10 ways to use smartphones to grow your sales

In a recent survey conducted by Huthwaite, a sales performance improvement organization, the majority of respondents indicated that smartphones gave sales reps a competitive edge--because of response speeds. By combining the features of a mobile phone and a laptop, smartphones can help your sales team quickly respond to customer queries, provide instant access to customer data, as well as allow your mobile workforce to share presentations, check inventory, close deals and more.

Straight from the field (from road warriors and CEOs), here are 10 ways smartphones can improve productivity on the go and increase sales:

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1. Remember people you meet. "Contact lists in your phone are great, but to quickly capture people's names, the place you met, their relationship with other contacts and your own personal notes, use an app like NameCatcher Biz," says Katie Meurin, senior marketing manager, Zco Corporation, an app development company. "To really make that meeting stick in your memory, add pictures, video or voice notes."

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2. Respond faster to customers. "My clients are global, and I am contacted by them 24 hours a day," says John Paul Engel, CEO, Knowledge Capital Consulting, a management consulting firm. "I can't imagine doing my business without my smartphone. My clients have come to expect a quick response from me, and if I don't get back to them in a few minutes they think something is wrong." Being available, and being able to return calls quickly, is critical--for not just Engel but for mobile executives and sales reps in general. And while being available 24/7 is not always desirable, "this high level of service leads to great [customer] satisfaction, referrals and sales," he points out.

3. Hold virtual meetings with colleagues and customers. Any mobile phone can help your sales team stay in touch with the office, colleagues and customers. However, with a smartphone--and a mobile video chat app, such as Google Talk, Skype or Tango--you can hold virtual meetings and video chat with decision makers around the globe.

4. Share files--and make changes--on the go. "File sharing [apps] make it possible to send large sales presentations or relevant whitepapers without slowing down your email client," says John Golden, CEO and president, Huthwaite. "Our global teams use Dropbox to share files across continents," he notes. Another piece of advice: "Make sure your smartphone allows you to create and make changes to presentations on the go."

5. Always have a video pitch with you. "A short video can demonstrate more advantages of your product" than, say, a standard PowerPoint presentation, says Katie Meurin, senior marketing manager, Zco Corporation, an app development company. Need or want to create a mini movie from the road via your smart device? Meurin recommends Splice, which is available for iPhones (and iPads) via the AppStore.

6. Leverage your CRM system from the road. "Mobile access to your company's CRM system, to obtain or record prospect info (activity, status, financial, etc.), is invaluable," says Jonathan Block, vice president and practice director, technology, SiriusDecisions, a B2B sales and marketing research and consulting organization. "Mobile access to customer data is critical to field sales teams," concurs Mike Snyder, principal, Sonoma Partners, a business process consulting services company and Microsoft Dynamics CRM partner. "Sales representatives are inherently more effective if they can access information about their customers or clients in real time, even without Internet access."

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7. Take orders from the road. With a smartphone "and an app that allows them to take orders over their smartphone (or tablet), your sales reps can be more productive while on the road," notes Marko Kovac, president, Salespod, a field sales and services automation solution provider.

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8. Close deals faster. With a smartphone and an electronic signature app, "my clients can sign contracts anywhere in the world in just minutes via their smartphone," states Reed Rigging CEO Michael deZonna, who uses Adobe EchoSign.

9. Automate workflow in the field. For example, say "a delivery worker is set to provide a bar with 20 cases [of beer], but upon arrival the bar requests 40 cases," says Mary Brittain-White, CEO, Retriever Communications, which focuses on mobile customer solutions for the field. "That delivery worker can use his smartphone to quickly place the order for more cases of beer." Moreover, by automating the ordering process, she says, "companies can see increased sales and maximize the productivity of their mobile workers."

10. Monitor inventory and restock on the go. "I own Shop4Sparkles.com, which is an online accessories company, and I monitor sales on my smart phone," explains Susan DiMezza. "When an item goes out of stock, I am alerted via my smartphone. I immediately contact my vendors to see if there is more in inventory and then add it to our inventory (via the smartphone) as soon as possible," she explains. "This is great, especially when we have an especially hot item!"

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.

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This story, "10 ways to use smartphones to grow your sales" was originally published by CIO.

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