Businesses want to focus on the main tasks at hand – for one, growing their sales – not the ins and outs of IT issues that arise from complicated technology solutions. Turning to cloud services is one way companies can do this. The cloud is a strategic asset for small businesses and startups, and more are jumping on board.

Why rely on the cloud?

Cloud solutions, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, are easy to implement; often you can sign up for an account with just an email address. By using cloud-based email, project management, accounting and other services, companies can make sure their operations are running as optimally as possible. Cloud solutions are also less expensive than on-premise ones, and small businesses don’t need to worry about on-site maintenance requirements. Outsourcing to the cloud makes it easier for a business to run smoothly because employees don’t need to worry about backups, server upgrades or security. Running a business on a cloud-based model means companies can more easily share information, back it up automatically and not have to worry about administering services.

Today, the businesses where all employees work within the same four walls are few and far between. SaaS tools allow businesses to run applications and software remotely and help them spur collaboration between employees. Employees can have constant access to documents, project notes, customer and prospect updates, and more, wherever they are.

Does your team know your customers backward and forward?

More and more new businesses coming in to the market are using cloud tools to help establish their operations, from email marketing to CRM, finance and security, because these applications deliver measurable productivity and are therefore easy-to-justify investments. While SaaS tools that help ease backend operations ultimately contribute to a company’s success and growth, it’s the tools that help businesses win and retain customers that companies should evaluate first.

When it comes to dealing with customers and prospects, sales teams need a 360-degree view to keep surprises to a minimum. With a SaaS-based customer relationship management (CRM) system, sales teams can house a complete view of all information on every customer or prospect. This is especially useful if a new salesperson jumps in to help a customer with whom she hasn’t previously spoken. Time-stamped, historical notes detail all interactions with customers and prospects so sales teams can build stronger relationships and provide a better customer experience. For example, Moose Country Gear, an online retailer that sells outdoor, camping and emergency preparedness gear, increased its sales by 150 percent, primarily because it stored all of its customer information in a central location, allowing the team to reconnect with past customers.

Having all of this customer information at everyone’s fingertips is great, but it’s only possible if every employee updates every customer interaction. As businesses evaluate solutions, it’s important to find one that’s easy to use and truly helps employees be more productive. If a solution requires multiple steps to input updates or requires intensive training, employees aren’t likely to be on board and it will be a wasted investment.

Are you making the most out of your CRM?

Once businesses have a customer management system in place, they need to leverage the wealth of customer information to grow sales. Having a complete history means companies can improve internal processes and better communicate with the customer, but sales efforts are amplified when salespeople have mobile access to customer information and can help customers with their inquiries anytime, anywhere. We live in a 24x7x365 world, and customers expect near-immediate assistance. A salesperson taking a call on the road will be much better prepared if he can pull up the customer’s history on his phone and ultimately win the sale, rather than blindly answer a call.

Social media management is essential to any company, and engaging with customers and prospects across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms can help companies bring in new business.  A CRM that merges social media and CRM functionality can help turn your customers into advocates. Salespeople can read Twitter feeds, import contacts from LinkedIn and manage social conversations all from one place.

Businesses also need to make sure they’re communicating and engaging with customers on a regular basis; many rely on email marketing campaigns to do so. Integrating an online newsletter solution, for example MailChimp, with a CRM system makes it easy to update customers on new products or promotions.

SaaS applications provide many benefits to businesses as they look to grow their sales, but it ultimately comes down to how companies and employees leverage each tool. Since many SaaS tools provide a free trial or account, business owners can try multiple solutions until they find one that meets their needs and the needs of their employees.