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ACT! Professional

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  • Editors' rating
    8.4 Excellent

Pros

  • Simple to use
  • intuitive interface
  • includes both marketing and sales tools
  • excellent reporting tools
  • synchronises with Palm OS and Pocket PC handhelds

Cons

  • Requires activation
  • workgroups need separate, more expensive, version

ACT! Professional (ACT! 7.0), like other CRM applications (including FrontRange Solutions’ GoldMine 6.5), lets you take better control of your contacts in order to help improve your sales and marketing efforts. It does this by allowing you to track calls, meetings and to-do items, and manage marketing and sales processes. You can also use ACT! Professional to analyse historical sales trends, ‘understand’ the profile of your customers, plan marketing and sales campaigns, as well as import data for direct mailshots, faxshots and email communication. Larger businesses of up to 50 users will need to purchase ACT! Professional for Workgroups (£1,335 ex. VAT, five users) in order to share information over a network.

The updated software builds on its predecessor by offering over 50 new features, including improved workflow capabilities with the integration of opportunity forecasting tools, an updated interface, the ability to store company records and associate individuals to company records, as well as a redesigned calendar view that includes a new customisable week view. Improvements have also been made to database synchronisation, security, customer segmentation, database customisation and integration with office applications such as Outlook, Excel and Word.

The real strength of ACT! Professional is the way it lets you share information across your company and link together people and processes so that all members of a sales team can access documented details about contacts and customers. With a similar look and feel to Microsoft’s Outlook, ACT! Professional should also help less experienced computer users analyse their revenue potential and improve the visibility of future orders by allowing all communication with a prospect to be tracked. Reporting tools also help you to analyse sales forecasts for a single team or a whole sales team. However, it's clearly essential that you constantly update your customer contact details and proactively take steps to market your products or services.

ACT! Professional is built around its contacts database. A contact can be a customer, business associate, friend or anyone else you need to keep tabs on. A contact includes information that is typically found in a regular database, such as name, address and phone numbers. Every task you then perform in ACT! Professional relates to a contact, such as adding a diary entry, managing opportunities or even creating an opportunity pipeline. You can then organise your contacts into groups and/or companies, allowing employees to view activities or sales associated with a particular group or company in a single location, rather than just individual contacts. You can also create notes and histories for a whole group, as well as send emails or create documents. This is another key benefit that a fully fledged CRM package has over a Personal Information Manager (PIM) such as Outlook.

Other key features of ACT! Professional include the calendar section that lets you set activities including telephone calls, meetings and do-to items; the ability to schedule and synchronise activities using both ACT! Professional and Outlook; and the ability to create contact opportunities. Managers can view and print a list of opportunities for other users, regardless of role; you can also filter the list to see only certain opportunities -- such as those that have been closed and won. From January 2005, ACT! Professional and ACT! Professional for Workgroups will be able~ to integrate with Sage Instant Accounts, Sage Line 50, Sage 100 and Sage MMS accounting software, allowing you to manage your business contacts and view their accounts at the same time.

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