realized that this was the tool he could use to could organize all the elements of his multiple businesses and his creative pursuits. He immediately started using it and got ramped up in just a couple of months.

“Being able to use Zoho to help me out with my business has helped me fund my passion,” said Shaefer. “What I have found is that when I have so many different things managed in one spot I get a lot more productive.”

Competitive analysis of CRM:

It really took just that introduction from a friend to be sold on Zoho. Shaefer had used other such information organization type applications, such as Evernote, but they didn’t have the organization by person that Shaefer needed. They simply didn’t have the focus Zoho had, said Shaefer.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM:

What’s so unusual about how Shaefer uses Zoho is how it manages his many different businesses and his creative pursuits. For each business and his tour schedule, he’s divided all the information into tabs.

Zoho has also become an information repository for Shaefer. He grabs screenshots and PDFs that he thinks would be valuable to his customers, tourists. He includes images so often in his use of Zoho that he would like a drag and drop feature with Zoho and see the pictures in line with the contact instead of having to download attachments.

Shaefer also wants greater management of his phone calls, especially as he’s taking many of his calls via his Android phone and he uses Zoho CRM on his Android phone. Zoho does have a Log a Call feature and there are plugins such as Ringio that offer similar services.

Advice for others: 

For someone who was in his same situation as he was, Shaefer recommends Zoho for the following reasons:

  • You can customize it to whatever you do and however many businesses you have. Even likes you can actually customize the colors and look of the application.
  • Zoho has great customer service. You can actually talk to the people if you have a question or problem.
  • The Zoho fellowship and community is growing making it valuable for everyone.

If you’re not using a CRM application such as Zoho, you’re losing money, said Shaefer.

“I was personally losing money because I was not having everything kept track of. I would call these places and not have the right dates and the right names of people,” Shaefer said. “I had credit card information strewn throughout my house.”

Now that’s no longer the case as he accesses Zoho from any device – his computer, iPad, and phone – and all the information is in one application online.

For more, listen to my full 16 minute interview with Shaefer.

Zoho Assist: Remote IT Support Made Simpler

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Steven Arant works in IT desktop support at Mecklenburg County officeNorth Carolina. His everyday job involves providing IT support to his fellow staff. Before discovering Zoho, he wasted a lot of time physically running around the office to address various support issues.

According to Steven, not using any kind of remote support application made his daily job very difficult. Not only were his time and energy wasted, but his fellow employees also had to wait for him to come and assist them. Steven was determined to change this into a more pleasant and less wasteful IT support experience.

​Well, this was history, as one day, one simple Google search for remote support services landed him on Zoho Assist. He found out that just by entering his fellow employee’s email address and inviting them for a remote support session was more than enough to get on to their computer screen. He was thrilled with the instant connect to the remote screen and this helped him to resolve the issues much more faster.

Let’s hear his success story in his own words.

Within 20 seconds I can be on their PC working on their problem. Since I have a email listing saved on my desktop all I have to do is copy and paste their email into Zoho Assist and hit invite to session. My fellow employees can get instant help. I can also help contract employees at remote areas now without them having to come into our office for help.

To cite one recent case, an outside contract attorney needed help from his office opening and viewing discovery on a case. The DVD had a video player that was VERY difficult to install and operate. He would have had to come into our office to watch his video but I was able to fix it remotely. He was so happy since his trial was going to start the next day!

My coworkers call it computer magic. That’s how I feel about it too. Its taken our old outdated office into a new era of productivity. I paid a $115 a year for Zoho and its worth every penny to me. I paid out of my own pocket because I wanted to provide better service to the people I support and Zoho allows me to do it.

If you have your own share of experience with Zoho Assist helping your business scenario, easing your job of supporting your customers remotely, do let us know. If you are one of those who haven’t tried Zoho Assist yet, well, it’s high time you try your hand! You can get an idea on why Steven is so excited about Zoho Assist.

Happy Supporting!

The Technical and Human Hurdles of a New CRM Implementation

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It took Jamie Wilson, Coordinator of Global Operations for Clinical Data Interchange Standards Consortium (CDISC) six months to evaluate all the CRM systems the nonprofit was considering. He looked at Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Siebel from Oracle, and Zoho. His top requirement was a CRM system that could offer tight integration between financials and billing.

Initially Wilson began advocating Microsoft Dynamics because it integrated with Sharepoint and Microsoft offered a decent nonprofit pricing scheme. But when Wilson made his final decision he advocated for Zoho because of its interoperability with other applications through its open API. CDISC uses so many different systems and Wilson discovered that a lot of them integrate with the Zoho API right out of the box.

Choosing a system that fit CDISC’s needs was Wilson’s first technical hurdle. Now he needed to get people to actually use the CRM system which was a major culture shift for the nonprofit. Just because you create the workflow processes it’s not easy to get people to stop inefficient behavior such as sending all communications via email and attaching documents to emails. Ultimately his job required a lot of follow up with members and leads on how to use a workflow to make their life a lot easier.

For any other nonprofit struggling with a similar situation of porting over legacy financial data, Wilson highly recommends you get your financial data in the most standard format possible and get ready for a long cutover period. You’ll have to rely on old Excel spreadsheets for a while until you can start relying on the live CRM data coming in.

For both technology and people, Wilson advised, “Don’t rush the money and be sensitive to people’s attitudes to how they do work.”

Good CRM Requires a Standard Data Input Methodology

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Before the vacation rental management company Optimal Owner Care started using Zoho, they tried to grow their database by purchasing a bulk set of leads and dialing them through a piece of rudimentary client management software that wasn’t sustainable nor expandable, said Matthew Velez and his colleague from Optimal Owner Care.

Since switching to Zoho, business has changed dramatically. The company has grown from ten employees to sixty. To get a handle on what was happening with the sales team they had to normalize the data protocols and the 70,000 leads they’ve processed, explained Velez.

If everyone is doing their own thing when entering data into the CRM, that’s a real problem. You can’t generate reports. It’s very important that everyone follows the same protocols.

Optimal Owner Care’s most valuable reports are their sales reports. They can see how efficient sales people are being and use that information to optimize the workflow. They also utilize a dashboard so that each sales person can see the exact dollar amount they’re making based on every single action they take and that motivates them to do more, Velez said.

Without Zoho there’s no way they could have pulled this off with their growing staff.

For other organizations dealing with a mountain of growing data, they highly advise to stay organized. Create data entry protocols from the start and stick to them. If you keep constantly changing procedures you’ll create gaps and lose data. It’s the only way to create a sustainable and growable sales force.

The Key to a Successful CRM Implementation is Simplicity

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Even if you have a history of running businesses and working with CRM, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an easy initial CRM implementation. After a lot of trial and error Kenneth Hart of Thirsty Swagman found a CRM implementation that worked best for his small business.

Business

Kenneth Hart is the founder of Thirsty Swagman a premier travel destination service that offers international tours of the world’s best pubs and other hot nightlife spots. No boring backpacking and sightseeing on Thirsty Swagman, said Hart. You only do the good bits, such as pubs, bars, city nightlife, and festivals.

Situation

When Hart started Thirsty Swagman back in 2008 he just had a simple website with a web form. People filled out the form, they received the information via email, and then Hart or one of his employees copied and pasted the information into an Excel spreadsheet.

That technique worked for a little while until Hart reached 1,000 contacts. After that all sorts of problems started happening.

“Contact information started to get really messed up,” admitted Hart.

Cells and rows weren’t in line and a customer who was from London all of a sudden was living in Amsterdam.

That was just the beginning of Thirsty Swagman’s problems. Hart had worked with CRM packages such as ACT! and Microsoft CRM and he was well aware that he could have a tool that could track and massage leads. That wasn’t possible with contacts in Excel. Those contacts could never be active. They didn’t live. They didn’t breathe.

Unfortunately Excel is what Hart chose when he launched his business. He had a startup and at the time he believed he couldn’t afford the huge costs of a real CRM package.

CRM experiments for a startup

After six months of collecting contacts in Excel, Hart decided to give Salesforce a try. Hart had used Salesforce at his previous company so he was very familiar with its capabilities.

Given that Hart was operating on limited funds he only chose Salesforce’s basic edition, which is called group edition. Unfortunately, for Hart’s needs, Salesforce group edition was very limited. It seemed more appropriate for B2B CRM as it required each contact to be associated with a business, Hart said. There was no way to do personal accounts. While he tried some funky workarounds such as creating a fake account just to get contacts in the database, it really didn’t work for his B2C business.

“It became very painful to manage once we had about 3,000 contacts in there,” said Hart who knew there was a B2C version of Salesforce, but complained that it was far too expensive for his small business and far too complicated to implement.

Discovering Zoho CRM

Hart needed a better B2C CRM solution that wouldn’t break his startup’s bank. He began researching others who had been in his same situation and discovered many other small businesses were using Zoho CRM. In fact, he saw stories of others who had started with Salesforce and then switched to Zoho. After reading the positive stories of Zoho and its fractional cost of Salesforce (1/4 the price according to Hart), Hart signed up for a trial and now he loves it.

Moving to Zoho was completely painless, Hart said. After paying a negligible cost for Zoho to handle the Salesforce-to-Zoho migration it only took 8 hours to be up and running. “There wasn’t anything else we needed to do,” said Hart who has been using Zoho CRM for four months.

Unique use of Zoho CRM

Since he implemented Zoho CRM, Hart says he’s cut administrative efforts by more than 50 percent. And that keeps improving as he slowly adds other services such as Zoho’s web to lead which automatically enters web form data directly into Zoho CRM. In addition, Hart started using Zoho’s B2B module which uses the same interface and integrates very nicely with Thirsty Swagman’s B2C lead management tracking.

If Thirsty Swagman starts working with a travel agent who has a series of clients, Hart can enter all those clients and associate each one appropriately with the travel agent. If the clients book a trip with Thirsty Swagman, he knows exactly where to send the commission check and for how much.

Advice for others

For other businesses that are in a similar situation as Thirsty Swagman, Hart offers the following advice:

Choose a cloud-based application with proper CRM – Don’t just use some type of spreadsheet document because it requires a ton of copy and paste which can cause errors. Plus, with a spreadsheet, you don’t have a history of what you’ve sent in the past. In addition, you want a cloud-based application so more than one person can access at a time.

Keep it simple – Any CRM package will allow you to create lots of customizations. Problem is too much becomes an overhead thing to manage. Cut out any element you don’t need, such as unused fields.

“You’ll end up investing less time and personally I think you’ll get more out of it,” Hart said.

Listen to our interview with Kenneth Hart.

Integrate CRM with Your Custom Front End Application

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Pawan_Jaiswal_small

In an effort to integrate a custom application with a database, a software developer struggles with one CRM application, but finds solace in Zoho CRM.

Business

Pawan Jaiswal is a senior software developer that contracts on many different application integration projects. A few years ago he was working on a project for Laitkor Infosolutions Pvt. Ltd., a software development consulting company that builds custom web applications, mobile applications, and Windows applications.

Situation

Jaiswal was working on a project that required him to build a CRM backend interface for a custom application that was being used by a medical practice. He and his team started using Free CRM, but it quickly turned into a horrible experience.

The front end application that was supposed to be sending data to the CRM, wasn’t properly inserting the data into the database. To make matters worse they weren’t getting any proper reports as to what was going on, therefore making it impossible to debug, explained Jaiswal.

When Jaiswal called Free CRM for technical support they weren’t helpful and they took very long time to respond.

Tried Zoho CRM to solve their application integration problems

After lots of frustration, Laitkor’s client said to try using Zoho CRM.

Everything they wanted Free CRM to do was now happening with Zoho CRM. They were able to pass the values from the custom application to Zoho CRM and back again, plus they were getting reports from Zoho as to what was happening between the application and the CRM database.

Lastly, Jaiswal was very happy with Zoho’s support. Whenever he got stuck on a problem he just wrote up a query and got a response a few minutes later.

Advice for others

Jaiswal has become a fan of Zoho, and recommends it for other developers. He said it’s quite easy to use and if you don’t know how to program, the tutorials will help you develop your application.