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Steering your SME’s salesforce

With the market awash with competition, Jake Callaway, Managing Director, MENA at 4C, highlights how the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can give SMEs the ability to set themselves apart from the competition by leveraging the rich volumes of customer data that are already being collected.

The Arab Gulf region is a mixed environment for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). Governments make it relatively easy to get started, but the vast volume of peers makes this a region in which to fail fast and hard if you lack the eye for your operating market and the strategy for competition.

A 2018 report from Dubai's Department of Economic Development reveals that apart from VAT implementation, UAE SMEs regard competition as the one great challenge they face. Yes, business leaders remain upbeat about the future, but those whose optimism proves prescient will be those that bolster their technology stacks with a view to gaining an edge.

A 2017 report from analyst firm Gartner showed that 81% of companies worldwide expected to be competing almost entirely on customer experience (CX) by this year. In the UAE, as in the rest of the GCC, SMEs make up a sizeable proportion of non-oil GDP and are now discovering this very need. From the retailer to the upstart manufacturer, Gulf small businesses operate in some of the most stiffly competitive markets ever seen in the region. Customers here are awash with options, well informed and able to switch to a competitor without ever leaving their chair. Without the right customer-relationship management (CRM) suite, companies are squandering the one weapon they have at their disposal capable of delivering outstanding CX: data. 

The role of data in the optimal CX
We have all heard hyperbole such as “90% of the data that exists in the world today has been created over the past two years”. So many firms accumulate vast lakes that go untapped. But employ the right CRM suite, and suddenly your business comes alive.

They don’t call it “digital transformation” for nothing. Good CRM allows your organisation to create an agile, proactive salesforce. Leverage automated, targeted marketing-email campaigns to engage cold leads; deliver on your brand promises with slicker customer service; and generate more leads while slicing and dicing data to see what is working and what isn’t at every angle and every level of your business.

It is hard to believe that we used the term “Information Age” as far back as the 1970s. What we were able to do with data back then pales in comparison to techniques available as standard in today’s leading CRM platforms. I can only imagine the incredulity among 70s sales executives if someone had tried to explain social listening to them. In 2019, your CRM system should be able to follow what people are saying about you on social media, responding with campaigns that target those platforms directly.

The rounded view, and what it means for CX
The strength of a CRM application fed with rich, high-volume data stores is the ability to create a highly personalised, 360-degree view of a customer, so that front- and back-office operations can be linked and synced. When marketing, sales, finance and other divisions have access to the same information presented in a visual, explicit format, they no longer encroach on one another’s efforts and can, in fact, supplement the customer experience in positive ways. By connecting your data to powerful analytics engines, you build a platform for lead-generation, conversion, process automation and, of course, improved customer satisfaction. It is the ultimate find-win-and-keep engine.

Sales pipeline management is one area where automation is no cause for alarm. With your sales processes streamlined by CRM and your pipeline meticulously managed, agents no longer miss key events, and convert more effortlessly. And with system-generated advice on creating engaging emails and marketing campaigns, the find-win part of the process is shortened, and the win-keep portion becomes more reliable and less stressful. 

All these capabilities are vital to a small business jostling to be noticed. And all these capabilities would have been unavailable to such scales of enterprise just a decade ago. But the advent of cloud computing has put them within reach of even the most modest start-ups. The digital business, with the right cloud-based CRM must worry a lot less about the process of outstanding CX because the economies of scale inherent in the cloud elevate the SME to enterprise grade.

Keeping budgets in check
And those economies? They mean you, the small business owner, are within grasping distance of AI, IoT, advanced analytics and a host of other tools that will allow you to keep your pipeline fed without haemorrhaging cash, as subscription costing models put you more in the driver seat than was possible when you had to acquire IT solutions in asset fashion.

So, the future is bright. But, as with all moments of change, you must ride the wave at the right point or be left behind. Innovators move with purpose… and move first. Cloud-based CRM is a tool and opens the door to digital transformation. Move first and get ready for change.