Instant Answers December 2007
By Michelle Maisto
Mario Kovacevic, VP of information and e-business at J.J.Barnicke, spoke with Mobile Enterprise about the sales solution the company rolled out to its more than 300 realtors-all of whom quickly became fans. They can now meet customer demands with over-the-air updates and continual access to locations, locations, locations.
MOBILE ENTERPRISE: Sales agents are using a mobile solution based on BlackBerry devices and a custom IBM Web Sphere application, versus paper and desktops. What is that experience like for them?
MARIO KOVACEVIC: People still leave our offices with paper documents-they'll have a dozen sheets representing a dozen properties that they'll take someone on a tour with. But the would-be client asks a lot of pointed questions [in the field] that aren't visible on those paper forms. Often they'll ask, "What about the space above the one we're in?" Or, "I'm looking at the building across the street. How about the details relevant to that?"
Today's process is, "No problem, let me give you the key details [now] with certainty-let me look it up on my mobile device." Yesterday's reaction [was], "Let me call someone at the office to try to get the information," or, "Wait until I get back to the office, and I'll fire you an email or a fax and follow up with you tomorrow."
ME: What kind of ROI are you seeing?
MK: The success for us is in the intangible ROI of being able to demonstrate serious capabilities in the field and [being] completely transparent with the client. They're not saying, "This guy is just guessing at the details of that building." [Clients are] saying, "You know what? Those are qualified numbers." There's an improved level of trust created instantly, and that trust is invaluable.
Commercial [real estate] is strictly about the numbers. Why is this property valued at $2 million or $10 million more than the next one? The reason is in the details. It's in understanding what the building has in terms of attributes. Someone in the field can pull up all of the key details. [The client is] given that clarity on the spot, and there's enormous value in that.
ME: Following up on opportunities has long been a sales challenge. Any help there?
MK: We have relationships across North America. [In the past] what typically happened was that a real estate person sitting in ABC Co.'s lobby in Toronto [wouldn't] realize that we've already completed business with [that company] years ago. Now, they can do what I call the 30-second spot check. [They can cross reference to find out that], yes, we completed six bits of business with ABC in Vancouver and two Halifax. When they go into that discussion with ABC Co., it's now a completely different conversation. The selling opportunity has changed drastically.
We often hear of CRM systems coming under attack by the salespeople who use them. But when you really talk to your users and present the most important elements of those queries and data sets from your CRM application, people change their tune. All of a sudden, they become quite happy with what they're seeing.