Let Your Data Do the Walking

Neil Plotnick

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 informati