Helping Businesses Get with the Program
Squad 16 Consulting Provides Sales Staffs with the Ability to ACT!Tom Najemy has a goal. It’s to help businesses and their salespeople get organized and become more productive.
Najemy owns Squad 16 Consulting with his wife Sarah, and he accomplishes this by customizing a contact-management software program called ACT! for his clients. He is one of 400 certified ACT! consultants in the U.S. and a premier trainer who conducts both public and private corporate training classes.
Najamy says many businesses don’t have a centralized database of information, a situation that can inhibit growth and productivity and result in duplication of efforts or missed opportunities. Without a central database, it can also be difficult to effectively deal with customers when someone is on vacation or leaves the company, as they often take their records with them.
“A customized ACT! program allows a business to have a centralized database which contains information about customers and prospects. It will track all of their interactions with clients, including phone calls, meetings, e-mails, quotes, and sales opportunities,” Najemy said, adding that the system can be set up with Web information tabs to provide users with direct links to social-networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
The end result is that, when a customer calls, everything the salesperson needs to know, including their contact information and all of the caller’s history with the company, can be accessed with a few clicks of a computer mouse.
Najemy says ACT! can be used by any industry and adapted for single users as well as by large workgroups, which include salespeople who need the ability to connect to their company’s database from a remote location. His clients range from manufacturers to security companies, moving firms, insurance agencies, construction businesses, entertainment agencies, publishers, and schools.
“The program is very diverse. What it does is put everyone in an organization on the same page. It puts everything at their fingertips, including social media, which helps salespeople make better connections with their prospects or clients,” Najemy said.
“The product can help a business and its employees become more productive and organized. If data is entered on a daily basis, everything a person has ever done is there for him or her to analyze,” he explained. This can prove invaluable, as the software preserves details in the client’s records, which include every e-mail, phone call, and sale made, as well as information about key contact people within organizations and the best time to set up a meeting with them.
Although company executives can choose to have access to all of their employees’ files with ACT!, the purpose of the program is not to monitor people’s actions, but promote growth through shared resources and information.
“This is not about micromanagement. It’s about being proactive and helping individual salespeople help themselves,” Najemy said. “This system can allow people to analyze their market. It allows users to document what occurs when they make a call or have a meeting, as well as schedule their next activity, whether it is a phone call, e-mail, or visit.”
Najemy has found that individuals within companies that don’t have a centralized database typically employ different methods of documenting their work. One may use Outlook, while another may use salesforce.com or Excel to track their interactions with customers and prospects. Still others have a list on their computer, information stored in a BlackBerry, or their own method of tracking appointments. This can lead to problems, including losing valuable information.
“Customer-relationship management is a growing field for both large and small companies, yet many offices don’t have a solution in place to increase their customer base and retention,” Najemy said.
He knows firsthand what a difference ACT! can make. He began using it 20 years ago when he owned an entertainment-booking firm. “My problem was how to book 30 bands at 3,000 potential locations. I needed to know who I had called, what I had said to them, and what the conversations were about,” he said. “The program allows you to see the last time you spoke with a customer, what you talked about, how many messages you have left, and more. It also allows all users in a company to know the history of the company’s interactions, from e-mails that go out and come in to proposals and quotes that have been given.”
He told BusinessWest that ACT! can also be used to conduct e-mail marketing, and can be integrated with Microsoft Office, which includes Outlook, Word, and Excel. “You can generate a letter and merge relevant information from ACT!”
Today, the program has undergone many changes and is in its 12th release.
Najemy not only kept up with the technology, he became so proficient in it that he decided to become an ACT! consultant and share his knowledge with others. The timing was serendipitous, as he also wanted to get out of the entertainment-booking business. Although he had done well booking up-and-coming bands, “the music business is a real tough nut to crack,” he said.
Najemy maintained his music-booking agency for about a year as he grew a base of ACT! customers. In 2000, he changed the name of his business from Squad 16 Entertainment and incorporated as Squad 16 Consulting.
Today, he says people call on him for two reasons. The first is that they have adopted ACT! but don’t know how to make the best use of it. The second is that they want to implement a program to track customer interactions.
The first step he takes after he is hired is to conduct a brainstorming session with company officials using a software program called Mind Manager. “We discuss what they want to track as well as the best way to do that using the ACT! program,” he said, explaining that the conceptual design includes many details, including the configuration of drop-down menus and their placement on the ACT! layout.
“When that is done, I build a prototype,” he said.
ACT! provides filters for viewing users’ activities, and since the program contains five levels of user security, company executives can decide how much or how little employees will be able to access. “There are plenty of security features, and records can be open to everyone or limited to certain users. People can also have private records,” Najemy said.
After the program is customized to a company’s specifications, Najemy imports data into it from a wide variety of sources. “It can come from employees’ records or include things such as an industry or conference list,” he said.
The next step is to conduct a full day of training so employees understand all of the nuances of the program. This can be done on or off site, remotely or in his office, which includes a room with computer banks dedicated to training. Najemy also provides technical support once the project is complete.
He has the ability to take a comprehensive view of things, as he lived in Beirut for 14 years, Greece for three years, Iran for a year, and has worked in international sales, as well as owning his own companies. Several months ago, Squad 16 moved from East Longmeadow to a larger office space in East Windsor, Conn.
Najemy’s experience has made him aware that business success comes from giving employees the ability to record and share information via a centralized system. “If becoming organized and developing long-lasting, profitable business relationships is essential to your success,” he said, “then ACT! is right for you.”