I have a vague and fuzzy childhood memory of a door-to-door salesman coming to our house on one of those lazy cartoon-filled summer afternoons—a memory redolent of 80s-era wallpaper and carpeting. I can’t remember what they were selling, just that my mom later remarked to my dad that she couldn’t remember the last time she had seen one. Even at a young age, they seemed like such an anachronism, a throwback seen only in black-and-white reruns or legacy comic strips. Now, some 30 years later, the idea of door-to-door sales seems even more removed and impossibly Eisenhowerian. The rate of technological change has sped up, and has dragged business along with it.
Technology has always changed how businesses operate, and how they don’t. Slower companies get sacrificed at the altar of progress—if you can’t adapt, you die. Companies that can shapeshift to the new paradigms survive and thrive. No technology since the printing press has been as disruptive to the way business is done than mobile tech, which has changed our conception of the office and work environment forever. The evolutions it promises will make how we did business a decade ago soon seem as quaint as the traveling salesman, lugging his vacuum cleaners across the darkened American vastness. Here’s how mobile tech is disrupting business in the Bay Area.
Mobile Tech Changes All Expectations for Sales
Sales, until recently, were a combination of face-to-face pitches and phone follow-ups. If you were in B2B, you made your presentations, maybe bought some lunches, made follow-up calls, and tried to be available for any questions. Cell phones took “tried to” out of the equation: if you weren’t available, there was something wrong. Cell phones meant always being on the clock.
Smartphones exacerbated that, but are also now making it much easier. If you are in sales, your potential client expects to have all the information that they need at any point. The smartphone and tablet are the methods through which they are communicating with your team, which means that the mobile B2B presentation needs to be organized, neat, and comprehensible.
So how does this make things easier? Well, for one thing, you have the ability to easily get all information to a client quickly, responding to their specific concerns on the spot with relevant information. Afterwards, the client can then have all the information they need right in their pockets, and can pull it up anytime, no matter where they are, as long as their phone or tablet is with them. This can only enhance sales for the smart business who does it right. After all, imagine the time you can save when you don’t have to explain everything any time a question pops up. The client can immediately access the information they need, and then if they call you, will be asking more informed questions. This saves time for everyone involved. Think of it this way: the less time you spend going over redundant (if essential) information for one potential customer is time that can be spent making initial contact with another. If used right, mobile tech frees the smart business into being able to pursue more options, and knock on many more doors.
The Prevalence of Mobile Tech and Millennials Will Make Business Easier For Everyone
In an interesting essay in Re/Code, Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies argued that the era of PC operating systems was coming to a close. There will always be some need for PCs, but for Millenials, and moreso for those in Generation Z, the dominant operating systems of their lives will be iOS and Android. It is what they are used to, far more than Windows. As those generations begin to dominate business—and business begins to adapt to them—the mobile world will really be taking over.
That is a more profound shift than it may seem, because you view the internet and connectivity differently through a phone than through a PC or laptop. Think of a restaurant you like, and go to their website from your laptop. Now go to it through your phone. If the website isn’t different, something is wrong. Every smart business knows that they need a mobile-dedicated site, which is maneuvered differently than the PC-based one. We just use the web differently. It’s pretty fascinating—the amorphous and barely understood internet becomes different when you are navigating it directly on a screen with something as elemental as your fingers.
How will that change business? It will lower patience for redundancy, for long presentations, for sprawling discussions, and for endless emails. If someone is making a presentation, they are increasingly going to make them with mobile in mind, and that means: how fast can you get the most important points across? The era of trying to impress people with needlessly detailed Powerpoints is over. People want quick and easy presentations. They want slides that make instant sense when viewed on a smartphone at the airport bar. They want emails that aren’t laden with multiple attachments.
This is more than a matter of attention span—it is the new efficiency. This isn’t a matter of making concessions to a dulled reality, it is adapting to a brighter and faster one. It is about doing things smarter, which in the end, will save everyone time.
In any novel where there are salesmen, there’s a scene of them playing cards on a train or nervously shooting the breeze at some heartland hotel bar, waiting with hope and dread for the next day. Imagine being able to have the time to do that, and not because you had to get from one city to the next or because there weren’t any customers awake, but because they were all already satisfied. That is the promise of mobile tech, and the real disruption. It is the interruption of the 24-hour business day by time saved, and the ability to balance work with the rest of your life.