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Active Advisor Makes Sales Reps Smarter

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Posted January 25, 2005 By Jim Wagner     Feedback

A new handheld device gives retail representatives the expertise to make any number of recommendations to customers.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) software developer Active Decisions rolled out the latest iteration of its guided selling software Monday.

The Active Advisor for Handhelds is intended to give sales floor representatives instant expertise in any ware located on the showroom floors, from the latest home/office furniture to the most obscure type of printer ink cartridge.

Focusing on the fact there is more than 60 percent employee turnover in any given year, coupled with rapidly-changing product lines, the handheld device has two methods for delivering product information from the store servers into the device.

"With the enormous turnover by sales associates, [retailers] have a constant stream of people who don't know the products very well and so we empower them with knowledge about all the products," said Darby Wiliams, Active Decisions vice president of marketing.

The first pass scans the bar code on any product in the inventory and produces facts on the product and comparisons with competing products, as well as accessories that go along with the product. The second pass prompts the sales rep to input information on the type of features (price, functionality, brand) the customer is looking for in the store.

The query information is sent via the handheld's Wi-Fi connection -- the company is emphasizing its relationship with Symbol Technologies and its MC50 enterprise digital assistant (EDA) -- to the back office, where a J2EE-based application server houses Active Decisions' Active Spex (product and category data). Using another company software offering, Active Reasoning, the query sent from floor is processed and matched against the company's inventory for the best match.

Williams said that with the information available at their fingertips, sales reps are doing something they might not normally do: ask the customer what they want.

"This gives sales people a lot more confidence in being able to go up to any person in any category, whether they think they're an expert or not, and engage them and offer their support," he said.

The handheld version of Active Advisor is the latest in a line of products around the Active architecture, which includes software catering online, kiosk and desktop environments.

Current Active Decisions customers include Bank of America , Staples , Motorola , Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo . Office supply store OfficeMax has been testing the handheld devices with its sales associates on the store floors

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