KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Our guest is Saad Yusuf from Plego Technologies, and our topic is going to be automating the sales process. Saad, thanks so much for joining me today.
SAAD YUSUF: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, tell me about Plego Technologies.
SAAD YUSUF: Well, Plego Technologies is a software application development company. We are based right here in Downers Grove next to O’Flaherty Law. Been here for about 5 years, but we’ve been in business for about 15 years. Started in ’02, so 14 and a half years. We started off building simple websites. We started off doing wireless networking. We really developed into an application development company. We were in Westchester from 2002 through 2012. We specialized in building software applications for our corporate clientele such as ERP systems.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: What’s an ERP system?
SAAD YUSUF: Enterprise resource planning. It kind of runs your entire business. It handles your inventory. It handles your product information, your employee information. Basically enterprise resource planning.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So, it basically automates the back end of business for people.
SAAD YUSUF: Absolutely. Another thing we did is ecommerce websites. I’m sure you’re familiar with. A lot of business came to us, small business, who couldn’t afford to go to the big boys downtown. So they came to us, and said, “You know what. We’re a small to midsize business. We have product we want to sell online. How can you help us?” So we were able to do that pretty well.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: A lot of people when they think about building apps for their business to make their business more efficient -- And I’m not talking about web apps necessarily to sell the people but apps just to make your business more efficient internally. A lot of people think that, “Well, that’s something you’ve got to be GE or Chrysler or something to be able to afford.”
SAAD YUSUF: Absolutely not.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So you can customize for smaller businesses?
SAAD YUSUF: We absolutely can. We have solutions already in place where we can customize for you. We have, for example, if you want to customize your customer relationship management, if you have a sales process, but it’s completely disorganized. You have everything in spreadsheets or emails going back and forth, and you can’t track your leads, or you can’t track your process from converting a contact from a lead to a customer. We can help you manage that process with a minimum investment. We’re not going to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars. We can get you up and running pretty efficiently and pretty cost effectively.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: There are a lot of CRM systems out there. There’s Salesforce, and Pipedrive, and a bunch of different pieces of software. When would someone have you customize for them rather than just using one of the generic out-of-box? Explain some of the things you’ve done for clients in that area.
SAAD YUSUF: Well, what we really do is we define the customers’ process, their sales process. For example, one customer of ours is a home builder. They’re a private home builder in the Wisconsin area. And they have franchises all over the Midwest, and they have a very specific sales process.
What they have is you have your contacts. They have anybody they’ve ever met anybody the owner’s ever met who they might have come to a trade show or whatever, and they expressed, “Hey. I might build a house one day,” as a contact. Those people go into the email marketing, email blasts, and your campaigns. You constantly keep in touch with them.
Then they have another item in their process called leads. A lead is anyone that has shown some sort of interest, a leaning towards into getting into a home building process. That’s where you process the lead. You grid the lead you understand where is that person in the process.
So what we did is set up a bunch of customized questions and created our own algorithm. So for example, for a home builder some questions they ask, “Does this person already own a land?” Yes? That’s a positive. No? Then that’s a negative. “Does this person already have financing?” “Does he already have cash on hand?” And all those questions are asked. “Does he already have plans? “Does he have blue prints?” And when you mark all those questions, our custom algorithm says, “Okay. This person is more than a lead. He’s a prospect now,” or, “Hey. This person is still kind of -- He’s warm, but not there yet. Let’s keep him in the leads bucket.”
So all that stuff you’re not going to get from Salesforce. It’s just out of the box. It’s standard generic questions about your customers. But if you have business that has a defined sales process that needs to be automated, we can definitely help you out.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Okay. For things like Salesforce you’re going to pay a monthly fee for that. I assume if you’re building the software. You pay something up front and then that’s that you might actually save money in the long run, right?
SAAD YUSUF: Absolutely. Salesforce they’ll charge you per user per month. I don’t know how much it is. Last time I checked maybe it’s 50 bucks per user. Let’s put it that way. If you have 20 users, right? You times 20 x 50 x 12 months. It adds up. It has a constant cost. What I would use is something like SugarCRM. SugarCRM is an open source CRM tool. It comes out of the box with standard CRM applications. But we can customize that because it’s open source. We can get in there. We can program it. So you spend a little bit of money up front customizing this application, but then it’s yours to own. And the only time you spend money on it is to enhance or upgrade it. If you want to ask to add some –
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: And that’s something you can do.
SAAD YUSUF: Absolutely.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: People can tweak the application and build upon it as they go along and learn more about the way their business works, right?
SAAD YUSUF: Yes. Of course. It’s always going to happen. You think you want something, but then in practice you start using the system. “Maybe we should have done it this way,” or, “Maybe we should have this. Oh, it would be better if we did it this way.” It keeps going, but it goes in a positive direction. Where you’re continuing to enhance and make your sales classes more efficient.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: So what’s the process of working with you? If someone comes up to you and says, “I’m thinking about--” Say they’re a prospect of yours. “I’m thinking about getting this automated sales system. What can you do for me?” How does it work?
SAAD YUSUF: Well, I mean, what we do is we have a five stage process, and what you’re referring to is analysis phase.
Someone comes to us. You’re thinking about doing some work for us. So we come into an agreement saying we’ll work for you. We will understand what your requirements are. Why don’t you hire us for preliminary engagement, so we can get an understanding what you need.
And after that preliminary engagement, which is the analysis phase, what we do is come out with the affirmed price for you as to how much your system will cost. So we’ll sit down with you we’ll go over your entire process as it is now, what you currently do. You define to them this is what we need; this is what our process are; these are the main players, the main stakeholders in the process; these are the people who will using our application. We take all that information into account, and we understand. “Okay. Based on your statements, requirements, this is what we think will need to be done.” So when that is done, we’re able to give you a firm price. “Okay, for X amount of dollars, we’ll give you X, Y, and Z. Okay, you agree with us.”
Then what we do is we start the project by going by the design phase. Based on your requirements, we design the entire application. We give you wireframes; we give you visual designs; we design the back end database, all the fields, everything in and out. And before we even do a line of code, all the designs, the blueprints like you’re building a house -- All the blueprints are there for you to prove this is what we want. “Go ahead. Sign the dotted line.” Only then do we start development.
So then you have the development process where we go in there, and we hammer away at whatever we designed. Then you come back in during the Q/A process. So you want to make sure whatever we promised you is functioning exactly the way you envisioned it. Or maybe if it’s not, we can tweak it, maybe work with you a little bit back and forth there. And of course then we can go ahead and launch.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Okay. Since the topic is about automating sales, tell me more about some systems you’ve designed and how they actually work to make the salesperson or the business person’s life a little easier. I mean, you talked about the different parts of the sales funnel -- the contacts, leads, and prospects. But what are some things that people have done in their automated CRM systems that you’ve prepared that make their life a little easier and get value from the system.
SAAD YUSUF: Well, we’ve done and defined roles. Because for another company of ours, you had a sales team, you had a production team to estimate the cost of everything. So what we did was instead of everybody seeing everything going on, and it being a big mess because sometimes too much information is a bad thing. So you have your on-the-ground sales guy just knocking on doors trying to get leads. He doesn’t need to see how much is getting billed out or how much is being proposed. He’s just getting the lead in and getting it to the next stage.
So what we did is we really defined the roles, and that’s really important. You pick your team; you give them certain roles; you have them do that role excellent; and you hand it off to the next guy; and you have a few people over seeing the entire process.
So, when you have that in place, it kind of defines what a person is supposed to do. No one is stepping on each other’s toes. If you’re just sending emails back and forth, or if you have spreadsheets that you’re sharing, or if you got just a very out-of-the-box generic system, but there aren’t any roles or anything like that, then it can get very confusing. So what we do is we streamline the process. We the give people who are working on it tunnel vision to their specific tasks. And when it’s handed off, then they don’t need to worry about it. They’re just continuing their job. It really works out well that way.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Well, I think probably the biggest advantage that you can give people with this, at least from my prospective, is when you are handing off the baton to a different part of your team, making sure that baton doesn’t get dropped. And having some people checking to make sure things are done appropriately in that transition.
For example, we have a business development team that’s going out and networking and meeting with people, and they might get somebody that refers a client to us. And we want to make sure that when that process happens that they’re credited with bringing that client in and that an initial consultation is scheduled; and if the consultation isn’t scheduled, there’s a follow up set; and once the consultation happens, you want to make sure that you’ve gotten the attorney retention agreement, a payment, and that’s been passed off to the attorney that’s actually doing the work.
And that’s a lot of little steps and a lot of opportunities for something to go wrong. For someone not to get credit for bringing the business in or maybe a follow up doesn’t happen when it’s supposed to. But if it’s all in an automated system, you can basically have a red flag when something’s going wrong.
SAAD YUSUF: You mentioned follow ups and that kind of stuff. We can create you custom dashboards, so you can see what follow ups I have today. Or you open your system up. Home page. Boom. “I have ten follow ups today. I’m going to make these calls, okay? How many follow ups do I have this week? How many meetings do I have this week?” You can, as a manager, see your entire organization. Or as an individual you can see your own follow ups.
But that’s why the roles are important. Managers can see everything. Individuals can see their own thing. All that stuff. There’s so much accountability put into it that it’s really hard to drop the ball without getting noticed.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: I think the dashboard for me, as a business owner, is the most attractive thing. Because I have about 12 employees in different departments with different roles, and to have something that I can just log into on my phone if I’m out of the office. Or just log into in the morning and be able to see, “Okay. These are the things this employee was supposed to accomplish, and it looks like they’re on track,” or, “Uh oh. There’s some red flags here. I need to check in and make sure this process isn’t breaking down.”
That’s really helpful for someone who’s managing 12 employees because there’s no way on a daily basis I can go in and check in with everybody, but an automated dashboard that’s not reliant on the employees telling me if something’s going wrong or getting behind, that’s a really valuable resource.
SAAD YUSUF: And a big key of that is establishing the culture where they have to update their information in the CRM. Because they can do all the work, and they can just be lazy about checking a box on CRM or adding their notes in there. And then it’s basically garbage in, garbage out. If you’re not putting the right kind of information in to get the feedback, then it all falls apart. So what I tell people is it’s really important to get the CRM built, but it extremely more important to establish a culture where if you don’t update your information in the CRM, then it’s not going to work.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: We’ve had that problem. I mean, we use something like that for our sales, and the problem that we always have is if one person on the whole team isn’t good about actually inputting the data, then nobody can trust anything.
SAAD YUSUF: Then the data isn’t accurate. Exactly.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: That’s a difficult thing. We’ve done a couple podcasts episodes on getting buy-in and managing change. I think the last episode we did was about that. And that’s the hard part. Paying a couple thousand dollars to get the system built. That’s an easy thing to do for a business owner. But actually getting your team to buy in is difficult. Do you do trainings and stuff?
SAAD YUSUF: Absolutely. Constantly. Because a lot of times, like the home builder -- A lot of blue-collar folks who really aren’t used to using computers. It really is challenge to get them to buy in and use their phones or use their laptops to really stay up to date with their information. You get a lot of questions; you get a lot of pull back, a lot of people saying the spreadsheet was easier or whatever, those kind of comments. Where they don’t understand the true value of it until only someone in management would really understand, “Okay. This is so important because everyone is putting information in the same area.” But sometimes the guys on the ground you need them to buy in first.
KEVIN O’FLAHERTY: Yeah. They always want to make the next call rather than recording the results of the last one, and that’s difficult.
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Kevin owns O’Flaherty Law, a general practice law firm with locations in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Naperville, Illinois. O'Flaherty Law's attorneys have expertise in many areas of law including but not limited to divorce and family law; civil litigation; estate planning; business and corporate representation; commercial and residential real estate law; elder services, probate and guardianship; immigration; bankruptcy law; and dui, traffic and criminal defense.
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