Market Watch: Mobile Sales Is on the Move

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It is not surprising that mobile sales solutions are a hot spot among CRM projects. After all, providing field salespeople real-time access to data, so they can deliver up-to-the-minute quotes and ensure orders can be filled, is one of the central promises of CRM providers and pundits of the real-time enterprise. Market Scope Companies have been spending big to keep sales agents connected. A Yankee Group report says that investment in mobile sales solutions will jump to $825 million by 2006, a far cry from investments totaling $132 million in 2002. And Gartner research had projected that by the end of 2003, more than 20 percent of all businesses would be investing in some sort of mobile sales force automation solution, while 60 percent of field service workers would have real-time access to data. Wi-fi access has been instrumental in the advance of mobile sales solutions, says Sheryl Kingstone, CRM program manager with Yankee Group. "The stars are aligned for success. The proliferation of new devices and wireless access hot spots and technology advances has made mobile sales applications a reality," she says. "Also, the new convergent devices are getting more effective, and independent software vendors have a handle on how to develop applications for these platforms." All this means that disconnected salespeople can now easily access data repositories from wi-fi hot spots nationwide. And the next generation of handheld devices are faster and more capable of handling the complex, albeit scaled-down versions of mobile SFA applications. However, a completely wireless application is still not the best application, according to Kingstone, who says, "coverage and speed are still obstacles." Deployment
The industries fastest to adopt mobile sales solutions are pharmaceuticals and high-tech manufacturing, according to Yankee Group's report. "The pharmaceutical mobile sales solutions will allow sales reps to access physician profiles, call reporting, industry information, drug interaction information, messaging, and sample compliance," Kingstone says. "The solutions will also improve productivity by making the most of the time a rep spends with the doctor." Kingstone says that the high-tech industry tends to be early adopters of all types of technology, and that most already have some sort of SFA solution in place. Adding a wireless component to those solutions will not only expand the base of mobile SFA users, but also make a better case for sales reps to place data into CRM solutions overall, she says. The Yankee Group also identified insurance, real estate, retail, and the consumer packaged goods industries as having a high interest in mobile sales applications. Key Functionalities Mobile sales solutions may be one of the fastest growing CRM sectors over the next few years. But what are sales representatives using mobile SFA solutions for now? Studies show that mobile users are looking for an integrated view of accounts and opportunities in real time, with easy access to email and ERP systems, in addition to the CRM system they have on their PDAs. Sales reps using a mobile solution are able to take orders, give real-time quotes, and ensure that items are in stock and can be delivered on time. When GEMS, a Dallas provider of business process expertise and technology solutions support, wanted to increase the productivity of its sales agents, it turned to its CRM provider, SAP AG. "We used to have agents fax in their billing sheets and other sales documents," says Suresh Ketha, GEMS CEO. "And it was a huge challenge for us to update all our data on a timely basis." But following the addition of a mobile module to the company's mySAP CRM system, Ketha says his consultants have instant access to an integrated system. They can input data, easily draw the information they need, and interact with other associates. "The payback has been threefold," Ketha says. "Our consultants can cover more accounts, they have instant access to critical data, and we have facilitated better communication between consultants who are spread out across the country." Using the system has saved at least 30 minutes of processing time per consultant per week, and has eliminated at least a week of data lag for consultants and account management. As a result, productivity has increased 10 to 15 percent and GEMS was able to double its revenue target for 2004. Industry Snapshot
  • Spending on mobile sales solutions is to reach $825 million by 2006.
  • 20 percent of all businesses in 2003 were implementing some sort of mobile sales solution.
  • Advances in wireless connectivity and handheld device complexity have accounted for greater penetration of mobile SFA solutions.
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