CRM, SALES 2.0, SOCIAL MEDIA
On the Move
According to SAP’s George Mathew, vice president and general manager of BusinessObjects Explorer, over the next three to five years, the winners in sales will be the ones who figure out how to smoothly and productively manage a mobile sales team: “The power is there, the mobile tools align well with sales, and the user experience is now very high. It will come down to who manages mobility better.”
Mathew supposes that selling will be a mobile discipline, populated by reps who keep heavy travel schedules and do much of their work via smart phones, tablets, possibly laptops and netbooks, and very rarely, desktop computers in a corporate office. The automobile, or perhaps the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s (both offering free WiFi), is now where work happens, and this means sales teams will be equipped with new tools that work well in mobile contexts.
The key, suggests Mathew, is that the sales managers who get that mobile productivity is productive will be the ones on top, and the sales forces that thrive will be the ones that thoroughly master this brave new world of selling.
Mathew also throws down this gauntlet: “No longer does the IT group drive decisions regarding technology adoption. End users are doing what they feel will work best for them,” and that can mean adopting iPhones (even in companies standardized on BlackBerry), leaving the laptop in the office, and attempting to do all work on a tablet (which usually means the iPad, but there is considerable anticipatory enthusiasm for the BlackBerry Playbook tablet). Prescriptive IT, in which CIOs called all the shots regarding hardware and apps, is so 20th century and not how business operates today, suggests Mathew.
What is crucial to understand, says Mathew, is that victory will go to the organizations that deliver the right information in viewable, usable formats to their end users in the field. And that is not necessarily easy given the substantial diversity in devices now sweeping most workforces.
Exactly this, says Dan Mahowald, a vice president of mobility for SAP, is the sweet spot SAP is pursuing: “Our vision is heterogeneity – lots of different devices and different types of devices. We believe the platform that will triumph will be the one that accommodates heterogeneity. Build it once, then deploy it everywhere – that’s what companies want for their apps and data today.”
Just what devices are likely to assume dominance among mobile reps? Mahowald is especially bullish on the spread of tablets among sales forces. “Companies may not authorize them for reps, but reps will buy tablets for themselves because they will help them be more productive,” says Mahowald.
Smart phones present challenges. Spreadsheets are difficult to read on them, for instance, and many Web pages still display poorly on small screens. Netbooks have their pluses, but they are slow to boot up and also much heavier than tablets. As mobile workers demand more access to the data they need, tablets will proliferate, says Mahowald.
A mobile worker’s particular need is mobile CRM – and the goal in a sales context is to deliver all the info and tools on-the-go reps need to manage leads and opportunities. “That is already happening with SAP’s tools,” says Mahowald.
For example, when Gregory Langston, vice president of sales at the Harris Products Group, realized a push to create a fully mobile sales team by embracing SAP’s mobile CRM tools, he saw sales increase 30 percent. Plus, his sales force is about half the size it was, which means that fewer people are selling much more – and with much higher efficiency.
Says Langston, “The payoff is plain. We are making more profitable sales and better use of both our time and our customers’ time. Mobile solutions work.”
Not all is rosy with mobility, however. One giant challenge in making data mobile is ensuring security, stresses Mahowald, and this is because devices are smart enough and have enough storage to pose real threats to corporations if lost. Historically that was more fear than reality; phones were generally feeble in their storage. But new smart phones and especially tablets are robust computers that can hold gigabytes of confidential information. Lose one, and it may carry with it top-secret financials, marketing plans, customer files, and much more. That is a big worry for companies but also a prime advantage owned by SAP through its Sybase subsidiary’s Afaria tools, says Mahowald. Many individual devices offer real security – BlackBerry enterprise handsets, for instance, can be quickly erased from a distance – but as a multitude of devices enter the enterprise in the hands of end users who are determined to put their own stamp on the technology they use, who is minding their collective security?
This is where Afaria, a subscription-based service, comes in. Its purpose is to manage and wipe out when necessary any mobile device, no matter who made it. Advice from the experts: Until a similar security measure is deployed in your company, go slow on mobility roll out, because the risks are real. “You need to handle security. It can’t be ignored,” says Mahowald.
Bottom line: Selling in 2011 will be dramatically different from selling just 10 years ago, or even five years ago. The mobility train is leaving the station. Craft a plan for making mobility standard and keeping information secure, and then stand back and watch it unfold.
– Robert McGarvey
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