Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tips For Closing An Opportunity At The End Of The Quarter

Is it a rat race? Is it any kind of race?

The end of a fiscal quarter can feel like a race. The days are counting down, revenues are going up, people are requesting information and updates from all parties and more often than not your “To-Do-List” changes continually. The latter part of a sales cycle can be intense, don´t worry, there are steps than can ease the tension and enable you to ensure that you are doing everything possible to close off the Quarter on, if not beyond, target.

  1. Understand The Process – Go beyond knowing that your prospect needs to sign and you need to send an Invoice. Who will sign, where are they based, will they be signing for multiple vendors? In addition understand the procurement and payment process, will they need to generate a PO? To include a sale into a quarter is only dependent on the dates on the paperwork, the amount of Sales people that neglect the purchasers requirements and processes amazes me. Be prepared and understand the processes.
  2. Incentivize - Encouraging a prospect to sign does not necessarily mean discounting. Offer additional value from your product or service range. In addition, illustrate the competitive benefits from starting with you as soon as possible.
  3. Always Be Helping – Communication and offering to do the work yourself is key. Who can you talk to? What can you do? Simply asking for a signed order form is closing, not helping. Provide them with a clear guide on the administration process from your company and all the paperwork they may need, up front.
  4. Outline Post Sale Activity – Be aware that all the discussions leading to a deal can dilute the knowledge on what happens next. The post sale activity can have a huge impact on the desire to sign. For example, what is the lead time to delivery? If the prospect needs your offering for something in particular will they have it in time if they wait to sign? What is the payment terms? Think and offer support from an Account Management and Operational perspective to accelerate signing.
  5. Be Different - You will be amazed how these 4 steps will make you seem different in your approach. Really think about what else you can do to be different. It could be as simple as having eye catching Subject Lines in emails or, for example, send thought leadership pieces to those not in discussions that will be involved in the process like the Accounts Payable team.
Working towards reaching personal or company targets at the end of the quarter does not need to be a race or a time that increases your chance of heart failure. There will be pressure from within, dont ignore this, be comfortable though with what actions you are taking. Be holistic and methodical in your approach and you will increase your chances of success.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Should I Choose a Help Desk Software Application?


Customer service is a critical element in business, and being able to provide customers with assistance when they need it is a key aspect of it. When a customer contacts your company for help, you need to ask yourself if customer service and help desk representatives can answer the customer’s question quickly and accurately.

Oftentimes, help desk representatives rely on spreadsheets and databases to access information about customers, their purchases, order histories, and contact information. When a customer calls in for assistance, a help desk representative might pull out his notebook and a pen to jot down the issue. Then, he will open a database that contains many details of the customer’s history, as well as a spreadsheet containing additional information. This process might take five minutes, especially if the system is running slowly. After accessing the customer’s information, the rep might find that he needs to call a different department to inquire further about the customer’s recent transactions. The customer is placed on hold while the rep makes the call. The customer has now been on the phone for 15 minutes with no answer. When the call center rep finally returns to the caller, he informs the caller he will have to investigate a  little deeper and get back to her.

If this scenario sounds even remotely familiar, you might want to consider utilizing a help desk software application. When calling a help desk customers are seeking quick and efficient answers. It is not their intention to be put on hold for a lengthy period of time, only to find out that their questions cannot be answered immediately. This delay in service to the customer could potentially cost a company the customer, as the customer might become so frustrated she decides she would get better service elsewhere. Losing a customer is the last thing a company wants to happen when trying to deliver customer service.

Help desk software applications are designed to help customer service representatives answer customers’ questions with ease and haste. In addition, help desk software applications can reduce the number of help desk representatives needed, as many offer self-service options. Help desk applications can aid your business by providing call management, tracking, knowledge management, and problem resolution options.

Representatives can quickly pull up customer information that is organized and allows them to answer questions without needing to access multiple databases. In addition, help desk software applications can be integrated with popular business applications and phone systems, helping to adapt them to your company’s existing help desk applications and strategies.

In terms of customer relationship management (CRM) and ensuring customer retention, help desk software can greatly help. The applications can help users manage data and information, as well as direct calls and inquiries directly to the right people. Rather than bouncing the customer from help desk to sales department and back to the help desk, some help desk applications can make that determination up-front, eliminating the potential for the customer to be misguided and the service convoluted. Help desk software applications can streamline the customer service experience, making it much more efficient for the customer and the business, and more cost effective for the business.

It has long been said that keeping an existing customer is much more cost effective than seeking new customers. While help desk software applications may not be the solution for everyone, they provide companies with better methods of assisting their customers. By utilizing technology that can enhance customers’ experiences when they contact your company, you are heightening the potential of sustaining a customer relationship and supporting your business.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Faster, Bigger, Better: Growing Your Business with Cloud-Based CRM

Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software provides businesses with flexibility for marketing, sales, and support teams. Because all of the company’s applications operate in the cloud—which is simply another term for the Internet—the applications can be accessed from anywhere. Sales teams may access CRM software in the office, from their Blackberry, or from a laptop at a remote location. Cloud-based CRM tools require only an Internet connection; each team member simply logs into their website and the applications instantaneously appear.

Cloud-based CRM applications allow business owners to automate functions such as lead generation, sales analysis, sales reports, sales forecasting, opportunity analysis, competitor analysis and other useful metrics. When these metrics are automated, salespeople may focus on relationship building, customer retention and customer loyalty. Cloud-based CRM saves the reps time, because the process is more efficient. Many businesses report saving 20 or more hours per week by automating tasks that were once completed manually. That time, of course, can be used to focus on closing the sale and getting new deals. Consequently, prospects are closed faster because managers recognize through reports how to allocate resources and funds to maximize profits. Companies waste less time pursuing opportunities that may never convert to a sale.
Cloud-based CRM applications allow salespeople to review the customer’s account before visiting them. By reviewing the data that is captured by these apps, salespeople can determine other products or services to offer the client based upon their current order, or offer them discounts based on current promotions. Additionally, they can predict problems that may occur in the sales process in the future.

CRM software also assists with customer support. Through the software, customer service tickets may be addressed, emails received and archived, and sales activity tracked. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and knowledge bases may also be integrated in order to provide solutions for common problems. Customers may be allowed to view these features by setting up a special login in access for customers. This will allow customers limited access to the data. Sales and purchase orders may also be processed through the software.
Goodman Jones is a chartered accountants company in the United Kingdom that utilizes cloud-based CRM products to retain customers and reduce costs. The company chose this platform for its security, reasonable cost, collaborative efforts, and for being maintenance and installation free. Since the company is an international organization, they needed an architecture that included both multiple languages and currencies. The cloud-based CRM they chose possessed each of these features. Because they have clients in Dubai and Ireland, they need to be able to connect to their clients from any location around the world. Cloud-based CRM allowed them to accomplish this goal, whereas traditional solutions did not.

Goodman Jones also created a blogging platform to allow their partners and directors to collaborate and discuss topics to improve the organization. The company created wikis for their clients and other instrumental social networking and communicating ideas. After the implementation of CRM software, the company became a finalist in the Accountancy Age Award for Best Use of the Internet by a Practice in 2008. This is a prime example of how CRM best practices and associated software can improve business.
Would you like to grow your business, and become bigger, better and faster? Cloud-based CRM is the ticket.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

LinkedIn to the Business World

Social networking sites are no longer for just personal use. Now, these websites are commonly used among businesses as tools for gathering leads, advertising, marketing, and staying connected with customers.

LinkedIn is a social networking site specifically designated to businesses professionals. By May of 2009, LinkedIn accumulated over 40 million members world wide. What makes this site truly unique is that it is made up of only business professionals. It creates an atmosphere like no other networking site on the web.

The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few of the features offered through LinkedIn.

Build a community

When you create an account, LinkedIn allows you to access all your e-mail account contacts and import them into your network. It then determines which of these contacts are already using LinkedIn. Building your network community is fast and easy with this feature. The site also comes equipped with search engines that help you add new people to your network. It finds former classmates and colleagues by searching the web and importing data into your site.

Gain New Leads

Managing a business is challenging, and it is often difficult to develop new strategies that benefit sales. Companies rely on effective collaboration with colleagues to learn the latest techniques. LinkedIn lets you create groups, making it easier to share interests, schedule meetings, and keep informed. Keeping in touch with experts in the field is imperative to making contacts. You can also keep records of discussions by creating groups. In a busy world, it is easy to forget important conversations, and LinkedIn offers a solution to this problem.

Make New Additions to Your Company by Building a Professional Profile

LinkedIn allows members to show off their originality and professionalism. It includes options for uploading photos and information pertaining to your current business. If you want to locate partners, creating a profile enables you to present your history to fellow members. For example, users list details about their current positions, past positions, recommendations, education, and specialties. There are dozens of applications that users include in their profiles including slide show presentations, file storage, access to outside links, email, and blogs. Essentially, members create sophisticated resumes using the latest technology available on the web.

Keep Track of Your Stats

Word-of-mouth information sharing is a powerful concept. The more connections you make for your company, the more productive your business is. Getting information about your services and products is essential to company growth. On LinkedIn, members track network statistics quickly and easily. This tool lets you know how many new professionals you have been connected with and people that have shown interest in your company.

Looking For Employment? Put Down the Newspaper

LinkedIn makes job searching much easier. The site includes tools specifically designed for the use of job seekers. Using an embedded search engine, members locate available jobs locally and nationally. This feature also enables you to track the number of people who view your profile as well as the number of times you appear in search results. It also lets you list recent jobs you have had, which may be appealing to those looking to fill positions.

The best resources for any business are now available through cloud computing. What makes these programs so impressive is that they are never installed on your computer. You access the tools you need when you need them without having to worry about software delays. Best of all, even the smallest companies can take advantages of innovative resources. More than ever, there is increased competition among businesses. Therefore, smaller companies need a way in which to make their services stand out. LinkedIn and the social media are solutions to these challenges.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How Cloud Computing Can Help Your Company Track and Forecast Sales


For many salespeople, selling isn’t the hard part of sales. It’s the administrative work – managing accounts, recording customer interactions, tracking competitors and performing follow-up tasks. Additionally, forecasting sales is one of the biggest challenges that companies face today, given the numerous factors that influence the prediction of short- or long-term sales: changeable trends, increased competition, economic growth or recession, consumer confidence, advertising and potential recalls. When marketing managers, sales force managers and production teams face communication difficulties, accurate and reliable sales forecasting figures may be especially elusive.

Many companies are turning to the cloud computing model of sales force automation in order to achieve the twin goals of tracking and forecasting sales. Sales force automation is a platform which makes business tasks such as inventory control, order processing, customer management, information sharing, sales forecasting, and lead organization easier. Cloud computing can provide businesses with a way to increase capacity, add functionality, or provide their employees with new capabilities without investing in software, hardware or infrastructure.

In its simplest terms, cloud computing allows businesses to plug into a shared data center instead of buying an individual copy of a software or technology product. The cloud can provide business applications that can be integrated with commonly utilized devices and software that are already in place; they can be accessed from a web browser, whether through a desktop or laptop or through mobile devices, such as an iPhone or BlackBerry. Despite being shared, these applications are fully customizable: think of several small companies who occupy an office building together, sharing such services as security and maintenance, but whose offices all look very different and perform discrete functions.

The architecture of cloud computing lends itself well to sales force automation because sales reps need simplified, on-the-go access to a variety of applications. With the cloud, a rep can be connected to information, statistics, colleagues, partners, prospects, content and leads that might otherwise have been difficult to glean, especially while traveling.

Integration between all departments – sales, marketing, production, and even the boardroom – is one of the major advantages of sales force automation through the cloud. Comprehensive and customized applications can improve sales rep productivity, streamline processes, and provide access to key information, about any deal, to any manager or executive who wants view it. Because sales people are able to update statistics and customer information immediately, marketing and sales initiatives can be more responsive and up-to-date. In short, all the information and data that is generated or used by a sales force can be recorded, tracked, analyzed, distributed and compiled by a sales force automation platform. Disbursing it to the cloud allows for a wider range of access, as well as a streamlined approach to doing business.

Small businesses can benefit from cloud computing models of sales force automation because they can save capital investment and personnel, but major corporations also employ enterprise cloud computing in order to make their interdepartmental communication efforts more effective. Additionally, enterprise cloud computing sales force integration can be vital to a business which depends on global initiatives or expanding markets, in which sales reps are speaking different languages, using different technologies to manage information, and traveling frequently.
Sales analytics and forecasting can also be improved by sales force automation and the cloud computing revolution. Because sales reports and customer interaction can be updated in real time, and because enterprise applications can be customized to analyze and present specific data in easy-to-use formats, information can be shared across several departments. If any change occurs in the business climate, the production schedule, sales performance or inventory, or any other aspect that may influence current sales and forecasted sales, this data can be easily shared. The applications can also provide analytical tools to help accurately predict future sales. In these and other ways, the cloud presents a comprehensive and up-to-the-moment window into all aspects of the business.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Importance of Cloud Computing

As the battles between PC vs. Mac and IE vs. Firefox rage on, there is another battle being waged that is going relatively unnoticed: legacy computing vs. cloud computing. If you’ve never heard these terms before, here is a quick lesson.

Legacy computing involves programs that are installed on a computer’s hard drive or a local server; cloud computing refers to software services and platforms that are offered through the Internet. An easy-to-understand example is e-mail; some people access e-mail from a program on their computer while others use e-mail services online such as Gmail or Yahoo! mail. Cloud computing services, while not as new as they may seem, are quickly becoming the standard of choice for businesses everywhere.

Cloud computing is an efficient way to store and maintain databases, and is an especially helpful tool for businesses who do a lot of sales. Using a platform on the cloud for your business helps everyone who uses it by streamlining data and procedures into one central location. It’s an easy way to organize information in different departments while still allowing for company-wide collaboration. Services offered by cloud computing are actually software, but the software is never installed on a computer; this is what’s known as software-as-a-service, or SaaS. The software is accessed through the Internet, and provide storage, database creation, information management and many other business-related services.

Cloud computing solutions are often less expensive than their software counterparts, another reason why they are a becoming a popular choice among businesses. Pricing is often offered on a per-user basis, so businesses pay a flat fee based on the number of people who use it. It also saves time and money when it comes time to upgrade; cloud services are updated by the provider, so everyone is always working on the latest platform.

You may be wondering why cloud computing is becoming increasingly prevalent; here’s why. With cloud computing, users have access to their information through the Web, so it’s accessible from anywhere they need it. It’s also generally less expensive than other solutions; a simple return on investment (ROI) calculation can help determine just how cost-effective it can be for your company. A big benefit that is often touted by the companies who use cloud services is that the fear of losing data, or having unsecured data, is no longer a factor. When changes are made on the cloud, they happen in real time. There’s no need to save constantly in case a computer crashes. There’s no in-house server required needing daily backup, either. All of the IT worries are “virtually” gone. Security is still maintained, because information is password accessible.
What does this mean for your business? It means that employees will have the capability to do things faster and with much more ease; since everyone is using the same system, everyone is able to collaborate and get the information they need. Many cloud based services offer customizable options to fit virtually every business need, and the option to customize it even further by writing your own programs and add-ons, or consulting to have these customizations done for you. Cloud services also integrate with most commonly used software applications, and even other Web-based services and social networking sites, to help connect your employees and customers in one location.

If your business is facing problems due to lack of organization or you’re just fed up with your current system, consider making the switch to cloud computing. It has proven success across many fields of business, is cost-effective, makes managing how business gets done much easier, bringing peace-of-mind to everyone involved.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Social Media's Evolving Impact On How Businesses Buy Tech

Guest post written by Lawrence M. Walsh
Lawrence M. Walsh is president and CEO of the 2112 Group, a communications and consulting firm.

Lawrence Walsh
Facebook’s long-awaited Wall Street debut will be one of the biggest IPOs in history. Powered by 850 million active users, Facebook is without a doubt the world’s largest social network – a standing that’s earned the 8-year-old company a $100 billion valuation.

The value placed on Facebook isn’t so much a reflection of what the company is doing today; its revenues are paltry compared to many of its rivals. Rather, Wall Street investors are betting on what Facebook will do in the future in terms of influencing and transforming the next generation of commerce.

Facebook is indicative of the rise of social media and the continued evolution of converged media. The impact of this communications and collaboration model – pioneered by the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter – is rapidly changing the way people communicate, collaborate, research and, ultimately, make decisions.

The impact of social media on how tech products are bought and sold is nascent, but growing. Some technology vendors are using social media such as Twitter to promote products and special offers to end users and generate leads for partners. Some vendors are using LinkedIn and Twitter to communicate with reseller partners en masse. And solution providers are developing social links with customers to keep them abreast of technology development. There are even some solution providers experimenting with Twitter as a support notification mechanism.

None of this compares with what’s to come as social media combines with functional and transactional media offerings. In this converged media world, vendors and solution providers alike will soon embrace marketing that draw in partners and end users with essential applications, social connections and communications, and – ultimately – the ability to research and purchase products and services through the same portal.

Here are the three main elements of Converged Media.
  • Functional media is an application persistently resourced by end users. Applications are free, which is made possible by sponsorship and marketing underwriting. Good examples of this are Google’s Gmail and Spiceworks IT management tools. Unlike conventional media into which users are drawn for moments periodically, functional media is something actively engaged by the user for long periods of time, which increases the potential for exposure to marketing messages.
  • Social media – such as Facebook and Twitter – are well-defined social networking and communications vehicles that enable vendors, solution providers and end users to interact with each other in real time on a level field. This is a far different dynamic than conventional media where interactions typically wait until the sales process begins. In social media, underwritten by marketing, users are able to query peers and the community about product features, benefits and value. They can ask questions about vendor reputation and performance; and they can seek guidance on sourcing, often through solution providers. Vendor and solution provider engagement in social networks will define their market value and drive sales.
  • Transactional media is where the communications medium is also the sales channel. The portal that provides an application and social interaction is also where users source product and buy services. Companies like and Microsoft’s Marketplace are good examples of transactional media attached to social or functional marketing assets.
As you can see, converged media – outlets that share these three features like Facebook, LinkedIn and Spiceworks – simplify the marketing process; make more direct connections between vendors, partners and customers; and provide a streamlined process for acquiring product and services. In other words, converged media is more cost effective and productive than conventional media.

In the marketplace, first social media and then converged media will change the way vendors find, communicate and interact with solution providers. Solution providers will learn to leverage these new mediums to connect with peers, form new business relationships and, find and interact with customers. Already, solution providers use social networks to query peers on technical issues and vent about operational challenges with vendors. Soon, they’ll not only be able to communicate, but also find primary and alternate sources of products for resale.

Paying attention to what’s happening in social media is critical to all companies in the technology value chain. Reputations are being built, tested and devalued in the social media context. Technologies and products are being vetted and recommended. And vendor programs and partner relations are being documented. What happens in the social context will eventually spill over into converged media and have real dollars attached.