USCO Logistics and SalesLogix: Distributing Success

Growing at a phenomenal pace, USCO Logistics needed complete views of its customers and prospects for more efficient management and planning. SalesLogix delivered the results.

Sometimes it seems all the credit for a successful business goes to the people who invent the product, build the product, or market the product. But what about those who distribute the product? The people who make sure it gets from the factory to the retailer or customer?

Helping businesses manage that critical "last mile" is what USCO Logistics does. Working primarily with customers in the high-tech, retail, and pharmaceutical industries, the company offers customized integrated suites of services, including warehousing, transportation, and information management solutions. For example, USCO worked with Sun Microsystems to build a logistics virtual network that increased the efficiency of its critical spare-parts service while reducing inventory, even as Sun's business was growing threefold. Such solutions have led to USCO's revenue growing at a compounded annual rate of more than 30 percent during the past three years.

When a company outsources some or all of its logistics operations to USCO, it's entrusting a large portion of its success, too. USCO's ability to develop and manage business partner relationships with its customers, therefore, is essential for customers to feel comfortable with their outsourcing decision.

USCO had been using ACT!, the best-selling contact manager from Interact Commerce Corporation, for some time to help manage its outbound direct mail databases. By 1997, when Mary Ann Jacob joined the company, USCO was accessing seven different ACT! databases, containing tens of thousands of records. One of Jacob's first tasks was to consolidate those databases into one.

Currently the company's director of new business development, Jacob recalled that one database had about 26,000 contact records in it. "We knew we were stretching the system's capabilities and that we really needed to find another way to track our relationships."

In the course of her search for the right customer relationship management (CRM) solution, Jacob investigated GoldMine, Onyx, and Siebel. Along the way, she also learned about SalesLogix, the affordable, easy-to-use CRM solution. Like ACT!, SalesLogix is a product of Interact Commerce. Interact put her in touch with Bob Whyte, managing partner of BrainSell, a nearby certified SalesLogix Business Partner.

Just as USCO understands the importance of true partnership between itself and its customers, so, too, it places a high value on partnership with its vendors. "We liked the fact we would have a dedicated advocate in Bob," said Jacob.

Of course, Whyte's ability to demonstrate that SalesLogix could be quickly customized to handle USCO's unique needs, such as tracking account activities and measuring performance, was important, too.

Price point was another significant factor. "Increasing our profitability while we've grown so fast has made us very sensitive to cost," said Jacob. But that didn't mean USCO purchased SalesLogix simply because the solution met its current needs. "SalesLogix also demonstrated the ability to grow with us," she said.

Similarities between the SalesLogix and ACT! interfaces made Jacob confident that USCO's salespeople could be productive with the new system right away. "We knew that the only way we were going to be successful was acceptance by the field," she said. "For that to happen, we had to make their processes better. We wanted our field sales team to say 'Wow! This is going to make my life easier.' Not, 'Oh no! Not another thing I have to do.'"

The strategy included quick rollout of "big wins" for the salesforce. One of the first customizations included the automation of a complicated reporting process. For management, the implementation team provided the ability to create and store complex price quotes in SalesLogix, streamlining the review, revision, and approval process.

"We didn't just implement a new tool," Jacob said. "We asked, 'How can SalesLogix help us do this easier?'"

Before implementing SalesLogix, the view USCO had of the sales pipeline was very limited. "We frequently did not have a window into the future that allowed us to make business decisions that went far enough down the line," Jacob recalled. "Now I can look at prospects that have estimated closing dates a year or more away. That means I can make long-range business decisions based on how the pipeline is flowing."

That kind of visibility is available throughout the company - to 140 SalesLogix users in a half-dozen USCO business units. Finance shares contracts and customer information with Operations. Transportation uses the data to manage rate structures for small-parcel customers. Marketing tracks which programs are bringing in which leads. And on and on.

"This is truly a hybrid implementation," Whyte said, noting that USCO employees use the system via traditional LAN connections, from remote offices, and over the Web. "We provided options for accessing data in many ways to meet the needs of diverse audiences within the company," he continued.

For example, before SalesLogix, the company's five locations in Mexico operated "essentially as a separate company," said Jacob. Now, those locations are tied into the same databases used to manage the U.S. operations. Using SalesLogix, USCO is now a more truly unified company.

"SalesLogix has enabled our company to communicate more effectively about its current customers and prospects, across multiple business units," said Jacob. "And we've taken processes that we knew were broken and changed and strengthened them using SalesLogix.

"When I look at where we were, in terms of being able to manage and share information, communicate well with customers and prospects, measure the success of marketing campaigns - all of those things - we're light years ahead now." SalesLogix Corporation