REVIEWER: Jerry Griswold, sales information systems manager for McKee Foods Corporation.

BACKGROUND: With annual sales exceeding $860 million, McKee Foods Corporation is the nation's leading snack-food manufacturer. The company has a national sales force of 400 representatives and approximately 3,300 independent distributors throughout the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and select military bases overseas.

PLATFORMS: McKee Foods uses Windows NT and Windows 2000 with Novell networking and SQL database.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Since implementing Stayin-Front's Visual Elk system, McKee Foods has been able to oversee sales management by territory and provide widespread access to the most current information, which has helped increase market penetration. With the aid of Panorama, a data analysis tool, our field staff can now easily review a client's complete history before making a sales call. Prior to dealing with StayinFront, we had been struggling with sales force automation software that was cumbersome and not easily modified. Our sales force found it time-consuming to navigate through the software, gradually lost patience and eventually stopped using it entirely. As a result, the in-house staff was not receiving sufficient information to manage the sales territories. Visual Elk also provided a solution that we could easily modify internally to meet changing business needs and adapt to future growth requirements.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Easy-to-navigate drop-down menus enable sales representatives and corporate management to quickly log reports and retrieve vital customer information. The sales staff can retrieve specific information to help in the decision-making process and create new sales opportunities. The software's synchronization feature ensures that everyone is accessing and responding to the same information. Visual Elk's data analysis and decision- support capabilities provided by Panorama are extremely valuable in determining point-of-purchase information and tracking a retailer's acceptance of merchandise. In the future, we will use it to track advertising campaigns and promotional material.

STRENGTHS: The greatest strength has been the overall solution – the Visual Elk and Panorama combination, complemented by the StayinFront team. We were immediately impressed by StayinFront's willingness to learn our business and configure a solution to meet our specific needs rather than the "off-the-shelf" packages proposed by most other vendors. They were genuinely excited to help us accomplish our business goals. In our business, we have mobile users throughout the country, and it's reassuring to know everyone is responding to the same information. From a management point of view, it's rewarding to have confidence in the complete package.

WEAKNESSES: In most instances, StayinFront is deeply involved in all phases of the CRM system deployment including configuration, implementation, training and ongoing support. However, because we have a highly competent IT team, we were able to handle much of the system development, database creation and initial rollout internally with StayinFront's assistance. At times, this presented minor coordination problems between the two organizations. How-ever, these problems were easily overcome and did not impact the on-time rollout.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We compiled a document detailing our specific needs and sent it to approximately 15 vendors. From the responses, we selected five vendors to evaluate our requirements and make solution proposals. StayinFront was the one vendor of the 15 considered that we believed could deliver what we needed – namely, a system that would meet our very specific requirements, would be easy to deploy and could be readily modified as our needs changed. Visual Elk's flexibility and the ease of use coupled with the willingness of the StayinFront team to learn our business made it an easy selection.

DELIVERABLES: We are now able to provide vital customer information throughout the organization and evaluate sales performance better than ever before. The ability to thoroughly analyze customer information and display the results in a variety of graphical formats has also proved extremely valuable.

VENDOR SUPPORT: StayinFront ranks among the best vendors with whom I've ever worked. From day one, they've conveyed an image of being highly capable, informative and helpful professionals. They've gone out of their way for us, and we are excited to be involved with them.

DOCUMENTATION: The Visual Elk system is equipped with an online help section that was modified to meet our needs. StayinFront also provided comprehensive documentation specific to our system for training our people.

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