Keeping Pace With Sales

CRM license revenue from mobile SFA applications, including those for wired and wireless devices, is predicted to grow from $169 million in 2004 to $293 million by 2008, according to Frost & Sullivan's recent report, "Mobile Sales Force Automation Markets." The fastest growing segment, wireless SFA, is projected to grow from $20 million in 2004 to $115 million in 2008.

"When compared to the flat growth predictions for the SFA market as a whole, the mobile market is certainly of keen interest to vendors that play along the mobile SFA value chain," says analyst Fred Landis, leader of Frost & Sullivan's CRM growth-opportunities program. Landis points to the continuing increase in wireless coverage and organizations' need to sustain a competitive advantage as the primary drivers for the expected increase in mobile SFA applications.

SFA technology has become an indispensable tool for businesses to minimize downtime and increase the efficiency of their sales forces, according to Landis. There is increasing adoption of these mobile and wireless devices, particularly the pocket PC, with tablet PCs expected to gain more and more in popularity in the next few years.

Landis expects the tablet PCs and signature capture applications to become increasingly popular in the pharmaceutical industry and in other businesses in which real-time signature capture is critical to the sales process. In addition to pharmaceuticals, Landis expects rapid adoption of wireless SFA applications in financial services, high tech, and consumer packaged goods industries.

"Real-time information is becoming mission critical for salespeople," Landis says. Salespeople need real-time information on customer service, technology upgrades, and similar issues. The salesperson who sells software applications, for example, would find it difficult or impossible to sell an upgrade if he doesn't know about the customer's most recent service issue. "The salesman needs to be able to handle these types of [service] questions," Landis says. "It's no longer just bringing [a customer] bagels for lunch."

The ability to communicate real-time information with back-end corporate systems, such as customer services and order tracking, is still compromised by lack of wireless coverage in some areas, and slow connection speeds in others. These technology hurdles will continue to fall as wireless coverage improves and high-speed wireless continues to evolve, meaning ever-faster connection speeds. Landis expects the next generation of wireless to start becoming a reality in two to three years, and expects a spike in wireless SFA applications beginning in 2006.

Yet there are some challenges in selling these applications as well, according to Landis. Vendors need to deal with certain end-user misgivings, which include apprehension about ROI, integration complexity, and security.

Landis says that end users should look for sound ROI models, integration options, and winning case studies as proof of claimed product benefits: "By providing solutions that are robust, flexible, and easy to implement and integrate, mobile SFA vendors can induce market adoption."

Related articles:
Pocket-Size CRM Choices Grow
CRM for the Mobile Workforce
Market Watch: Mobile Sales Is on the Move

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