Equipping Today’s Road Warriors for Mobile Sales Success

April 17th, 2012 by Mark Taber

Android and iPhone smartphones are really cool, but are they any better than an old BlackBerry for doing real business on the road? I don’t mean browsing consumer-oriented sites, watching movies or playing games, but using critical business applications. Have you ever tried to navigate your back office enterprise applications on the road, or even the more modern cloud-based applications like Salesforce? They are virtually unusable! Even the soon-to-be-released touchscreen version of Salesforce may work on an iPad, but it’s terrible on a smartphone.

The reason is simple: It’s not the devices, but the applications! IT-developed applications are still in the dark ages compared with the consumer world. Traditional applications are great at storing data, keeping it safe and clean. But when it comes to the way we want to interact with them on the road, no dice. The apps themselves aren’t formatted properly for new mobile screens, so they look awful. The on-screen keyboards that dominate make it difficult to enter information and navigation is kludgy. As a result, the efficiency and productivity advantages of mobile go out the window. So how can you and your team be efficient with inefficient tools?

Let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop, preparing for a meeting with a customer or a prospect. An enterprise application like Salesforce should make it easy to access everything that’s related to the opportunity, including hints around messaging as well as cross-selling and up-selling. And after the meeting, Salesforce should let you take notes right then and there — while it’s still fresh in your mind and the creative juices are flowing — not later when you get home or back to your desk.

Salesforce and the thousands of AppEx developers/consultants that comprise their ecosystem, however, have designed their applications for people sitting at a desk, not for people on the go. So, the pain points that sales organizations face concerning best practices for cultivating business, generating revenue, improving efficiency, adopting sales tools, messaging consistency, etc.? All those problems get magnified when salespeople are no longer tethered to their desks.

If they are going to succeed on the road, salespeople need a new interaction pattern that leverages their smartphones’ built-in device capabilities, such as voice-to-text dictation, and automated processes — that they or their managers design themselves — without AppEx coders who are back at the office.

Can Salesforce be adapted practically to mobile? Absolutely. That’s what a big part of what we do today!

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One Response to “Equipping Today’s Road Warriors for Mobile Sales Success”

  1. Lea Roark Says:

    Mark, you make good points. Apps that are too clumsy and bloated to use on mobile simply won’t get used.

    I especially like your notion of a new interaction pattern. One way to approach the solution is by asking what salesteams really need the most when they’re on the road in front of customers and prospects.

    My husband was a sales road warrior for years. Because he worked in complex technical settings (large, lean manufacturers and their first-tier suppliers), he found he really wanted immediate answers. He wanted instant access to the information that would help him close a sale, on the spot.

    Voila–something mobile devices are great at! But, the app *must* be sleek and simple.

    We think sales teams will use mobile in this task-oriented, simplified way. What is your opinion on that approach? Could a (useful) behemoth like Salesforce be adapted practically to mobile?

    Thanks.

  2. Mark Taber Says:

    Lea,

    Sounds like we are thinking alike. The mobile phone literally transformed my life when I was a field sales representative. No longer did I have to stop at the nearest hotel or gas station pay phone to make my calls. The smart phone can have a similar impact. However, it has to be easy. I for one am not going to navigate SFDC and type in a bunch of notes on my smart phone. It is hard enough on my notebook computer. But if we let sales people create their own wizards, an interaction pattern that works for them, and tie it together with voice to text and thumb clicks, gone will be the days of typing meeting notes on the airplane, for example. Think of getting your report done, capturing all the data, in the taxi cab on the way to the airport and watching a movie on the plane!

    Mark

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