B2B Solution of the Week: How to hack B2B growth with mobile apps

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No question, mobility has changed the B2B sales game. New technologies automate, streamline and create new efficiencies simply unattainable in the past. However, many B2B companies still take sales orders with pen and paper. If only they would use mobile apps as part of their business development strategy they could drastically improve the results of B2B sales teams. And that’s happening.

According to a recent survey by Oracle, DigitasLBi and Spindrift of 300 global e-commerce executives, mobile technology was the largest investment they made in 2015. More specifically, it was the No. 1 investment overall as well as first in EMEA, second in APAC and fourth in North America. To further the point, a Google survey said mobile engagement in B2B had increased 91 percent across the entire funnel. So what can we make of this data?

“Clearly, mobile is increasingly important to B2B organizations. Pre-purchase research and post-purchase support seem the biggest use cases,” says Zach Hanlon, director, product marketing, Oracle CX Applications Group. “We tend to view mobile as a tool for the end user, but this doesn’t have to be the case. One of the best uses for mobile apps within B2B is to empower field sales. Giving them the ability to take an order on the shopfloor or generate a quote over lunch is game changing.”

Mobile ordering apps

Indeed, B2B companies now deploy sophisticated apps that showcase their inventories, displacing the prior paper-based catalogs. These are particularly suitable for display on tablets.

“These have all the advantages of an e-commerce site and some (benefits) specific to the sales process in face-to-face interactions,” says Oren Ezra, CMO, Pepperi, provider of mobile sales suites for brands and wholesalers. “Ability to display a dynamically updated catalog and offer alternatives in real-time are particularly useful for (B2B customers).”

The problem with B2B companies using and maintaining mobile apps for ordering remains ongoing development and maintenance. Even using open source software, a dedicated coding team would be necessary to update the app with a B2B company’s newest offerings and delete end-of-life items.

For manufacturers, cost of developing and maintaining a mobile app is untenable because it would come at the expense of their core competencies. So leading brands request private-label apps as they expand their B2B sales channels, according to Pepperi, whose private label program enables brands to launch B2B e-commerce apps—a competitive differentiation—in just weeks at a fraction the cost of custom development, according to the company. Then Pepperi publishes the branded apps to Apple, Google Play and Windows app stores for download by B2B customers.

Geolocation services for mobile customer service

For many B2B companies with field service reps, the largest barrier to hacking growth can exist as efficient deployment of human resources. Mobile apps that can tell B2B managers where their personnel are in the field in real time can help them dispatch the closest reps to new sales calls.

For example, the app should recognize a rep’s position in relation to opportunities in her surrounding area and pull up corresponding contextual information. Previous correspondence, related documents, quotes, pipeline activity and other data points can be accessed if the sales rep so wishes, according to Oscar Macia, CEO and co-founder, ForceManager, a mobile CRM application.

“A mobile CRM app can drastically increase efficiency of sales teams in the field through the use of geolocation technology,” Macia says. “App intuitive thinking makes the rep’s life unmistakably easier. Instead of searching for previous notes, files and spreadsheets related to a client stored on the rep’s desktop, all relevant info is made available immediately through the mobile app.”

CRM on-the-fly, on the go

Today, sales reps can perform nearly any task from the palms of their hands. Most salespeople conduct business from mobile devices, resulting in faster, more efficient work processes. That’s easy enough when in town close to the office with near ubiquitous wifi access available. However, when on the road—or in the air—sales reps can lose connection to their enterprise CRM capabilities. But they still need those offline information resources. Therefore, in order to hack growth, they need mobile B2B apps that will update and synchronize records once reconnected.

“Salespeople are increasingly dependent on mobile devices to surface deeper customer insights on the fly,” says Greg Gsell, director of Sales Cloud product marketing, Salesforce. “Before walking into a meeting, the ability to access and analyze real-time customer data is crucial. For this reason, data visualization tools are becoming more common in CRM applications.”

In addition, companies that leverage mobile CRM provide infrastructure that salespeople need to collaborate with colleagues while on the go, according to Gsell. Sales teams with the highest conversion rates remain the ones that stay up on industry topics and use tools that keep them continuously prepared to meet their customers, he says.

In extension, a mobile sales app can become even more beneficial if it can help the sales team instantaneously create customized content experiences for prospects from standard and custom objects, according to Someshwar Chidurala, digital marketing analyst, Orchestrate Technologies, a business process management organization. But these actions must be measurable.

“KPIs are essential for sales teams while promoting their brands, products or services,” Chidurala says. “An app with built-in analytics combined with CRM integrations can help them access these metrics on the move. Mobile apps that can improve forecast accuracy through analytics and forecast management can maximize data integrity and will be a great asset for sales teams.”

Signing on the dotted line

The ultimate goal of every B2B company—or any profit-driven organization—remains top line revenue: Making sales, closing deals. For centuries, signing contracts remained an analog, paper-and-pen process. When sales existed as a slower-moving occupation, it might not have mattered. Sales only made a few calls at a time. Now with B2B sales reps’ quotas up and their ranks down, that’s not practical. Enter electronic signature mobile apps.

Electronic signature mobile apps help sales organizations make every approval, decision, contract and workflow fully digital to accelerate sales processes and close deals faster, according to Gregor Perotto, senior director, corporate and marketing communications, DocuSign, an electronic signature solution provider.

“It eliminates the hassles, costs and lack of security in printing, faxing, scanning and overnighting paper documents to transact business 100 percent digitally—anytime, anywhere on any device,” Perotto says.

Photo credit: Marcela Palma

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).