Interview with Misty Khan of HuntressPro
If you’ve been to an OpenCoffee event recently you may have met Misty Khan and learned about her new sales contact management software, Huntress Pro. If you are a networking fiend like I am and are tied to Microsoft Outlook, you will appreciate this new release that addresses the shortcomings of Outlook.
I had a chance to speak to Misty about this new release…here are some excerpts from our chat:
Josh: When did you get the “entrepreneurial bug” that led you to start Advena Artemis?
Misty: Entrepreneurialism is pretty much in my blood. Growing up and watching my parents and other family members sweat payroll and deal with all the other less glamorous issues that business owners deal with, I swore I wasnâ€™t going that route. But eventually it sucks you in! During my attempt at being a stay at home mom (after trying it myself I have the deepest respect and appreciation for women who stay home with their children) I got a lot of offers to come back to work either in sales or as a sales consultant. My husband suggested that instead of working for someone else where I would likely have to travel or at least face a daily commute, I start my own business and market the system that I had created in Outlook to help manage my prospects (the precursor to HuntressPro). That was about 4 years ago.
Josh: So tell me about Huntress Pro and the product launch.
Misty: HuntressPro is a Microsoft Outlook add-in that provides contact management functionality such as call lists, referral source tracking and sales activity reporting. I began creating HuntressPro when I was a sales person to help me remember who I needed to talk to each day and what I needed to talk with them about. Our HuntressLite product addresses that need specifically because for some of my clients that donâ€™t necessarily have business development responsibility, but do a lot of networking, that is all they need. As my needs evolved for things like sales activity reporting and referral source tracking, I continued exploring ways to meet them in Microsoft Outlook; those solutions eventually became HuntressPro. We also have a HuntressPro plug in that creates a sales pipeline as well as win and loss reports that help pin point which referral sources are providing the best ROI and which investments will pay for themselves. We are launching our HuntressPro.com site with those three products, but we expect our offerings to increase as we convert more of the industry specific functionality we have developed for custom software clients into additional HuntressPro plug ins.
Josh: Why CRM? Isn’t this a crowded space (Outlook, ACT!, SalesForce.com, SugarCRM, etc.)?
Misty: With all the tools out there, I never found one that worked as well as the customized version of Outlook that I unwittingly created. I kept waiting for Microsoft to make the changes themselves or to make BCM a better product, but it never happened and people kept offering to pay me to come customize Outlook for them the way I had for myself. The need for something else on the market has grown even more since I started the company four years ago mainly because all of these other programs out there have added more and more functionality that is used by fewer and fewer users. At this point, users feel overwhelmed with all of the extra features and have in many cases seen degradation in performance. Also, more and more users are demanding that their contact management software be integrated with their e-mail and calendar software which for our target market (small to mid sized businesses) is usually Microsoft Outlook. ACT! and some of the other packages have a synchronization mechanism with Outlook, but it doesnâ€™t always work as consistently as users would like. Weâ€™ve found a huge demand for the release of HuntressPro â€“ as soon as I mention that I have a solution that will turn Outlook into a proper contact management software, people get really excited.
Josh: Who are you targeting with the Huntress Pro product?
Misty: Our target market is small to mid-sized companies â€“ anything from a single user up to 30 person sales organizations. Large corporations tend to have ERP software packages like SAP that are inclusive of a CRM so HuntressPro only works for them if they employ a distributed sales force management.
Josh: How has being in Houston affected the development of your startup?
Misty: Houston is a very entrepreneur friendly city. If you are honest, ambitious, and competent, there are people here who will help you. Iâ€™ve had the good fortune to meet many such people and everyone seems really vested in seeing entrepreneurs with varied business, educational, and cultural backgrounds succeed. People in Houston are so friendly that networking is second nature so groups such as Business Networking International (BNI) and OpenCoffee are well embraced. And those networking groups have been fabulous for me personally from a number of perspectives.
I came from a large corporate background working at companies like ARCO Chemical and Telerx which was a subsidiary of Merck. Since I sold multi-million dollar solutions, my clients were usually large Fortune 500 corporations. My BNI group really helped me understand my target market and how I could best serve them not to mention all the great referrals and business they have brought me over the years. And then there are some great organizations like HAN and HTC that have introduced me to some amazing people who have already done what Iâ€™m trying to do and are terrific resources.
Josh: What are your plans for growing your market share? What are your constraints?
Misty: The most important strategy for growing our client base is first to establish ourselves as Microsoft Outlook experts (especially from a business development perspective) through resources like our new blog site Arrow Tips and then make our products available to users of those resources. Arrow Tips which discusses best practices for using Microsoft Outlook from a business development perspective. The idea is to provide a service to the Outlook user community that will help make them more efficient and then our software will supplement that service with additional tools.
I am also working on an e-book due for release this winter called “Microsoft Outlook for Sales Professionals” and we have already started coordinating our winter seminar series which will include “Lunch N Learn” courses like The Paperless Office and Fantastic Follow-up.
We are also looking for good strategic partners to resell our solution. So far weâ€™ve worked with some great IT support firms that like Huntress because it is an Outlook add-in and it has been much easier to administer and maintain then other CRM applications. Weâ€™ve also tried to cater to these firms from a support stand point and make their lives easier instead of more difficult. Weâ€™re looking for application partners as well â€“ companies with products that are complementary to ours where there is a good strategic cross-sell opportunity.
Josh: Anything else you like to talk mention?
Misty: We are very excited to finally be able to make HuntressPro available to a larger group of people. Iâ€™ve really enjoyed working with my current client base and seeing them improve their efficiency and effectiveness â€“ it is so exciting to be able to offer that service on a much larger scale.
Thanks to Misty for being available to me for this interview. Currently, she is working on a version for Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista so until that is released, I cannot play with it too much. Let me know if any readers have some experience with the product that can be shared.