Automotive supplier tunes up CRM with Siebel

A Canadian sales and marketing agency for the heavy-duty, industrial and automotive aftermarket is turning to a Web-based hosted CRM solution from Siebel to manage its supplier-distributor relationships.

Specialty Sales & Marketing (SS&M) provides contract sales and marketing services to aftermarket parts suppliers, linking them with warehouse distributors, jobbers and end-user service providers such as automotive repair facilities. But its previous customer relationship management solution wasn’t working.

“We landed on a basement product from a fellow in Canada who had a non-Windows-based CRM solution that he dusted off and switched around and made it do our thing,” said Bruce Hipkiss, vice-president of sales with SS&M in Mississauga, Ont. But it was cumbersome to work with, especially because the company’s sales force ranged in age from 30 to 65.

“The 65-year-olds are having a tough enough time with a simple-to-use Windows solution,” he said.

An outside consultant had to manually compile sales data from Excel spreadsheets into a home-grown database, which took days and resulted in inconsistent sales data. “So we struggled along with that,” he said, “but we did find benefit, without question, of having this central CRM system.”

About a year and a half ago, Hipkiss got mad – so he went on the Web and found a number of Web-based hosted CRM solutions. But SS&M was looking for a product that would allow them to embed customer sales records within the system – and most CRM solutions on the market required a third-party accounting package to produce the reports they needed.

“In most cases we would have to send our numbers out of house in order to have them implanted and that’s exactly what we were trying to get away from on the old system,” said Hipkiss. “Our mandate was to find a system that we managed ourselves.”

SS&M went live with Siebel’s OnDemand CRM solution 60 days ago, and its financial information will be moved into the system on Feb. 1. This automatically imports supplier sales data to provide a single view of distributor-supplier sales data.

“We’re receiving that information from the 30 manufacturers we represent and then we’re breaking it into our system,” he said. “In this environment, we really don’t get the numbers until the end of the month, so we don’t know what we sold until that time.”

Previously it could take as long as 40 days before the numbers were in the system. “You could lose a customer in 40 days and not even know it,” he said. With OnDemand, his goal is to trim that down to 15 days. “It’s absolutely going to be done because we have control of it now,” he said.

While the company will likely see a financial gain in a short period of time, the main driver behind CRM was improving supplier relationships.

Siebel has embedded analytics capabilities into OnDemand, so it provides out-of-the-box or customizable reports. “You can slice and dice data, you can look at it over time, you can look at it by different measurements as opposed to pure reporting,” said Edsel Shreve, regional manager of Siebel Systems Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

For SS&M, it helps the company provide suppliers with relevant reports. “In the old days you’d have to get in touch with all the sales reps and have them do a report,” said Hipkiss. “Now all of that information is live in our system.” This allows them to build custom reports at the drop of a hat, he said. If a supplier asks them for something at 9am, they can send out a detailed report by 9:15am.

CRM is still evolving in the SMB market, said Shreve, but its momentum is growing. “I still think that they’re just starting to realize this type of technology is available to them and that it has some pretty nice capabilities to help them manage their business,” he said.

As for the impending Oracle takeover of Siebel, Hipkiss says he isn’t worried. “In the industry we’re in, 100 companies are now 50 and will be 25,” he said. “We’re very accustomed to that, so the fact they’re being absorbed doesn’t worry us whatsoever.”

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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