Developing and rolling out apps for b2b sales people
FatStax Mobile Apps just published a document with 8 steps on implementing iPads for your sales force. Of those 8 steps I would like to share steps 3-6 below. You can download the full document here or follow their blog, where they discuss each step in more detailed blog posts. For me many of their recommendations make sense even for app developers who target enterprises or corporate employees who need to plan the rollout of a particular app on a number of different devices. I have added http://fatstax.com to my work in progress list of all Sales Enablement vendors.
Step 3: Legacy systems—know the users and the owners.
Build a cross-functional team.
Think about existing software systems and business processes that will integrate with the iPad. The owners of those systems—on the technical, operational and business sides of the organization—should get involved early in the process. Build a cross-functional team that connects internal stakeholders with external consultants and developers.
Get key people in IT, marketing, sales and other relevant areas involved early by creating a cross-functional team. It will show others that the idea has broad-based support. Finding allies now and keeping them throughout the iPad rollout will make it easier to navigate company policies, and it may inspire a broader mobile strategy for the organization. Involving stakeholders certainly will help with the development process and ensure a more relevant outcome.
The added expense of integration should come with higher returns, including better workflow efficiencies, more satisfied sales teams and the slick look and feel of a made-to-order solution.
Step 4: Set a realistic budget.
Engaging other departments may reveal additional ways to use iPads for sales, which also may reveal additional expenses. Use the input of others to create a realistic budget. Remember to look beyond the cost of purchasing an iPad for each person. In addition to purchasing the hardware, common iPad-related expenses that may get overlooked, include:
iPad cases Sales people need an easy-to-hold case that keeps the screen clean. Data plans Talk to current and competing data plan providers. Support What can the company absorb and what needs to be outsourced? What support can vendors provide? Provisioning Make the internal app accessible from the iTunes library or an enterprise-based “store.” Programmers Internal or external, programmers are expensive. Use them to custom-design apps or assist with integration. Security Invest in encryption and wipe functionality for when an iPad is lost. Distribution Account for the cost of shipping “loaded” iPads to team members. VPN Check to see if VPN access apps are included in current services. Integrators Decide if CRM and ERP integration is required for success. Apps Plan a budget that encompasses business and pleasure. Pilot program Identify a subset of the budget for a one- or two-phase pilot program.
Step 5: Find or make apps that work for sales.
Unless a company has the desire and budget to build its own mobile development and support team, the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to keep pace with changing hardware and software is to rely on external developers. Developers that specialize in designing all-inclusive apps for enterprises live and breathe everything related to the iPad. These specialized vendors have worked with other enterprises, giving them a great deal of exposure to user experience preferences. They may have additional advice and ideas on the best way to securely deploy iPads, as well as their product, their product to enterprise sales teams.
Whether working with internal developers or outside consultants, make sure the people designing or customizing apps for the sales team understand what sales people need. Their understanding can make all the difference in the ultimate sales force adoption of an app. For example, does the team understand the following?
- What do sales people in their company do on a daily basis?
- How do they interact with customers?
- What does the sales process look like?
- How can sales be improved and enhanced with new tools?
Learn, adapt and deploy.
No developer team will code the perfect app the first time. An app’s success will grow over time based on user experiences from the field. The iPad is so flexible that apps can, and should, evolve with feedback. Use caution when an over-zealous IT department or developers tell the sales team what it needs or how an app “should” work. For example, sales people may discover that “standard-sized” app buttons don’t work well during customer encounters. If they need big buttons, give them big buttons!
Step 6: Test assumptions in a pilot.
A great way to test assumptions, uncover missing budget items, and reveal enterprise software integration needs is to conduct an iPad pilot. Phase 1 of a pilot might include a small group of enthusiastic users. Consider tapping people who already own the iPad for personal use or who have been especially vocal about adding them to the sales team’s tool box.
Define pilot goals.
Clearly define goals for the pilot participants, and consider how much time it will take them to provide pilot feedback. If necessary, compensate participants for lost opportunities so they can attend weekly meetings or log experiences. Let participants discover what they need to make the iPad an effective part of the sales process and daily workflow.
Don’t pilot more than four apps at a time.
Sales people have the job of closing sales, so don’t plan for users to test more than three to four apps in a pilot. Starting simple with a mix of everyday apps and one custom app is much more manageable.
Sales people often look for app-based solutions to help:
- Manage e-mail
- Connect to the VPN
- Organize and access literature
- Navigate product catalogs
- Participate in training
- Update CRM systems
- Log expenses
- Track compensation