Adopts For Effective Lead Follow Up is putting its money where its mouth is: The six-year-old community and content site is bringing office automation to dentists in the form of an Internet service application, and now the company is using to bring the same Internet firepower to its own competitive business. "Our business is all about hustle, and is a tool that will enable us to efficiently and effectively out-hustle our competitors," says Richard Fish, chief operating officer.

Through its Web site, the company offers dental practices an inexpensive and easy way to schedule appointments, bill patients, verify insurance coverage, and order equipment and supplies. The company recently hired a 26-person team to sell its new services, purposely picking a mix of newcomers and dental-industry veterans. Given the composition of the team, Fish needed a strong tool to manage the sales process and make sure everyone finds good prospects. "Our challenges were keeping sales reps fed with high-quality leads and ensuring that they followed up," says Fish. "We compete against companies with thousands of feet on the street. We must be crisp in our actions, keep our promises, and hold ourselves accountable."

The company consulted the Gartner Group for buying advice and considered many client-server applications, including SalesLogix, Onyx, and Pivotal. But didn't feel comfortable with the amount of time, effort, and money it would take to get one of those applications up and running. (The estimate: A quarter of a million to buy the software, plus $200,000 for outside help to install it.) So the company started looking at Internet service applications, and decided fit the bill. "And because we're selling an ASP solution, I thought, how will we tell our customers to get online when we won't step up?" says Fish. liked the fact that acts as a central repository where employees can document all interactions with customers - and where anyone in the company can go to see what everyone else is doing. And because the team's biggest challenge is sorting through and following up on its backlog of 5,000 leads, also liked's leads-management feature.

Until started rolling out in October, the company was using spreadsheets to log and assign leads. "Who knows how effective that was," says Fish. Now the company automatically routes the names of potential customers who fill out a form online to the right salespeople in real time, so a salesperson can strike while the iron is hot. Later, the sales team and managers can track what is happening with the lead, make sure the leads have been followed up on, and, ultimately, will be able to analyze the conversion rate of various types of leads. "That is the kind of data feedback that companies well beyond our size and level of maturity and complexity usually get but we don't," says Fish. Curiously, that's the same promise makes to its own customers. "A Web-enabled solution allows us to provide tools and resources that these dental offices couldn't normally get on their own," explains Fish.