The cloud revolution has been in full swing for several years now. But there are still plenty of disbelievers out there.
One of the most common putdowns is that cloud software is “just an application running on a remote server”. This comment is often made by IT professionals and while true on a very basic level, it misses the bigger picture.
Cloud software is transforming how small businesses operate because it gives them access to systems and tools normally afforded only by larger companies. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a classic example of a program that took could take one or more servers to operate.
The risk of buying the software and the hardware and paying consultants to put it all together and customise it to operations pushed CRM beyond the grasp of many smaller businesses.
But every business is built on its ability to make sales. Yet mainly mid-size and large companies have invested in software to help them improve the way they sell.
CRMs do this in four ways.
Small businesses often lack a system for recording and following up on prospects and as a result opportunities fall through the cracks, losing potential revenue. Software can help track opportunities and make sure a salesperson has had a go at converting each one into a sale.
CRM software forces a business to put into writing all the steps in its sales process. Once the process has been defined, the business owner can experiment with reducing the number of steps to speed up the sales process, or use it to train new sales staff. A logical and clear list makes it easier to hold sales staff accountable and reveals where potential sales are in the pipeline.
And a CRM can win more sales from existing customers in two ways. It uses reports to show which customers have purchased the most or which are due to buy again. A salesperson can run through this list and hope for a high strike rate.
A CRM can also help you provide much better service to existing customers by tracking all interactions between your staff and the customer. Happy customers are more likely to be repeat customers.
So small businesses have never had the option of professionalising their sales with CRM. Now they can. But how do you explain the value of this approach?
BoxFreeIT has launched the Future of Work, an educational series sponsored by Salesforce.com that breaks down the mechanics of CRM into three components vital to business. Many people struggle to control their email, which has become the primary communications medium for prospects and customers. Mastering the inbox is essential to capturing all the opportunities passing through it.
Read up on the latest strategies for staying on top of your inbox each Monday with the Master Your Email stream.
Maintaining a solid set of contacts is another challenge which must be overcome in the quest to maximise sales from opportunities. Tips, advice and examples of good contact management will be sent out each Wednesday in the Cultivate Your Contacts stream.
The third area, less understood by businesses, are workflows. Knowing what is a workflow and how they can improve operations is hugely valuable not just to sales but to every aspect of a business. Find out how to build a workflow, the parts of your business you should measure and how businesses are already using workflows in the Optimise Your Business stream every Friday.
Thanks to the cloud revolution, small businesses now have the tools to tackle the problems faced by all business. As they understand how to use these tools it will change fundamentally the way they work.
Hence the mission of BoxFreeIT in its coverage of all things cloud – to explore the future of work.
This post is part of the Future of Work series sponsored by Salesforce.com.