Sales In The Field

By  Susan Nunziata — July 02, 2009

The twin business drivers of an economic downturn coupled with a growing mobile-literate workforce are making mobile sales solutions increasingly attractive to enterprises of all types and sizes.

"We're seeing a lot more customers wanting to scrutinize sales rep activities," says Angie Hirata, Worldwide Director of Marketing for Maximizer. "Every hour, every dollar, every customer counts. Mobile [Customer Relationship Management] is enabling more visibility into activity and effort in the field and that translates into performance for sales reps."

Keith Frans, VP of Alliances with Vaultus, adds that, "For management, it's the benefit of having real-time information. Having the right information at the right time to make the right decision is critical."  For  field sales reps, "Having the ability to be constantly connected and up to date can make the difference between closing a deal and losing a deal," he adds.

At the same time, there's a shift taking place in the very concept of what "work" really means. "Work isn't a place you go, it's a thing you do, and you need to do it wherever you are."says Sage Software's Larry Ritter. "We're seeing interest in mobile going nowhere but up."

Indeed, Maximizer -- which has been on the market for more than 25 years -- decided in summer 2008 to focus on the mobile side of its business. CRM vendors Sage and Salesforce.com are among others that have been offering mobile solutions for their CRM applications. CDC Software recently implemented the Vaultus mobiScaler framework for its  Pivotal CRM application that enables a range of mobile services. Enterprise powerhouse SAP is engaging with a number of partners, including Research In Motion, Sybase and Syclo, to develop mobile applications for its CRM solutions. Oracle's Siebel CRM suite also offers a range of mobile iterations.

Some key questions to consider in deploying a mobile sales force automation or mobile CRM solution include:

  • What is the current status of our back-office CRM system?

  • Which devices are best suited to the needs of our field sales teams?

  • What data is most important to our field reps, and how will they access and update that information using their mobile devices? Does this need to be done in real time or can it be done in batches?

  • How effectively will the data used and gathered by our field sales teams be integrated with our back-office databases?

  • How will that data flow be transformed into action across our organization?

All of these questions came into play for two enterprises serving very different industries: Sigvaris North America, a worldwide manufacturer of ready-to-wear compression garments for the healthcare industry; and Elby Gifts, a Canadian supplier serving the giftware retail marketplace.

Sigvaris chose to deploy the Maximizer CRM system. The company had previously used Lotus Notes for email and was running a proprietary CRM system that it had developed in-house called eSales. "Unfortunately, there was no mobile capability with the eSales program," says Byron MacPhee, VP of U.S. Sales for Sigvaris. "It became apparent in very short order that we needed a mobile function in order to best serve our sales team."

A management committee evaluated the potential solutions. In addition to MacPhee, committee members include the company's Chief Financial Officer, and the heads of customer care, internal operations, national education, marketing, and IT. The company also worked closely with Joey Annan, President of Moonstone Technologies, the systems consulting firm that oversees the Maximizer CRM system at Sigvaris.

"All of those areas weighed in on what would be important to them in terms of cost and usability and what they would need to do with data," says Lisa Wells, Marketing Manager. "On the sales side it's all about ease of putting information in and getting it later. But also there were needs within the organization for how do we pull data out of that and use it for customer care situations, warehousing [and] marketing."

The company employs more than 100 sales reps across 26 territories in North America, and each rep has multiple call points. They call on physicians in various specialties, hospitals, and retail locations such as pharmacists that carry their products. "Capturing notes and lining up leads for reps is important, because the doctors we call on refer patients to our local retailers," explains Wells. "[Sales reps] have to be able to call up a list or be very organized in directing that doctor referral."

Since the solution was first deployed two years ago, the sales force has been using Dell Axim PDAs throughout the day to collect data. Data is stored on the device throughout the day and the reps synch up at home to download at the end of each day.

By August 2009, Sigvaris expects to move into the next phase of its mobility deployment, equipping field sales reps with BlackBerry smartphones that can connect throughout the day in real time. That phase will coincide with an upgrade to the latest Maximizer software, version 10.0, says MacPhee.
 
While the company declines to release specific sales results or ROI , MacPhee says there are clear benefits. For example, he says, prior to the Maximizer deployment, the company's goal was for each field sales rep to make six face-to-face customer visits per day. Since the deployment, that goal has been increased to seven per day.

The solution has also increased the effectiveness with which management can monitor sales teams. For example, sales reps are expected to make 10 visits per month with vascular surgeons. The reports enable territory managers to monitor each rep and make sure goals are being met.

Functions such as future zone planning reports enable departments such as marketing to monitor event plans in various territories. For example, the company runs "Healthy Life Day" regional events that are coordinated by reps with retailers and local hospitals to educate consumers about the benefits of the company's products in treating their conditions.

"From a marketing standpoint that's how I build my calendar around the public relations efforts to drive awareness about those events in local communities before they happen," says Wells. "I don't have to be on the phone with the reps saying what do you have coming on your events calendar. I just pull a report [in Maximizer] and it ticks off marketing processes to support the events that will happen."

Leveraging your field sales force is equally important whether they number in the hundreds or in the 10s. For Elby Gifts, in Montreal, Canada, one of the most important factors was connecting its 18 sales reps working throughout Canada with the back-office inventory control system. The previous paper-based system had reps making numerous phone calls to the main office and putting orders in via fax.

The mobile solution, implemented five years ago, enables them to provide accurate information to their retail accounts in order to close deals in a timely fashion. SL Datakatch provided Elby with a combination of its OrderStream and OSCatalogue web-based hosted software running on rugged Janam XP30 mobile computers. 

The solution has reduced time it takes to place an order from weeks to hours. It previously took 24-48 hours to get a new customer entered into the paper-based system. Now, databases are updated automatically as soon as a new order is entered from the field.

Back-office analytics enable managers to monitor sales performance, improve forecasting and control inventory more effectively than was previously possible.

"It gives me capacity as a sales manager to do analysis of what product lines are selling better so we know with purchasing what we should be buying" says Sue Dion, Elby Gifts' Sales Coordinator. "We can now pull up a report and say, 'OK, we have to order more of this because it's really flying off the shelves.'"

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