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Dell, Salesforce Team on Cloud Services for SMBs

Dell and Salesforce have formed an unlikely alliance to promote Salesforce's core CRM software to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which are often reliant on a mish-mash of products not available on-demand the way Salesforce CRM operates.

The two firms, already mutual customers of each other, will now team on the SMB market, with Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) taking the lead and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) coming in to provide the hardware and services to migrate data between local apps and Salesforce on-demand services.

SMBs often use an eclectic assortment of applications to manage their customer leads, sometimes just their e-mail and a spreadsheet, notes Bruce Francis, vice president of corporate strategy for Salesforce. These companies may also use apps like Quickbooks from Intuit, Microsoft Dynamics, homegrown applications, or MySQL.

"We find a lot of times when we are starting the sales process with a new SMB, what we are competing against is e-mails and spreadsheets. Companies are thrilled when they bring order, focus and real forecast clarity to their business of any size," Francis told InternetNews.com.

Dell integration services will allow customers to continue to use their on-premises apps and integrate the data with Salesforce, and the data will flow bi-directionally, notes Marc Stein, director of Dell's SMB cloud strategy. So, for example, data can be read into Salesforce from QuickBooks, updated there, and the update is replicated back to QuickBooks.

This plan predates Dell's purchase of Perot Systems, he said. "This is something we've had in the works previous to Perot, although it's a logical extension in Dell's investment in building out services, in particular cloud-related services," he said.

It's all part of Dell's move to increase its services business. "Dell is known for that direct relationship with customers. Some folks think that's just hardware and infrastructure requirements, but sometimes customers look to us for how to make that hardware work best," said Francis.

A new opportunity for Salesforce

"No one has a better understanding of what SMBs need to succeed than Dell does," Stein added. "They are a huge voice of leadership in this market and a trusted vendor. This is a chance for Salesforce to find a new audience among Dell customers."

Dell already has an SMB page with customer information. Subscription prices start at $9 per user per month.

The offering provides access to one of four versions of Salesforce Contact Manager, a contact manager that works with Outlook and Google's Gmail and provides a cloud-based contact management application for 1-2 users to store contacts, track customers, run activity reports, manage tasks and meetings, and more.

There's the Group Edition for small groups up to five users, Professional Edition, which delivers a complete picture of customer interactions and Enterprise Edition, which includes Professional Edition plus workflow and approvals, advanced security, territory management, offline access and more.

A free six month subscription to Contact Manager Edition is available as an exclusive to customers of Dell Vostro laptops and desktops.