For years, field sales reps have loathed their company CRM and the management team mandating it’s daily use. After a long day of meetings and prospecting, the last thing they want to do is data entry. Plus, once their notes are in the CRM the data is hardly useful when they’re back in the field the next day. Once they’re on the road, opening their laptop, connecting to WIFI and accessing their previously entered data is a rarely a worthwhile activity. To the field sales professional, the desktop CRM is little more than a burden – a mandatory repository stealing their hard-earned relationship information and mostly beneficial to management and the customer service teams.
On the other hand, the inside sales rep and customer service department are lightyears ahead of the curve when it comes to accessing customer data and relevant content on the fly. As soon as a call comes in, all of the relevant intel about that customer magically appears on the screen and the inside sales rep can simply enter the newest information into the system during or immediately after the call. It’s clear that when automatically connected to a sales-related activity, the CRM is an incredibly powerful tool. With the age of smartphones and mobile-friendly tablets in full swing, why can’t field sales reps have access to the same analytical toolkits as their inside sales counterparts?
In short, they can. Unfortunately, outside sales force automation and tracking for mobile CRM is still in its early stages. Most larger corporations are locked in with a vendor that has been slow to produce a (truly) mobile-first product and are forced to settle for a handful of features that have been “optimised for mobile.” On the flip side, many small and medium enterprises are simply “winging it” by piecing together various 3rd party tools to collect data and improve sales pipeline tracking. They’re either unable or unwilling to pursue task-oriented, mobile-first solutions that are designed with the field sales representative in mind.
Let Fate Decide
Fortunately, the market is evolving and maturing so quickly that field sales reps have a number of options to leverage the key data they work so hard to attain. The first option is finding their own custom solution and encouraging it’s use among their colleagues. In the age of BYOD, many outside sales professionals simply take on the responsibility of researching and selecting the best mobile CRM tool themselves. After they’ve tested the product and verified that it meets their needs, they can refer their team or make the case for management to adopt the same field sales CRM. While managers might not be thrilled with their field sales team employing a plethra of mobile-first CRM solutions, it can have the intended effect of letting the best one rise to the top through organic use and trial and error. Then, the company can simply select the best and implement it across the sales team and integrate it with their desktop CRM.
Web App Shortcut
A second option for management is to deploy the web app version of their current desktop CRM. Most CRM providers have reached the stage of providing a mobile-first version of their software by means of a web application. Web apps are browser-based applications where most of the software must be downloaded each time it is opened. The benefits of the web app CRM is the limited amount of software installed on the phone and the ability for management to control which functionality and data will be made available. While this option reduces the data requirement on the actual smartphone or tablet device, it severely limits its mobility since the field sales rep must be within close proximity to high-speed 3G or a WIFI connection in order to access their data.
Skip and Go Native
The third, and increasingly most popular option for organisations with a team of field sales reps, is to select a mobile-first CRM solution with a native mobile app. Native apps are specifically designed to work on each smartphone’s operating systems (ie: iOS, Android or Windows mobile). The amazing things about the native mobile app is that it has complete access to the phone’s core functions such as the camera, GPS and microphone. This is critical for automated tracking tools and for collecting vital information from the field such as pictures or dictated notes.
However, the biggest advantage of the native app CRM is its ability to run offline with little data usage. Since the mobile app stores data, the field sales rep is not as reliant on the 3G data coverage in their location. For sales teams that move around a lot, especially outside of urban areas, data coverage can be spotty at best and a native mobile CRM app allows them to still access key information without a high-speed connection.
As with any business decision, you need to evaluate your specific needs and make the best choice with the information available at the time. If it’s critical for your field sales team to have full access to their account intel at all times, take a hard look at the native CRM apps available that allow your field sales reps to enter client data, automatically track their metrics and function perfectly in areas with limited data signal.