Mobile CRM for the Modern-Day Road Warrior

Companies should consider the following when crafting their mobile CRM strategies.
Customer Experience

When you think of today's work environments, images of cubicles, copy rooms and water coolers may come to mind. Or, if you're in parts of the Silicon Valley, maybe they're more like ping-pong tables, well-stocked kitchens and fitness centers. However, today's "office" is often something entirely different. It's the interstate, a neighborhood coffee shop, a client's lobby or a subway train. Mobile devices and expanding connectivity have given us, for better or worse, the ability to get work done anytime, anywhere-a huge benefit for one set of professionals in particular: salespeople.

It wasn't so long ago that salespeople went door-to-door, carrying vital company information with them in their briefcases and cars. Now, they can have everything they could possibly need at their fingertips as long as they are equipped with the right mobile tools. For example, with EchoSign, they can execute contracts on a tablet, and with a Box or Dropbox account, they can access the latest product spec sheet.

But what about CRM? Poor CRM adoption is a well-documented problem. Only 37 percent of companies have CRM adoption rates greater than 90 percent. [1] Combine that with the need for on-the-go accessibility and the issue continues to compound. According to Gartner, more 90 percent of business-to-business sales operations and sales personnel functions will be mobile-first by 2016. [2] Therefore, executives, sales managers, and IT professionals need to prioritize a mobile-first approach to CRM tools.

Companies should consider the following when crafting their mobile CRM strategies:

1. Avoid Information Silos: Mobile devices provide a great way to consume content, but to efficiently enter information, salespeople must have an app that has been designed to aggregate the tools they need including email, calendar, phone, and CRM. Think about the way you work on a desktop. You can easily open multiple windows or browser tabs and rapidly switch back and forth between different systems and tools to complete one task. This is not feasible, or efficient, on mobile devices. The mobile CRM app for your team must streamline critical selling tools into one unified experience. Everything salespeople need to do their jobs on the road should be a tap away.

2. Focus on the Tasks That Matter: As Gartner points out, too often mobile CRM apps are miniature versions of their desktop parents. [3] They simply show the underlying database structure of the CRM objects. However, on mobile, people typically jump in and out of an app throughout the day in "snack" mode, and often pulled in by a notification prompting them to take action. A mobile-first CRM approach should center on the task at hand. For example, a sales rep calls a customer, jots down a quick note afterwards, and then creates a follow-up. They shouldn't have to jump through hoops (and several applications) to do that; it should be one seamless activity. When you're evaluating CRM tools, developing an internal system or browsing the Salesforce AppExchange, consider the everyday tasks and tools your reps require to make a sale.

3.Be Everywhere (Seriously, Everywhere): If you want sales reps to rely on CRM to do their jobs, it must work whenever and wherever they need it. A mobile app is only part of the answer, since most apps require a constant 3G/4G connection to function properly. But this doesn't cut it. Even though Wi-Fi is available on some planes and 4G's reliability is being touted by U.S. carriers, ubiquitous connectivity doesn't exist. Too often salespeople experience low-bar zones, bandwidth issues or no connection. Important customer information has to be available 24/7, even offline, so reps can adequately prepare for a conversation and immediately act on crucial follow-ups. The industry has a lot of catch-up work to do to make this capability a common occurrence. So, when you are evaluating mobile solutions, ask the question and double-check that it works in "Airplane" mode. If you are building a CRM app, make sure it's built for offline from the ground up; you won't be able to go back later and add it without a ton of added time and money.

Today's mobile office presents a world of possibilities. However, CRM systems still have considerable work to do to deliver on their promise and truly mirror how salespeople actually work. Sales reps need to focus more on selling and interacting with customers and getting work done efficiently on the road, rather than waiting to get back to the office to complete administrative tasks. Once this occurs, management will get the visibility it's looking for and better results to boot.

[1] CSO Insights Report, 2014

[2] Gartner, The CRM Perspective on Mobile for the Enterprise, July 14, 2014

[3] Gartner, The CRM Perspective on Mobile for the Enterprise, July 14, 2014