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Best Buy gears up for Vista, Microsoft CRM

The retail giant's SMB sales team is hoping to cut down its sales cycle with the new integration between CRM and Office.

Count Jay Devers, director of outside sales development for Best Buy for Business, among those excited for the arrival of Microsoft's CRM application for Vista.

Devers has been running Microsoft CRM 3.0 for about six months with his team of 150 salespeople in 30 markets. Best Buy for Business, a division of the consumer electronics giant, targets businesses with 10 to 50 employees, offering IT security, communications technology, productivity software, support and maintenance as well as consumer electronics such as plasma screens for conference rooms.

After a number of delays, Microsoft launched Vista, its new operating system, and the new Office 2007 application Nov. 30. The new CRM product, officially titled Version 3 for Office 2007 and Windows Vista, tightly integrates with the new release. The CRM and Office releases share the same user interface and allow users to search for information in the Dynamics line of products as well as in Office applications like Excel, Word and Outlook. @29619

Microsoft has been able to capitalize on its CRM efforts thanks largely to salespeople's familiarity with Outlook, where many still conduct their business. In fact, CRM competitors tout their own Outlook integration. The new CRM application will offer a similar "ribbon" tool and provide tighter integration than the 3.0 product, according to Brad Wilson, general manager for Microsoft CRM.

Devers is particularly hoping to take advantage of the CRM integration with Microsoft's SharePoint Services portal tools. He hopes to have his outside sales team work closely with inside support using Microsoft's unified communications.

"On the front end we're very commitment-driven," Devers said of his sales process. "We won't create and present a proposal until they're committed to buying and we feel we've qualified the lead highly. [The sales team] need to get that turned around as quickly as possible. Our ROI is the higher close rate."

Salespeople out meeting with these highly qualified customers need assistance from the inside sales support team to answer technical questions and help put together written proposals that can total 20 pages. Currently, much of that work is done via email and turnaround is roughly six hours. With the new system, using real-time presence and connectivity, salespeople can have these conversations instantly using laptops and smartphones, Devers said.

Devers has few concerns about being an early adopter. His group is out in front of many of the new technologies -- like its use of smartphones -- and is effectively piloting Vista for the larger organization.

"We operate a little like a start-up inside of Best Buy," Devers said. "This is technology people are not only using but selling, and it's an opportunity to demo to customers. They're pretty passionate. We have a lot less adoption issues than most salesforces would have."

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