Sales teams are constantly challenged to be more productive and increase revenues. Sales force automation applications help users track leads, but they typically lack an important function needed in the sales cycle: managing the documents required, say, to produce presentations and proposals.
ShareMethods LLC’s well-executed collaboration service fills this gap. Small and midsize businesses are likely to find that this easy-to-use hosted offering saves sales staff considerable time and helps them close more deals. Plus, the ShareMethods integrates nicely with CRM services such as Salesforce.com.
The portal-like ShareMethods design caters to sales and marketing staff: people who don’t have time to set up an application or attend training. Out of the box, the tabbed interface is prepopulated, automatically supplying a best practice for organizing material. For example, the marketing tab includes areas for advertising material, market research and promotions. Browsing through any category, you’ll find lists of available documents along with the options to take actions such as adding, editing, searching and sharing material.
The service’s remaining document management functions are equally strong. For instance, when uploading material, I easily attached metainformation to help in searches. Similarly, version control tracked revisions along with author comments.
An integrated feedback system allows users to rate documents on a five-point scale or to add commentary. This unusual feature is designed to help marketing staff improve document quality; in many organizations, there’s no convenient way for marketers to know whether material they produce hits the mark.
Version 3.0 of ShareMethods adds important document analytics and reporting features that provide even greater insight into document use. For instance, I quickly downloaded reports (in Excel or CSV format) showing document access and download statistics.
In keeping with the service’s overall ease-of-use, document distribution is straightforward. ShareMethods let me easily e-mail a collection of documents (either as links or attachments) both to system users and non-ShareMethods recipients. My only gripe here is that marking a document for external access requires taking the extra step of creating a separate document-edit form.
Beyond getting documents into users’ hands, ShareMethods includes basic workflow. Using a slight variation of the e-mail distribution process, I sent documents to various users soliciting their approval or comments. Links in the resulting message take users to the ShareMethods approval form, making the process swift and easy.
Although the ShareMethods service alone is valuable, perhaps the most significant capability is the seamless way it integrates with hosted CRM systems, including Salesforce.com, Salesnet, and Siebel CRM OnDemand. I tested ShareMethods with Salesforce.com, a combination that offers single sign-on. After logging in to sforce, an additional ShareMethods tab provided access to all the documents I’d added using the ShareMethods service. Further, ShareMethods actions were also exposed within sforce.
This tight knitting may help sales people interact with documents without switching between applications. ShareMethods requires hardly any maintenance. When I did want to tweak settings, the admin area provided simple Web forms to manage users and groups, along with assigning group permissions for document access.