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What about Salesforce.com?

Salesforce.com is an example of an ASP that has been able to take the lessons learned from all the troubled companies around itself to make a strong, sustained business. Today, it has more than 25,000 customers, and has successfully created a pay-as-you-go model entirely over the Internet (primarily for sales-centric activities including customer relationship management and sales force automation). It's common to hear sales executives remark that their sales force picks this application very often over mainstream CRM applications, including Siebel's and others, due to the fact the sales force understands Salesforce.com's approach to navigation, and finds the application easily used and understood. Siebel Systems recently quit taking new customers on its Sales.com site. This is a significant accomplishment for Salesforce.com as an ASP because Siebel Systems is known for excellence in execution and strength of competitiveness. What went right for Salesforce.com? In their successes, there are lessons for selecting an ASP:

  • Domain expertise and great buzz in the sales community. At one company, sales executives heartily told their CEO that Salesforce.com is a better CRM system than any on the market, and that divisions had already begun using it to share customer data. The CEO spent millions for a CRM system and went ahead with the CRM introduction anyway. Although the million-dollar system performed as expected, the sales force continued using Salesforce.com for ancillary functions not included in the larger, more expensive CRM application.

  • Speaks in the terms of its customers. Salesforce.com has made the process of tracking leads and business opportunities easily accomplished by all—from the most experienced sales executive down to the newest hire.

  • Thin client that works over a dial-up line. One of the challenges that many companies face with their CRM applications is the fact that their sales forces are predominantly using dial-up lines, whereas the applications were developed assuming that a T1 or greater line would be available for logging on. Salesforce.com can be accessed and navigated at speeds of 56K or less, making the interface ideal for the travelling salesperson.

  • Always on. Again, many of the other CRM applications (many of them also hosted by ASPs for internal use) are not necessarily up all the time. That's been another differentiator for Salesforce.com as well.

  • Always growing credibility. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, and Ted Waitt, founder and CEO of Gateway, are both investors in SalesForce.com, which gives the company credibility with other investors and heightens potential partnership opportunities.

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