Sales doesn't stop when you're not at your desk, so neither should your sales force automation (SFA) app. However, not all SFA solutions offer the same mobile experience. There are, so to speak, “levels of mobility” – and these directly affect the ability of consumer goods brands and wholesalers to create a productive B2B sales and retail execution organization.
Apps designed from the ground up for true mobility keep your team productive on the go, with the same features and functionality you expect from a full-fledged desktop software – and then some. All right in the palm of your hand.
Consider these issues when evaluating a B2B sales force automation app.
1) Is it really a mobile app? Or just a web-page on a browser?
Your sales force solution needs to be available wherever your field reps go. Not just available, but equally as powerful and functional on a mobile device. Web apps and web pages, accessible via a web browser, are fine when you are performing super-simple tasks that are not based on detailed images, back-office data or business logic. While web apps do work on a mobile device, all too often they provide an unwieldy experience that limits productivity of field staff.
A native mobile app running locally, on the device, can work when the connectivity is weak or does not exist and provide the user with a complete mobile experience.
2) What mobile device is this app available on?
Do you want to commit to one type of device for years to come? Do you want your team to be able to use their own devices (BYOD)? Would you want to offer an app to your customers?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you need a mobile app for iOS and for Android, that will continuously support new releases of both.
3) Does the app use device capabilities (e.g. camera, GPS)?
Smartphones and tablets have their own inherent capabilities. An inherently mobile app makes use of these capabilities naturally, as part of the app’s features. For example, a camera is used from within the app to take photos for a store audit report and the GPS can geo-tag rep activities for monitoring and coaching.
4) Is it a native app?
Native apps are developed for a specific mobile operating system (e.g. iOS, Android). Their user interface makes use of the device’s “native” look-and-feel and adjusts to different screen sizes, so it is easy for users to use them. They work faster and make better use of the device resources (memory, CPU, storage and more), thus being more stable and reliable.
5) What can be done when app users are offline?
Your reps need to be able to work anytime, anywhere, so they can always do their job. This includes situations where Wifi or cellular connectivity is missing, poor or unstable. Using native apps and storing app data on the device are necessary, but insufficient measures.
B2B sales processes need complex logic to enable sales activities and transactions – be that order taking, in-store audit or purchase approval (to name a few). A sales force automation app needs to have local, device-side logic, to enable reps to work when disconnected from the network. Local data on its own will simply not be enough.
6) Is synchronization seamless?
Even in areas where data connectivity is widely available, your field reps constantly transition from online mode to an offline state. This requires that any data and processes executed when disconnected, get reconciled once connectivity is back.
Synchronization should occur automatically in the background, as soon as a connection is re-established. The process should handle backend and client conflicts with minimal business interruptions, prompting for user intervention only when needed.
7) Do users need to download a new version with every single change?
Dynamic business environments mandate that B2B sales processes adapt to suit ever-changing needs. Gone are the days when product catalogs, purchase approval workflows, or discount policies remain static throughout the lifespan of an app.
Your B2B commerce app should be designed to enable changes to take affect with no (or minimal) need for reps to upgrade an app. Updating pricing, promotions, business workflows and more should be seamless and transparent, minimizing down-time and IT support overhead. Additionally, make updating omnichannel-friendly, so you can define rules and processes on a single management console, and push them at once to all relevant channels.
Neglecting to account for such a critical element of business and product flexibility, will hold back your entire sales operations.
Sales tools and apps are flooding the market. But, not all B2B sales force automation app are created equal. Don't sacrifice functionality for mobility. Provide reps complete SFA functionality, re-imagined in a native mobile experience, with mobile-specific features designed to make them more successful.
Make true mobility your “unfair advantage”.