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Does anyone else remember what life was like as a salesperson  before smartphones? I do, and it wasn’t pretty. In 1998, I covered a  pretty big territory, including all of England and Scotland. I would  regularly drive 400 to 500 miles a day, and after each appointment, I’d  be frantically pulling out maps, organizing my notes and trying to make  phone calls to keep things moving. Of course, details would inevitably  get lost in the shuffle, and there was always this sense of bouncing  around and never having complete control over my time. No matter how  much I planned in advance, it couldn’t make up for the fact that I was  disconnected.

When technologies like the Compaq iPAQ came along, we thought we had  it pretty good, but that mobile experience pales in comparison with  today’s widespread wireless coverage, ability to access corporate  applications and fast download rates.

With today’s omnipresent smartphones ,  WiFi and 3G technologies, as well as mobile apps that connect back to  corporate work-flows, there is no such thing as dead-time. Have a spare  moment at the airport? Submit your request for a week-long summer  vacation. Waiting for your coffee to cool at a restaurant? Take a photo  of the receipt and book it against your expense system. A client cancels  your afternoon appointment? Check on the new lead that just came into  your inbox this morning, using your smartphone’s geolocator. If it’s  nearby, book an appointment, and everyone’s happy – you because you  haven’t lost out on an afternoon of revenue opportunity, the potential  client because of the immediate response and your company because you’ve  maximized your efficiency.

This is the life of the 21st Century Sales Warrior ,  dipping in and out of the sales ecosystem at will. With more choices  about when they engage in transactions and workflows, they can fill what  used to be annoying and unproductive deadtime, thus expanding their  valuable non-work downtime. The more we can control how we use time, the  more satisfied we – and our clients and employers – will be.

But this isn’t as easy as it looks. One, we can never forget the key  concept behind transforming the sales force for the 21st Century: harnessing the power of people, process and technology .  Mobility is empowering, but companies need to design processes to make  that happen in a way that works for all stakeholders involved.

Second, the experience of using a mobile app needs to be  people-centric. Mobile transactions need to be as simple as turning on a  light when you walk into a room — just as there’s no reason to think  about how the electricity was generated, so salespeople should not need  to think about the processes and infrastructure that sits behind the  mobile app. It should be as simple as opening the app and tapping the  screen a few times to take an action.

Increasingly, mobile devices will become an extension of ourselves,  and we will expect only a thin veil between our thoughts and the little  device we’re holding in our hand. In fact, I predict it won’t be long  before CRM is primarily driven by smartphones and tablets, with these  devices responsible for the majority of our interactions with the  enterprise. It’s time for businesses to rethink how they design business  processes from the mobile point of view.

Does mobility help you take control of your time, or does it make you  a slave to your work? Are corporate mobile apps a help or a hindrance?  Please share your insights, opinions and tips with us.

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