Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a well-defined management issue by now. But management is only just starting to adapt to a world where you "bring your own everything."

Choosing the right mobile devices for salespeople is not so much of an issue now that HTML5 has matured to a point where it is perfectly acceptable for most business apps. It's the app that matters, not the device. Here's what I mean:

1. Bring your own social networks. You want to hire sales guys who "bring their own rolodex." But technically speaking, the social networks—Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter—are their rolodexes. It's not about the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections; what matters is the depth and quality of those relationships. Sales is all about "what have you done for me lately?" But if data is power, that data power is shifting to the individual. We can cheer the empowerment of the individual, but it's also important to recognize how this creates a legitimate challenge for managers.

2. Bring your own contact manager. LinkedIn has a special role in business social networking because it is the self-updating rolodex of business, managing people's content independent of their company affiliation. But LinkedIn as a rolodex clearly belongs to the salesperson, not the company. The company is renting a salesperson's rolodex and connections when they hire that person, but they do not own any of it.

3. Bring your own sales methodology. In ye olden days, a company would tell salespeople which sales methodologies to use. Employees would be forced to learn "the way we do things around here." Onboarding included training in the company's standard sales methodology, and while there are lots of these sales methodologies and plenty of good ones—the famous ones from Miller Heiman, SPIN and Target Account Selling (TAS) come to mind—you need to decide if your startup will be defined by its sales methodology, or if you will reject a sales star even if he or she prefers SPIN to your company's standard.

4. Bring your own sales productivity tools and apps. It doesn't matter too much to the company whether a salesperson uses iOS, Android, Windows or even Blackberry. Which apps they use on that device, however, has a much bigger impact on the company because management is all about controlling and integrating data. The quality sales guys will come prepared with apps on their phones and tablets, already hooked up to the networks and services they use in the cloud. They are onboard and productive from day one.

Handling With Care

The mission you are giving these sales guys is tough: Break into a new market for a relatively unknown startup, do it fast, and do it big. You cannot say "oh, and by the way, you also have to use all the systems, processes and tools we give you whether you like them or not."

Imagine telling a salesperson, who has successfully used one methodology and one tool set for years, that she must switch to your company standard. Do you want her to do that, or do you want to generate sales quickly and propel you into a new market?

This does change the balance of power between sales guys and their employers, and frankly, it creates a management headache. Luckily, there are new solutions aimed at cracking this problem.

New ventures focused on this challenge include Nimble, RelateIQ, ClearSlide, Yesware, Tylr Mobile, Social Pandas and Selligy. These "sales productivity" ventures focus on making salespeople more effective as opposed to traditional CRM, which only made their managers more productive. These ventures focus on two types of solution:

1. Integration at the mobile device level. Outside sales people should be outside. Any system that is not mobile first, that does not allow sales people to do most of their work when they are out of the office, is a productivity drain. A sales person who is in the office too much is not a good sign. Mobile is the obvious answer. Mobile is also key to the integration of all those single feature cloud apps. Thanks to APIs, it is relatively easy to integrate these at the mobile app level. This is where the types of services that sales people use every day to get their job done—LinkedIn, email, presentations, CRM, maps, online meeting systems etc—can be integrated and presented in a single user experience.

2. Digital exhaust to replace sales data entry. If salespeople are spending their time in the office filling out reports for management, that is a systems and management failure. You want them meeting customers and prospects—that is when they are adding value.

The great salespeople can write concise reports along the lines of "beat quota by x% this month/quarter." The longer reports usually explain the reasons why the salesperson did not hit their numbers.

Yet, management does need data. The mobile apps do enable quick simple reporting while between meetings (in the elevator, on a train, getting coffee). More strategically interesting is the trend towards auto-aggregation of what may become known as "sales big data." Like all big data, this is aggregated automatically from “digital exhaust," which, in this case, is from what the sales guys are doing all day on their mobile devices. This answers questions like:

  1. Who did you meet?
  2. Where (in the cloud or F2F?)
  3. For how long?
  4. How engaged was the customer?

The first three questions answer the most basic management concerns: "Are the sales guys doing their jobs, and they working hard?" Much better to get this reported automatically rather than asking the salespeople to spend time doing this—they are, after all, incentivized to tell you the version of the truth that's most convenient to them. The current system of CRM reporting is doubly broken—it wastes valuable time and delivers suspect data.

The truly valuable data comes if you can answer the last question. Knowing how engaged customers are helps companies do consistently what really great salespeople need to do, which is qualifying prospects with great care and discipline.

We think that sales is all about hard work, persistence, determination and all those other good Protestant work ethics. So we drive relentlessly on, calling that prospect for the umpteenth time. But the best salespeople wait until they can see that the customer’s need is real and urgent. They “wait until you hear the screams.”

You also need to see how much effort the prospect puts into the relationship. If you call five times before the prospect returns your call, that is not equality. If you send reams of information and give multiple presentations but the prospect won’t fill in a requirements questionnaire, then that is not equality of effort. With every call, you want the prospect to do something. If this does not happen, then the screams are not loud enough and you should move onto your next opportunity.

Big data could start to answer these questions at the customer level, by aggregating data such as:

  • How many hours has this customer spent talking to us?
  • Do they open mails from us and how quickly?
  • Are they clicking through our slides during webinars or is their attention engaged elsewhere?
  • How many emails did they send us?

The market for sales productivity tools is still ripening, but the need exists, so it is likely to happen quickly. In the era of “bring your own everything,” our sales management systems and tools need to evolve. We need tools that primarily focus on making the front-line sales folks more productive while incidentally also allowing better management oversight.