We keep hearing the comment that ‘sales should become modern’. Not now, probably for many decades now.
The definition of “Modern” is different for different companies, different industries, different regions, different people. For example, someone writing their contact details in a trusted notebook may consider a spreadsheet database of all contacts as “Modern”, whereas another company with a full-fledged CRM implementation may consider the same spreadsheet database as “Ancient”.
Hence, the maturity journey of each company is different and a continuous process. It is practically impossible for a CRM consultant to suggest a particular software or device as THE modern way of selling.
Apps & Acceptance
Web Apps and Mobile Apps are accepted and recognized as modern tools to help selling. Especially, applications that help in these aspects are essential for a field sales force:
- Contact Management
- Scheduling: Routing: Calendar
- Catalog Display/ Presentation
- Capture Notes on the fly
- Learning/ Onboarding
In the previous decade, hundreds of CRM vendors and independent developers have made number of solutions to assist in effectiveness of field sales operations. Some of them are fantastic offerings, but they reach certain state and then are meeting a stonewall of acceptance.
First reason, sales executives treat them as “another routine task” to be done. They resist, instead of using these modern apps.
There is tremendous value in these Apps, entire industry accepts that. Yet, we see huge resistance in any company from sales people of all maturity levels and age groups. There must be something terribly wrong that we fail to notice.
Someone who is in a flood situation, will not refuse a lifeboat or a lifejacket. Unless and until the lifeboat looks and feels so different, that it looks like a uniform: not a lifesaver.
Do you see the difference? In case of lifeboat, it is given by someone to save YOUR life, But in case of a uniform, it is given by someone to take care of THEIR operational requirements. This is the precise reason no one cares about the lifejackets issued in boat rides in tourist spots. They are routine things, not many really think of them as lifesavers. So, they complain about their size, texture, time required to wear them and many other inconveniences, which are very small when compared to the prospect of saving their lives.
The same problem we see in Field Sales Apps as well. Companies are spending millions in building them, deploying them, buying some new devices, in some cases etc. Yet, when they reach the computers or laptops or tablets or phones of the Field Sales Professionals, they see them as an interference to their work. The clear communication in terms of how they can save their (sales) lives is not given with the ‘What’s in it for you’ angle. Hence, they see it as ‘Oh boy, another data entry for me to do. From where will I get extra time to do THIS along with REAL WORK?’
So, the value perception has to be reset properly to see any traction on acceptance of the application. This messaging should clearly say “What this can do for you” instead of “What you need to do with it”. This slight change in angle will help a lot in acceptance.
Importance of device
Even though today’s Apps are built in an “Universal” way, the device in which they are accessed matters a lot. Sometimes, it determines how the users would see the app. A good app in a bad device can spoil the experience, leading to the obvious question, ‘why should I do it?’ On the flip side, even an average application, that focuses on one or two features, used in a right device can do wonders.
For example, consider the simple task of note taking. There are apps which open and directly take you to the “New note” page, all other features are hidden inside menus, because most of the times “New Note” is the feature we are likely to use, and by opening it directly, they save a click.
However, on a mobile phone, even this may not help much as typing is going to be a pain there. So, note taking apps add a feature of “Voice memos” or “Voice to text conversion”, which considers the device’s positives and negatives, and tries to provide the best experience to the user.
I have seen Sales Professionals struggling with a large laptop (or a tiny laptop!) and an app with buttons, text boxes everywhere. Such an app looks like “Work” forced on them, not “Providing them what they need on the field.” Should the sales professionals suffer just because the company has ordered a particular device in bulk?!
Features Vs Flow
Today’s technology is so advanced, you can literally build a mobile application overnight. Even a complex enterprise app can be built by a committed set of developers in a matter of days. This means, when it comes to features, sky is the limit.
Unfortunately, many companies opt for the sky and end up creating an umbrella of features. Now, those features either go unused or pushed to people, resulting in garbage data.
Let us learn from the world of Mobiles: an app doing one thing very well is better than an app which does hundred things.
How is it possible? The simple common sense says 1 < 100, isn’t it?
When you are trying to squeeze 100 features on the same app, the attention to detail in terms of how they will be perceived and used by the real users is lost. As a result, an app is created which works pretty well for general usage, but not aligned to the business flow.
Instead, if few features are picked and a design is made keeping the Field Sales Users in the center, considering the device on which they are going to use these features, that app will be used actively. Means, design should be based on the business flow, not based on the features.
This makes the communication also easy, a simple ‘one day in the life of a field sales executive’ will help understand what an app does to help that person, (or, does it help or disturb their regular work process).
What App Makers can do?
Don’t be so rigid in terms of your feature sets and integrations. Keep your app as a moving platform, so that you can align it to the process flow of the organization for which you are implementing and the systems that they use for various functions such as CRM, ERP, Collaboration, Scheduling etc.
But won’t that defeat the purpose of “Readymade Apps” which is so HOT today?
Agreed. But our experience says, Enterprise Apps can never be readymade. They need to follow a standard process, beyond that, they should be easy to customize, A Do-It-Yourself kit is preferred than a well crafted chair.