Let Your Data Do the Walking

Neil Plotnick

Updated · Nov 07, 2000

Believe it or not, there are mobile sales professionals who still rely on the same tools that Willie Loman used decades ago–rolodexes and shoeboxes stuffed full of business cards. But paper-based systems are an inefficient way to track customer contacts, and they do nothing to enable communication with the sales representatives’ home-office colleagues. Fortunately, mobile professionals now have wireless, Internet-ready devices, such as digital pagers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cellular telephones. And when coupled with customer relationship management (CRM) applications, software packages designed as productivity tools for sales professionals, these go-anywhere tools can provide excellent opportunities for boosting sales, fostering communications, and enhancing customer service. One company at the forefront of adopting and deploying CRM software on mobile devices is Arbill Glove and Safety Products. The Philadelphia-based distributor of more than 4,000 glove and safety products wanted the ability to provide its more than 100-person salesforce timely information and allow workers to share data across the entire sales department while employees are on the road. Arbill wanted a wireless CRM tool that the entire sales team could use and that would put customer information immediately at their fingertips. The company also wanted the ability to tie into its homegrown, proprietary, back-end systems. Wireless CRM software enables a mobile salesforce to access rich and easy to navigate, up-to-date customer information and other corporate data. Data, such as contact lists, inventory, and previous purchasing history, is critical to a mobile sales worker. And, applications that permit the sharing of information among inside and outside sales representatives, along with customer-service groups taking orders, can give companies a significant competitive advantage by providing better service to their customers. An August 2000 study by Aberdeen Group Inc. entitled “eWare: CRM for the Wireless and Internet World” underscores the size and importance of the wireless CRM marketplace. The Boston-based consulting and research firm’s report predicts a “wireless market of more than one billion users globally by 2004–exceeding the number of fixed-line Internet subscribers.” Aberdeen’s study predicts companies will spend more than $14 billion on all CRM products by 2001. Across the Board, Around the Country After an extensive evaluation of several different CRM products, Arbill in April 1999 chose SalesLogix from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based SalesLogix, a division of Interact Commerce Corp. The single most attractive feature of the product is its ability to support wireless users. “They can be out on the road visiting customers, and, using their phones, dial into the system and get all the data,” says Julie Copeland, vice president of sales at Arbill. With the SalesLogix software, all of Arbill’s nearly 100 inside sales reps and customer service personnel can share information with the company’s 14 mobile, outside sales reps.
At a Glance: Arbill Glove and Safety Products

The company: Philadelphia-based Arbill Glove and Safety Products is a distributor of over 4,000 glove and safety products. Staff includes 100 inside sales reps and customer service personnel and 14 mobile, outside sales reps.

The problem: How to provide mobile sales representatives with up-to-date client information quickly and increasing successful sales visits.

The solution: Internet-capable cellular telephones loaded with CRM applications for wireless communication with central sales offices.

The technology: Arbill uses SalesLogix software from Interact Commerce Corp., which permits communication among all sales department employees. Cellular telephone providers in each sales territory supply Internet-compliant handsets.

This is a big relief for mobile employees, who are plagued by lost meeting opportunities while on the road. Often, meetings with clients are cancelled for illness, unforeseen problems, or simple forgetfulness. Prior to implementing the SalesLogix software, when meetings would fall through, sales reps would attempt to contact other clients in the area by consulting paper records. (Remember the shoebox?) Now they can plug in the zip code of a client’s location on Internet-capable cellular telephones and are instantly provided with information on other customers in the same area. Pulling up the contact information presented on their cellular telephone display, they can then quickly place a call by selecting the dial feature from a menu. “Because all the information I need is stored in the SalesLogix database and I can access it with my phone, my customer details are available when and where I need them most–in the car, at customer offices or lobbies, and when traveling,” says Herb Schell, a safety specialist (or outside sales rep) at Arbill. Simply using the zip-code lookup tool has led to an increase in sales visits from four to five per day to six to eight visits per sales rep per day, according to Julie Copeland. “These are solid visits,” she says, since customers are contacted by telephone and have made themselves available for the sales rep during the conversation. “In the past they would drop off only a catalog, sometimes,” and have no face-to-face contact.

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