Estimated reading time: 7 minutes, 45 seconds

SmartPhone Apps for Salespeople

Smartphone imageIf you are a salesperson, then you will have a smartphone. Not a Blackberry, because no one in this country uses Blackberrys any more. You will have an iPhone or a phone that uses the Android operating system. This may not be the case in just a few years when (in my opinion) tablets, like the iPad, Nexus and Surface will be the primary device for you. But for now it's the smartphone. It is your No. 1 tool for closing more deals.

And yes, smartphones have their issues. They're still too small to do significant data entry. You're still at the mercy of your wireless provider, which means that you will suffer from dropped calls, delayed texts and slow data connections. Their batteries still can't keep up with you. And most of the apps are games or entertainment. This is the way it is for now. But please don't complain.

1. "CRM Mobile." Don't search for this on your smartphone's app store because I'm using a generic name here. What I'm referring to is a mobile application for your company's customer relationship management system. If your company doesn't have a CRM then you're already at a disadvantage, so you might want to get up to speed on some of the more popular ones available by reading Paul Greenberg's excellent annual series here. Every good CRM system has a good smartphone application. And any good salesperson relies on that mobile application to update their activities, schedule follow-ups, check their forecasts, create opportunities and take notes on their prospects and customers. The apps are generally written by the CRM software vendor such as Microsoft, Sage, Sugar or Salesforce.com or a trusted third party. It's the most vital mobile application you will use.

2. CompanionLink. Dropped calls? Slow data connections? Join the crowd. Wirelessservices are still nowhere as fast as they should be.

CompanionLinkThat's why you'll need CompanionLink for your smartphone. CompanionLink synchronizes data between most of the popular CRMs and contact managers to just about any mobile device. I use it to synchronize my contacts and calendar between my CRM, Microsoft Outlook and Google. This is not a new company or two dudes working out of a garage. My clients and I have used CompanionLink's products for a decade. I also like the fact that they're not in bed with any one software maker - they make synching products for them all. You may think that "syncing" is kind of old world with the proliferation of cloud-based apps. But try quickly getting a phone number or checking on an appointment; your life will grind to a halt waiting for the connection to happen. Like most software apps, CompanionLink is not flawless. But it works and it provides key data quickly for the salesperson on the go. It also provides the ability to synch more data (i.e. user fields, customizations) and on a more detailed schedule then most other out of the box tools.

3. Google Maps and Navigator. After all these years of writing about technology I'm stillgoogle logo in awe of GPS. I'm not sure Google Maps and Navigator are two separate applications or not and I don't really care because they work so well together. You're not still printing out driving directions from MapQuest or Google Maps, are you? It's not a bad idea for a backup, but trust me when I tell you that a good GPS system on your smartphone works. I've used Google Maps and Navigator to help me find clients in the remote swamplands of Florida and BBQ ribs in central Nashville. GPS services for your smartphone are real, reliable, easy to use and...free. Start using them.,

evernote logo4. Evernote. Is it politically correct to be tapping away on your phone while listening to someone speak at a conference? Or at a meeting with a potential customer? It is if you're using Evernote. Just make sure to explain what you're doing in advance. I used to carry a big spiral notebook to jot down meeting information and then I would have to spend the extra time transcribing into my company's database. Now I'm using Evernote. And everything I type is saved online. So when I get back to the office I just copy and paste it in five seconds. Plus I can make changes to the notes through my browser and then when I go back on the road I'm seeing the same on my phone. Evernote is your go-to administrator. And if you don't like to type, it's OK to rely on yet another awe-inspiring technology of today: your smartphone's voice recognition functions.

square logo5. Square. You know you're not going to hit your quota until your customers get invoiced. And you're usually not going to get paid until your customers pay. But our culture is changing. Business owners are getting tired of chasing down money. Cash and checks are slowly being replaced by mobile payments. And one of the biggest players is Square. This application allows you to swipe a customer's credit card (there's a little connector for your phone) and wirelessly process the payment. This is how you collect deposits. This is how you get paid immediately on delivery. This is how you get prepaid for items. And this is how you collect customers' information (like their email address) so you can keep after them for future sales. Of course there's a fee, so you build it into your price. Or you weigh those fees against the time value of the money you're not receiving because they're not paying. It's not about closing the deal. It's about collecting the cash.

xpsenser logo6. Xpenser. As a busy salesperson you have expenses. And smart business managers track these expenses carefully. It used to be where you would have to take an hour out each week to tally up the meals, calculate mileage and submit a manual T&E report. And then more time would be spent by your finance department re-keying this data into their company system. Wait...used to be? Your company is still doing this, aren't they? Don't worry - it's not uncommon. But this has to change. Get Xpenser. Not only can you track your expenses on the go but also the data is stored on the cloud and then can be quickly integrated with most accounting systems. Or a developer can build an application using their API to integrate it with yours. One thing to keep in mind: most software vendors have built and are improving their own time and billing mobile apps for their products which include expense management. So you may want to ask your finance department to research them first.

hopstop logo.7. HopStop. You're a smart person, right? But you tell me is that a local or express train? Will it stop at 77th Street or bypass it? Since I was a kid, I visited New York a couple times a year. Now, I travel to New York a few times a month on business. I admit I'm no genius. But I do consider myself to be of average intelligence. Yet to this day, I still can't figure out the subway system. So thank God for HopStop. And HopStop isn't just for New York. The app gives you step-by-step directions for navigating most major cities' transportation systems. It's reliable and fast. And it's saved me hours of time researching my trips and inevitably getting lost. As for other travel apps for my smartphone, I've been told that TripIt and FlightView are excellent. I'm still relying on web browsing though.

Amazon logo8 and 9. Amazon. I use two applications from Amazon frequently on my smartphone: Kindle and Cloud Player. Look, I'm trying to improve myself, OK? So I try to do a lot of reading. I have a Kindle so I don't have to lug books all around the country. And frequently when I'm waiting in a reception area or have 20 minutes of downtime somewhere I can keep on my toes by reading right from my phone. And for when I rent a car and need to drive an hour to a client, or I'm in a hotel room and need to wind it down, I can listen to books or my music stored on my cloud drive through my smartphone too. It's therapy. It's education.
So stop playing games. Enough Twittering. For now, the smart salespeople I know are using their smartphones as a necessary tool to help them close more deals. Just remember: it isn't the phone. It's the apps.

Gene Marks
Gene Marks, a columnist, author, and business owner, writes monthly online management and technology columns for Forbes and Business Week and a bi-weekly column that appears nationally in American City Business Journals. His books include Gene\'s books include the #1 Amazon Small Business Best Seller The Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (Adams Media), The Small Business Desk Reference (Alpha Books, 2004), Outfoxing The Small Business Owner - Crafty Techniques for Creating a Profitable Relationship (Adams Media, 2005) and The Complete Idiot\'s Guide To Successful Outsourcing (Alpha Books, 2005).

He owns and operates the Marks Group PC, a ten-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium-sized businesses. Before starting the Marks Group, Marks spent nine years in the entrepreneurial services arm of the international consulting firm KPMG in
Philadelphia where he was a senior manager.
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