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On the Road to Mobile Sales

By Doug Mattheus

Mobile technology is coming at business fast. DOUG MATTHEUS looks at the
implications of operating in an ‘always-on’ world

AN efficient secretary is essential for salespeople to be able to fully utilise the technology currently at their disposal. Despite technological advances, someone in the back office to handle “the real work” is as important as it was two decades ago.

In the future, however, this will change – and as the mobile world moves

inevitably to “always on” mode, the exact nature of the shift is becoming

clear.

The development of more sophisticated mobile networks means that in the near

future mobile devices will be connected to the relevant network on a permanent basis. What this means is that the mobile use of information is gradually moving from “pull” to “push”.

Simply put, once devices such as PDAs are permanently connected to the information source, the devices will start to act as information agents themselves – literally sorting and updating information in the background – on a continual basis.

According to research firm Gartner (http://www.gartner.com), “Mobile sales force applications aimed at vertical industries with heavily time-dependent business processes will prove most successful in the short term.”

The industries identified by Gartner as most likely to adopt wireless applications include:

*Pharmaceuticals: detailing, call reporting
*Financial Services: banking, brokerage, and securities
*Insurance: estimates, collections, property, and casualty
*Consumer products: retail execution and audits, shelf space management, direct store delivery, pricing merchandising
*Utilities: collections and service order upsells / cross-sells

Here we are looking at immediate sales force applications for mobile technologies – applications with the ability to significantly simplify the handling of large amounts of information, relating specifically to company services.

Gartner focuses on immediate vertical business applications for wireless technologies, but the wider business benefits of permanent mobile connectivity, particularly when it comes to sales teams, should not be underestimated.

Mobile sales life is largely restricted to “pull”. In other words, mobile devices operate in stand alone mode until they are connected to the network and updated. This means that there are constant window periods where the salesperson is operating in isolation from the company information system, which in turn means that regular up date and administration sessions are essential.

But as we move to “push” (or “always on”) mode, a range of significant business benefits will start to appear for sales teams utilising mobile technology, most noticeably collaborative selling opportunities and on-the-move sales forecasting and customer service. The future scenario is one where sales teams are literally able to operate on the fly, whether it be customer service, inventory checks or accessing essential real time company information.

The ability for sales teams to operate on the fly will certainly lead to reduced administration requirements and increased operational efficiency.

Bottom line benefits that all companies are constantly hunting.

The big question, of course, is when to make the strategic leap to a truly wireless sales force. Basic hurdles still need to be overcome, including reliable network coverage across the entire country (an issue which is particularly relevant in the USA) and the development of wireless devices with longer battery time.

Nevertheless, sales-focused organisations need to start addressing the mobile paradigm, sooner rather than later. One just has to think of the advantages picture cell phones currently offer estate agents in instantly communicating their offering to clients to realise that, despite the obstacles, mobile ability is already an important part of the sales process.

In a few years time, certain sales teams will be constantly connected to the

company network, and to each other, through their mobile devices. They will

be backed in their sales quest by a seamless flow of accurate and relevant

information.

As with the dot.com boom of the mid-nineteen nineties, we will surely see a sudden and mad scramble to leap onto the mobile sales bandwagon in the near future.

It wasn’t too long ago that companies were all scrabbling desperately for a web presence. The resulting profits for teenage web designers were clear, as were the costly consequences of corporate web development projects unhindered by the presence of a business strategy.

When the mobile sales hype hits, it will hit hard. The companies that have already started to deal with integrating mobile technologies (thoughtfully and effectively) into their sales armoury will be in a position to leverage real value. The rest, unfortunately, will end up paying vast amounts of money to mobile vendors, driven solely by the desire to get what everyone else already seems to have.

The lesson we all think we learned during the dot.com boom and bust cycle needs to be re-processed. Mobile technology is coming at business fast – it needs to be dealt with and incorporated into current business thinking today, in order to get at the real value that lies waiting tomorrow.

* Doug Mattheus is Marketing Director of Nashua Mobile, one of South Africa’s leading cellular service providers. He is in charge of Marketing and Product Development, as well as being involved in the Strategy of the business. More information on Nashua Mobile is available at www.nashuamobile.com

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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