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Smart systems follow leads

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B-to-b publishers are finding innovative ways to use technology for sales force and marketing automation to generate leads and boost sales.

McGraw-Hill Construction, which is part of the McGraw-Hill Cos., last year launched a proprietary Web-based system called McGraw-Hill Construction Network, which helps building product manufacturers find sales leads through an extensive database of projects, builders and contractors.

The network contains information on more than 600,000 building projects, including project plans, specifications, builders and specifiers. For an annual fee of between $20,000 and $240,000, depending on the services purchased, advertisers can join the network and use the data to generate their own sales leads. The system also results in additional sales revenue for McGraw-Hill.

"It is the most successful product we have ever launched," said Howard Mager, senior VP of McGraw-Hill Construction, who declined to reveal sales figures. "The system is critical to both sides-to our own salespeople and to our customers and prospects."

"Advertisers can download the information into their own CRM system, whether it's Siebel or ACT, and get all the contact information as well as information on all the projects people are working on," Mager said.

The network uses data from McGraw-Hill's Dodge reports on building projects, Sweet's product catalog and publications including Architectural Record, Engineering News-Record and 10 regional publications.

So far, the network has signed up 5,300 customers, about 100 of which are advertisers in McGraw-Hill Construction publications. Advertisers are able to receive advertising leads via the network, providing a centralized lead management process.

The network also has sales force automation capabilities, giving advertisers a way to track and manage leads.

Another network capability is the matching of leads to projects in the MHC Dodge database, providing additional business intelligence. For example, customers can find out the value of all the projects that a prospect is currently working on, as well as the people working on the projects and contact information.

Another publisher, Reed Business Information, recently installed an Onyx Software CRM system to automate sales force and marketing effectiveness.

"It is really improving our sales effectiveness and professionalism in front of the customer," said Michael Catalonello, senior VP-chief sales executive at Reed Business Information. "Before [the system was installed], we were missing opportunities. There were cross-selling opportunities that may have existed that we hadn't uncovered."

The system provides customer profiling, customer segmentation, sales force diagnostics such as average sales cycle time and closing ratios, and the ability to look at cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.

However, Catalonello said, the system itself doesn't solve all the problems. "People have a mistaken idea that a CRM system is a panacea," he said. "The reality is, it is a business initiative."

He said at Reed, in order to make the CRM system successful, his group spent hours interviewing sales and marketing executives to find out how they would use the information and how the system could make their jobs easier.

"What is important, from a sales perspective, has to come down to WIIFM [what's in it for me]," Catalonella said. "Sales reps want to know if it will help them sell more and be more productive. It's important to sit down and relate to what their needs and concerns are."

Since implementing the system in June, Reed has had positive results, including several large account wins, Catalonella said.

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