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The One Simple Communications Solution That Can Help Your Startup Win Against the Big Guys Cloud-based systems are an agile, multi-modal tool for better customer relationship management.

By Curtis Peterson

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Launching a new venture in an existing space can be daunting. Regardless of whether your product outperforms the established competition by leaps and bounds, educating the market and carving out a share against the "big guns" can be tough.

Related: How This Company Made Its Customer Support 'More Human'

Of course, startups have one primary advantage: agility. As a smaller venture, you can move quickly to adopt the latest technology and market it faster, to capitalize on new opportunities. With no legacy to contend with, you'll have an easier time making needed adjustments. Combine this agility with customers' expectations of customized services and products, and you'll postion your new venture to win long-term.

These advantages are especially evident in sales, traditionally a time-consuming, labor-intensive effort, especially in the software or technology categories. Back in the day, sales guys would arrive early to prospect meetings and sit in the lobby to observe the flow of people; they'd watch for competing vendors and other contextual clues that might help them build rapport with the customer.

Today, technology can gather this intel much faster and better than people can. Real-time social prospecting tools give agile startups nearly effortless insight into contextual data to help you find the right prospects. But, wait. Can't the "Goliaths" use this technology, too? Sure. But their conventional, disjointed business communication tools -- traditional PBX telephone systems, email and other legacy platforms -- leave valuable data fragmented and siloed. (A PBX, or private branch exchange, is a telephone system within an enterprise that switches calls between enterprise users on local lines but lets all users share a certain number of external phone lines.)

Related: Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of the Cloud

That's why your startup should prioritize the use of what's new: agile, open, cloud-based communication platforms, which provide a fully integrated, multi-modal system for interacting with prospects, in real time.

By converging communications and customer relationship management (CRM) into one unified system, you'll find that these next-generation systems will give give your dynamic startup a powerful advantage over incumbent competitors. That advantage stems from automatically integrating, into a single thread, social-sourced contextual data with every modern communication channel -- from telephone, email and instant messaging, to video conferencing and social media interaction.

The best part is that startups have a unique opportunity to leverage this automated, integrated technology right out of the gate. The only way for the Goliaths to even come close is to do all of this manually, entering notes, contact details and activity logs into a traditional CRM system, or to rip-and-replace their legacy systems -- a costly and time-consuming process, especially in large organizations where change happens slowly.

For startups, this means that while the big guns are still hanging out in the lobby and manually entering data into a CRM system (hoping they don't miss a deal-making detail), you can hit the ground running with a clear, real-time pulse on your customers' needs, wants and desires, enabling you to out-perform the competition, no matter how big or small.

Related: Building a Better Communications System

Curtis Peterson

Vice President of Operations of RingCentral

Curtis Peterson has more than 20 years of experience managing information technology and carrier-scale data and packet voice communication networks. Peterson has been developing, launching and operating class 4 VoIP and customer-facing hosted PBX systems since 2002. Currently, he serves as the vice president of operations at RingCentral, a leading cloud communications platform for businesses in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

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