People who don’t know any better might assume that the early days of running a small or medium-sized business in Canada are fairly quiet. They might imagine SMB owners setting up their headquarters, placing some ads about their products and services and then sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring.

Seasoned SMB owners reading this are probably rolling their eyes, because they know the truth looks a lot different. In fact, we have the numbers to prove it. In a recent research survey conducted with Harris Poll, for instance, Salesforce asked SMBs across Canada about how quickly they’re growing -- along with the biggest challenges they’re facing.

The data was conclusive. Canadian SMBs are highly proactive, working as hard as possible to generate sales leads that will turn into closed deals. A number of things get in the way, however. In fact, 59% of SMBs working in the business-to-business (B2B) sector said they are hampered by how long it takes them to complete all the work on their plate. Maybe even worse, 55% aren’t always sure if the tactics they’re pursuing to win a sale are working. Most distressing of all is that 54% say too many of the tasks they do involve manual efforts -- even though there are technology tools such as Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud that can help them.

It’s not like SMBs are luddites, of course. More likely, it’s a matter of knowing where to start. Digging a little deeper into the research, however, will help uncover the most likely route to success.

32% of SMBs say their business data is not connected.

Before we go too much further, it might make sense to define what “connected” means in this context. Even “business data” could be broadly interpreted, so let’s get specific there as well. Business data is any information used to market to customers and prospects, any information related to sales or the selling process, and any information that supports customers after the sale and beyond.

If that sounds like a lot, it is -- and it helps explain why having disconnects between those pieces is causing Canadian SMBs so many headaches.

Imagine a customer calls up with a problem about something they bought, for instance. They might be angry, suggesting that the product did not work as advertised. Imagine if, as the owner you had to:

  • Look up the records about the sale (including the receipt, who closed the deal and so on) in one database or file folder.
  • Look for whatever information was sent to them to generate their interest and nurture them towards a conversation with the sales team in another database or file folder.
  • Look up whatever information you need to help them solve the problem in yet another database or file folder.

This is not exactly a far-fetched scenario, and it contributes to all the pain points mentioned earlier in this post: manual effort, wasted time and lack of clarity about what to do and what will be in the best interest of the customer (and your company).

As you consider your technology strategy, think back through any similar kinds of scenarios where you had to assemble the details to solve a business problem as though it were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Although sales, marketing and service might all be handled by different people, they are all touching on customers in some way or another. And customers, it should be pointed out, don’t really care about how many silos your data is sitting in. They just want a company that makes working with them easy.

35% say they are not using technology to automate business processes.

Once you connect business data, you’ve overcome a lot of the time management issues plaguing most SMBs. It doesn’t immediately eliminate manual work, though, until you introduce tools that can take repeatable tasks and perform them whether or not you’re in the office.

So much of marketing, for instance, can be scheduled in advance, whether it’s sharing content on social media or running an online ad campaign. Customer service, meanwhile, tends to include a lot of common troubleshooting techniques that can either be automated using chatbots or via self-service tools that let customers take matters into their hands. That leaves a lot more time for SMBs in Canada to focus on winning more deals. Even here, though, automation can play a crucial role by routing a prospect to the right rep, serving up just the right offer based on the needs of similar businesses or dealing with the details of processing orders.

54% of SMBs say they would benefit from training that continually improves their operations.

Once SMBs are able to allocate their time to selling -- and using that time for high-value activities related to selling -- the last big hurdle is determining what’s working and what’s not.

A lot of that learning process comes through doing, of course, but there is so much more to be gained by working with experts who bring together knowledge across all areas of sales, marketing and support. This doesn’t need to be onerous, either. Trailhead, for instance, lets SMBs choose from educational options based on the tools they use as well as their role within an organization.

Committing to ongoing training, along with the right technologies, are some of the best ways for SMBs in Canada to level the competitive playing field and become just as agile, sales-driven and productive as much larger organizations.

Although a growing number of SMBs are taking steps to connecting data, automating processes and investing in training, there are still plenty of others who have yet to start the journey. Rather than accept the status quo, why not use the data we’ve presented here to benchmark yourself against firms of a similar size and scale? Then, think about making the moves necessary to grow your win rate by an order of magnitude.