This post offers three simple but powerfully effective ways in which even first-time entrepreneurs can achieve higher profits, attract new clients and build their brand.

1) Will I need more than one extension?

Offering toll-free numbers for sales and local numbers for support are small but critically important aspects of brand marketing that should not be ignored. In fact, because Google’s business listings and other business directories have grown popular among customers, it’s critical to set up your business numbers early.

postits Even if you’re a micro business, you will need to wear many hats and take on both sales and support roles. Having more than one phone number offers a professional appearance to prospective customers; it provides a sense of security to your customer base that there is depth to your organization. As your business grows, having unique numbers for sales and support means that you can easily forward the toll-free number to your new employee. Best of all, online phone services like RingCentral keep a record of calling activity, so you can keep track of your contractors’ and employees’ productivity.

Even a very small business should be asking:

  • How many different phone numbers would one expect at a larger company if they were selling a product similar to me? I know many entrepreneurs would say, “I don’t have any competitors.” But for the sake of this exercise, let’s pretend 🙂
  • Could the 3 to 5 extensions I think I need grow to 5 to 10 extensions in 6 months? A good gauge is to have 1.5 extensions per employee. This takes into account the different fax numbers, roll-over extensions and different numbers one will use for various marketing campaigns.

RingCentral offers start-ups a service called RingCentral Online. There are several packages that are well-suited for those companies that may grow from 1 to 5 employees within 12 months and quickly need extensions for various departments.

If you anticipate that your growth will go from 5 to 10 employees in 12 months, I would suggest a higher-platform service such as RingCentral’s 4-Line Office Phone System.

2) How heavily am I going to fax?

Believe it or not, faxing costs for ink and paper – as well as the human labor costs of organizing faxed sales contracts – can be among the most expensive line items for a small business!

Also, as a rule of thumb, integrating your fax + toll free number + support number is a smart move. The following are verticals in which we’ve seen significant time savings and better sales-flow with fully integrated electronic fax services:

  • Legal (Attorneys save time and money by having all faxes automatically saved as electronic records that can be easily forwarded, sent in emails or printed).
  • Sales (Faxed contracts and repeats of “did you get my fax?” are things of the past).
  • Support Services (Being able to send forms and letters with a mouse-click instead of a physical fax not only saves time and money, it’s better for the environment 🙂 ).
  • Start-Ups (You are going to sign a lot of contracts, whether they be NDAs, sales agreements, financial statements, fund-raising documents or general marketing documents. Keeping track of all of them not only makes organizational sense for a business striving for ultimate efficiency – if the company undergoes due diligence for venture capital dollars or a potential acquisition, having everything recorded electronically makes life way, way easier in what is usually a time of stress and anxiety for founders).

Check out RingCentral’s easy integration to a small business phone system plan.

3) How many minutes am I going to need?

This is a phenomenon which gives credence to the old adage: “plan to spend more than you plan to spend.”

It’s tempting to sign up for a plan that doesn’t give you many options but offers cheap, flat-rate long distance. Or to sign up for a feature-rich plan in which upgrades and add-ons are cumbersome and expensive.

If you anticipate more than 300 minutes of phone time per employee (that’s only 1.25 hours per week), then a RingCentral Online plan is OK for up to 10 extensions. But if your organization spends a considerable amount of time on sales and support, you’ll want a service like RingCentral Office. The flat rates are hard to beat, and there won’t be any nasty long distance bills on your monthly statements.

Photos by cirofono and ToniVC