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Act! expert for over 20 years, Frédéric Foures of APSYS reveals how he was seduced by the software solution and why he has been a faithful advocate for so long.
There is often no better salesperson than someone who loves and uses the product they sell.
Their knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm shine through in a way that just doesn’t happen when you have no real interest in a product. So when you listen to French Act! Certified Consultant Frédéric ‘Fred’ Foures talk about Act! you really hear the passion in his voice.
“Yes, I am passionate about Act!” admits Fred, “because it’s not often you find a product that genuinely solves problems for your customers. And I know what it can do for a business because of what it’s done it for mine. So one of my most powerful sales arguments when I’m with customers is to say … I use Act! myself.”
Fred’s ‘affaire d’amour’ with Act! began when his company, APSYS, needed a contact management system to stay on top of a growing list of customers. They researched the market and discovered Act!. It quickly became a core component of their business, and also a valuable addition to their product portfolio.
“We never set out to sell a CRM product,” says Fred. “It was all because of our great experience using Act!. We just saw that it was a great tool and a natural fit with the accounting and payroll packages we were already selling to our small business customers.”
Fred became an Act! Certified Consultant (ACC) in 2000, though APSYS’s first Act! installation was actually in 1994.
“Back then, CRM wasn’t regarded as so important,” recalls Fred. ‘That’s changing now of course, as business becomes much more complicated and people realise they need a powerful system for managing and organising the way they connect with customers.”
“But many companies I see are still using Excel spreadsheets for contact management, so there’s an education process to go though helping them understand the need to protect the value of their customer base. If you don’t have a tool for doing this, when a sales person leaves or even just changes their diary, you lose a piece of history that diminishes the value of your customer base. When you understand this, you can see the need for a CRM like Act!.”
Frédéric Foures has kept a copy of every Act! version he has worked on.
So one of Fred’s ‘crusades’ is to highlight to his would-be customers what Act! can do for them. “I’m quite good at showing them how it will free up their time for other things,” grins Fred. “But when you first start with a new customer, the sales team is often suspicious. They think they’re going to be tracked or will have to spend a lot of time on IT stuff rather than selling. But when I go back to see them, everyone is using it and wanting new fields to help them get even more out of it. And if for any reason Act! is not available, they are screaming.”
Having information that is accessible and not locked away in a filing cabinet, or on some desktop PC, has certainly brought real benefits to APSYS’s customers.
“One of our customers is a German company with branches across France,” says Fred. “Just two or three weeks after they stopped using spreadsheets and started using Act!, the sales manager told me that Act! had already paid for itself, because through their laptops and smartphones his sales team now had all the information they needed about a customer when they were on the road.”
Fred also mentions a contact lens company he worked with that went from being a small player to market leader, in large part because Act! saved them so much time. “Before Act! they were making lots of calls and taking samples and new products into opticians, but they had no real picture of which were being well promoted or selling best. With Act! they did. Not only that, but the sales team weren’t having to send weekly activity reports to their manager because they were entering details into Act! after each visit. So instead of spending half a day writing reports they could be out in the field doing more selling.”
Fred now spends about 60% of his time working with Act!, “though I wish it could be 100%,” he says. With growing interest in Act! that could become a reality.
“Now we have a French version of the web client, more and more businesses are coming to us looking for a CRM solution, when in the past it would have been existing customers using our other products.”
“Swiftpage has done a lot over the last three years to increase Act! brand awareness and develop new products. There may not always seem a big difference between versions, but compare the latest – version 19 – with version 16 and you can really see how far Act! has come since Swiftpage took it on. When you are with a customer who has an older version, it’s frustrating because you know what they are missing out on.”
“The development of a reliable API for Act! has also been important because it is opening up new integrations we wouldn’t have dreamt of in the past. That means a lot of third-party add-ons are available, which makes Act! even more attractive.”
“Soon, I think our customers will be able to choose whether to have Act! as an off-the-shelf product, or ask us to create a user interface so they can have a customised smartphone app displaying very specific information to their sales team.”
As more companies come to appreciate the extra functionality that Swiftpage has given Act!, Fred believes the size of the installations APSYS does will grow from 5 to 10 users, to 15, to 20.
To capitalise on this increasing interest, Fred has already created a dedicated Act! satellite site, with one member of the marketing team focusing exclusively on Act!.
Fred is very keen to talk about the worldwide ACC community, which he thinks is unique to Act! and is in marked contrast to the lack of cohesion among vendors of the other products that he sells.
“The Act! community really is unique and very strong,” he says, “because we are all such passionate resellers of the product. So rather than working against each other, we are all friends. It’s us against the world. We go to conferences where we share our knowledge, or exchange thoughts on forums.”
“In fact, in many ways, being an ACC is not a job,” says Fred, “but a way of life” … and you can’t get much more passionate about a product than that.
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