In September 2010, when Apple announced the imminent release of the iPad, consumers and corporations immediately placed their orders for these devices. Sales was the number one functional area within these companies to jump on the mobile bandwagon, as they viewed tablets as a convenient, low-cost device to support mobile sales professionals who could then remotely tap into CRM systems. At the time, I was curious to see how tablets would be utilized in sales, so CSO Insights began tracking the adoption of mobile CRM as part of its annual Sales Performance Optimization study.
Fast-forward three years. Over the course of surveying more than 1,100 companies worldwide for our 2013 Sales Performance Optimization survey, we gathered data on the current state of mobile CRM usage adoption. To give you an idea of the rapid growth of tablet usage, the study found that 49.8 percent of firms that have implemented a core CRM application are now supporting the use of tablets by salespeople. The chart below summarizes the ways that iPads, and now Android devices, are used by salespeople in the field.
Topping the list are three tasks that I put into the "increasing efficiency" category, in that they allow reps to access information and deliver presentations without carrying a laptop on their calls. While it is nice to be able to do this when working remotely, it is the evolution of mobile CRM usage to tackle the more complex tasks in the sales cycle that is even more important.
Consider the next five uses listed on the chart. Think about the impact on sales performance resulting from a rep leveraging a tablet to conduct a comprehensive needs analysis, then configuring a solution, sharing that via a detailed proposal, closing the deal by getting the client's signature, and then processing the order—all in a single face-to-face call. Now we are talking about fundamentally enhancing sales rep effectiveness.
Also, consider that everything collected during the entire process is stored on the tablet, instead of being written down in the spiral notebook most salespeople used to carry on calls. When the rep next syncs to his corporate network, all of that customer intelligence can be uploaded and shared with other parts of the enterprise: marketing, finance, product development, customer support, etc.
This is where the real power of mobile CRM lies, and I expect to see the adoption of these advanced uses of mobile CRM increase significantly due to new technology innovations. The first of these is the enhancement of mobile device support from core CRM vendors, such as SugarCRM Mobile Plus and Salesforce.com's Touch.
Next, robust application authoring is now easy to achieve using solutions such as MicroStrategy's Mobile App Platform or Mutual Mobile's development environment. These solutions support the creation of work flow process applications to help salespeople perform complex tasks when on a call.
Finally, there are the out-of-the-box mobile selling applications from companies like 360 Vantage and MobilePoint. These technology firms provide sales teams with fully developed applications that immediately help them qualify and educate prospects, create competitive differentiation, upsell/cross-sell, close deals, etc.
Our benchmarking continues to show that leveraging mobile CRM will be ubiquitous in the next three to five years. The hardware price point, high bandwidth communications, comprehensive application access, bidirectional communications support, and more will make mobile CRM a must-have for field-based salespeople if they are going to be expected to meet customer expectations and effectively compete in the marketplace.
Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at email@example.com.