I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Jeff Susich, VP of business Development at SmallbizSalesforce.com.
He kindly allowed me to pick his brain and to share his Salesforce insights with all of you.
In the following interview, he explains why and how Salesforce is integral to your small or medium business. He also offers tips and advice on to best use the system.
Jeff, please begin by telling us about the market demand for Salesforce in small and medium businesses, and how you help serve the market need.
Business continues to be increasingly complex. The smallest of businesses have to manage the traditional business functions – sales, marketing, operations, accounting, etc. But now there is the element of social media, of massive information to manage, and the need to keep up with what prospects and clients are doing. Traditionally this was done in silos – a local area network to manage the information, some type of software (usually spreadsheets) to manage sales and marketing, and whatever else could be used. That’s labor intensive, and small companies have to be far more efficient than larger firms, which usually have some bench strength they can deploy as needed.
Salesforce.com has managed to create a unified platform that can manage the entire range of business functions, at a cost that is incredibly low for what clients get. But that has brought its own complexity – salesforce can do anything, but should it? What I really do for clients is to associate their business needs with salesforce, ensure that they get the most out of salesforce, and simplify it for them. I have a background in sales, marketing, operations, and call centers, and this allows me to be able to work with any organization in the company to best leverage salesforce.
What are a few of the greatest challenges that small businesses face when introducing Salesforce into their company?
Most small companies have a part-time salesforce system administrator. This person has a fulltime job, and is tasked with being the system administrator, generally with no training. This person is expected to leverage the ever-changing cloud application that is salesforce. That’s a tough task. With 3 releases a year packed with enhancements, they miss out on using all the tools in salesforce available to them.
Additionally, since the system administrator generally gets little training, the same applies to the Users. I train all my clients when they initially start using salesforce, but it is the rare clients that contact me to get the best Salesforce training, even though they have new hires coming into the company all the time. Therefore, I think that making a commitment to get the part-time system administrator the knowledge they need, and to get the Users trained on an ongoing basis, is the greatest challenge for small businesses.
Can you offer our readers some simple solutions to overcome these challenges and make Salesforce adoption smoother?
Most small businesses cannot afford the $4000 or so and the week of commitment to send their salesforce administrator to formal training, but a commitment can be made to use the wide range of free resources available. If the company and system admin commit to regular learning, it’s a very worthwhile investment. Additionally, the company needs to make a commitment that when new people start in the company, they get some User training.
What are some of the things small business Salesforce users can look forward to in 2014? Any especially noteworthy features/apps?
One of the great things about salesforce is that the big companies with thousands of seats are in fact subsidizing the continual improvement of Group and Professional Editions, which are used by many small businesses. Recent and upcoming features that I like include:
1. Report Charts able to be embedded in page layouts
2. Continued enhancements to the free Salesforce1 mobile phone app. Compact layouts allow a much better mobile experience
3. Skills – Spring ’14 will pilot this feature, that will allow companies to identify experts in different areas
4. Forecasting – users now will have the flexibility of having up to 4 type of forecasts – Revenue, Quantity of Product, Both, or Product Family
5. Salesforce for Outlook – this has continued to get better. It’s free, and a must to have if you use Outlook
What is your personal favorite Salesforce feature or app that some small and medium business might not be familiar with? What are its benefits?
One of the great things about salesforce is the AppExchange. As the iTunes Store is to the iPhone, the AppExchange is to Salesforce.com. There are thousands of Apps, both paid and free. Some of my favorite Apps are:
1. Duplicate Catcher – Free, and it works well
2. Conga Composer – Paid, and it’s a magical document creation app with superb customer support
3. Field Check – Free, and what it does is show you what percentage of use your fields have in all records. It helps identify unneeded fields
4. Expensify- Free, and it tracks expenses, logs into bank accounts to retrieve data, and more
What would you say to a small company that was thinking about using Salesforce.com
If you use any CRM system but salesforce, you are making a mistake. As I have told some venture firms that I work with, “If I ever funded a startup, I would require them to use salesforce, and provide them with the monthly reports that we want to see from them to track our investment”