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7-1/2 Questions With Sage Software's CRM Guru
[September 21, 2005]

7-1/2 Questions With Sage Software's CRM Guru

TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

Elvin Monteleone, the senior vice president of Sage Software responsible for their mid-market CRM, takes some time out to answer some questions. For the full version of the interview see First CoffeeSM at

Hi Elvin, thanks for taking the time to talk. What's the best music to listen to at work?

Thanks for having me. I am quite fond of the vintage big band sound; just enough energy to stimulate you while working yet with a dose of serenity to balance everything out.

Your new position with Sage focuses on the mid-market for CRM. What are the two or three functionality areas you think the entire mid-market vendor community could do a better job providing for these businesses?

Two things come to mind. The first is enabling companies to tailor their CRM solution to accommodate their unique way of doing business. Delivering a feature-rich CRM application for use right out of the box is definitely necessary, yet the true measure of CRM depth is the ability to easily configure or customize it to the exact needs of the user, their industry, their business processes, and how their customers want to interact with them.  Sage believes the only way to accomplish this is through the expertise and local touch of our extensive business partner channel.

The second involves providing options and flexibility to potential customers.  We call it "freedom of choice," but no matter how you define it, customers want and deserve a CRM solution that "fits."  This is especially true in the mid-market.  Sage offers both types of solutions and enables companies to easily migrate from one to another as their business requirements change.

In your experience, what are the two or three most important functionalities mid-market firms consider when buying a CRM product?

I think many mid-market companies searching for CRM begin with the essentials of contact management and sales force automation. After all, meeting revenue goals is a critical objective of all mid-market companies.  Growing sales is the first step, but in order to foster long-term, profitable relationships, delivering quality customer experiences across all of your interactions with customers becomes a requirement for success.  This is why we often see customers expand their CRM initiatives to include marketing, customer service and support automation initiatives. In the end, mid-market CRM purchase decisions are made to solve mission-critical business problems.

I see you went to LSU, miss anything about Louisiana?

As an LSU alumni and avid sports fan, I do have high hopes for my Tiger football team again this year. And New Orleans, where I was born, has one of the most unique cultures in the country. The food and music are both outstanding and the people are a friendly, caring, fun loving bunch. Hurricane Katrina certainly has been a setback for that region and it will take time to recover fully. But I believe that an even "better" New Orleans will emerge.

Obviously Sage brought you aboard to change the direction of their mid-market CRM efforts, what do you see as the biggest change you want to make?

Expanding the CRM product portfolio is the biggest opportunity. Our ongoing mission is to address every functional level and requirement SMBs need. By this I mean different price points, deployment methods, levels of customization and, in many cases, great out-of-the-box systems that can plug in and start delivering ROI. Mid-market customers really cross a wide spectrum of industries and company profiles when you stop and think about it. Sage Software has a complete CRM product portfolio that attracted me, ranging from the simplicity of the packaged ACT! contact management product to the highly customizable SalesLogix CRM Suite.

What's your opinion of hosted CRM as a long-term solution for mid-market firms?  What do you see in Sage's future for hosted?

Software as a service is gaining popularity in many application segments. It makes sense that it has made inroads in the CRM market as well. We look at our on-demand offering as a viable option for customers who do not yet require the advanced levels of customization and integration that an on-premise solution is best capable of providing. In the long run, we see our CRM solutions taking on a hybrid role where business processes are fused together through seamless on-premises and hosted access points. That's a story for a future day, although our new Sage CRM offering is a great first step towards the hybrid philosophy.

What are the main reasons CRM fails in mid-market firms, and do they differ from enterprise failures?

Lack of user adoption is the main reason we hear. Users need to perceive an immediate as well as a long-term return on their investment. If I'm a sales rep being told I have to use a new CRM system, it has to help me out with my daily work.

You can give one piece of advice to a mid-market firm buying CRM software. Other than "Buy Sage!," what would it be?

Look past the hype for CRM that truly fits your needs regardless of the label. Branding is good, but not at the expense of a CRM system's real substance.


David Sims is contributing editor for TMCnet. For more articles by David Sims, please visit:

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