September 16, 2009, 11:58 AM — Every small business sales team starts small, usually with the owner doing sales, often using spreadsheets to track prospect details. Companies like ACT! have made millions providing structure and organization to prospect and customer tracking. But today, I strongly recommend using a hosted sales management program for two reasons: cost and control.
On the cost front, a few dollars per user per month gets access to some incredible sales management software. You have many options. I searched for “online sames manager software” with quotes and got 18,700 results, and without quotes Google returned over 56,000,000 entries. Overwhelming? Yes, but narrowing your search terms, and more importantly asking your fellow business people what they use, will boil your list down to a manageable level in no time.
Back to my two reasons. Number one, cost, One company I've talked to in the past, BatchBook, adds a social media twist to CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and charges $10 for one user (you get a free trial), $20 for three users, and $30 for up to 10 users, meaning $3 per user per month. SalesForce.com, a leading CRM for medium and large companies, is making their pitch for small business by starting pricing at $9 per user for up to two users. Unlike BatchBook, higher levels of SalesForce.com cost more, not less, per user, a reflection of more enterprise features as you move upscale.
If you need only one or two sales accounts, figure $10 or so per user for sales management software that tracks prospects and customers over the entire sales cycle and beyond. A few more salespeople means a few less dollars per user per month. Cost to entry are tiny, and if a supplier doesn't work for you, cancel and try the next one. Try that with expensive boxed software.
After cost comes control, and this may be the best reason to use online sales software, or “track your customers in the cloud.” When a salesperson leaves, they often go to a competitor. If you buy them software that runs on their laptop, they take all the prospect and customer information with them. If you use a hosted sales software approach, the minute they give notice you can disable their account. They can't get access, but you can. All your information stays with you. Sure, they can copy some details and print a few reports, but you'll keep the bulk of your customer information out of the hands of your competitors.