Close Control of Opportunities

Feature Article | May 2, 2007 by admin

“Of course all our customers are important for us, that´s why each requires different strategies for attracting sales”, says Chris S. Meiser, executive vice president of operations at Tallard Technologies Inc. “All of the people who make up our multi-tiered business model – we sell to large enterprise IT buyers, systems integrators, large retail electronics chains, and small storefront shops throughout the Caribbean and Latin America – need to communicate about each opportunity, and we needed a vehicle for making that happen efficiently.”
When it came to improve its ability to turn prospects into profitable customers, the $125 million company, based in Miami, Fla., decided to launch a CRM solution with a global reach. Tallard rolled out SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), which not only provides a formal structure for managing leads, it gives the company a central database of customer information that assures each sales manager and rep makes decisions using the latest data. Eventually, the new CRM solution will also act as an electronic meeting place so authorized vendors and systems integrators can gather with Tallard staff members to coordinate customer efforts.

The proper solution for each opportunity

SAP CRM currently runs at Tallard’s Miami headquarters, and is being rolled out at the company’s Mexico, Venezuela and Chile, offices. It’s proving to be especially critical for intricate enterprise sales. “The key to our enterprise sales is the design and configuration work required for each hardware and software solution we tailor for a customer. The sales cycles for those types of opportunities can be three months to six months,” Meiser says.
The lack of a formal tracking mechanism for managing these long-cycle opportunities hurt Tallard in the past. The company couldn’t easily ensure that sales reps were maximizing close rates on big-ticket sales by following all the proper steps from logging the new opportunity to qualifying the lead, providing sales and technical information, and regularly following up on the status of the proposal. “Our management also didn’t have good visibility of the opportunities in the pipeline. Therefore we weren’t really able to manage them accordingly,” he adds.

SAP was the better fit

Redundancy was another problem. Because managers of the reseller channel didn’t share a central view of data, channel partners sometimes received calls from two different managers following up on the same lead. Now, the single data repository created by SAP CRM shows each Tallard manager the status of all leads and follow-up communications. The end of duplication means sales efforts can be concentrated where they’re needed most.
The latest implementation isn’t Tallard’s first foray into CRM. Earlier this decade it had launched a competing program, but the company soon realized that application fell short of its needs. The program didn’t integrate effectively with the core SAP R/3 ERP solution Tallard has been running since 2001. It also didn’t offer the multilingual capabilities required for Tallard’s international customers, who, depending on the region, may do business in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.
“We ultimately made the decision to implement SAP CRM for its lead and opportunity management capabilities,” Meiser says. “At the end of the day, we determined that SAP was going to be a better fit in this area.”

Accurate information

Hosted at the Miami headquarters, SAP CRM provides a central view of customers to staff members. Now, when a sales lead arrives, a staff member enters the customer information and qualifies the opportunity according pre-configured categories that describe factors such as where the lead was originated, its monetary value, and the estimated length of the sales cycle. This categorization determines which staff members are assigned to the account and what follow-up steps should be taken.
Depending on the results of these sales efforts, Tallard reclassifies the lead as either an inactive or active opportunity. The latter sets off a new series of responses, including the assembly of a team that’s often composed of sales people, technology experts, and administrative staff to address the various needs that arise during the sales cycle, such as inquiries about pricing, questions about installing new technology, and drawing up contracts.

Collaboration with partners

In the future, team members also may be from beyond Tallard’s workforce. “We designed the whole opportunity structure so that we ask our vendor and our reseller partners to participate in sales opportunities with customers as well in the follow-up communications,” Meiser explains. “That was another reason why we moved to SAP CRM. There really wasn’t a framework in the old CRM program for partners to see the latest status information for a project unless we did a lot of custom programming in the application.”
“We are 100-percent confident that we have chosen the right tool to manage the entire sales process within our business partner community,” adds Edgar Reyeszumeta, vice president of sales. “One of the major reasons why we chose SAP was the fact that we are already SAP R/3 users, so SAP CRM perfectly fits our business model.”Now Tallard’s managers benefit from sales opportunity reports that they can examine to understand the latest business forecasts, pipeline activity, and close rates for each sales rep.
One ROI study done prior to Tallard’s implementation calculated an ROI of 144 percent, or almost $100,000 in early returns. The revenue gains are projected to come from better management of sales opportunities and more effective coordination between sales activities and inventory management.

Portal solution next on the list

Once Tallard completes the SAP CRM rollout to all of its subsidiaries, it will develop the application’s portal capabilities to create a central gathering point for its staff, vendors, and resellers.
“The portal will act as the central clearinghouse and the coordinator of projects,” Meiser says. “We realized early on that we could make that process a lot more efficient if people had self-service capabilities to view the status of opportunities. We’ll be able to assign certain follow-up steps to individuals outside of our direct organization. When those follow-ups are completed, the system will automatically be updated, and we will be able to move forward with the opportunity. Everybody will have visibility about the opportunity from start to finish.”

Alan Joch

Alan Joch

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