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Manufacturer centralizes database successfully

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Challenge: The salesforce at Atlanta Nisseki CLAF, a manufacturer of CLAF, a nonwoven, engineered fabric used in packaging and to reinforce other materials, was spending too much time compiling sales performance data for its monthly budget meetings.

“Multiple individuals used to compile data that we needed for monthly update sales meetings to report back to Japan on budget versus actual [sales],” said Sales Executive John Cheslak.

Not only that, but the information was coming from three different databases. “We had an accounting system, and a manufacturing system and our own version of Excel spreadsheets spread through the company for the sales team,” Cheslak said. “We operate as a small company, even though we are owned by a huge Japanese company.” The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Oil Corp.

He said the company also needed to prepare information for the twice-yearly global board of directors meeting. “Every spreadsheet needed to be pulled into one location and one report needed to be created; and no one used the same format.” The one person who generated the board of directors meeting report would take a good few days to get the information compiled.

Solution: Something had to give. Cheslak said he used ACT!— a contact management software marketed by Sage Software—at a previous company and had been introduced to SalesLogix, Sage’s CRM software product for small and midsize businesses.

When Atlanta Nisseki decided to actively look for a centralized database solution, SalesLogix was squarely in the mix.

“We looked at five or six different pieces of software,” he said, including salesforce.com and Microsoft Corp.’s CRM product.

“SalesLogix seemed to be the most flexible in terms of communicating with our accounting software and, secondarily, we have a custom piece of manufacturing software designed for us that nothing would ‘talk’ to, so we needed something programmable that would talk to our software,” Cheslak said.

The single most important thing for us was having visibility of information among all our people,” he said. “We’re talking about three continents of people.” The company’s salespeople service about 280 active customers.

SalesLogix was the favored choice because of its flexibility and ability to integrate with Atlanta Nisseki CLAF’s existing software as well as the transparency and visibility of information it provided.

“Everyone can see what everyone else is doing,” he said. That is paramount, because the company’s specialized salespeople—all of whom have either chemical engineering or process engineering backgrounds—custom design products to meet individual client needs.

A solution created by a salesperson in the U.S. would, for example, be visible to a European colleague, who could then also use the technical information already created to put together his or her own sales materials.

“Before, nobody really knew what anyone else was working on,” Cheslak said. “Now we do. I’d hate to spend four months trying to do something and find out somebody else had tried that and failed.”

Results: There were several benefits derived from installing SalesLogix. First, the sales cycle was shortened. “Our lead time from concept to first sale averages over two years,” Cheslak said. “If we can cut three months off that by sharing this information, that’s a significant savings.”

Response time to customer requests has also significantly improved since the company installed SalesLogix.

A precise measure of cost savings is tough to measure, Cheslak said, but its preparation for meetings has lessened a great deal.

“We’re more productive planning actual projects and other things rather than compiling data,” he said. “The preparation for the meeting if we’re on top of our projects is almost zero.”

He estimated that per quarter, using SalesLogix has eliminated 42 days of data processing legwork.

Cheslak said that the biggest advantage is the ability to share information among salespeople who market extremely complex products.

“The true savings for us is the information is there to possibly decrease development time and give our clients a faster response time, and I don’t know if you can put a number on that,” he said. “It’s a powerful tool.”

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