“The obstacles we faced was finding someone willing to understand what we really needed, putting the program together and then teaching us how to use it and work thru the issues while implementing it. Tom, you have done all of the above. A specific help was that many issues could be corrected and worked thru online without a visit to the store. We are happy with the program and how it is working and could recommend Anywhere Computer Care to anyone.”
Harold Neuenschwander -Owner, Harold’s Equipment
OBJECTIVE: Create a solution to help outside sales benefit from the use of technology for Harold’s Equipment
BACKGROUND: Harold’s Equipment specializes in the sales and service of industrial and agricultural material handling equipment. They provide new equipment, used equipment, replacement parts, service and installation for their customers. They have been in operation since 1985 and have eleven full-time employees and five part-time employees. The outside sales force consists of two full-time employees.
THE PROBLEM: In a time when technology is an integral part of operating a business efficiently and effectively, the outside sales force was still not using the majority of the technology that was available to them. The salesman were still using paper forms to complete all their work out in the field and then faxing their work back to the office each night. In addition, the salesman had a very limited knowledge of using technology. The only real use of technology in the field was access to their email via smartphones. The goal of this project was to create a Daily Sales Activity Report that could be filled out using a computer and updated regularly so that the office staff could view the report. In addition, a Digital Estimate was needed in order to allow the salesman to provide their customers with an estimate while at the customer's location.
THE SOLUTION: After identifying what the end goal was, there were multiple solutions that needed to be put into place in order to achieve the goal. Here is a breakdown of those solutions and what purpose they served.
The first thing needed in order to implement the overall solution was the hardware. For this project, we provided a new laptop for each salesman. In addition to the laptops, we provided mobile printers to allow them to print estimates while on-site with their customers. The mobile printers included mobile batteries and Bluetooth technology that allowed the salesman to be completely wire-free while using the printers. Finally, we provided a power inverter for their vehicle to allow them to charge the laptop or the printer while on the road.
Mobile File Sharing
In order to allow the salesman to fill out their Daily Sales Activity Report and their Digital Estimates while also allowing the office staff to have access to those files, a mobile file sharing solution was needed. We used Dropbox to allow this to happen. We also configured the service in such a way that the office staff could see files from both salesman while limiting the access of the salesman from seeing each others files.
Daily Sales Activity Report
Previously, the salesman had been filling out a basic sales activity report by hand and faxing it back to the office. For this solution, we created an extensive Excel Spreadsheet that allowed the salesman to track each customer interaction throughout the day. The spreadsheet was created in such a way that it included very powerful ways of analyzing their data while keeping it very simple for the end user with limited technology experience. In addition, we added more tracking categories than previously used in order to help the salesman benefit from the power of the excel spreadsheet. We also added the ability for the salesmen to communicate with the parts manager regarding parts that needed ordered, invoiced, or replaced. For the complete benefits that came from this report, check out the benefits section of this case study.
Using many of the features that we had used in creating the Digital Sales Activity Report, another excel spreadsheet was created for digital estimates. This allowed the salesman to more easily adapt to using this form because they were already becoming comfortable with using the Daily Sales Activity Report. The Digital Estimate also allowed the salesman to have their customer information auto-fill for them and to have their entire parts inventory auto-fill descriptions and pricing for over 30,000 parts.
Implementation & Training
One of the key elements in any new solution is to provide implementation planning and training. For this solution, we knew that the salesman were not comfortable using technology so we created a detailed implementation and training schedule to successfully help them start using the solution. The implementation was constructed in a manner that only introduced a small portion of the total solution at any one time. Each of the pieces of the solution then built upon the previous piece in order to help the salesman continue to grow in their comfort level. The training was conducted both on-site with the salesman and also remotely. This allowed for continual progress to be made while keeping the overall solution more cost-effective. There was also documentation created in order to help guide the salesman and the office staff once the formal training sessions had ended.
As part of the original planning, there were additional areas that were identified that would allow the salesman to more fully use the technology they now had access to. These areas mainly surrounded use of the Internet while out in the field and a plan to integrate mobile hot-spots into the overall solution was presented as an option in the future.
THE BENEFITS: These are the benefits that have been identified as a result of implementing the solutions for this project.
By creating a solution that allowed the outside sales force to complete their work remotely while making it accessible for the office staff, the overall communication between these groups has been improved. Having access to the digital estimates, the office staff can better server their customers by being able to access their information even when the sales staff is out in the field. It has also allowed for improved communication between the parts manager and the sales team. The parts manager can easily look at the Daily Sales Activity Report to determine if there are parts that need ordered, invoiced, or replaced. In addition, the sales team can look at the report to see any comments that the parts manager made regarding parts transactions. The sales staff can also access their email now from their laptop which allows them to more easily communicate with both customers and internal office staff.
The ability to quickly and easily track historical events within a company are extremely helpful in making positive adjustments for the future. The Daily Sales Activity Report now allows salesman to track all customers sale’s transactions from start to finish. This includes all interactions they had with the customer from the initial conversation to the close of the sale. The Daily Sales Activity Report also provides salesman a powerful tool to plan their future interactions with customers in an efficient and effective manner while reducing the potential sales that might be forgotten about. The report allows salesman to track their potential sales in two different categories. The first is their Hot Leads and the second being their long-term interactions. This allows the salesman to not only plan for the immediate future, but also for months in advance.
The majority of solutions that involve technology are intended to improve the overall productivity of a company. This solution accomplished this in multiple arenas. The ability to create digital estimates now allows the sales staff to easily make revisions to past estimates saving them the time of having to completely recreate an estimate. It also allows them to quickly review past estimates without having to take extra time to search through a pile of paperwork. The same is true for the sales activity report in that it allows the salesman to quickly look at their past sales interactions in order to more efficiently plan for the future. It also increases the effectiveness of their sales planning by providing them with an easy way to search through the most critical information to determine where their time is best spent. It also allows them to search for customers by a specific area and plan their trips accordingly.
Improved Accountability & Support
Now that the daily sales report is filled out electronically and accessible by both the sales team and the office staff, it allows the sales manager to more easily look over the daily sales activity to help keep the sales staff more accountable. In addition, the sales manager can now look at the sales reports and make recommendations to the sales staff to help them become more successful.
SUMMARY: By identifying the end goal of what we trying to accomplish, in addition to the obstacles that we needed to overcome, it allowed us to create a solution for our customer that addressed their current needs as well as future needs. This helped increase the overall productivity, efficiency, and profitability of the company.