Mobile CRM basics

This section of the Sales Force Automation Learning Guide features an introduction to mobile CRM, including benefits of mobile technology and case studies of mobile success.

Table of contents:

Sales strategy: How to get started
Evaluating sales force automation software vendors
Mobile CRM basics
Effective sales management
More CRM learning tools


  Mobile CRM basics  

Mobile CRM devices let users take CRM and sales force automation (SFA) systems on the road for access anytime. In this section, access the latest news and advice about mobile CRM. Learn the benefits of mobile CRM, and find information to help you decide if it's the right technology for your sales force. Also, read case studies of how some organizations have been successful with mobile CRM technology. Once you've gathered some ideas, move on to the next section of the Sales Force Automation Learning Guide to learn more about effective sales management.

Benefits of mobile CRM

Mobile CRM has long promised to answer the question of how to keep field salespeople connected and up to date with company and customer records. Using mobile CRM, sales representatives have simple, easy access to information through wireless devices. Experts like Sheryl Kingstone have touted the benefits of mobile CRM for years.

"I think it's finally showing its real value," said Kingstone, CRM program manager at Boston-based Yankee Group Research Inc. "When companies are looking to use a mobile device to share and extend a corporate network, you don't want to cram everything on a device. You want to make sure you're standardizing the experience. The complexities are still there, but companies now understand what they're working with ahead of time."

More mobile CRM resources
Sheryl Kingstone discusses deploying mobile CRM applications, choosing CRM vendors and and mobile best practices in a podcast.

SFA is one area that has long been a natural focus for mobile CRM, noted Gartner Inc. vice president William Clark. Enterprise asset management and field service automation are others.

Seeing the potential for mobile CRM, vendors are increasingly purchasing or partnering with mobile technology firms. And analysts are generally optimistic of clear weather ahead. For example, Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner expects continued strong annual growth in mobile CRM, predicting sales of around 40% to 60% for the next two to three years.

On the other hand, mobile CRM isn't cheap. Gartner estimates that wireless field service, for example, costs about $4,500 per user for the first year, including hardware, network costs and software.

Another obstacle to mobile user adoption is that the needs of mobile CRM users are usually very different from the needs of internal employees. Mobile workers require only a stripped-down subset of the data and functions of the main sales force, field service or other CRM application.

Mobile CRM case studies

Sales effectiveness expert Liz Roche recommends that managers do their homework before looking to mobile CRM software as the answer to general sales problems. When a reader asked Roche whether mobile CRM could provide immediate sales increases, she recommended improving SFA processes before evaluating mobile CRM.

"Somewhere in your organization [may be] the idea that CRM is not being used because it's not 'portable' and it's a time drag on sales reps. If this is the case, then promise me you'll question that general idea before you invest in mobile anything. I can almost guarantee that among the utilization issues is the notion that the system doesn't mirror the sales process," Roche said.

Some organizations are indeed finding success with mobile CRM.

  • Mobile CRM has simplified life for The DirectTV Group Inc.'s sales team and 75 area sales managers considerably. The sales team for El Segundo, Calif.-based DirectTV visits 5,000 retailers across the country, and before this year, all preparation work was done on laptops and in Excel spreadsheets. Earlier this year, DirectTV contracted with Antenna Software Inc., a Jersey City, N.J.-based mobile software provider, to extend Siebel CRM On Demand to its mobile sales force.

    Now that reps and managers can access up-to-date CRM information from a BlackBerry, they have increased by 30% the number of accounts that can be visited in a week by; saved 90 hours a week, thanks to the ability to update calls anytime; and shortened service request resolution from five days to three.

    Where sales managers used to spend time preparing reports before they seeing dealers, now they can quickly access data right from a BlackBerry, including information like open service tickets, key performance metrics and something of particular interest to dealers: account activations.

  • General Binding Corp. (GBC) is an example of one company benefiting from a complete mobile overhaul. The company, which manufactures document finishing equipment, deployed Vertical Solutions Inc.'s PowerHelp CRM Field Service to its 175 field service technicians to improve service delivery. Additionally, the technicians are using PowerHelp to capture customer information from service calls that GBC can then use in its product development. According to Tim Spencer, GBC's vice president, technical service and support, the company is also benefiting from "a more productive and efficient field organization that can handle calls more quickly."

    GBC is extending that success by going beyond basic field service productivity increases and improving its customer insight by entwining its field service and product development processes.

  • Miyachi Unitek Corp. -- a Monrovia, Calif.-based global supplier of equipment and systems for resistance welding, laser welding, laser marking, heat seal bonding and hermetic sealing -- used mobile email to boost productivity, then took the deployment one step further by rolling out mobile to the sales team. The sales team now has instant mobile access to contacts, leads, opportunities, reports and quotes, according to Jim Malloy, a Miyachi Unitek vice president.

    Using mobile CRM, sales opportunities move through the pipeline sooner, time with independent sales representatives is more productive, international travel is a breeze, and the response time has improved dramatically, Malloy said.

  • Three years ago a manager at Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., a Cleveland-based manufacturer of welding equipment, set about revamping sales operations with three key strategies: focusing on the end user, maximizing relationships with distributors (which account for 80% of Lincoln's business) and selling profitably. One of the big reasons for the mobile CRM implementation was to improve sales into big accounts, rather than focusing on several sales to smaller accounts.

    Lincoln launched a mobile sales initiative based on SAP's CRM for Mobile Sales 4.0, Enterprise Portal 6.0, Business Warehouse 3.5, Human Resources 4.6 and a widespread tablet PC deployment. The company's existing customer database was based on a disconnected Lotus Notes system, with reps using their own contact management tools and repeatedly entering information into Microsoft Excel and Word documents for reporting.

    The biggest improvement from the mobile CRM system was an enhanced travel and expense reimbursement process. Previously, reps would charge expenses to their own credit cards and then be reimbursed by Lincoln. With the new system, reps use a corporate credit card that is charged to Lincoln, but they must assign expenses to specific customers and activities in the system, which they access through their tablet PCs.

    The system also provides representatives with improved opportunity and activity management. Reports are sent directly to reps' tablet PCs, showing their top revenue by customer and how much customers are spending with the competition, without forcing them to dig around SAP's Business Warehouse. Similar reports are sent to management.

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