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Infinite Prospects, Inc. (Adam Ross)

Infinite Prospects, Inc. (Adam Ross)

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Salesforce.com Trials and Tribulations of A Small Automotive Vendor

This post was inspired by Eric Miltsch's question about using Salesforce.com as a CRM tool in the automotive industry.  http://www.drivingsales.com/forums/anyone-using-salesforcecom-crm-solutions For dealers, there are definitely better solutions out there, but most vendors and large companies use Salesforce or something similar. This is my 2 cents about it...

As a one-man operation running Infinite Prospects, I've been using Salesforce.com's Professional version (not the grand-daddy Enterprise or Unlimited Editions) to manage my history interaction with dealership prospects and clients from the day I opened my doors. I looked at several other cloud-based CRMs (Sugar, Zoho, and others) before deciding on Salesforce - though more expensive, it looked like it could "play better with others." I use Constant Contact and there's a nice tie-in between the two products. There are a lot of positives and I'm sure I'm still not using it to it's 100% fullest potential, but here are 6 of the biggest issues I've experienced along the way with Salesforce:

  1. It's challenging to customize the system to work for your business. Unless you hire people to set up, administer and maintain the system full-time, it can be difficult for people to learn and understand how to set it up while simultaneously being responsible for a completely different full-time job. I had to customize the platform some with the help of a friend who worked as a Salesforce developer for one of their biggest customers. I know several of the larger companies in our industry that use it, but those are usually orgs with sales staffs in the 20+ range who hire a full-time staff to admin it.
  2. The idea behind a great CRM is that the tool isn't only there to keep activity history records and provide management with stats on employees' productivity. Great CRM is supposed to help you find and prospect for business, and remind you who to follow up with and when. This can't be achieved in Salesforce without significant enhancements to the basic platform they provide, at the beginning, before usage habits develop. Automated schedules, triggered by the Opportunity Stage, can be programmed but are time-consuming to do.
  3. Apps need to be installed, and sometimes purchased, from the Salesforce AppExchange to achieve your goals. This is an App Store for bolt-on products that third party companies develop code to perform enhanced duties that Salesforce does not natively provide. Having to purchase multiple apps, plus the time to install and set up other free apps, can significantly increase the cost per user. Apps exist that interface with Google Calendar, which can be integrated on desktops, browsers and mobile phones, allowing event info to partially sync with the system, but the eventss still then need to be tagged to a contact, account and/or opportunity. A different app had to be purchased to log all inbound and outbound email correspondence to lead and contact files.
  4. Lack of a quality hard-line or VOIP interface that integrates with phones to automatically log inbound and outbound calls and assign them to prospects and customers. As a business owner and salesperson on the go, I am rarely in front of a computer with a phone next to it and a headset, the optimal way to log calls and activity in Salesforce. Since the CRM is completely web-based, there's no way to plug into a Vonage or Barracuda server. There's no direct link to Google Voice or Skype's call logs. As a result, many calls go un-logged, un-tagged and un-tracked. To be fair, I haven't heard of any non-server-based CRM tool that can do this, but THAT is something that could REALLY help my business.
  5. Lack of a quality Mobile App. How is that possible in 2013, that the leader in the space doesn't have a decent one? You can make calls directly through the iPhone and Android Apps, but who wants to run their phone through Salesforce all day? One major limitation- the Salesforce app doesn't store ALL of your contacts - only a small portion of them (like 500). The Android App (iPhone won't let anyone see its call log file) has a decent look-back feature, which reads from your phone's call history log easily and enables you to Tag a call to a contact, account, and/or opportunity. However due to the contact limitation, if I get a call from someone I haven't heard from lately, to sync that call to Salesforce, I would first have to a) look them up as a contact in the app (loading from the server, which is sometimes very slow), b) let the server load their info into the cache of current contacts, then c) go BACK to the call log section of the app, find the call and tag it. And that's for ONE contact! Efficient? Hah.
  6. Only 1 email address natively per Contact/Prospect that syncs with Google contacts? Why? They have fields for Work, Home and Mobile phone numbers that all sync... How many people do you know who ONLY have one email address today? How 1996 of them! Ask support how they want you to handle that - they don't really have a good answer.

Why, you ask, am I still using it if I can show these major glaring holes? Because, sadly enough, I still haven't seen anything that better suits my needs. It's far from perfect, but I have 3 years invested, and I got through the initial hurdles. To leave now would mean that I'd have to abandon all of the contact history. Sure - I can export the names, numbers, and database info, but the record of calls, meetings and emails cannot be exported. What gets lost in a changeover is too valuable to me at this point.

Thanks again, Eric, for getting me worked up and writing about this!

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