Could Mobile CRM Solve Field Sales' Biggest Problems?

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get better data quality from the rep," DeSisto says. Mobile CRM "can also reduce the latency in communication reps have with the rest of the organization," he adds. Mobile CRM's potential to solve these enduring problems may be the biggest selling point of all.

A Number of Choices

When choosing what kind of mobile CRM to leverage, there are generally three options: the mobile version of your CRM solution, a custom solution, or a mobile-first vendor. In the first category, Salesforce1, which came on the scene last year at Salesforce.com's Dreamforce, is the most splashy recent entry, though virtually every other vendor, from Oracle to SugarCRM, has a mobile solution as well. These solutions can enable mobile entry and data retrieval. The downside is that they're designed to do everything from quoting to service to sales, instead of specializing in one area. This can make the apps less helpful for people who want a powerful solution designed around a single use case, such as field sales.

In the case of Salesforce1, the solution also serves as a hub for other solutions. Companies such as NewVoiceMedia, which provides contact center solutions, can create specific apps built on the platform. A sales rep making calls remotely can do so while logging her calls and making her data accessible to her manager. "If you're a sales rep and live in Oklahoma and your manager lives in Texas, as you do the outbound calls through the Salesforce1 app, the length of call, conversation, [and] who you talked to are tracked in the contact record, so now the manager has visibility in that record. This enables the mobile workforce," says Monica Girolami, head of North America marketing for NewVoiceMedia.

The second option is to create an app unique to the company using it. According to Jim Dickie, managing partner of CSO Insights, many sales organizations are turning to companies that develop mobile apps, such as MicroStrategy, to map the app's features to the company's sales processes as well as its need for custom fields. In this category, many are building features such as routing software, which helps sales reps figure out how to order their sales calls or receive alternate selections for a sales call if someone is too busy for a meeting. Companies tying complex business processes to their apps often choose this option for a variety of reasons; one reason might be to give their sales force access to back-office inventory systems so they only push products in stock.

The third category, which is brimming with newcomers, is the mobile-first sales application. These tools, which include Clari, Selligy, and Tact, have raised millions in venture capital. They work on top of existing CRM applications, especially market share leader Salesforce.com, and tend to have a particular focus on providing a compelling, user-friendly experience, while recognizing the necessity of capturing quality CRM data. Before a meeting, users can look up contact information and details about an opportunity. Afterward, they can update details in the CRM system. While salespeople answer emails, take phone calls, or look at their to-do list on the go, they do so within the app that also plugs into the CRM system. That improves data quality and, in turn, 

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