Look for an inventory management application that works with invoicing. For businesses selling products on the Internet-the most common small retailing operation-a scalable inventory management application is a must. You should not commit to a program that cannot grow with your business.
Here is where you start to see the building block quality of what is available now. Don't get an inventory management system that doesn't integrate tightly with an invoicing program. When you invoice a product, it should automatically adjust the volume of your stock.
The inventory management software should be able to categorize products, manage multiple locations from a single remote place, monitor stock levels, and send an alert when products need to be reordered. It should be able to transfer stock between locations as well. And you should be up and running in under five minutes.
With invoicing, these applications are a perfect combination for setting up either a Web store or a brick-and-mortar retail store.
Sound more corporate with telephony products
Once a small business is up and running, the key to a competitive edge is to seem bustling and bigger than you are. If you appear to have many loyal customers, it is that much easier to get new customers. Good telephony products enable a small business to sound bigger than they are. Three examples:
1. Automated attendants to direct incoming calls or to act as an information line for answering common questions
2. Telephone on-hold message players that come with industry-specific presentations
3. Virtual PBX for handling both voice over IP (VOIP) and non-VOIP telephone lines, eliminating the need for a more expensive phone system
Often, companies that need to appear larger also rely on salespeople who need to spend the lion's share of their time on the phone, often calling long distance or overseas. For a company that does intensive phone work, installing a virtual PBX with a great Web softphone is key to managing phone calls without the hardware expense.
One warning here: Skype and Google Talk alone are too dinky to get the job done if you're talking about something such as a telemarketing sales force or any sort of call center. To efficiently manage phone calls in this type of an environment, you need to be able to integrate with other telephony applications such as a dialing assistant.