About PK Companies
PK Companies is the parent company of three individual companies: PK Industrial, PK Safety and PK Technology. The parent company is formally referred to as PK-STI—each of the last 3 letters standing for Safety, Technology and Industrial. The companies offer solutions to the oil and gas industry.
- PK Industrial deals with application of fireproofing and corrosion-protection coatings to equipment and structural elements within refineries. Coatings can be applied within the company’s multiple in-shop facilities, or on-site throughout the country and abroad.
- PK Safety offers equipment to help ensure the safety of workers and first responders. Services include first-aid, onsite medical dispatch, hole-watch, fire-watch, fresh breathing air, repel and rope safety. Equipment includes gas detectors, clothing, gloves, respirators, harnesses, lifelines, and much more.
- PK Technology, the newest company of the three, offers solutions for mobile coating inspection and data collection technology for onshore and offshore facilities. PK Technology was an innovator of mobile inspection technology, and in fact was first to market with a native iPad application specific to the oil, gas and petrochemical industries.
Pipeliner CRM’s Role
Pipeliner CRM is used to facilitate coordination of sales force data — consistently and with transparency. It is utilized by 15 sales reps, 4 sales managers, and the Marketing Manager for all three companies.
Three-fourths of the salespeople are qualified to sell for all three companies, so the selected CRM solution needed to work effectively within a single sales process. Their 7-stage sales process applies to any sale for any of the three companies.
The Hunt for a New CRM Solution
PK originally had chosen Salesforce as a CRM solution. But despite tens of thousands of dollars plus the time to get the system up and running, they had a significant issues after two years.
“Primarily it just never got used,” said Larry Nichols (shown at left), PK Companies Marketing Manager and chief Pipeliner CRM advocate and administrator. “It’s a great program—when you think of CRM everybody knows Salesforce. But if they say they’re efficient with it and utilize it, that’s hard to believe. It’s a difficult product to use; there’s so much involved with it. You could spend all day just digging through it. You’ve got to have some geniuses around to figure it out, and then go handhold everybody to say ‘this is all you need to do’ and ‘here’s what you don’t need to do.’”
In fact, after 2 years, only 20% of the sales force had ever even turned the product on. This did not bode well for tracking sales.
“Primarily we had a dozen or so guys and everything was in their heads,” Nichols reported. “Nobody wrote anything down. Leads and opportunities went to the wayside because they were forgotten. The momentum would turn to the new opportunity and the others would kind of melt into the murky past.”
In a very non-traditional stance, marketing manager Nichols is very supportive of his sales team. “As my position has matured, we’ve expanded into more of a helping role with sales, because primarily marketing works for sales versus sales working for marketing,” he says. The owners and sales management of PK Companies challenged him to research a better CRM solution for the sales reps and the rest of the company.
Search for a Better Solution
Nichols ended up investigating and demoing 20 different CRM products. But right from the beginning, Pipeliner CRM piqued his interest. “The third product I happened onto in my Google search was Pipeliner CRM,” he continued. “I’d say the key was the dynamic interface on the pipeline view, that overall view where you have to physically move things through the sales steps and the procedural process to get to the end. Most of us here are creative and they like that interactivity. It’s fun. It’s kind of one of those activities where you can only win a checkers game when you get to move your checker. That interactivity, dynamism, that special data field, the weighted target views — those are kickers. You kind of revert to a little kid playing pinball, you want to see the score move more. So it was a standout.”
Nichols gave the other CRM products a fair shake—but none of them were a total solution for him.
“The other 19 CRM applications that I saw — some of them fit and some of them didn’t. Finding out what would fit was kind of key for us, because we are a mid-service provider for this industry and nobody really makes a good CRM for oil, gas and chemical. They had some cool things that I liked. But in everything I found, there might be one cool feature but I couldn’t really use the rest, or the rest didn’t make sense for us. Pipeliner CRM was one I could push and pull to actually use as one pipeline and put all three of the companies in there. That was important to me because more than three-quarters of our sales staff actually sell for all three companies. So I didn’t want to manage three different pipelines, one for each company.”
Stellar Buying Experience
When Nichols called Pipeliner CRM, expressing interest in the product, he was very impressed with the Pipeliner CRM sales rep’s tech knowledge and willingness to truly help. “The salesperson I talked to came across as an average Joe, and he and I could communicate and talk to each other and absolutely hit it off immediately.
“One of the things that really stood out was the tech-savviness of the business model—the true definition of what the product could do for a customer. Inevitably with everybody else I talked to, it was some sales kid on the phone just trying to line something up, or a salesperson who just didn’t have the know-how to find me a solution. But from the get-go the Pipeliner CRM approach was, ‘How can I resolve this for you?’ That worked really well for me. Before we even got into the license agreement, we had multiple discussions about what the potential of the product for us. It was him saying, ‘We can find a solution for what you need.’ I tell you what, it worked.”
A Smooth Rollout
The rollout for Pipeliner took about a week and a half, as compared with the multiple weeks or even months it can take for other CRM solutions. “I was able to essentially focus on this product,” Nichols said. “We really just kind of built it as it came along. It was fairly easy having to create boxes and blocks and assign the pull-downs, and the minute I got that I just went to town. Implementation and roll-out went really well internally, too, because we’ve been needing something like this for a long time. The group was excited about it, and they’re still excited about it.”
The Joys of Flexibility
One Pipeliner CRM feature that Nichols has found especially helpful is being able to easily adjust the sales pipeline on the fly.
“We actually have seven steps in our pipeline view, where we start with a lead and initial contact. Then it moves onto the presentation stage. Just three days ago I put a new column structure in the sales steps that is entitled ‘pilot demo’ because we actually go into a facility and may do a half-day demo where we put the technology in the people’s hands and they go out and they do a walkthrough and we do a training session. When they get a hands-on look at how well it works, they get excited about it.”
“Another change we made: Sometimes there’s a long, intensive timeline that occurs because a consultation has to take place, so there may be a two- or three-week waiting period. Instead of clogging the ‘quotes completed’ column, we actually made another column that would serve as a staging area, where more information may be needed or maybe just because nothing is likely to happen for thirty more days. The great thing about that is that upper management can look at it visually, see where those jobs are, and understand instantly why they’re sitting there. They don’t have to look it up and read the details.”
Man Hours Per Week Saved: 90
One very substantial benefit that Pipeliner CRM has brought to PK is an enormous time savings during the weekly sales meetings. “We have sales meetings on Friday; we go basically from Friday to Thursday. It used to be that on Friday we would sit in three sales meetings for three different companies, reviewing the previous week. It would be an all-day event. It was just not efficient. Now we have everything updated on Thursday, and everybody has full vision because it’s completely transparent. When we step into a meeting on Friday, it’s three 45-minute sessions (one for each company) on the new current events and activities, versus going back and reviewing for the whole week. We review everything at a glance and say, ‘Hey what’s new? What’s coming up?’ It’s all about next steps versus follow-ups. You multiply 6 hours a day times 15 people, and that is an incredible saving.”
Big Improvements: Consistency and Communication
“The biggest overall change that Pipeliner CRM has brought to our company is consistency in communication from the sales aspect,” Nichols concluded. “Having that transparent vision for everyone involved works really, really well. Having the new email notification step set up with Version 7 is great now; anytime anybody puts anything in I get a notification, or whenever I make modifications to their activities, they get a notification. They love it; they know exactly when a meeting has been set or something has been changed or modified, if they can’t remember all they have to do is flip back through.
“Pipeliner CRM has become like a virtual assistant to my teams, and it’s really helped simplify their processes. The great savings is that their time is being utilized for the task at hand, versus having to hand-manage all the paperwork — Pipeliner CRM has eliminated the laborious task of remembering what they did and what they’re supposed to be doing next. It’s right there in front of them.”