Financial issues, competitive pressures, and all manner of resource constraints associated with any business activity today can get in the way of closing the deal of a mobile sale. More often than not, access to information makes the difference between getting the order and the unpleasant alternative -- so the more you know, the more likely you are to win the business. Read this tip to learn about mobile salesforce tools.
I have to confess, up front, that sales is my favorite part of my job. It's not about the money (although one does need revenue to keep the doors open); for me, it's about listening to the needs of the customer and applying my creative energies to crafting a solution that is appropriate, cost-effective and excellent. I absolutely love the challenge of dealing with big, complex problems, and the sales process is how I get exposed to new opportunities to do this.
No matter what you sell, however, the objective is always to close the deal. There are financial issues, competitive pressures, and all manner of time and other resource constraints associated with any business activity today – so many issues can get in the way of that goal. But, more often than not, it's access to information that makes the difference between getting the order and the unpleasant alternative. The more you know, and the more rapidly you can apply that knowledge in a form that is of value to the customer, the more likely it is that you'll win the business.
To illustrate this point very simply, imagine that you are an insurance agent meeting with an important client in his office. He's asked you for a quote on some changes to his policies. The standard response is, of course, "Thanks, I'll take those requests and crunch the numbers when I get back to the office and then fax them over to you." OK, that works. But now suppose your competitor, in the same situation, simply pulls out a wireless communication device (typically a smartphone but perhaps a wireless-equipped notebook) and generates a new quote right then and there, delivering it via email. Who's going to get the order? Customers these days have less time than ever to spend on even the most complex matters. Getting customers the information they need while their attention is on the issue at hand increases the likelihood of closing the deal. I've found that customers like to do business with firms that are responsive and on top of their game. And, of course, think of the productivity improvements inherent in the above example. Get it done -- now -- wherever you happen to be, and move on to the next opportunity. That's as good as productivity gets in the sales game.
All of this implies, of course, that your IT folks are on top of their game in supporting mobile salespeople and their applications. I've found that good field sales arsenals have the following key components:
- Information: As we noted above, this is the place to start. Information includes gathering, managing, distributing, and accessing every part of the customer relationship management/salesforce automation (CRM/SFA) process. Key items here (in no particular order) include suspect, prospect and client contact information and history; expense report generation; lead tracking; access to sales guides, pricing, and product information; proposal generation; order entry and tracking; report generation; and even access to training materials.
- Communication: This primarily includes email and Web access but needs to include both wired and wireless vehicles. It might even be important to fall back on dial-up (gulp!) access in a pinch – crude, but better than losing an order. Some form of remote-access capability is critical, regardless.
- Collaboration: – Finally this is the area where you'll see the greatest innovation in mobile salesforce automation over the next few years. No salesperson is really the lone wolf – being able to form and manage ad hoc project teams is really the way to succeed. Collaborative tools that enable teamwork no matter where the members of the team may be will become critical over the next few years, as demands on salesforce productivity only increase over time.
Since almost all of this can be and is being implemented via Web services, I expect that much of mobile sales automation will be implemented via thin clients, with essentially all computation and data management being performed behind the firewall and managed by corporate IT. The big question then becomes what to do when wireless connectivity can't be established or reliably maintained. And since we don't have a good answer to this question today, I expect that more robust clients, most notably notebook computers and similar devices with local processing and storage, will be the standard tools for salespeople for some time to come.