Why do companies squander potential of mobile devices?
Smartphones and tablets ease daily live
Sales figures of mobile devices have increased with an incredible speed over the past few years. No matter whether for business or private purposes – most people use a minimum of two devices several times per day. Smartphones and tablets make our daily lives a lot easier: We rely on them so often that we forget how we managed to schedule appointments or share pictures only a few years ago. However, despite the diffusion and acceptance of mobile devices among great parts of the world’s population, the potential coming along with the efficient use of mobile devices is rarely used in the business environment.
Various studies confirm that these devices have a lot of potential to be exploited in a business environment. Mobile device usage is becoming increasingly important for enterprises to differentiate themselves from their competition, reduce costs and become more attractive for their employees. One of the most important areas for companies to implement a mobile strategy in is Sales: This is where revenue is generated, so the company results are directly affected by increases in Sales efficiency. According to Forrester, the use of tablets is essential for an enterprises’ sales force. In 2013, 29 % of the sales force called the use of tablets an absolute standard. However, latest expert interviews state that less than 25% of all Sales employees are equipped with tablets to use in their everyday business lives.
The question we have to ask ourselves is: Why? Why is the use of mobile devices so widely spread in private life but so rarely used to exploit business potential?
Let me continue to describe the potential that can be exploited throughout the sales cycle by efficiently using mobile devices. I will then return to the question above and try to answer it from my own perspective.
Where to exploit potential along the sales cycle
The following image shows the different stages of the sales cycle. In each of these stages, companies can profit from the implementation of a mobile strategy. I will pick out three examples to describe the corresponding benefits.
Customer acquisition & planning
The sales cycle starts with customer acquisition. One example would be meeting a potential new customer at a trade fair. With the use of mobile devices, contact information can be exchanged in a matter of seconds, and we can add the customer instantly to the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) along with any additional information gathered during the first meeting. We can then follow up by having booklets and other sales material sent automatically by the back office, which makes the tedious wrap-up after a long day at the trade fair unnecessary. Having the customer’s details in the CRM system also enables us to automatically include him in phase two of the sales cycle, customer planning. The sales force can access the relevant customer data related to the customer anywhere and anytime, including information about past revenues and feedback. This allows Sales employees to prioritize customers, optimize their route planning in real time and thereby increase efficiency and productivity.
Negotiations typically include discussing remaining questions regarding products, as well as prices or payment terms - most often, both parties need to adapt their requests or proposals.
Receiving real-time information on the availability of resources and/or products and an automated approval process support the company’s negotiators: Being able to modify the offer in only a few minutes can be decisive to win the contract. The following step of the sales cycle, the order entry phase, can nearly be eliminated by the use of mobile devices: Because the offer is finalized during negotiations, necessary approvals can be requested and delivered instantly on a mobile device. Consequently, the contract can be signed on the spot. Procurement and invoicing is then initiated automatically, which dramatically reduces time and efforts.
After Sales Management
The use of mobile devices helps simplify After Sales Management by providing Client Managers with all relevant information (including transactions, feedback, and experiences) anywhere and anytime. Information about delivery delays, for example, is available in real time. Customers can be informed proactively, which results in higher satisfaction, increases customer loyalty and may result in recommendations. As an added bonus, having all sales cycle information on the ready anywhere and anytime also frees up significant amounts of time for the Sales employees, who no longer spend hours at their desks following up on their sales activities. Moreover, Sales can realize cross- and up-selling potentials by having all information accessible where- and whenever needed.
In a nutshell: The smart use of Mobile IT, we call it „Smart Mobility” all along the Sales cycle leads to reduced throughput times, increased customer and employee satisfaction and reduced selling costs.
So why is this potential squandered?
After having had a look at all this potential all along the Sales cycle, I would now like to come back to the initial question: Why is this potential so rarely exploited by business?
One main reason may be that, unlike in the private context, it is not enough to only distribute devices: Backend systems and applications need to be managed, company data security needs to be ensured, and a consistent mobile strategy is necessary to fully exploit the potential offered by use of mobile devices. It is mandatory for this strategy not only to include all IT related aspects, but also to consider business requests. Also, the implementation of a company-wide mobile device strategy requires a change management programme involving all employees who will be affected: If the strategy is great and mobile devices are available but no one is trained to use them properly, all efforts are wasted. Of course, all these activities require up-front investment: Devices need to be procured and experts for strategy definition and implementation need to be hired. It is therefore essential to first evaluate carefully in which business area to start implementing a mobile strategy.
Nevertheless, comparing the benefits and the investments, it is getting obvious to more and more companies, that the benefits outreach the investments very strongly. The technology has reached the tipping point, there is no more experimenting phase in the market; the name of the game is concept, pilot, rollout and operation. So, my assumption is that the number of companies starting the journey to a truly mobile Sales Force will increase very fast on monthly basis. And by combining the resulting potential with other technologies such as Big Data and Social Collaboration, you may be the decisive step ahead of your competition.