• June 1, 2011
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

Mobile CRM: The Quiet Explosion

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The past year has brought a seemingly endless stream of opinions and forecasts on how social CRM—interacting with, and monitoring the actions of, customers and prospects through the Web, social networks, and other digital methods—is the next must-have innovation to hit sales.

Interest in the topic was validated by the CSO Insights 2011 Sales Performance Optimization study, which showed that 72.3 percent of companies that previously implemented a CRM solution are at least evaluating social CRM. However, another trend is evolving that could be a game-changer for field-based sales teams: mobile CRM.

For those of you who have been following the CRM space, mobile may sound like old news. During the past decade, CRM vendors have made numerous announcements about giving users access to data from their systems via BlackBerries, iPhones, and other smartphones. But when you looked under the covers, you discovered that these announcements centered on the ability to tap into contact data, limited information on opportunities they were pursuing, some types of brochure-ware, etc.

However, two innovations during the past 12 months have mobile CRM poised to explode. First, vendors started introducing ways for mobile CRM to send actionable insights and knowledge to sales reps and managers. For example, InsideView can send updates to sales reps’ smartphones regarding news events involving the companies to which they sell. Cloud9 Analytics automatically notifies sales managers when changes are made to the status of a forecast. The proactive nature of these and other communications is increasing the value CRM gives to mobile sales teams.

The second transformation is the wild interest in the iPad by the business world. When the iPad hit the streets in the spring of 2010, the buzz was primarily about how consumers could leverage the platform. But by mid-summer, reports were surfacing about how 50 percent of the Fortune 100 were exploring leveraging iPads, and that number grew to 80 percent of the Fortune 500 by the end of 2010. While some corporations are buying one or two iPads just to check out, others—such as Medtronic, SAP, and Boston Scientific—are purchasing between 1,000 and 2,000 units at a time.

Seeing the bigger form factor as a way to share other types of knowledge with sales teams, CRM vendors are responding with new services to run on these and other tablet devices. Philips in the Netherlands, for example, is leveraging iPads as a way to allow sales reps to share customer video testimonials with clients during face-to-face sales calls. Cardinal Health leveraged Windows-based tablets this past year to optimize its needs analysis process during sales calls. That, in turn, led to a significant increase in cross-selling and upselling by their sales teams.

CRM vendors also realize that they must be able to leverage the mobile device of a prospect or customer as a new way to enhance selling. For example, Brainshark introduced functionality that allows sales reps who create sales videos with their platform to send those Brainshark presentations to customers who, in turn, can play them on their smartphones or iPads.

So, what impact will these new devices and new applications have on mobile CRM adoption? In early 2010, when we asked whether companies were giving access to their CRM systems through mobile devices, 44 percent said yes. I can see that number doubling over the next two years, and in fact mobile access to CRM, in terms of transactions, may well approach, if not exceed, transactions initiated by a PC during that period. So if you have field-based sales teams and you aren’t looking at leveraging CRM to help optimize their performance when they are out of the office, you need to do so. This is going to get very hot, very fast.

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 jim.dickie@csoinsights.com.

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