Why refrigeration company Cimco put a $1 million quote on ice and turned to Zoho CRM instead

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright March 3, 2023
How industrial refrigeration company Cimco uses Zoho CRM and analytics to improve sales performance - and why it turned down a $1 million quote to put in Salesforce.

Toromont Cimco ice hockey puck on rink © Cimco Refrigeration
(© Cimco Refrigeration)

When David Fauser, Director of Sales and Marketing at Cimco Refrigeration, decided to implement a CRM system across the company's 150-strong salesforce several years ago, he faced a big decision. The company had been using Act! but wanted a platform that would allow for more organized sales processes that met its specific needs as a business. After carefully examining the market, Fauser ended up looking at a quote for a Salesforce system that would cost $1 million for an outside consultancy to implement. He recalls:

To be honest with you, I was scared. It's a big decision. [We've got] all these salespeople, these independent guys. What if it doesn't work? We're going to spend a million dollars just on the consulting, and then another, whatever, per year.

As a junior salesperson when he had joined the company 20 years ago, he had noticed inefficiencies in how the sales team went about its work. There were no set targets or shared processes. Promoted to a management role, the first thing he did was to buy Act! and then set about designing it to make the salesperson's job easier, such as cutting out the time they were spending on doing quotes on paper and other manual tasks. So when he was later promoted to his current position, there was a ready-made business case for making the move to a full-blown CRM system, and the company's President backed the idea. Two years of research later, Fauser was about to give Salesforce the go-ahead when a chance conversation led to a change in direction. He recalls:

I got a call from the guy that originally helped me with Act! and he said, 'Hey, you should try Zoho.' Immediately I said, Len, forget about it. There's a million of these CRMs that are all over the place. I don't have time for that. He goes, 'No, these guys are different. Take a look.'

So he came, gave me a demo. He seemed very open to be able to make it work for our business. He was very focused on what he could do for us. And then I figured out the pricing. For his consulting, to customize it, was $30,000 — versus a million. That's a quite a spread! And then they were about 60% less than Salesforce.

So I called the Salesforce guy up. I said, 'Listen, I need some help here. Because I've got another offer on the table here. They're 60% less. Help me to understand what the difference is. I want to give you the order, it's a safe choice.' And the guy said, 'I don't know who Zoho is.' There was no real fight to help me out with it. And then I decided to go with Zoho in the end.

Proving it with data

The Zoho solution, which includes analytics and Zoho's low-code Creator tool alongside CRM, has proven its worth during the recent economic headwinds. Cimco, part of Toromont Industries, is a 110-year-old company that installs and maintains industrial-scale refrigeration for everything from ice hockey rinks to slaughterhouses and cold storage facilities across North America. An advocate of sustainable refrigeration, the company has switched from using synthetic refrigerants that add to global warming, and instead uses naturally occurring alternatives such as CO2 and ammonia. It also encourages customers to use waste heat from the refrigeration process for district heating or simply to provide hot water for changing room showers.

With many construction projects taking up to eighteen months to go from initial signing to completion, the past year's sudden spike in inflation has taken its toll on profit margins. Fauser decided to take a detailed look at margins on the maintenance contract side of the business to see where it might make sense to lift prices. He comments:

Managing through data is way easier than managing through emotion. People always have their biases and their conceptions what's going on.

By analyzing over 6,000 service transactions in Zoho, he was able to make a strong case based on the data. He continues:

Under particular circumstances, by industry, by sales rep, by all these different ways, I was able to chart out the graphs, and I was able to mix it with our win/loss percentages. And I was able to prove to the sales team that we were probably not recognizing our value in the market, through analytics.

Having the data to back up what he was proposing was crucial to persuading the sales team to go out and close the new deals. He comments:

Sales guys are always very scared to raise the price. It's always easy to sell on price. But I was able to prove to them beyond a shadow of a doubt that we could raise our price, and that we would not lose customers, through the analytics tools. And we did see a measurable improvement in that area.

Getting answers fast

As a salesperson with no technical background or expertise, Fauser was nevertheless able to build and run the analytics without having to turn to IT for support. This is an aspect of the product that he particularly appreciates. He contrasts it with the experience when dealing with data coming out of the SAP systems on which the business runs its core transactions. He says:

If I want to see something on the operations side of the business, I have to map out exactly what I want, to give it to an IT person. With the sales side, I don't always know what I'm going to start with. I have an idea, I can map it out. But once I get going, and then you see a piece of data and go, 'Well, that's really interesting, what if I look at it from this perspective?' I can do all that myself.

That gives me a lot of power. A lot of times, my president will ask me something about the sales. I don't have that, but within 20 minutes, I can come back to him with a customized report or chart or analytics tool and say, 'Here's what's going on that you asked me.'

The data is reliable, he adds, because any contract or job a sales person wants to open up has to be in the CRM and is validated by an admin as they process it. Fauser also manually downloads data from the SAP system and imports it into Zoho so that the actual revenue and margin achieved becomes part of the record. All of this helps the sales team understand where there are opportunities to improve performance. He adds:

It's never a stick ... it's only used for coaching mechanisms. Even our best salespeople, if you sit down with them with ten different boxes of metrics, there's always an improvement area. There's always an intelligent conversation, not one that's based on emotion or based on bias. It's, 'Here's an area that if you could do this, then this can happen.'

The Zoho relationship

I spoke to Fauser while we were both visiting Zoho's headquarters in Chennai, India last week, as guests of the company. While there, he was taking the opportunity to meet with the vendor's Internet of Things (IoT) product team to explore potential uses of the technology for preventative maintenance and reducing energy consumption. Refrigeration is just a black box in the corner to most plant managers — "As soon as we start talking about refrigeration, people's eyes glaze over," he says — but when it goes wrong it can quickly have a massive impact in lost business or ruined food. He goes on:

I'm curious on what we could do to help with the utilization of those assets from a refrigeration perspective, but also from an energy perspective as well, because there's a lot of wasted energy ...

One of the big things about refrigeration I go back to that is that most systems are running inefficiently. Just to measure the efficiency per piece of equipment I think would pay such huge dividends, because the mechanical piece of equipment will just continue to run until it fails, but its efficiency goes down.

Being able to have an exploratory discussion like this is typical of the relationship with Zoho. He says:

Who knows if it will go anywhere, but at least ... it's nice to be able to have a company that's willing to talk to me with no real interest in buying at this time ...

Our sales person that we deal with, our representative, is never trying to push anything at all on me, ever. He just tells me what's available, tries to understand what I need, and then gives me some good advice ... The salesperson is not saying they're perfect. He says these are the things that are wrong — actually telling me, 'Here's what's wrong'. That builds trust, right?

So I think that yeah, for sure, I'm pretty loyal, because I feel that they're a part of my success. It made me pretty successful at my company. I think that I'm going to stay with people that'll help me win, right?

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