When demand for its products and services caused Plant Health Care, Inc. (PHC) in Pittsburgh PA to outgrow its stand-alone contact management software, it needed a solution to help harness and harmonize sales efforts with the company’s SAP Business One management software. PHC executives chose to look for a way to expand the SAP Business One operating environment that supports their headquarters operations and increasing numbers of other locations with finance, purchasing, inventory management, and manufacturing capabilities. The clear choice for PHC was the NetPoint Focus solution from Praxis Software Solutions, a certified SAP ISV partner, which developed the product exclusively for SAP Business One. The intrinsic nature of the solution suits the company perfectly. And because sales and services teams are all communicating together, working with integrated information rather than with data isolated on standalone laptops, the solution helps to professionalize the sales management process and streamline the customer experience.
The natural approach
PHC is a microbial biotechnology company that specializes in the development of plant health care products and natural systems solutions for the commercial tree care, horticulture, turf grass, forestry, and land reclamation industries. It is recognized worldwide as the technology leader in the commercial development of endo- and ectomycorrhizal fungal inoculant products, and is fast becoming a leader in beneficial bacterial technology.
The company is responding to worldwide interest in more natural approaches to plant care and soil and water management. Increasing numbers of professionals are converting their plant practices from conventional methods that use synthetic chemical products to more biological products and approaches. The major factors that are creating this shift include increased public awareness of environmental issues, depletion of vital natural resources, prohibitive development and regulatory compliance costs, and strict enforcement of environmental protection and health regulations.
PHC also provides professional engineering and design services for major projects such as the restoration of abandoned coal mine sites in Wyoming, reclaiming them to create farm land, parks, and other green spaces.
With year-over-year growth rates in excess of 40 per cent, and with offices and subsidiaries in the UK, Spain, Netherlands, and Mexico, and distributors in many localities, PHC felt significant internal pressure to rationalize its operating solutions across the whole company, and to tailor them for specific local product preferences, currency, and customs requirements. SAP Business One met this fundamental need. It provides a single view of integrated company information to enable decision makers to take advantage of the demand for PHC products and services in all its markets.
In addition, PHC executives wanted a way to streamline the customer experience from sales rep to customer service rep. Susan Van Alstine, Assistant Manager of Project Resource Group and IT Manager at PHC, says, “As the company grows and we implement better processes, we want to make it easier for sales and services representatives to meet the needs of our customers. That’s why we looked for an easy to use Web-based CRM solution to augment our SAP Business One management system.”
As with many SMEs, PHC was using a standalone contact management software product that they had outgrown. Sales reps kept data on their individual laptops, so there was no central knowledge base of prospects, appointments, or the sales funnel. Van Alstine observes, “In many ways, this approach isn’t just inefficient, it’s dangerous. We were hanging out there with a wing and a prayer.”
A consultant suggested looking at the NetPoint Focus product from Praxis Software Solutions. NetPoint Focus is the SAP-endorsed Web module of SAP Business One. It provides a CRM tool that actually mimics SAP Business One, but is Web-based for portability, allowing easy, remote access to the solution anywhere, any time. Alstine notes, “Sales people are sales people. They’re not computer people. We want them to focus on what they do best and make it easy for them to interact with the system. That’s why this solution appealed to us.”
With web-based CRM that improves remote access for PHC’s sales road warriors, NetPoint Focus enables sales people to view and enter orders, quotes, and opportunities from their browsers. It brings “My Activities” to the Web, and it allows entering and viewing service calls from a browser.
PHC bought the licenses in October 2005 without implementation services, knowing that they could manage deployment on their own. But, as the company’s big November sales meeting approached, Van Alstine saw an opportunity for training the field, and shifted the IT team into hurry-up mode. They turned to Praxis Software Solutions for help, and in a matter of days the solution went live in time for the sales meeting.
Today PHC sales and services teams can work together more effectively, with teams better able to collaborate and contribute to meet their goals. And management has a comprehensive single view of all activities. As a practical matter, the company’s practice is to isolate and manage prospects within NetPoint Focus until they become customers. As soon as prospects convert to customers their data is moved to the SAP Business One database where all customer transactions take place.
Now management can see what’s going on across the company’s entire sales organization. They can track quotes/sales/orders, manage opportunities and identify where opportunities are stalled, evaluate the pipeline and do intelligent forecasting, and they can streamline planning for services personnel. With the ability to perform analytics, management can leverage best practices, and optimize reps’ training if they need it.
Van Alstine says, “It’s a much cleaner experience now. Reps can put notes right into the system for others to read and act on accordingly. We are also managing leads better. Our inside sales support reps are on board to help through the initial sales phases and it’s easier for them to get leads to the right distributor. It gives us a much more professional face to the world.”
Additionally, this more professional way of operating pays off handsomely in the ability to manage large customers, such as John Deere Landscaping. For instance, in 2005 PHC entered into a partnership agreement with John Deere Landscapes to offer professional landscapers a three-year guarantee on select nursery stock purchased from John Deere Landscapes only when Plant Health Care’s Tree Saver Transplant product is incorporated at planting time. John Deere Landscapes will offer this program through all of its 50+ “green” outlets in the United States. Several reps in multiple locations service the John Deere account, and today everyone involved can stay linked with up-to-the-minute intelligence to serve the account and avoid embarrassing duplication of efforts.
PHC went live in November 2005 with their main company, the manufacturing company, and are now implementing broadly and consolidating company activity. “Spring and fall are the busiest times for us, so now it’s going to be rough,” Van Alstine acknowledges. Nevertheless, in June of this year all locations will be fully integrated. PHC’s distributed sales and services teams will be fully connected and focused, better able to support the world’s long-term trends toward using natural systems and biological products for plant care and soil and water management.