Making Contact

CRM is becoming a platform, not just an application.

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The keys to success for Yacov Wrocherinsky and Infinity Info Systems aren't all that unusual-understand customer needs, give them a choice, nurture employees, and reward them in many ways. But he has turned that formula into great success, measured by the fact that Infinity Info has been Sage Software's top reseller in each of the last three years, coming out ahead of all the VARs that handle accounting, human resource, and fixed asset software. And in some ways, that was before CRM got hot.

And Wrocherinsky is passionate about his chosen field, selling customer relationship management systems to businesses in range of his company's Manhattan headquarters.

"Our corporate strategy is to focus on what we are good at," he says. That strategy is built on years of experience that have helped Infinity Info develop best practices and the ability to apply CRM to client problems that can only come with experience.

Partner Insights

Besides its honors, you can measure the success by the fact that Infinity Info chalked up $12 million in revenue last year, on its way to $15 million this year. About 30 percent of that revenue comes from software licenses, the other 70 percent from services.

Wrocherinsky has not chosen sides in the software wars, carrying Sage Software's Act, SalesLogix, Sage CRM and CRM.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Gold Mine, along with CRM mobility products and extensions from a number of third parties.

It's good to have multiple publishers because you can offer more things and it keeps the publishers in line," he says.

Infinity Info also works with a number of partners that include accounting software resellers, since it doesn't handle financial packages. While integrating with accounting systems and other legacy systems is a "big chunk" of a CRM installation, Wrocherinsky feels that it's very difficult for one organization to be skilled in both CRM and ERP.

Because those skills reside in the company's staff, Infinity Info makes every effort to keep them and Wrocherinsky claims a 90 percent retention rate.

He gets that by looking for people who are passionate about the business, and tries to both attract qualified new people and retain the old ones.

"We do a lot of community-building events," he says. That includes taking employees bowling, competitions where the staff is divided into competing teams of those over 30 and under 30 years of age. He also hands out awards. One award for outstanding contributions is called the "Bruce Springsteen Award." There's a "Ryan Award" for staffers who have been with the company for more than five years, with 25 currently falling into that category. There are referral programs-50 percent of the staff members were hired after being recommended by an employee.

There is also an emphasis on skills development. Mentors are assigned to new hires for up to a year. There are company-wide meetings in which staff members get to interact with customers. Sales people receive a book with a methodology of best practices. It shouldn't be surprising that beyond its software industry awards, Infinity Info also received a New York Enterprise Report award for best practices in human resources among small companies.

"We invest in a lot of different programs so that people feel that they have an environment in which they can grow," he says. "They like coming to work and it's contagious."

Sizzling Market

The CRM market is a good place to deploy enthusiastic workers because the rewards are very great, given the demand for such applications. Wrocherinsky's company has been racking up growth of 25 percent to 30 percent annually. And while his firm performs better than many, there is lots of opportunity in this market.

CRM remains hot because most companies don't own such software, while most companies long ago said goodbye to the first accounting package they owned and have moved on to new generations.

The interest is registering with the vendors. Syspro, a manufacturing software vendor with American headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif., has seen a sharp upturn in just the last year, says CEO Brian Stein. Syspro CRM, which now represents 50 percent of the company's sales, represented about 40 percent a year ago.

 
"What we're seeing is an up-take in users," Stein says. Purchasers might start with a five-user pack, which is $7,000, but they quickly add more seats. They are also increasingly using the software in departments other than sales.

Stein adds, "There had been negativity for CRM because people were using it simply as a contact manager. Now, they are using it correctly for business processes."

There is, however, CRM and then there's CRM integrated with other applications.

"We have not found a lot of excitement in a stand-alone CRM package today," says Robert Muir, CEO of the MIS Group, which emerged this year as Sage's largest reseller, reaching about $25 million in revenue through a merger with the Enterprise Resource Group.

But increasingly CRM is on the buyers' checklist and the demand is driving firms to mergers and acquisitions to pick up CRM talent.

That was the case with Atlanta-based Software Link, owned by Stan Kania, who acquired Envision Consulting, based in Houston, enabling SoftLink to move into CRM.

"We just sold a deal that has MAS 500 and CRM-they asked for CRM. It's becoming more of a question," says Kania. "They wanted ERP and asked about CRM."

Still there have been questions about how best to reach the market in terms of enlisting resellers, whether to use specialists like Infinity Info, or have accounting software VARs add a new line.

If it's a matter of which came first, the ERP chicken or the CRM egg, NetSuite's Kristen Brown votes for the advantage of having the financial software channel move into CRM, rather than the other way around.

"It's easier for resellers with ERP backgrounds to pick up CRM," says Brown, the vice president of sales and alliances who is responsible for the channel and business development.

That's principally because those with CRM experience often lack the knowledge of such subjects as accounting or inventory, because they don't have the necessary knowledge bases. It's much easier for the financial VARs, who often have a greater degree of understanding of sales and marketing.

"With CRM, they will add to their staff someone with ERP experience," she says.

Certainly, the number of ERP dealers who handle CRM has been rising.

Among those dealers are the 1,000 selling Microsoft Dynamics CRM. That's out of a total of 2,500 Dynamics dealers worldwide, the company reports. That base may rise quickly because Microsoft appears to be making it easier, and more profitable, for dealers to handle the product. Microsoft put a big barrier in the way of its resellers who handle the accounting

CRM, CPAs, and a Yawn

Steve Templeton believes that CPAs will one day realize the benefit of customer relationship management - one day, just not today.

"The CRM business, in general, is terrific," says Templeton. "CRM for CPA firms is slow."

That fact has more impact on his firm, Templeton & Co., because it adapted Microsoft Dynamics CRM for accounting firms under the name, CRM for Professionals, while also peddling the Microsoft product to the broader business market.

There are some built-in barriers to accountants leaping on board the accelerating CRM bandwagon. Templeton believes that accounting firms are slow to adopt CRM because they are protective of clients and data, rather than being oriented toward sharing data and cross-selling.

"When you tell your firm, you can open all this information with everybody in the firm, they start trying to find out how they can keep information from this one and that one," he says. However, Templeton believes CRM will gain more importance as accounting firms begin to act more like a single unit.

Also, the preoccupation that accounting firms currently have with document management systems is taking the time that might otherwise go to looking at CRM.

However, he thinks firms will find CRM serves as a single point of entry for managing documents. They will be able to use CRM to look at client billing status and collection data, and track due dates. That should be a big improvement because many firms have as many as seven different software packages to perform key functions.

But Templeton is running his firm on CRM and believes that the example should spur interest for others. The firm uses Dynamics SL on the back-end of the integrated system and has set up the CRM so that clients are tagged with the same tags used in Solomon.

The next function that will be developed is scheduling, which he believes will be a strong addition because of the integration with Microsoft Outlook. "That is the next thing, scheduling for the full firm, and communicating those schedules," he continues.

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