Maintaining focus and consistency across a far-flung enterprise sales force isn't easy. More than ever, sales teams need seamless access to a scope of selling resources—all of which need to have been designed to accurately represent the brand and its products to buyers in complex market environments.

Enterprise-grade mobile apps can equip sales teams with a set of high-impact selling tools. In addition to delivering wins in productivity and employee morale, a well-built enterprise sales app offers a distribution channel via smartphone or tablet for updated marketing collateral and sales content, ensuring that the organization's frontline sales personnel always have the most current information at their disposal.

But for maximum utility and return on investment (ROI), enterprise sales apps need to be built for one or more specific use cases. Because one-size-fits-all apps simply aren't capable of achieving the results associated with world-class sales agendas, brands need to adopt a custom approach, incorporating a handful of essential enterprise app characteristics into highly functional mobile sales solutions.

Five Essential Elements of Enterprise Sales Apps

A strong enterprise-grade sales app is calibrated to a brand selling agenda as well as the organization's unique culture and tolerance for technological change. If pursuing a corporate sales app is even a consideration, pay special attention to the following five elements.

1. Customization

If an app has been developed for one-use case, the app should be customized visually as well. At a minimum, the company should have customized user interfaces and other features that reflect the brand's nature and business requirements.

Because most sales apps are at least partially customer-facing, custom branded content should be incorporated across the application.

2. Mobile Hardware Advantages

Creating a robust sales application isn't as simple as re-creating the desktop experience on a tablet for use in the field. To be effective, the application needs to capitalize on mobile-specific characteristics (e.g., geolocation, camera, accelerometer, even gyroscope), and it should use mobile hardware advantages to create exceptional experiences for both sales personnel and customers.

3. CRM Integration

Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) software is a no-brainer for sales app development projects.

Your salespeople are tethered to smartphones and tablets, so they already have access to data about your company's clients and customers. But by taking it one step further and allowing sales reps to store customer information straight to your company's CRM system via the app, you can create an exceptionally efficient and cohesive information environment in which customer data is used more consistently in the sales process.

4. Presentation Capability

Presentation features are a critical requirement for solid mobile sales applications. Showing is often a more persuasive sales strategy than telling is, and that means enterprise sales apps should have the capability to perform customer demonstrations and to display app-based visuals for use in the selling process or internal sales team functions.

5. Offline Functionality

Common sense dictates that a sales app be optimized for online operating environments, but what happens if the user is working from a remote location? The app, like the device, should have some utility in the event the salesperson is without Internet access.

Whether the salesperson is on an airplane, in a hospital, or out in the field at a company warehouse, she should be able to pull data directly from the app, including sales presentations, customer service records and contacts, and other opportunities.

Device Management

A successful sales app implementation begins with proper mobile device management (MDM), which is the process of securing, monitoring, and managing mobile devices as they are deployed in the enterprise. Vendors include IBM, MobileIron, Sybase, and others.

MDM mitigates support costs by controlling and securing data and configuration settings across the devices in a network. Device management allows the information technology (IT) department to enforce policies on app management and securing corporate data.

Device management applies both to devices owned by the company and to devices owned by employees. Companies with an employee-owned device policy, also known as "bring your own device" (BYOD), use mobile device management to maintain consistent security policies across devices, whether employees are using iPhones or Android or Windows phones. Some companies opt to deploy tablets to their field sales teams, favoring the iPad's larger screen.

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The good news is that brands that invest adequate time and energy in laying the foundation for a sales-app implementation can reap big rewards. A solid mobile strategy improves end-user adoption of CRM because it makes accessing and modifying customer information easier. After that, all you need to do is allow your marketing and sales teams to do what they do best.

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Five Components of the Ideal Enterprise Sales App

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Jim Steger is co-founder and principal of Sonoma Partners, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner providing customization and integration solutions. Jim is the co-author of several books on the topic for Microsoft Press.