When was the last time you shopped for a product without first doing a little research? According to Forbes Insights, 46 percent of customers will go to a store to make purchases in person – after doing their homework online. Researching product information and finding reviews has never been easier.
Knowledgeable customers now have higher expectations for the sales associates they encounter. Customers expect associates to be one step ahead of them, having a firm grasp of product knowledge as well as recommendations for their specific needs. While this challenge is common to all sales associates, it can be even more difficult for extended-enterprise sales associates who work in independent dealerships. They need to be familiar with the multiple brands and often large variety of products they are selling.
This situation is an opportunity for product manufacturers: If sales associates are more knowledgeable about their products, they will sell more of their products rather than their competitors’. And, if the manufacturer provides sellers with tools that make selling easier, it can build brand loyalty and affinity with associates, which can also lead to increased sales.
These days, anyone who needs to create product knowledge training and sales enablement tools for retail associates should be thinking mobile. Let’s face it: Time “off the floor” for training has never been viewed favorably by store managers. With mobile performance support, sales enablement and product knowledge training can be seamlessly integrated – guiding the sales process, offering just-in-time learning, and reducing training and selling time for associates.
Here are four best practices for developing mobile performance support tools for sales enablement.
1. Find pain points in the sales cycle, and offer time-saving tools.
A logical place to start with mobile performance support is an easily searchable catalog of products that includes features, specifications and answers to commonly asked questions. Don’t stop there, though.
For example, a commercial tire manufacturer interviewed sales associates who sell to companies with large fleets of construction vehicles. After learning that generating quotes was a time-consuming part of the sales process, the manufacturer decided to expand its mobile performance support app. With the new tool, quotes are now automatically generated in a well-designed format and can be emailed to customers directly from the tool, saving associates up to 30 hours each month.
True enablement helps sellers close sales more quickly and apply the time they save toward making more sales.
2. Create a guided experience that offers more connection with the customer.
Picture yourself trying to have a conversation with a sales associate behind a sales counter, his or her face further obscured behind a giant computer screen. It’s not a great scenario for rapport-building in the sales process.
With mobile performance support, associates can stay on the sales floor with their customers, increasing interaction and relationship-building. The tool’s interface should support and encourage this collaboration, rather than keeping the associate stuck behind a screen (even if it is a smaller one).
Instead, design a guided experience in which the customer and associate can answer questions and review options together. Make it easy for the associate to invite the customer to use the app’s native features, such as touching the screen to select options or pinching and zooming. These actions encourage proximity and connection and the feeling that associate and customer are on the same team.
3. Employ emerging technology, such as augmented reality or gamification, to further enhance the experience.
With augmented reality, mobile performance support can bring product features and differentiators to life. For example, holding a tablet in front of, say, a dishwasher can launch an interface in which users can click different parts of the appliance and launch short animations about its features.
Also, consider how to capitalize on sellers’ downtime when no customers are in the store. Gamification can add an almost addictive quality for associates, which keeps them coming back to the app to increase their product knowledge. Trivia and matching games, amped up with timers and leaderboards to bring a competitive element, can help associates match customer needs and products through repetition.
Done well, these enhancements can add a “wow” factor for both associates and customers. Offering an engaging – and unexpected – sales experience is one way brands can set themselves apart from the competition.
4. Ensure information is easily updated, and build with ROI and shelf life in mind.
As with any app development, a best practice is to plan ahead for updates: Store managers will want associates to have new products, discounts and related updates at their fingertips. Working with your developer or in-house development team, determine a plan for how to maintain the ever-changing accuracy of information and launch updates to stores and associates.
To keep associates engaged, it’s also essential to keep the tool fresh by expanding it with new features, so build it with shelf life and extensibility in mind. Interview users – the sales associates – for ideas about the types of new features that would make their jobs easier and their interactions with customers more enjoyable.
If you’re considering mobile performance support for sales enablement, first and foremost, consider the needs of your audience. Analyze the pain points in the sales process, and create a tool to make sellers’ jobs significantly easier. Put care into designing the user experience, and test it with your audience. If you make a tool that associates can’t live without – and that isn’t offered by your competitors – it’s a true win for your brand.