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5 Keys to Success for Today's SMB

To be a small to medium sized business (SMB) or small/medium size Enterprise (SME) running in today's business climate you need to be on your game. Competitive pressures from the internet, having to become an eCommerce shop overnight, dealing with recessions and transiions in workforce, finding and retaining employees, while doing more with less. Sound familiar? Twentieth Century small business needs to be brought kicking and screaming into the 20th century, and the vehicle is Cloud CRM. It requires SaaS or Online solutions that also leverage the internet to bring un-precidented abilities to small businesses. Things that 5 years ago only Visa could do are suddenly available and priced so that any business, regardless of size can enjoy success.

Cloud CRM recharges the organization and empowers customer-facing Sales, Support and eCommerce departments to share in real-time information, organization-wide, in order to deliver exception solutions and service that today's demanding and saavy customer is expecting from you, then it means you need to change and bring in the most innovative of solutions for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) that are robust enough to handle your needs, yet easy enough for any business user to administer and customize self-service. Making peoples jobs easier, by automating everything from your website, like they already know how to use. We can thank, Facebook and Google for educating our employees on how to use self-service online tools to get things done. Now is the time to give that power to your people.

As with any good thing however, it is sometimes very difficult to read the websites yourself and pick out the right vendor for you. They all sound so good on the website, right?

5 Keys to Success for today's SMB:

1) Empower your employees to handle a customer from beginning to end. Think of every employee as a potential salesperson, support person and order taker by training them on one main application that does 80% of the entire company's customer-facing processes. As an SMB you don't have time to be integrating together 10 different applications to have one unified source of customer information to draw from. You need to have the basics all in one solution for Marketing, Sales, Support & eCommerce, and an integration with your accounting system of choice to account for it all. Enterprise Cloud CRM is the one clear leader, but not all are well equipped to deal with smaller companies.

2) Automate the Web Lead to Closed Sale process, innovate around it, and never stop refining it until it is so smooth, your customers can self service order up your products/services from your website, social page, email, etc without any human interaction from your company. Picture them being able to test it, order it, request a quote for it, buy it, use it at 4am and have a half day's work in by the time you roll into the office. Of course only implement now what you can pull off, and work towards that holy grail of offering full self-service to your customers from your website and/or mobile app. Remember these are the same tools you will train your employees on to self-service sell to and support your customers by using the same website. It also serves as a great training tool for employees as there is one way to do it all, and it starts by going to the website/app, which is engrained in everyone.

3) Get a Cloud CRM or SaaS CRM and make sure the solution you use to manage your customers is used to dealing with Small businesses. Many are geared towards large enterprises with many IT people at their disposal. Today's SMBs and SMEs are having to do more with less, or 'where many hats'. SMB is code for 'you gotta get done 3 times as much as you did before, with half the staff and pricing and competitive pressures from everywhere...'

The only way to do this is to partner with a software vendor that has a solution robust enough to handle all your company's needs, but yet also has experience in setting up, training and migrating businesses of your size and your vertical market. Insist on a one-on-one online demonstration of the system and ask if the vendor do a requirements analysis of your business, and take the time to understand you first and have recommendations of how to make your pain points go away. Ensure the vendor has a service level agreement to protect your privacy and security, uptime, etc. Also insist they supply you with a dedicated success coach that will be available to you after the sale for training and implementation. Too often you get to see a canned demo that you can't really evaluate, and the sales person who promised you everything during the buying process is not there to back you up after you become a customer. Worst yet if you have to go to a third party vendor for training, implementation, customizations, integrations, it goes on and on.

The dirty secret of Enterprise software is that the licences costs are the lost lead. They get you on the service and maintennance and implementation costs, which end up being many times what you pay in license fees. Large Enterprises can stomach the crazy costs but most small businesses end up purchasing software they can never afford to use. It's called shelfware and it makes up most of enterprise software sales to SMBs, believe it or not.

4) Get trained. You can't avoid it, even though you want to. Today's systems have so many features that you will end up spending much more of your valuable time on it than you should, you will miss out on the dedicated consultation, coaching, training experts that have set up hundreds of small businesses like yours, and the vendor will have the experience of setting up and training many tens of thousands of companies for at least 13+ years, the knowledge at your findertips for a few hundred dollars a year is really limitless.

It is not about the software, it is about partnering with your vendor to up front plan the best strategy for short term, medium term, and long term rollouts that let your employees learn the system and get trained on a planned timeline. Make the system easy for them to use, and they will love it.

Implementing Cloud CRM systems can sometimes be like drinking from a fire hose - you should really have a plan that you can realistically train your employees on. You can get up and running in days but maybe it is better to get a chunk done now, then in a few weeks or months later, after it has had a chance to sink in. User adoption is the #1 problem in rollount out a new software system. Nobody likes to learn a new system and change, but the organization itself needs to adopt change as something that is a constant. Your system must be easy to customize and change and the vendor must be geared to grow with you and always be one step ahead.

5) Whatever Cloud CRM vendor you choose, make sure the CRM has as good plugin to Outlook or Google Apps for bi-directional synching of cusomer information from Outlook to the CRM, and from the CRM back to Outlook, so all the sent emails, received emails, notes, tasks, calendar events, contact, account opportunity information, lead info, case info, etc. gets synched to the CRM without making the user have to handle it all the time.

Let your users stay in their email client of choice. News Flash: Your employees hate CRM systems and don't want to earn a new system that will never be as well known to them as their trusty email client. They spend 80% of their day using that application to send emails and communicate with customers. They don't want to give that up to learn a whole new interface just because the rest of the organization needs to share in that valuable information, to report on it, run KPIs, send out email campaigns, manage employee turnover, you name it. The Sales or support employee sees Outlook or Gmail as their CRM - it is their Customer relationship Manager, they spend the better part of their career mastering it and it is a tough habit to break cold turkey.

Often less techical-saavy employees have enough clout in the organization to outright refuse to use the new CRM, and they happen to be the employees with all the knowlege/seniority/power and influence other employees in the organization. You don't want a feud but you know you need to do something to keep up in today's world.

The answer is a good Cloud CRM system that understands Outlook and Gmail are themselves CRM user interfaces that are maybe even more important to the SMB than the Cloud CRM vendors own user interface. Give them what they want and they will give you what you need of them.

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