Custom-Built vs Off-the-Shelf Sales Enablement App

Written by Josh Dhaliwal
on May 24, 2017

Custom-build vs off-the-shelf

Remember the early iPhone adverts of 2009, when we were repeatedly told ‘there’s an app for that’? It was a wondrous thing, back then, to suddenly be able to navigate so many everyday tasks through a mobile phone – shopping, entertainment, cooking, finding a restaurant, booking a flight. Amazing.

In the years since then, wonder has been replaced with expectation. There are now apps for every task, both consumer and business apps. But when you're looking for a Sales Enablement app for your business, do you trust an ‘off-the-shelf’ app usually sold on a subscription basis, or do you commission a custom-built app?

Both have their strong points and pain points, so firstly you need to be sure on exactly what problems your business needs this app to solve. If you have a product or service that is ever changing and growing and you are finding it hard to get the correct collateral out to your sales teams quickly, then an off-the-shelf option may suit you better. If you have a specific type of content you wish to use or way of interacting with the app that an off-the-shelf app just can't deal with then you may need to go down the custom built route.

Once you know the problems your business needs solving, you can move forward in deciding what Sales Enablement technology you need but keep these points in mind:


Custom-built app pros

  • The main appeal of a custom-built app is that it will be designed to exactly suit your brand and have your needs at the heart of its production. Like a tailor-made Vera Wang wedding gown, it will fit your measurements precisely, right down to the last diamante. 
  • It is yours forever and can be updated with any new features as and when you need.
  • You will not find a competitor using the same app.

Custom-built app cons

  • Like a Vera Wang wedding gown, a custom-built app will likely cost a considerable amount of time and money. Not a problem if you’ve got a Kardashian-sized budget and you have the time and expertise to dedicate, but it’s not going to suit every budget.
  • If you are not in the business of commissioning software development then you may find the process of producing a specification, choosing a developer and testing the product before release more difficult than you imagine.
  • Any future enhancements you need will cost you again: that includes content changes, brand amends and also ensuring it works perfectly every time there is an operating system update.

Off-the-shelf pros

  • The time to implement an off the shelf app is significantly lower so your business can benefit from the app more quickly.
  • Suppliers of business apps are continually investing in them to add new features to stay ahead of the market and to keep customers engaged. You will benefit from these enhancements without needing to develop a specification and contract a developer.
  • Many business apps allow you to customize the app so it can appear as if it is your own.
  • Generally you subscribe to business applications and so you can trial an app before making a long term commitment. A subscription payment also means that the cost is flexible to your needs, you will only have to pay for what you need with no massive upfront bill. 
  • Updates to collateral and branding can be made and pushed out instantly to the users at no extra cost.

Off-the-shelf cons

  • There may be limitations as you wont have full control over the features and functionality.
  • If your competitor is using the same app you have found to be the best to suit the company needs and it is very obvious then you may need to re-evaluate. 
  • Not all off-the-shelf sales enablement apps are created equal, so you may need to look at a few before you find the right one. 


So which to choose...

Do your research and make sure you know what you want the app to deliver for your business before you go shopping and then make sure your chosen app delivers what you need. Take into consideration the long and short term costs and what is available to you. Your budget may determine the route you take. 





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