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DEMO 07 first look: SalesWorks from Mission Research

Two years ago at DEMO@15, I saw a really great idea introduced by a company named Mission Research – a nicely designed and very-easy to use application called GiftWorks that was designed specifically to meet the needs of non-profit organizations. GiftWorks provides a set of tools for managing donors and volunteers that is point-and-click simple and that adapts to what the user is doing by providing suggestions, common tasks, and help that is all contextualized to what the user is doing at the moment. Fast forward two years to DEMO 07 and the company is back with a new application, SalesWorks, that provides a similar set of tools for the SOHO and small business markets.
Written by Marc Orchant, Contributor on
Mission Research SalesWorks

Two years ago at DEMO@15, I saw a really great idea introduced by a company named Mission Research – a nicely designed and very-easy to use application called GiftWorks that was designed specifically to meet the needs of non-profit organizations. GiftWorks  provides a set of tools for managing donors and volunteers that is point-and-click simple and that adapts to what the user is doing by providing suggestions, common tasks, and help that is all contextualized to what the user is doing at the moment. Fast forward two years to DEMO 07 and the company is back with a new application, SalesWorks, that provides a similar set of tools for the SOHO and small business markets.

Unlike so much of what I've seen at DEMO (and at many other events I've attended recently) this year which is increasingly about leveraging the  public network with software services and browser-based applications, SalesWorks takes a decidedly different approach that makes a tremendous amount of sense for their target market. SalesWorks is a client application that takes great advantage of network-based information and services. Talk to most small business owners and you'll find that they're not terribly comfortable with putting all of their proprietary information and confidential customer data in the cloud. At the same time they do recognize the impact that web-based services are having on business is done today and the hybrid approach Mission Research has taken in building SalesWorks aligns very nicely with their need to leverage the vast amount of information accessible on the internet with their need to keep their own information localized.

SalesWorks focuses on critical business operation that are the lifeblood of every small business – managing information about prospects and customers, tracking sales opportunities and transaction history, and facilitating outbound communications. One of the most compelling features is the SmartList Builder which provides the ability to construct lists using include and exclude criteria applied with simple point-and-click actions that can be used to filter information views and generate e-mail and paper-based mail merges. Another is the mapping feature pictured in the screenshot above which uses contact information in the application and online mapping services to generate a dynamic map that can be used not only to visualize the geographic distribution of contacts but also to select a group of contacts directly from that visualization.

What's striking about the SalesWorks environment is that it doesn't really resemble a conventional desktop application. It has some elements you'd expect to find in a web browser but it doesn't look like the typical SaaS offering either. The screen layouts, presentation of tools, and the dynamic display of relevant tasks, help, and other information elements is close at hand but never intrusive. I spoke at some length with Charlie Crystle. CEO and co-founder of MissionWorks during the morning pavilion break and I was very impressed with the design principles MissionWorks applies to the development of the software, both in terms of how it looks and how it works. He and his user interface designers really understand the attraction of web-based applications and the links-oriented simplicity they provide as well as the advantages leveraging the desktop environment can provide. The hybridization of these two environments is very well-executed in both of the company's products. Crystle put it this way:

“Our design approach anticipates how people perceive and want to use technology and software. We created SalesWorks to solve a pain-point in the SOHO market, where there is a lack of easy-to-use affordable products that provide the kind of simple functionality that is better suited for the small business owner. Our new solution anticipates the human need in advance, where they need to get to next and then automatically bringing them back to where they started. By anticipating customer’s needs, we take the thinking out of the process, saving them both time and money.”
According to Mission Research, a basic SalesWorks implementation can be installed for under $100 – a potentially enormous savings over competing products like ACT! or Goldmine which carry per-seat licensing and fairly significant and ongoing implementation costs. Pricing is based on a subscription model and more information about the application and licensing can be found at the company's site. An evaluation version of the Beta 1 release is available.
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