In a world where more and more of us are stuck behind screens, the world of outside sales can feel like a breath of fresh air (literally).

But as any outside sales rep knows, it’s not all sunshine and daisies, even though you may encounter them along the way. Figuring out how to juggle the particular struggles of physical travel with data-entry needs can create a lot of stress and unwanted pit stops.

Although all sales reps are evolving with the times by using virtual conferencing and emailing, most of the customer relationship management (CRM) software out there is catered to salespeople who stay “inside.” It’s a shame, because outside sales is certainly still a necessity, even with thriving startups — just ask Grubhub or emerging SaaS companies.

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How CRMs are failing outside sales

Because so many CRMs are catered to inside sales, they’re not giving salespeople out in the field the data they need to close. There are three big, philosophical ways field CRMs are missing the mark:

  • Needlessly limiting data sources: Everything entered into a CRM should be able to be either displayed as a “layer” or collected through “filters” for better access to granular data. Many CRMs arbitrarily limit how to manipulate the data, which limits how a salesperson could understand their market or territory.
  • Only offer retrospective analysis: Sure, the old saying about “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is certainly true, but planning for a better future requires a lot more than just the stuff you’ve already done. Future-facing reports should be a standard feature.
  • Doesn’t deliver actionable information: Field salespeople need to quickly understand not only where leads are but why they’re the best leads for them. If it’s not pulling in live data that communicates which are more likely to close, it makes strategy course-correction harder.

How to Find A CRM for Your Outside Sales Team

So of the few outside sales CRMs out there, what kind of functionality can tell you whether or not it’s going to deliver on your needs out in the field? The following questions can help you consider your needs before taking the leap.

Is it mobile optimized?

Let’s start with the basics. Outside sales reps live a very active life, so it’s only natural that they’d need a CRM that can go where they do.

Although smartphones certainly have browsers where a rep can access a web-based CRM, many sites are not mobile optimized or don’t have the amount of functionalities that are uniquely offered with apps.

The best outside sales CRMs offer native apps and ideally ones that are available for the particular operating system of the phones you supply to your team (or if you don’t, the phones they have).

Does it offer visualization?

There’s nothing special about plain tables of contact info, however many CRMs are basically glorified versions of Excel docs.

If it’s not giving you the option to see your contacts mapped out, you’re missing on some crucial functionality that could save serious time and money. And the level of interactivity -- say, an actual lasso tool that captures the leads in the space within a circle you can draw -- is also worth exploring.

Beyond just your contacts, check out the way it displays your sales funnel. Does it adequately show and filter the way you want to understand the health of it?

How customizable are the form fields?

This goes hand-in-hand with visualization -- if it doesn’t allow you to filter your visualizations with the kind of data you need to drive sales, it’s useless.

Seeing as outside sales companies are often hyper-specialized, any CRM that claims its a “one-size-fits-all” solution is lying. No one knows your clients like you do, and there needs to be a way all form fields fit your needs.

Make sure you’re in control of your data entry because having clear and consistent ways to collect customer details is crucial to analyze the true status of your leads. Asking your sales team about what they find to be the most useful in terms of these fields is also a great way to prioritize what you need versus what a product delivers.

Can it help you optimize your routes?

We’ve said it before -- an outside sales rep has an itinerary that feels more like a road trip than a list of plugged addresses into Google.

Photo by Joshua Hibbert on Unsplash

Any CRM can just pull in Google’s API, but see if there are ways to build in estimated times you’re aiming to spend at each location. This can be helpful to more accurately plan your travel time on the road, as any traveling sales rep needs to keep a tight and dependable schedule.

It should also be able to update your itinerary on the fly -- it’s a rule, not an exception, that outside sales requires a lot of flexibility.

Can it help you find your next sale?

CRMs that only function as a data entry tool should be written off immediately. There must be a way to search for prospective new clients based on territory and location. Pro-tip: it’s a great way to deal with last minute cancelations!

But this isn’t just about lead generation, but how it helps develop your current early-stage leads. An email automation tool can help you send follow-up notes automatically, but sadly some outside sales CRMs stop only at managing your contacts, not marketing them as well.

How can it add information for you?

There’s little more demoralizing than typing in the same information you just said into a data entry tool, especially when much of it could be entered for you. Plus, wouldn’t you like your sales reps to spend more than 36 percent of their time actually selling?

If a CRM has truly has sophisticated geolocation abilities, it should be able to automatically log some data as soon as you arrive at a scheduled meeting. Based on how you log the details of your visit, a good outside sales CRM should also predict what the logical next step would be of your visit through a robust reminder system.

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Where in the world can you find a CRM that answers all of these questions?

As you can imagine from the URL of this blog, yes — Map My Customers has it all.

But don’t take our word for it, take a look around and compare. And don’t forget -- 55 percent of sales reps say ease of use is the biggest issue of all, so if you can’t get to the goods quickly and efficiency, that’s just as much of a flag as its functionality.

As long as you’re keeping your priorities and KPIs, you should be good. Selecting an outside sales CRM is nothing to rush through. Good luck!