How To Use Mobile Business Apps To Increase Sales

Road warriors are all too familiar with the drill of connecting -- and waiting -- for the Internet via their laptop. If time is money, a lot of money that could be made is being held up by slow connection speeds. Here, the president and CEO of MacroSolve/Illume Mobile discusses an alternative: mobile applications via tablet computers. —Jennifer Bosavage, editor

On-the-road salespeople have long recognized the advantages of being able to deliver a sales presentation with the help of a laptop computer, but the frustration has been the time it takes for laptops to boot up and connect to external projectors or the Internet. Enter tablet-based applications -- mobile applications -- designed to let users swiftly pull up the information they need for a sales presentation on their iPad, Android or new BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Such mobile applications offer sales organizations a mobile sales tool kit with up-to-the minute videos, brochures, pricing, statistics, technical information, contact management functions, promotions, information on competitors and tools for creating proposals, quotes and contracts.

Those mobile applications are not a one-size-fits-all product. Rather, they can easily be customized to meet the specific needs of a sales organization, small or large, at a fraction of the price and time of creating a proprietary system from the ground up. The mobile applications are visually appealing and easy and intuitive to use. Such apps are typically offered to customers under a one-time licensing fee agreement with an annual support maintenance contract. Businesses can add and revise content through an intuitive web-based administrative panel, ensuring that field personnel always have access to the most up-to-date information and prices.

In addition to offering convenience, mobile applications also promote consistency with regard to how a product or service is presented. Rather than leaving it up to individual sales reps to come up with their own presentations, mobile applications distribute information from central servers to all members of a sales force simultaneously, using video and 3D images to show off new products and illustrate product features. For example, MacroSolve recently launched SaleSentral, a software platform for tablets. MacroSolve is using SaleSentral to develop customized and branded apps for clients in the insurance, food and beverage, healthcare, construction and office equipment industries.

Another advantage of the use of such apps is increased responsiveness to customers. Field personnel can reach customers -- and customers can reach them -- anytime and anywhere. By receiving information in real time, sales reps can take action based on up-to-the-minute information, giving them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

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The end result of the use of mobile apps is to improve productivity. Sales reps spend less time on administrative tasks and more face time with existing and prospective customers, while companies spend less money on printed sales materials, mailing and delivery costs and antiquated, paper-based record-keeping processes.

Indeed, according to the recent “Anywhere Enterprise--Large: U.S. Mobility and Applications Survey” from the Yankee Group, businesses can realize the following advantages from mobile business apps:

* Increased field selling time: 28 percent

* Eliminated redundant activities: 27 percent

* Increased win rates: 26 percent

* Reduced sales calls costs: 25 percent

* Increased forecast accuracy: 25 percent

* Decreased administrative time: 24 percent

* Decreased sales cycle: 23 percent

The increased power of tablets, in combination with young, tech savvy workers who are eager to introduce business functions to their mobile devices, thus allowing easy access to information without the need to be tethered to a desk, is fundamentally changing the way business is conducted, particularly in outside sales.

Those drivers have contributed to an explosion in the sales of tablets, with a recent IBM survey of 2,000 tech pros in 87 nations showing that mobile business apps will surpass all other forms of business software development by 2015, with the biggest growth being in customized software developed for a company's unique operations.

So if you’re still carting around glossy sales sheets and brochures in the backseat of your car, if you’re still twiddling your thumbs while waiting for your laptop to boot up or if you’re still going back to the office at the end of the day to check or log customer data, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if there’s a better way.