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The Real Benefits of Mobile SFA
New research from Aberdeen Group shows how mobile sales force automation can keep Road Warriors from becoming Mad Max.
Posted Apr 8, 2008
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Reducing downtime for field sales personnel is a key concern for companies implementing sales force automation (SFA), according to a recent study by Aberdeen Group. "Mobile SFA: Empowering the 24x7 Road Warrior" reveals 57 percent of "best-in-class" companies make reduced field downtime the chief definition point of productivity in relation to SFA. In contrast, just 15 percent of industry laggards focus on reducing downtime, preferring the measure of increasing sales reps' time spent out of the office (50 percent). For purposes of the study, Aberdeen defines best-in-class companies (BICs), the top 20 percent of scorers, as those with:
  • average year-over-year revenue improvement per sales rep of 24 percent;
  • average bid-to-win ratio of 58 percent; and
  • average 85 percent sales performance against quota.
Laggards, the bottom 30 percent, are defined as having:
  • average 8 percent year-over-year decline in revenue per sales rep;
  • average bid-to-win ratio of 8 percent; and
  • average 60 percent sales performance against quota.
SFA holds a place of honor as one of the progenitors of modern CRM, and mobility has always been associated with it. A few would even argue that mobile CRM is just a synonym for SFA, and "mobile SFA" is redundant. But just where does the value come from? "Organizations are facing a new type of challenge regarding sales productivity as they seek to remain competitive and increase market share," writes Peter Ostrow, vice president and group director for customer management technologies with Aberdeen, and author of the report. "Traditional selling pressures such as reducing sales cycles and costs, and maximizing customer retention, have been adequately addressed through the deployment of traditional and oft-improved [CRM] and [SFA] enablers. Have sales forces fully embraced the tool provided to them?" The BICs have done so, at least to a much a greater extent than their average and laggard competitors. According to Aberdeen, BICs are three times more likely than laggards to be able to provide on-the-spot demos for customer (63 percent versus 21 percent), and are nearly twice as likely to enable and encourage live collaboration between sales management and field sales reps (47 percent versus 24 percent). Fifty-three percent of BICs have a centralized repository of accounts, history, contacts, tasks, inventory, and pipeline, and 42 percent share team calendars.
"'Mobile SFA' offers both the end-user and management a great deal more than the basic functionalities many sales reps use within traditional, wired CRM tools," Ostrow writes. "One needs only to think about a day in the life of a Best-in-Class organization's typical field sales rep, to understand how productivity can be positively enhanced with more comprehensive tools at their disposal." Ostrow's examples, covering pipeline visibility, scheduling, customer accessibility, and quota updates, are compelling, and leave us to wonder how to achieve such seamless mastery of field sales. Fortunately, Aberdeen's report ends with just those recommendations. To dig themselves out of the gutter, laggards should:
  • enable on-the-fly communications access to sales management regarding price quotations;
  • fund and build a centralized repository of accounts, history, contacts, tasks, inventory, and pipeline; and
  • approach mobile SFA as an enabler of sales optimization, rather than a mandate for tactics.
In closing, Ostrow notes that solution providers report high ratios of customers who plan to adopt given mobile SFA technologies to those who have already adopted them. This suggests continued market growth through 2008 and 2009, he writes. "The end-user of these mobile SFA technologies, finally, can look forward to ongoing, more robust applications deployments that are sponsored by Best- in-Class organizations, further promoting their productivity, deal-making efficiency and quota achievement."

Related articles: Best Practices: CRM and Wireless Gartner Wireless '08: By heeding lessons learned, companies can help ensure they get the maximum benefit from mobile CRM deployments. Have Laptop, Won't Travel Gartner Wireless '08: As the mobile workforce continues to evolve, "portable personality solutions" will be all the rage, says one Gartner analyst. Add Mobile to the CRM Mix Meeting customers where they want. Small Businesses Have Large Needs for Mobility Experts agree that the need for mobile technology support is out of proportion to smaller companies' level of adoption; even consumer solutions can help bridge the gap. The Rise of the Anywhere Application As emerging technologies provide access to data and applications no matter the device or location, demand is likely to boom, according to Yankee Group. SFA for the Consumer Goods Industry Comes of Age New research cites positive changes, and sees a maturing market that still has fragmentation.
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