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The arrival of a paperless office has been anticipated for a long time. A very long time. In fact, it has been over a 40-year wait.

Even with the monumental advancement of technology within the past four decades, many organizations have been struggling to progress with time. Some still rely on manual pen and paper data entry and slightly upgraded versions of paper forms (think Excel spreadsheets).

For organizations that manage field sales teams, an outdated tech policy can create serious barriers to their future, if not current, growth. Here’s why you should switch to technology that is more fitting of 2015.

Save Your Resources

The obvious reason to upgrade your technology is the impact the change will have on your bottom line. The material, storage, and environmental costs of paper outweigh collecting information in digitized form. On average, a small business with approximately 15 reps will spend $4,145 per year on paper forms. For a more tailored analysis, calculate how much your business is spending on paper with this tool.

Alternatively, digital forms have more varied costs depending on the organization’s technology policy. Some companies operate with software that provides digital data entry using smartphones in conjunction with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) company policy. In comparison to paper forms, digital data entry software costs about half as much at roughly $2,040 per year. 

Avoid Wasting Time

In a time management study conducted with 800 field representatives across 19 countries, administrative tasks took up as much as 31% of reps’ time. Similarly, another study found that reps were spending 10.7 hours per week on administrative duties alone.

Here are a few baffling statistics straight from PWC:

  • Organizations spend $20 in labor to file a document, $120 in labor to find a misfiled document, and $220 in labor to reproduce a lost document.
  • An average document gets copied 19 times.
  • 7.5% of all documents get lost; 3% of the remainder get misfiled.
  • Professionals spend 5 to 15% of their time reading information, and up to 50% of their time looking for it.

 From a time-saving perspective, moving off paper is a must. 

Reduce Errors

When field teams manually write data on paper forms, managers often have to re-enter this information into an organizational system like Excel. Data re-entry is not only time-consuming, but also results in higher error rates.

Single-entry data processes have significantly lower rates of error. With digital forms, data will hardly ever need to be re-entered, as managers can instantly export data into a variety of systems and formats. This means managers will have a much more efficient and reliable system of bookkeeping, and their client presentations can be sent quickly with the confidence of accuracy. 

Take Advantage of Data

Businesses that have not yet taken advantage of data will find themselves significantly behind their competitors in 2015. In fact, a recent Gartner survey found that 73% of businesses have already invested or are planning on investing in big data.

Digitization provides the structural foundation of data intelligence. Digitization motivates fast, high-quality data collection and analysis. Sophisticated data systems such as field activity management coupled with a BYOD policy allow sales reps to gather data as they are moving through the field. And with cloud technology, data transfers to the back office in real time where reports are generated. Immediate access to analytics is much faster than trying to get insights from paper processes.

Build a Happier Workforce

Employees want to work in an environment where they can exercise their skills. Menial tasks, such as manual re-entry of data, waste time and incite costly employee disengagement and turnover.

Equipping your field sales team with digital forms will increase employee satisfaction in two ways. First, data entry will be seamless -- especially with the use of mobile devices. That means instead of waiting until the end of the day (or the week) to enter data from purchase forms, merchandising audits, or time cards into another system, they can do it instantly in the field. Secondly, the time saved by eliminating double entry will free reps up to challenge themselves and each other on core activities like sales and client relationships, which will create healthy competition and raise employee engagement.

It’s clear that digital forms save resources and encourage efficiency, but the paperless office has yet to become the standard for many organizations. With these arguments, we hope that organizations will come to an awakening and emerge from archaic paper-based processes. For a deeper look into the hard numbers of paper vs. digital, see Repsly’s Cost Analysis Marketing Brief

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Originally published Mar 2, 2015 8:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Sales Management Mistakes