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There’s a lot of good things to say about digital transformation for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs). Implementing digital tools can increase an SMB’s efficiency, help improve employee retention and experience, and make it a lot easier to scale operations when the business grows.
But what about before the business grows? Digital technologies are helpful but a new implementation—especially a full transformation—can be a costly endeavor. That’s why it’s important for SMBs to look for specific characteristics and capabilities that will help cut down on costs while preserving important functionality.
IT infrastructure for any company generally comes in two forms: on-site and cloud-based. On-site is what it sounds like: everything is stored on computer servers in the business’s physical location. While it might seem appealing to have your software stored in one place, computers and servers have their own price tags and take up a lot of physical space and resources, driving up rental and utilities costs. Renting one server costs an average of $100-$200 per month for SMBs and buying a dedicated server can be upward of $3000.
Cloud-based solutions offer access to existing servers owned by the solution provider, that are accessed through the internet. Solution providers like ScaleFluidly and Salesforce include the costs of server hosting in the price of the solution for every customer, meaning SMBs using a cloud-based solution will pay a few cents a month on server hosting instead of hundreds of dollars. A good cloud-based solution for an SMB will also offer IT support as part of their services, reducing the need to hire dedicated IT staff.
Industry research shows that mid-market companies using cloud-based services reduce their IT costs by 42% and report a 38% more efficient use of IT resources. Not only that, 94% of businesses report an improvement in their data security when switching to the cloud, meaning lower cost for better security.
Automation and scalability
As the old adage goes, “time is money.” By this logic, automation is the workhorse of digital sales technologies. It can take all the minutiae of a sales rep’s every day—entering data, creating quotes, generating invoices—and take care of it in the background, while that rep does more important things like reaching out to clients or attending trade events. Digital tools can also run multiple processes at once, letting them complete tasks in a fraction of the time that it takes for an employee manually.
Automation not only frees up work hours for employees, it also helps management and leadership make better decisions on how to use that time. WorkMarket estimates that 25% of employees’ everyday tasks could be automated, saving them time and their business money. The process of automating tasks can help identify repetitions and redundancies even in processes that must remain partially manual.
Take quote generation for example: every client will have their own personalized quote with its own list of products and services. Someone will always have to enter those line items based on client needs, but the base information about the products and services will always be the same. Using a digital price book and quoting software lets sales reps and accountants preload pricing and discount information, meaning almost everything is calculated before a sales rep even shakes a client’s hand.
Train better and faster
If you’ve heard that “time is money,” you’ve probably heard that “knowledge is power.” This is especially true in business and even more true for SMBs, which have to rely on a smaller pool of talent for their operations than larger enterprises. Per Accenture, every dollar spent on training an employee has a 353% return-on-investment—meaning every dollar spent earns a business $353.
But that’s only if the training is effective; confusing, improper, or incomplete training can leave employees’ feeling lost, unappreciated, or detached. 40% of employees who experience insufficient training will leave their positions within the first year, which can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruitment, hiring, and yes—more training. Improper training is a big disadvantage; SMBs committed to employee engagement and development can double their profits compared to competitors that undervalue training.
Training that feels meaningful and gets employees engaged in their work makes them better at what they do and improves revenue generation across the board. This is why it’s important to look for digital platforms that are easy to use and/or offer comprehensive training tools. The sooner an employee sees their impact, the sooner they’ll get engaged—and the less their employers will have to spend on training costs.
Save time and money
Price tags can be intimidating, especially for small-to-midsized businesses with fewer resources than their competitors. But by prioritizing a cloud-based system, automating simple tasks, and finding a tool with low training costs, businesses can minimize their initial investment while improving their revenue in the long run.
These tips also make it easy for businesses to grow—with cloud servers that can grow to any size, automation to minimize workload, and a crop of well-trained, enthusiastic employees? There’s almost no choice but to scale fluidly.