Engineering Firm Pumps Up Sales with CRM

“We’ve increased our conversion rate by 23 percent since July 2009 – that’s probably just under A$1 million in additional sales.”
Colin Bancroft, IT and Finance Manager, Blakers Pump Engineers

Blakers Pump Engineers designs and manufactures pumping systems for industrial customers across Australia and internationally. Bidding for large projects was a complex process, and the company could not easily share tender information with other staff and offices. The company contemplated building its own custom tender management application, but was delighted when Ignia, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, suggested building an application using Microsoft Dynamics® CRM and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007. The system was up and running within three months, and in less than a year had improved the company’s sales conversion rate by 23%, or around A$1 million. The system gave staff across the company real-time and comprehensive access to information about all bids currently underway as well as potential future projects.

Situation

Blakers Pump Engineers designs and makes industrial pumping equipment for manufacturing, mining, oil and gas, petrochemicals and power generation companies. Founded in 1979, it has clients throughout Australia and New Zealand and 18 other countries worldwide. It has 75 staff, working at its headquarters in Perth, offices in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and a maintenance facility in Gladstone, Queensland. Bidding for large-scale tenders worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars is a long and technically complex process. Coordinating information about tenders across multiple locations was a serious struggle for Blakers Pump Engineers.

“Our head office and branch offices in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney each had their own Microsoft® Access database to keep track of tenders,” says Colin Bancroft, IT and Finance Manager, Blakers Pump Engineers. “Each office would have to periodically pack up and send their database to us so we could consolidate the results.”

As a result, Blakers’ managing director didn’t have real-time access to quoting and activities in the sales pipeline.

However, the company was wary of creating new bidding tools. The company’s sales engineers used an intricately designed Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet to generate customer quotes, and did not want to give it up.

“Our quoting procedures are very technical and that spreadsheet had 20-odd years of knowledge built into it. It had things like part numbers and performance curves, which we need for technical calculations,” says Bancroft. “We wanted to keep the spreadsheet but we needed a way for all staff to be able to get information out of it.”

Because bidding documentation was developed at different locations, staff were often unaware of what their colleagues were doing, leading to duplicated effort. Compounding the inefficiency, once Blakers Pump Engineers won a bid, the contracts department would have to re-key all the relevant data into their systems to generate a legal agreement.

Preparing quotes and tenders consumed so much time that sales teams – which included engineers – couldn’t keep up with demand and the company missed out on work.

Solution

The company initially looked at developing a custom application to manage its sales and bidding process. It consulted three local technology firms before selecting Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Ignia as the best alternative. Blakers initial plan was to build a customised bid management application from scratch, based around the Microsoft .NET Framework.

“Our technical team took a look at the project and said it would be very time-consuming and expensive to develop a customised .NET system,” says Phil Rickson, Managing Director, Ignia. “But they thought there was a better way to achieve the same result.”

Ignia recommended building a system based on Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 4.0 and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server. The company was greatly impressed with Ignia’s approach.

“Ignia were the only people who gave us a full quote, and didn’t suggest open chequebook development,” says Bancroft. “They specified it down to every single part and had great project managers.”

Ignia started working on the project in February 2008. The bulk of the work was finished by mid-April of the same year and Blakers Pump Engineers gradually rolled out the new system to each office over six months.

“We hooked their Excel estimation model into the CRM system using Web services,” says Rickson. “They could keep using the familiar interface while live product and price data were brought out of the CRM system.”

The new system allows Blakers Pump Engineers to track each bid through the entire tender process, with the SharePoint library acting as a central document repository. Dynamics CRM tracks all customer interactions.

“When staff open a quote in the CRM system, they can see the integrated estimation model in Excel and the documents in SharePoint,” says Rickson. “They have all the documents related to a quote in one place. Even after they’ve won a bid, this information carries through to the contracts department.”

Benefits

The new system based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server has saved Blakers Pump Engineers a significant amount of duplicated effort and improved the accuracy of company information.  This is, in part, because it has proved so easy to use.

Increased sales conversion rate
Access to accurate and timely information about the sales process has greatly improved Blakers Pump Engineers’ ability to close deals.

“We’ve increased our conversion rate by 23 percent since July 2009 – that’s probably just under A$1 million in additional sales,” says Bancroft. “That’s the effect of changing our sales model in reaction to the market and because the system helps us ensure we follow up all quotes in a timely manner. “We can also make forward projections because we’re recording prospects in the CRM system. We can get a feel for the projects coming up in the next six, 12 or 24 months, and generate reports on opportunities coming through.”

Real-time access to information
The major reason behind this success is having a single system that everyone can access. It provides real-time information on all quoting and tendering activity.

“We can see by the minute what’s happening locally and interstate,” says Bancroft. “And instead of having to wait until the end of each month, we can monitor sales activity in real-time.”

“This allows us to plan resources around what’s happening in Australia and internationally. It has unified our company as a whole, because we aren’t restricted to operating like state offices.”

Improved accountability The system allows Blakers Pump Engineers to keep track of all bids. Importantly, the company has the information to analyse why bids are successful or unsuccessful.

“We can now monitor why we’re losing: if it’s on price or product or if the bid has gone overseas,” says Bancroft.

“We can quantify the reasons why we lose bids, which allows the directors to make better decisions on pricing, product line and other things that need to be changed. As a result, our time is more productive and more accountable.”

Cheaper, faster development
Building a system using existing Microsoft software saved a considerable amount of money in development and ongoing support.

“Creating a custom .NET system would have taken longer and been significantly more expensive,” says Rickson. “In addition, the ongoing costs would have been much higher because they would have needed to maintain complex.NET source code and do a technology refresh every five years.”

“The total cost of ownership is much lower with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, even discounting the off-the-shelf features,” says Bancroft.