Four-way CRM shootout
We fire up the top hosted CRM solutions from RightNow, NetSuite, Salesnet, and Salesforce.com and put them through their paces
Although Salesnet Extended Edition navigates a narrow channel of expertise (effectively SFA only), it does a respectable job. The strength of Salesnet is in its capability of setting up and directing the workflow of sales agents. Its Process Builder offers a very usable, Web-based interface for constructing flow control to drive sales efforts through the pipeline.
Actions are defined with next steps, due dates, prioritization, and agent responsibilities and are fully customizable. I was disappointed when I could not trigger multiple actions from a single control event, however. And a graphical interface would help users visualize process interactions.
On the other hand, features such as a navigation checker allowed me to detect errors by stepping through conditions and viewing outcomes. I easily bound processes to my sales methodologies as well as specific agents and groups.
The customizable interface made for a concise, descriptive layout that will benefit novice users, making this a great tool for smaller, less tech-savvy shops. I even tested layouts prior to deployment to see how specific users would be affected by a change.
Team-based selling is attainable using definable hierarchies and interteam disciplines that govern communication, access, and information sharing. Administration for group management was a bit light for effecting changes en masse, however.
The visibility and insight provided by Salesnet’s executive dashboards are excellent, although I would have preferred the ability to consolidate a mix of dashboards into a single view. The use of Adobe’s SVG Viewer run time supports mouse-over details on charts and easy drill-through to underlying stats.
External customer data can be captured from your Web site and fed into the system, allowing for proactive routing and follow-up. Although Salesnet is essentially SFA-only, you can launch outbound communications using mail merge tools and basic contact list parsing. There is no real campaign tracking, however.
I worked on my accounts, contacts, and deal information away from an Internet connection thanks to Salesnet’s offline client, a Microsoft .Net application that includes the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine. The calendar can come along, too, although certain features, such as adding a document attachment to an appointment, were not available as in the connected version. The platform also syncs with the likes of Outlook, Notes, and GroupWise, a necessity in the absence of real-time alerting through the hosted application calendar.
I was disappointed to find limited conflict resolution between the offline and online applications during resync. I was able to schedule two overlapping meetings without a warning. I also did not appreciate needing to re-enter my log-in credentials with every update during the same session.
Vertical industries will benefit from the availability of a number of extra-cost, preconfigured sales methodologies. The Salesnet price includes unlimited storage for building a document repository to support your sales reps with marketing materials, data sheets, and communication templates, for example.
Salesnet offers a fleet of prebuilt connectors to back-end systems such as PeopleSoft and Tibco at additional cost, and it exposes a decent Web services API that should satisfy most custom integration needs.