Conferences – why bother?

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 in Behind The Scenes, Dynamics 365 CRM, Dynamics CRM Online, Events | 0 comments

You know the drill, the annual industry conference comes around and you look at the prices of flights and accommodation and before you know it you have talked yourself out of going this year.  The costs add up, the travelling eats into our personal time and we wonder, just what is the benefit both to the company and to us personally of this activity, if any?

Before you delete that entry in your calendar though, you might want to consider the following three reasons why you should spend the money and the time to attend one.

For yourself

First and foremost you should make going to this event about yourself – for example do you want to learn something new, then attend the sessions where you will learn the most.  Conferences are where the experts go to hang out and you get to hear their genius first hand, make the most of the opportunity.

Networking is not just for your business, it is also for yourself and your future career or business .  Making connections at conferences can reap rewards later so make sure you arrange to have coffee or a drink with people you find interesting or who are a step or two ahead of you in your field.  This is an opportunity to grow your circle of influence and deepen those relationships you already have.

For your business

Bringing back new information, particularly with regard to spotting trends or new opportunities is one of the best reasons for going.  And will potentially bring the about the biggest ROI if it gives you a head start over your competitors.  Speaking of competitors where else do you get to see them all in the same room, at the same time?  The chances are that you will hear useful conversations and this could gain access to the kind of business collaterol it could take months to gather in the normal course of your day.

Meeting new suppliers and gaining insight into new products coming into the marketplace can also turn out to be invaluable business information.  Not to mention the possibilities of meeting new partners and third party suppliers of supporting products and services to enable you to grow you business.

Let’s not forget that your might be faced with your ideal clients here too.  This is particularly true for those of us engaged in vertical markets.  You can use the opportunity to set up meetings for when you return and your expertise and passion for your business is much easier to convey face-to-face than via an email or a phone call.

For the fun

Yes, really, for the fun.  Bigger conferences have social events and parties built around them to enable their attendees to relax and enjoy themselves and there is absolutely no reason not to do so. Smaller conferences will at the very least offer the opportunity for an informal meal with new friends and contacts at the end of the day.  You will be working hard, meeting new people and setting up appointments in the day and all work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.

Bear in mind however  that many report their biggest deals and most useful new connections were made in the queue for the coffee  at breaktime or in the bar after the day is done so don’t discount this as wasted time.

Finally – make a point of enjoying yourself, we are most successful when we do so in whatever activity we engaged with, and your career and your business will reap the rewards in the future.

Cloud2020 will be attending the Microsoft Inspire conference in Las Vegas this year.  If you would like to grab a coffee or a drink with Ian or Lucy there let us know via twitter  or  Instagram


Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.  Connect with her via Twitter @wendyjclifford


 

 

 

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What do you do with your unwanted IT equipment?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2018 in Behind The Scenes, Computer Equipment, IT Schools for Africa | 0 comments

 

 

ITschoolsforAfricaEvery business has one don’t they?  A slightly grubby corner where old discarded computing equipment languishes unloved and no longer wanted until someone gets really fed up with looking at it and decides to do something about it.  But… what to do?

We know this equipment is no longer useful to us but feel that surely it must be useful to someone, but what about the data on the hard drive, can we be sure that we aren’t infringing any data security requirements by donating old IT equipment?  So we hang on to it for another 6 months and then think about taking them to the tip again and decide no it must be useful to someone and round we go again as the dust piles up.

IT Schools for Africa provides a neat and very pleasing way to solve this problem.  They have been providing millions of children in Africa with access to the tools to give them a better quality eduction since 2004 using donated equipment which is collected and refurbished and then provided to schools via their partner charities.  This equipment can then be used to create e-learning labs in schools in countries such as Malawi, Kenya,  Zambia and Zimbabwe.  Each charity has a board of trustees with specialist knowledge of ICT and education and local governments are closely involved so that on-the-ground support is ensured.  This equipment allows students to improve their job prospects and also allows opportunities to access tertiary education.  Basic support and training to the teachers is also provided by IT Schools for Africa.  Also important is the approach to data security which is taken very seriously and all data is wiped from the machines we use specialist CESG approved software. CESG is the information security arm of GCHQ and is the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance within the UK so you can have complete confidence that all data will be properly wiped before the machines are refurbished.  More on IT Schools for Africa‘s approach to data security can be found here

The statistics speak for themselves; in 2013 1 e-learning lab was donated to a school in Malawi, by 2015 this had risen to 15 e-learning labs in schools in Africa.  2008 saw 10,000 refurbished computers sent to Africa, by 2011 an impressive 30,000 were sent.

The good work also is extended to the UK, where IT Schools for Africa, based in Cheltenham, work with The Prince’s Trust and back to work agencies to provide training opportunities to those out of work.  Volunteers develop useful skills, including, IT, communication and those from the workplace as they refurbish and set up the computers ready to be sent out to Africa.  There are other schemes currently running in UK prisons to enable prisoners to learn new and practical IT skills which can help them build a new life once their term of imprisonment ends.

So, how can you help?

Well, the point of this blogpost was to highlight the opportunity for you to pass on your old equipment to somewhere that can use them to help others.  There are caveats of course.  Equipment should be  in working order and computers and laptops no older than 6 years old, however IT Schools for Africa will gratefully accept the following:

  • Computers
  • Flat screens
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Smart phones
  • Keyboards and mice
  • Scanners
  • Printers
  • Cables and power leads

Donations can be sent online via Virgin Money Giving and volunteers and fund raisers are always welcomed.

Give as you live  is an easy way to give as 1,000s of retailers will give a free donation when you shop online.

Start clearing out your unwanted IT equipment today!

IT Schools for Africa can be contacted on 01242 228800 or emailled at contact@itschoolsforafrica.org.  Follow them on twitter, facebook, linked in and instagram 


Wendy small b&w  Wendy Clifford is a writer with a longstanding interest in Technology and its impact on our lives both from a business and in a social sense.  She can be found listening to music (analogue, digital and generally in a field with a Gin and Tonic), writing and reading, or scavenging for free food from the hedgerows which she turns into jellies and jams.

Contact her via Twitter @wendyjoy1


 

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Microsoft Cloud CRM Partner of the Year 2016 – Finalist

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Behind The Scenes, Cloud Solutions for Business, Dynamics CRM Online | 0 comments

We’re incredibly proud to announce that we have been named as finalists for the Microsoft Cloud CRM Partner of the Year 2016 award.

The annual awards celebrate top Microsoft partners that demonstrate excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology – and we’re proud to be selected from the selection of global partners that specialists in this area.

Click Here to download the full press release and hear what it really means…

Cloud2020 Customer Relationship Management Partner of the year 2016

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Sales skills you need to master

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Behind The Scenes, Cloud Solutions for Business, Cloud Tutorials, Dynamics CRM Online | 0 comments

Springboard your sales metrics

Worried about sales? Not confident in getting your product or service out there? Our Account Manager, Lucy Bourne explores the range of sales skills you need to master to start reaching your target.

So sit back, grab a coffee and learn how to start boosting your monthly figures.

At Cloud2020, we’re always looking at ways that technology can boost the productivity of sales people: whether it be by something as simple as reminding them to call that hot lead or providing them with rich and valuable information on how their prospects have interacted with the business. The technology is all very well, but what about the actual skills that every sales person needs?

We look to the experts to arm us with this knowledge: Todd Cohen has coached and led sales teams to deliver over 500 million USDs worth ofrevenue for leading companies such as: Xerox, Gartner, Thomson–Reuters and Pensare. Cohen identifies the sales skills can be split into four different areas:

  • personal
  • relational
  • professional
  • return on investment

In this post, we’ll take a look at all o these areas:

PERSONAL SKILLS

Innate desire to sell

This one’s an easy one: it’s just like looking in the mirror. The attitude you give out to a customer reflects what you’ll get back: If you love to sell your customers will love you back. They’ll be far more less likely to buy from you if they can see you don’t like what you do. Positive attitudes are easily reflected in the sales scores.

Passion

Even if you’re already lucky enough to have the inbuilt desire to sell, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re passionate about it. Passion is tangible and your customers and your colleagues will be able to feel it when they’re around you. It also demonstrates that you’re engaged and interested, which shows you can bring value to your customers.

Energy

Having high energy levels won’t guarantee you reach your target, but it’s proven low energy won’t help you. Emotions are contagious and bringing the right energy to work affects your team’s morale. So, bring it!

Self – motivation

Just like you need a daily dose of coffee to start off your day, you need a daily dose of motivation to keep you going in the long term. Successful salespeople are able to overcome obstacles that happen when trying to close deals. If you want to do the same – it’s simple, just work out what drives you to sell, and visualise it. Why are you in this business?

Integrity

It takes years to build trust and only seconds to break it. Credibility is the basis of doing business. The best salespeople are honest. They build trust, and do their best not to breach it. It also includes acknowledging mistakes and not blaming others.

RELATIONAL SKILLS

Humility

Genuine humility is a strength that leads to success. People are more likely to buy from real, modest people who put a heart into their job. Arrogance doesn’t sell, confidence does.

Confidence

Confident salespeople possess a natural comfort in dealing with others. Customers like to work with confident people, because they place a higher level of trust in them. The key to boosting your confidence level is to be comfortable with yourself, be engaged in the company you work for and believe in the product you sell.

Control your ego!

An oversized ego alienates you from your customers and colleagues, making it hard to create a collaborative environment. So don’t be too impressed with your own results and never let your ego be bigger than your skill set.

Build relationships

It’s much easier to buy from people we trust. To build trust, a salesperson needs to invest time in building a relationship with a customer. Closing a sale based on trust and a good relationship opens new opportunities and successful future sales.

Selling is becoming more and more about the relationships and trust that have been established than about products and solutions. You must create success through solid relationships and trust. These elements become your support system for tomorrow’s sales.

Collaborative

Building great relationships allows you to communicate easily with other teams in your company in order to close the deal. Once your product becomes more complex you may want to use their expertise.

Listening

Many of us love to hear ourselves talk. Other people? Not so much. If you’re willing to achieve success, don’t be a salesperson who talks without a break. You’re only repeating what you already know. When you listen, you can learn more about customers, their problems and their pain points that need to be solved.

Remember:  It’s easier to listen if you have planned a list of questions to ask before you go to the meeting or into the sales call. This way you can concentrate on listening to the customer, rather than thinking about the next question to ask.

Patience

Sometimes deals take time. And patience is not about just waiting, it’s about being able to keep a good attitude while waiting. One push too much and a customer can resign. With too much pressure, you’re not only killing your deal but your relationship as well. So don’t rush it. Let your deal develop, mature and only then close it.

Take responsibility

Personal responsibility is a component of all the skills we’ve talked about so far. You are the only person responsible for your success: not your boss, not your other half, just you. Your image, power, energy, the desire to sell and listening bring you closer to success.

PROFESSIONAL SELLING SKILLS

Business acumen

When you lose your cool and emotions take over, sometime you can’t see the situation clearly. It’s never bee more important to maintain a professional demeanor and have the ability to assess a situation from all angles: is it a valuable deal for you? Is the prospect’s company in a good shape?

Work on your state of mind in order to keep your cool. A clear view allows you to asses the sales opportunity objectively.

Build your business plan and map exactly what you need to do

Whatever goals you have, you need to put a plan in place to achieve them. Successful salespeople know that even the best persuasion techniques work better with some planning behind them.

Your plan should include calls, emails, demos – whatever is needed to get the job done? How many of them do you need? When exactly in the sales cycle should they happen? Put a lot of effort on preparing that – consider using sales productivity tools like Springboard to automate this process to prevent making errors – we’re all human.

Hone your competitive streak

Competitive sales people know exactly their industry, the competition and exactly what they offer. What’s more, they are aware of customers specific needs (both visible and underlying) and use this knowledge to know which products and/or services are the best choice for the customer.

Ask for the order

You’ve worked hard to get the customer to the point where a buying decision can be made, but you haven’t closed the deal. Review each step you took:  does the customer know your product enough? If so, have you asked for the order?

Asking for the order is a natural part of the sales conversation. It’s all to easy to avoid asking the question due to fear of a refusal. Customer refusal can actually lead you to a better understanding of their needs. Follow Todd Cohen’s advice and ask yourself a question: “What is motivating your customer to back away from a commitment? Can you address those needs?”

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Intelligence

Intelligence is a vital combination of common sense with a healthy quantity of knowledge that leads to make solid business decisions.

Intelligent salespeople understand the components of a sales cycle and are able to read all the signs during a sales process. They also understand the competition, industry and economy.

Ability to see the bigger picture

If you focus on making a sale you will make a sale and then you’ll be done. But if you focus on the customer and their pain points and needs, chances are you’ll keep them for life. Make sure you keep the bigger picture in mind and look beyond one deal into the years after.

Become a thought leader

Lack of knowledge is your weak point, while in fact it should be your power, be sure to have information on your customer’s industry at your fingertips to ensure that you become the “go-to” contact for advice. Be hungry for sector-specific information and ensure that you’re up-to-date and familiar with key trends. This way you’ll become the person that others come to for advice. According to Cohen:

You must sell with a perspective of your industry. Be able to talk intelligently about where your customer’s industry is going, about internet developments and chances that are likely to occur.

Desire to educate your customers

Compared to you, your customers probably know very little about your product – they usually don’t know even  half of the features that are available. As a result, you may find you need to explain everything to them like they were 12. And sometimes like they were 6 – which is totally fine and what’s better way to do it if not through a compelling story?

Commitment to career learning

It’s pretty easy to feel you’re the best at what you do when you have no understanding  of the mistakes you might be making.  The more we learn, the more we understand how much more is left to learn. We never know everything – the key is to appreciate we need to constantly learn new things and develop new skills. Learning is the key to growth in the IT industry.

Practice your craft until you master it

It’s not enough to simply just know these sales skills – we need to constantly consider them. Successful salespeople have practiced for years to  get to where they are, and the best bit? Many now use these skills without even thinking about it. You can get to this point too.

Practice your craft until you master it. Just like they did.

Need a tool to help you master these skills? Consider Springboard, a CRM solution for SMEs that encourages best practice, and drives sales. Chat on our site to find out how Springboard could work for your business.

Lucy @ Cloud2020

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The 2015 CRM Market Leaders: Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Posted by on Aug 24, 2015 in Behind The Scenes, Cloud Solutions for Business, Cloud Solutions for NonProfit, Dynamics CRM Online | 0 comments

At Cloud2020, we’re always keen to keep on top of the latest news and updates around CRM solutions and how Microsoft Dynamics CRM compares to other Enterprise CRM products available. Here’s our update:

What’s the CRM market like?

According to a Gartner report, the CRM software market grew from 20.4 billion USD in 2013 to 23.2 billion in 2014 – a massive 13.3% growth. It seems An ongoing trend among enterprise is still the movement from on-premises solutions to cloud-based. More and more, larger companies are seeking easy deployments and quick ways to improve legacy systems with complementary functionality. In the report, Joanne Correia, research vice president at Gartner, noted that the demand for software-as-a-service continues: “with SaaS accounting for almost 47% of total CRM software revenue in 2014.”

Who are the big dogs?

NetSuite is going in the right direction – its high score in company direction demonstrates this. Jim Dickie, managing director at CSO Insights, a division of MHI Global, notes that though the solution is “not seen often for large enterprises,” the company has its sights set on larger organisations.

“We’ve been moving upmarket ever since we’ve gone public in 2007,”

CEO Zach Nelson said at SuiteWorld, the company’s annual user conference, in May this year. The company also got a really rather respectable customer satisfaction score  of 3.8. Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, says:

“the strength of NetSuite still lies in its single database and ability for sales and other users to see not just CRM but order and other data.”

Like last year, Oracle scored the second highest in depth of functionality with 4.1. The company’s offerings, which include the Sales Cloud, Eloqua, CPQ, analytics, and mobile functionality:

“are…solid capabilities enterprises need,” but that Oracle “still needs some improvement in setup.”

She suggests changes are on the way, however, as the company “has made significant advances in usability.” Cost still do continue to be an issue for Oracle; the company had its lowest score in that area with 3.3.

Salesforce.com  still stands out for its company direction and customer satisfaction, two areas where it scored a 4.2.

Analysts put this largely down to the to the company’s focus on an improved user interface. Wettemann says:

“the investments it is making in UI and in-app analytics will really pay off and make Salesforce’s offerings even more attractive to customers in the near term.”

John Ragsdale, vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), agrees, saying that the solutions are becoming more usable and that the company’s focus on its Customer Success platform “is paying off with strong adoption and consumption by customers.”

SAP scored lowest in cost 3.4 and highest in depth of functionality with nearly 4.0. Ragsdale suggests that SAP’s embedded analytics:

“offer tremendous value” to buyers, who are “increasingly demanding sophisticated analytics and dashboards.”

Leslie Ament, senior vice president and principal analyst at Hypatia Research Group, noted that the company has improved its customer engagement and journey tracking capabilities.

“Encompassing sales, marketing, customer service, and commerce, SAP has delivered an enterprise-class CRM solution,” she told CRM magazine via email.

Despite this praise, it is notable that of the leaders, SAP ranked the lowest in company direction 3.6. Wettemann says that “SAP seems to have lost its way in CRM and doesn’t have a clear story on how it delivers value or how it can catch up on product road maps.”

And the winner is…!

Microsoft takes the title this year from longtime defending champion Salesforce.com.

the company was given high marks in company direction 4.5. Ragsdale said:

“Microsoft is heavily investing in its CRM platform, adding sophistication across sales, marketing, and service, and as a result is seeing increased adoption by large enterprises.”

Wettemann singles out as strengths the “Parature service capabilities and knowledge base” as well as “integration with Office 365 and PowerBI,” and Ament lauded the company’s improved suite of integrated customer engagement products. Its software enables companies to reach customers “via multiple touch points and to do so with enterprise-wide intelligence, supported by Microsoft’s Business Analytics platform (PowerBI and Azure Data Services),” Ament said via email. 

And finally… the ‘one to watch’:

Infor stepped up as One to Watch this year and very nearly made it onto the leader board. The company’s acquisition of SalesLogix in August has bolstered its sales functionality, the category in which it scored the highest (3.8). “Infor has long had strong marketing capabilities with Epiphany and continues to build out its CRM offering with…SalesLogix,” Wettemann says.

As a Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online partner, we’re proud we’ve invested in the leading CRM solution globally. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear how it can improve your businesses’ bottom line.

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Windows 10 is HERE!

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in Behind The Scenes, Cloud Solutions for Business, Cloud Solutions for NonProfit, Cloud Tutorials | 0 comments

Get the best Windows ever

Ok, we know you didn’t love Windows 8… or 8.1, but now: we celebrate, Windows 10 is HERE.
Windows 10 is familiar and easy to use. It includes an improved Start menu and is designed to startup and resume fast. Plus, it’s packed with new innovations including Microsoft Edge – an all-new browser – personal files and apps you’ve installed will all be waiting for you. We’ve designed the upgrade to be easy and compatible with the hardware and software you already use.

Follow steps here to get started… for FREE.

Check if your machine is ready, read this

Don’t forget, you can always contact us for assistance.

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