REDMOND, Wash., March 2, 2004 — Patrick Frei, sales manager with GTI Technologies, wanted a reliable customer relationship management solution that would liberate his manufacturing company from paper records by providing easy access to information critical to GTI’s future growth. Eli Jones, executive director of the Program for Excellence in Selling at the University of Houston, went in search of technology that would help him fulfill his program’s mission of training the sales force of the future.
While the two organizations are radically different in terms of scope and mission, both found what they sought in Microsoft Business Solutions CRM and Microsoft Windows Small Business Server. To help more businesses realize the benefits of this technology duo, Microsoft is making the two available under a promotional offering at a price the company says is attractive to small-business segment customers
The two products, Microsoft says, work together to help businesses develop more profitable customer relationships while also providing a robust technology infrastructure that will enable them to grow according to their plans.
Microsoft CRM 1.2 is a business application that facilitates the sharing of comprehensive customer information across teams and departments, automates sales and customer service processes, and equips organizations to make informed, agile decisions. The standard edition of Microsoft CRM 1.2 is designed to help businesses better manage accounts and contacts, calendars, notes and attachments, direct e-mail, activities and tasks, searches, reports, opportunities, leads, correspondence and mail merges, territories, and the Outlook client.
Windows Small Business Server 2003 includes the Windows Server 2003 operating system along with Microsoft server-based solutions for e-mail, fax, database, and secured, shared Internet access — all of which is centrally managed.
The promotional offering, launched in North America in December 2003, is now available in the 47 geographies where Microsoft CRM 1.2 is sold.
“Microsoft Business Solutions built Microsoft CRM 1.2 to help businesses automate and integrate their customer-based strategies and processes in order to increase revenues and customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and ensure long-term customer profitability,” says Jeff Young, general manager, Emerging Solutions, CRM and Retail with Microsoft Business Solutions. “We believe this promotional offering gives our customers a tremendous opportunity to realize the benefits of an integrated technology infrastructure and a CRM solution that’s considerably more valuable than a stand-alone CRM offering.”
Derek Brown, director of Windows Server Depth Marketing with Microsoft, says that Windows Small Business Server 2003 adds value to Microsoft CRM by providing an infrastructure essential to enabling small businesses to deliver consistently superior customer service. “We’ve developed the Windows Small Business Server 2003 to be the most valuable network solution for small organizations, one that will let them quickly realize a return on their investment,” he says. “The innovative integration and simplicity of Windows Small Business Server 2003 empower organizations to automatically protect their business information, improve employee productivity, and reach more customers and serve them better — 24 hours a day.”
Another key benefit of Windows Small Business Server 2003, Brown says, is that it can be quickly set up and easily operated. “With Windows Small Business Server 2003, tasks like setting up an e-mail system, configuring remote access, or managing a network have been simplified to allow businesses to get up to speed efficiently and quickly start realizing the benefits of technology such as Microsoft CRM.”
Microsoft CRM: Positioning Business for the Future
“Microsoft CRM is helping us position ourselves so that when customers are ready to buy, we know who they are, we know what we’ve talked to them about, and we can move in quickly to close the orders,” says Frei of GTI Technologies, a leading provider of manufacturing equipment for the semiconductor, materials, and metalworking industries, based in Shelton, Conn.
To provide easy access to information, streamlined communications, and consistently updated information for rapid decision making, Frei considered CRM technology from numerous vendors. The winner: Microsoft CRM, which GTI runs on Windows Small Business Server.
“I’m no longer bound by paper files and constantly updating prospects,” Frei says. “The technology allows us to get away from paperwork and lets us focus on doing our jobs.”
At GTI, the business critical information — e-mail, electronic calendars, and contacts — runs through Windows Small Business Server. The tool GTI uses to see and manipulate that information is Microsoft CRM.
Microsoft CRM’s integration with Microsoft Outlook, Frei says, has enabled GTI to improve efficiencies. “Previously, we printed out every e-mail and put it in a customer file,” he says. “Now, we can attach e-mails to lead records, opportunities, contacts, or accounts. And sending mass e-mail is easy.”
Another area where Microsoft CRM does the heavy lifting is by enabling attachments. Microsoft Word documents or Adobe PDFs can be entered into the CRM database, attached to e-mails as notes, and made available to all. “When we’re working on a million-dollar sale, we sometimes get 200 pages worth of specifications,” says Frei. “Instead of the engineer having to go to the sales person to obtain and discuss those specifications, they can access the information through Microsoft CRM and make sure GTI can meet the requirements.”
Visibility across the company, Frei says, is one of the key benefits of using Microsoft CRM and Windows Small Business Server. “Management is now better able to see what’s going on,” Frei says. “We can see leads coming in and watch them move through the pipeline. It’s a benefit to give everyone access to the same information, which is fresh and up to date. The technology makes it easy for the president to see what’s going on, which makes management more comfortable about the long term.”
For GTI, which has a relatively long sales cycle, the long term is critical. Frei recalls a few years ago when business was sluggish. “We focused on closing sales but weren’t really trying to bring in new leads,” he says. “About a year after that we closed several sales, and things were great, but there was an empty spot in our pipeline.”
Frei says that an inconsistent pipeline is no longer a problem for GTI. “Microsoft CRM gives us the ability to see future problems before things go too far,” he says.
Harnessing the Power of Technology to Train the Sales Force of the Future
Eli Jones is associate professor and executive director of the Program for Excellence in Selling, housed within the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston in Texas. The program, which certifies approximately 100 students per year, consists of five sequential, hands-on courses in sales and sales management. One of the ways students in the program hone their sales skills is by selling tickets to the program’s annual golf tournament, one of three networking events held each semester.
The program focuses on three areas Jones says are critical to sales success: understanding buyers, implementing the sales process, and utilizing technology.
To help students fully utilize technology, the Program for Excellence in Selling relies on Windows Small Business Server 2003 and Microsoft CRM. “The two work together and allow us to focus on teaching sales, not on technical issues,” Jones says. “In the past, we’ve used platforms that took so much time to learn that they interfered with teaching the sales process.”
With Microsoft CRM and Windows Small Business Server 2003 on the job, Jones says, that interference has been eliminated.
“Microsoft CRM has allowed us to teach students how to forecast, how to benchmark, how to determine what kinds of activities they should engage in to close the sale, and how to use data to determine the best way to approach a particular client,” he says. “We use Microsoft CRM to look into relationships, which helps with both teaching sales and business development.”
A practical benefit of the Microsoft CRM and Windows Small Business Server 2003 duo, Jones says, is the technology’s powerful database component. “We have 100-percent turnover,” Jones says. “One group graduates from the program and a new group enters, so it’s critical for us to have the data we need to continue relationships that previous students have built over the years. We use Microsoft CRM to mine data. Rather than starting over every year, students can use historical data to invite our business partners to events such as the annual golf tournament.”
Where the Microsoft technology really gets an A+, Jones says, is in the businesses where the program’s graduates are employed. “Some of our business partners have called us to say that students they’ve hired are so up to speed on technology that their training the sales teams,” he says. “We’re developing leaders, and that feels good.”
Microsoft Business Solutions CRM is available through a global network of local reselling partners. To connect with a partner, or for more information visit the Microsoft Business Solutions CRM website, Microsoft.com/CRM. The small-business promotional offering is available through September 2004.