Is now the time for mobile sales in your manufacturing business?

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Process improvement – process improvement – process improvement

process

As a manufacturing company process improvement is your credo. Process improvement is your mantra. Your DNA. It’s what you preach to your supervisors. It’s what you ingrain in the minds of your new hires. Process improvement informs everything you do in your work – and in manufacturing companies, process improvement informs everything from research and development to quality control to production planning, to packaging, shipping, receiving, and so on.  But what about mobile sales in your manufacturing business?  That could be a process worth re-evaluating.

Technology has given shape to most of the great process improvements in manufacturing business over the last 30 years. The great desktop PC era has revolutionized the way we work in business in almost every conceivable way all across your business from purchasing to materials planning to warehouse management, customer service and accounting. Paper-based and manual processes have been identified and targeted for replacement. Replaced by technology tools such as keyboards, monitors, printers, and scanners – to drive information and communication faster across your enterprise. The reason you’ve done so? To create a better experience for the user, to save time (aka labor cost), to accelerate your supply chain, and to improve overall communications. Quite simply – you made these changes in order to make your business better.

Yet, perhaps ironically, there is one group of workers inside most manufacturing companies whose jobs have not been impacted much at all by technology and process improvement over the last 30 years, and that is the outside sales rep. How can that be? The group of people most responsible for generating revenue growth, and most able to convey directly to your customers the experience of doing business with you – yes, that group – is by and large stuck using the same tools and following the same processes for the last 30 years.

A great many sales processes are built around:

  • Printed product catalogs
  • Price books
  • Spec sheets
  • Order forms
  • Phone calls back to the office
  • Email

These sales reps have little or no visibility to customer status, product pricing, ability to promise, cross sell suggestions. Whether the sales rep is onsite with the customer or prospect, at a special event, staffing a tradeshow, or roaming a showroom floor, the chances are they have a smart phone in their pocket – but the chances are almost as great that the smart phone will NOT have intelligence to help them close business or otherwise assist the customer. Smart phone and tablet technology is available now that can provide sales reps with far more meaningful interactions with customers.

Sales apps that are connected with your Sage ERP and CRM systems abound. The key is finding the right level of enablement for you and your sales team. As a manufacturing company this should be easily enough done because it’s all about making the selling process – the experience your customer has doing business with you – a faster, better informed and more complete experience. And that is exactly what you should expect to accomplish for your sales team.

xkzero specializes in Sage ERP integrated mobile sales, route sales, and direct store delivery automation for small and midsized manufacturers and wholesale distribution companies.

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Sales Essentials for 2016: Sage Summit and Beyond

Sales essentials for growing businesses

Thousands of businesses will converge on Chicago for Sage Summit 2016 to learn and share stories of challenge, innovation and change.

We hope you’ll visit us at Sage Summit 2016 in Chicago—our hometown! At xkzero we help companies grow sales and increase profits by providing high performance, flexible mobile apps engineered to integrate with Sage 100 and Sage X3. This year alone, clients will transact about $1 billion in new business using xkzero mobile sales and delivery apps for smartphones and tablets. As far as who is using our apps, there are no bounds to the range of industries that view mobile as a sales essential for success.

Learn how leading companies across North America are using Sage and xkzero solutions to stand out and win against the competition. Especially if you rely on route selling or direct store delivery to serve customers and close new business, have outside sales reps, sell at trade shows, attend special events, or have a showroom floor or parts counter, we hope you’ll stop by our booth.

Want a preview of the xkzero mobile sales and delivery solutions for Sage 100 and Sage X3 that you’ll see at Summit? Register now for our free webinar – Sales Essentials for 2016: The Power of Mobile.  

NEW DATE AND TIME: June 29, 2016, 12 pm EST

All Sage business partners and Sage 100 and Sage X3 end user customers are all welcome!

Mobile B2B Sales: A Practical Guide for Sales Reps

Mobile automation is the new standard for B2B sales

Mobile automation is the new standard for B2B sales

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The mobile sales app for B2B represents the new standard for growing small and mid-sized businesses. It may be the greatest thing to happen for manufacturing and wholesale distribution sales reps since the invention of the printing press. Few technologies for business have the far-reaching impact on the quality of your work and your company’s bottom line of a mobile sales app.

If your company has outside sales reps, or sells at trade shows, on a showroom floor, from special events or on-site with a customer, for you, the era of the printed product catalog, the paper order form, and the fax machine is over. The integrated smart phone and tablet era is now. xkzero has summarized some important considerations for you here.

Salespeople

The impact of having everything you need in your pocket

Off you go to your prospect meeting. Off you go to the trade show. Off you go for another day on the showroom floor. Off you go, back to your hotel room. Off you go, equipped with a product catalog printed 9 months ago, a price list printed 6 weeks ago. Hoping the fax machine doesn’t get jammed when you send in your order. Hoping that a customer service rep is ready when you call to find out the status of the inventory you’d like to sell.

The new standard for B2B selling is the smart phone. It’s replaced the fax, the printed materials, and antiquated processes that hold back a business today.

How you will benefit from a mobile sales app as a salesperson:

  • You’ll be better prepared with fingertip access to up-to-the-moment customer and inventory data.
  • Customers and prospects will sense your increased confidence.
  • You’ll have the chance to close larger deals.
  • You’ll be able to complete high transaction volume sales more quickly.
  • You might not ever be late for a meeting again.

The price of not doing anything

Over 90 percent of the mobile sales automation projects xkzero has implemented over the past several years have been for companies that previously relied on the tools and processes of yesterday—printed product catalogs, paper order forms, and fax machines. For many of these businesses, sales reps had to call customer service for the status of anything customer or inventory related. Representing the entire spectrum of manufacturing and wholesale distribution industries, they have one thing in common. Once they switch from paper and manual processes to an automated mobile solution—they don’t change back.

More practical guides – Mobile B2B Sales: A Practical Guide for Executives

Ready to talk about charting a mobile sales strategy for your business? Contact us at info@xkzero.com or call 847-416-2009.  Visit the xkzero website to learn more about our winning solutions.

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Why Creating a Great User Experience Matters Most

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Take a guess at the #1 criteria for having a great mobile sales app for your business? If you guessed creating a great experience for the user then you are correct.

The reason is simple. It’s because most (if not all) of your business goals for mobile are linked to user adaptation.

When you invest in a mobile sales app, naturally, you expect certain measurable results, such as these:

  1. Larger orders
  2. New revenue streams
  3. Higher close rates
  4. Reduced admin costs
  5. Better equipped and informed sales reps
  6. New intelligence

When you invest in a mobile app—whether you build one customized for your company’s needs, or choose an out-of-the-box option directly from an app storeit should improve the experience of doing business with you. This should be true all up and down the supply chain, but especially for the user of the app.

What, then, does it mean to create a great user experience?

Your new mobile sales app should be intuitive. If it seems like there may be a lot of training involved, keep shopping. It should be dependable. The app can’t be crashing on you every other time you use it.

Your mobile app needs to introduce something new—something memorable. Your app should reward the user and keep them coming back to the app again and again. Think maps to customer locations. Think item images, spec sheets or even instructional videos to improve the understanding of your products. Think geo-awareness, signature capture and other measures that improve accountability. Think alerts and push notifications. Think photos. Think new intelligence gathering and a means to understand customer behavior in ways you never imagined.

Creating a Great User Experience Matters.

Focus on creating a great user experience for everyone involved, and your mobile sales app initiative will be on a sure track to success.

Taking photos at the customer location, whether it be a display case - or even a proof of delivery, enhances your understanding of your customer and helps to create a great user experience

Taking photos at the customer location, whether it be a display case – or even a proof of delivery, enhances your understanding of your customer and helps to create a great user experience

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Finding Your Perfect Match

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Did you end up getting married to the first person you ever dated?

Not very likely. Most of us married folk dated lots of people before we found that just-right person with whom to settle down and make a life. Why do we do this? Because finding out what we really want first requires life experience to give ourselves the chance to discover what we really value.

Can this selection process also apply when choosing business technology? To find the answer, ask yourself this question: Has my business been running the same ERP/accounting system since its inception? Likely not. Most companies start with a low-cost system like Quickbooks or Sage 50. The reason is smart leaders don’t wish to make too big of a commitment until there is evidence that the business is likely to endure.

In the early years, businesses go through a process of self-discovery. Most start-up businesses are primarily focused on creating new revenue streams, serving customers and attracting talent. Once they start to mature, and the full potential of the business starts to become evident, that’s when finding the perfect ERP system starts to make sense. At that point, businesses invest in a more hearty solution like Sage 100 or Sage X3.

Like decision makers at companies in almost every industry, you have another question to ask yourself. Given your particular growth stage, how can you take advantage of mobile technology? What mobile tools should you introduce to your work force–especially your sales team?

When choosing a mobile sales app–especially for companies with B2B wholesale distribution needs–here are some factors to consider:

  1. Understand the processes you wish to automate.
  2. Choose an app that provides a great user experience for everyone.
  3. Determine the level of ERP or CRM integration you desire.
  4. Select the operating system and hardware platform that is right for your company.
  5. Evaluate custom-tailored versus packaged systems.

Now, if the list above makes you feel squeamish (like the butterflies you used to get when dating), that’s okay. It means you should probably take it slow. You might not find your ideal match with your first mobile app. And that’s okay, too. By all means, though, do not let your nervousness get in the way of introducing mobile into your business.

If you’re a novice to mobile–if you don’t feel like you have a great handle on what mobile can do for your sales team–fear not. Just like you didn’t get married to the first person you ever dated–you don’t have to make a huge and long-term commitment to the first mobile software you meet, either.

There are low cost, low risk steps that you can take:

  • Find out if your ERP or CRM provider offers a mobile extension for your current system. These are often web-based apps that will provide your team access to customers, orders, opportunities, and perhaps inventory. These apps may be free or available at a low cost.
  • Try before you buy. Explore 3rd party ISV solutions and determine if they have free downloads in the app stores. If so, engage your sales personnel and elicit their feedback.
  • Consider a limited rollout of mobile built around one or a small number of sales people. Use this trial to evaluate behavior changes and tangible sales results in a more limited setting.
  • Talk with your Sage business partner, or key technology and other advisors to your business to discover stories and case studies of how similar businesses may be benefiting from mobile.

When it comes to mobile business technology systems, a match made in heaven is definitely out there. You might not find it on the first go around, but by taking action now you will gain valuable insight to set you on the path of–dare I say-mobile bliss.

perfect match

Paul Ziliak, the happily married co-founder of xkzero, did not marry the first person he ever dated, but was fortunate enough to eventually find his perfect match.  He now helps mid-sized and growing businesses mobilize sales and delivery processes.  @PaulZiliak @ERP_apps www.xkzero.com

 

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Apollo Oil Selects xkzero for New Direct Store Delivery Mobile Software

Apollo Oil

xkzero is pleased to announce that major automotive lubricant distributor, Apollo Oil, has selected xkzero Mobile Commerce software to automate its distribution processes for Direct Store Delivery and Route Sales.

Click here for full press release

Apollo Oil, headquartered in Henderson, Kentucky, sells and distributes major brands such as Valvoline, Shell and Castorl throughout the Ohio Valley to car dealerships, quick lubes and automotive service centers.  From their fleet of over 30 trucks, and from multiple warehouses, they also sell and service municipalities, trucking facilities and farming operations, as well as to industrial manufacturers.

In tandem with this project, Apollo is also implementing Sage X3, purchased from leading Sage North American business partner, WAC Consulting.

“Together with Apollo we began evaluating xkzero at Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans, as an initiative to replace the existing custom built mobile solution”, said Steve Schaefer, Partner of WAC. “XMC will be relied upon to satisfy mission critical processes such as truck loading for both bulk and packaged orders, route selling and direct store delivery automation. Apollo also expects to create improved workflow and accounting for inventory control, route planning and payment handling.”

“Apollo was searching for a system to allow anytime, anywhere processing to better serve our customers with each and every interaction”, said Ed Dotson, Chief Financial Officer of Apollo Oil. “We discovered xkzero at Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans and their combination of modern mobile technology along with their expertise as Sage X3 developers gives us a very high level of confidence for this project.”

For more information about xkzero Mobile Commerce and direct store delivery and route sales automation, please visit our website or contact us at info@xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

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Mobile Technology—Intimidating or Enticing?

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Mobile technology - is it right for your sales organization?

Mobile Technology: Is it right for your sales organization?

Mobile Technology.

How do those two words make you feel? A little intimidated? That’s okay. For most of us, when it comes to business and ERP systems, mobile technology is a new concept. Even if you don’t feel like an expert today, there is a great opportunity for you as a Sage partner to benefit from the mobile revolution.

As you may know, Sage is taking a new direction with Mobile Sales. However, this doesn’t mean that there is not demand and opportunity for mobile automation. To the contrary! Demand is high, and opportunities are great. Mobile automation is significant—and growing. This is especially relevant to manufacturers and distributors looking for new revenue streams, a new competitive advantage, or ways to reduce administrative costs.

So how do you benefit as a Sage partner?

I recommend you start by taking a look at your clients and prospects to identify the best opportunities for success. Because while you may feel a little hesitant about mobile, many manufacturers and distributors find the idea very enticing and they’re going to talk with someone about it. Why not you?

The key is tapping into the companies that would most likely benefit from mobile sales automation.

Any manufacturer or distributor can be a candidate, but here are some things to look for that will help you find the businesses that will benefit the most from mobile sales automation:

  1. Do they already value and understand technology and the role it can play in their organization?
  2. Do they have a remote or outside sales force?
  3. Do sales people currently phone in or fax orders?
  4. Does the company still rely on printed product catalogs or price sheets?
  5. Do they make sales onsite at tradeshows or other special events?
  6. Do they have counter sales or a customer showroom?
  7. Do customers value their ability to promise product
    availability based on actual warehouse inventory?
  8. Do they sell B2B online, and if so, would they be interested in having a B2B app allowing customers to place orders anytime, anywhere?
  9. Are they in “traditional” mobile sales industries like food or beverage?
  10. Do they deliver their own products and capture signatures or require other kinds of proof of delivery?

See—there’s nothing scary or intimidating about these questions, right? And by making these inquiries to your clients, you’ve taken perhaps the most important step of all to being perceived as a mobile influencer—you’ve shown that you care about their company’s growth. This fact alone will be enough for some people to see you as an expert.

What if they answer “yes” to any of these questions?

Congratulations, you may have found yourself a mobile prospect. No need to be intimidated. When you work with xkzero, we always have your back.

We’re here to help you evaluate each and every opportunity, and coach you at every step of the way. If you’d like, we’re happy to participate on qualifying phone calls along with you—or even conduct those calls on your behalf.

If we’re fortunate enough to work with you and your clients you can earn great commissions, knowing that we’ll take care of 100% of the implementation and technical support. We’ve worked with dozens of Sage partners on mobile sales and delivery automation projects, some requiring only a few thousand dollars investment, with others making six figure investments.  So whether you think the idea of mobile technology for business is enticing – or find it a little intimidating, know this:  the opportunities with mobile are great and we’d love to work with you, too!

Would you like to learn more today? Email us at info@xkzero.com, visit our website or call us at 847-416-2009.

p.s. With the announcement of the discontinuance of Sage Mobile Sales, some of your clients will be looking for a new solution, and xkzero is here to help. You can learn more details here:
http://erpappsblog.com/sage-mobile-sales-retirement-announcement-promotion/

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6 Cool Ideas for Distribution Companies

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Distributor sales rep
These days, with increasing frequency, your sales reps spend less time in the office tied to a desktop PC, and more time out and about—building relationships, and hopefully closing new deals for your distribution business. Have you given much thought to how well equipped your sales reps are—or are not—with mobile resources? Do they have access to the information they need? Are they prepared to anticipate and attend to the needs of customers and prospects? And can they do these things with the confidence and accuracy needed to win their trust, and ultimately—loyalty to your brand?

The key to more sales and happier customers could be sitting right in your sales person’s pocket. It can be as simple as taking advantage of the great mobile sales solutions available to distributors and manufacturers today. Think about it. If your sales reps are going to leave the office with just one tool in their pockets, shouldn’t it be one that provides information to make their lives—and your business—better?

Let’s look at 6 cool ideas for distribution companies -  specific things you can do for your sales reps to improve their performance:

  1. Provide downloadable and dynamic access to customer information and contact details. Not only do new sales reps normally have to manually enter all these details themselves—names, addresses, multiple contacts, phone numbers, email addresses and on and on—but they have to maintain them too. Let’s be realistic. Relying on manual updates, how accurate and complete will that data be over time?
    A good mobile sales app will allow you to distribute all the customer and contact info directly to the smart phone with only a login and a password. If you follow best practices, that information will be maintained in your back office ERP/CRM/accounting system. That way, you’ll never have another worry about whether your rep has accurate contact information to always be connected to your customers.
  2. While you’re at it, give them dynamic inventory access, too. This is especially useful if you can provide visibility by warehouse, and differentiate between quantity on hand and quantity available. If your inventory has visual appeal and your mobile app can display images, you’re on the path to eliminating those expensive, never current product catalogs you’re still publishing.
  3. Equip them with historical sales information. Do you want to convey to your customer that you DON’T care for them? Then make sure your sales reps are not able to recite what the customer has purchased from them throughout time—when and at what price. But if it’s informed sales reps you want, mobile access to sales history is vital.
  4. Let them enter their own orders. Does your sales process require making a call, or filling out an order form that’s faxed to the office to be rekeyed by someone else? If so, congratulations because by enabling a mobile sales app that allows for transaction entry will save you boat loads of administrative labor, and will get the orders placed, picked, and delivered faster. This will also eliminate all kinds of errors.
  5. Empower sales reps to accept payments, too. Even if your long-standing distributor relationship leads you to grant 30-day payment terms, perhaps a change is in order. The culture of immediacy of all things consumer apps (especially as millennials flood the workforce) may be reason to rethink payment collection. Let’s face it, no one wants a paper check. No one wants a paper invoice.
    And while you’re not likely to be accepting Bitcoin, swiping a credit card may become the new normal. If your business model includes selling at tradeshows, from a sales counter, or a showroom floor—taking payment directly on your smart phone or tablet could both delight your customer, accelerate your cash flow—and provides yet another opportunity to save on administrative costs.
  6. Have sales reps collect new intelligence. I see a lot of businesses scrambling to find the latest, greatest business intelligence tools. They seek the latest dashboard, the most meaningful pivot table, the easiest-to-use query. What I don’t often see is companies evaluating the nature of the information they collect.
    Mobile apps and smart phones are naturals for gathering survey information of any kind. That could be customer, competitor, sales rep, or vehicle data. You name it. Mobile apps also leverage a wide range of tools your smart phone or tablet affords, allowing you to collect photos, other images, videos, audio notes, electronic signatures, and even location-centric (GPS) data.

There are a number of important considerations before investing in a mobile sales app. However, as you can see—there is opportunity-a-plenty to stand out in your industry as the most informed, up-to-date, confident, efficient and modern distribution/manufacturing business. How cool is that?

Other resources distributors may be interested in:

Ready to build your own mobile sales strategy?  We’d love to hear from you. Email us at info@xkzero.com, visit www.xkzero.com, or call 847-416-2009.

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Choosing the right mobile sales app for your business

Empowering sales and customer service teams with mobile-ability straight from your ERP/accounting system can have a powerful impact on your business. Not only can it increase revenue, but benefit the bottom line in other ways, too–like reducing labor costs and eliminating redundant data entry.  Distributor sales rep

Mobile selling also can provide a new means of intelligence gathering, making your people more confident, and more engaging.

But because everyone’s needs are not the same, choosing the right solution for your business is really important, but luckily, not complicated.

Whatever your needs are, these are some important things to keep in mind:

  • A great mobile solution starts with a vision. Get the mobile conversation started with your most free thinking people.  And be open to ideas come from anyone in your organization.  Everyone and anyone on your team might be sitting on a billion dollar idea.
  • Identify the business processes that require change.  Mobilizing your workforce is good old fashioned business process reengineering.
  • Articulate expected benefits. What financial and behavioral impacts do you seek from mobile?  If you don’t have a profit motive, why would you do it?
  • Evaluate customized and pre-existing packaged solutions to determine which will work best.  Then ask yourself if what you really need is a custom app, because you want to separate your company from any competitor, and a packaged app could be done by anyone.
  • Determine the optimal level of integration with your accounting/ERP/CRM system. Don’t overlook the fact that security is an important matter here, and that can vary user-by-user, role-by-role within your company.
  • Select a mobile platform after choosing a solution. The real value is not a matter of Android versus Apple. Remember that the real value is in the experience you create for salespeople and customers, and the processes you transform.  The phone itself is usually the commodity – if not – what you created has not much value beyond the price of the device.

Consider the greater impact of mobile. Mobile allows for a significant number of changes that can have a transformative effect on your business.  It will even change the way your customers look at you.

The video below is a recording of a recent webinar we presented.  It is geared for small and mid-sized distribution and manufacturing companies who use Sage 100 software to run their businesses.  It also contains nuggets that are useful regardless of your back-end system of choice.

It includes descriptions of some key differences between Sage Mobile Sales and these two packaged solutions published by xkzero:

Also, there is a feature comparison beginning at 23:38.

[51 min 58 sec]

Would you like to talk mobile strategy for your distribution business?  At xkzero we’d love to hear from you.  info@xkzero.com www.xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

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Large Food Distributor Grows with Mobile ERP

Raja in the store

Raja Foods didn’t become one of the leading distributors of Indian food in the United States overnight. It took years of dedication and refinement of a business vision to celebrate “our food, our culture,” as their company motto states. Raja owns the nation’s largest chain of Indian grocery stores (operating as Patel Brothers—with 50 retail stores and counting) while also distributing its food products to hundreds of independent and big box customers throughout the U.S.

We recently sat down with Raja vice president, Swetal Patel, to talk about the company’s growth and the role of technology. Simply put, Patel said, “Our goal is to get Indian food to the consumer any way we can.”

“We’ve grown from 30 to 50 stores, and doubled our sales volume over the last 10 years. A challenge for us was the increasing amount of time it was taking to process orders for delivery to the stores. It’s common for our customers to place orders with hundreds of items, especially in anticipation of the weekend—when they are busiest. Not only was this process very time consuming, but we were inevitably prone to mistakes when rekeying the faxed orders into Sage 100 ERP,” Patel said.

Raja’s solution was to purchase and implement iSales 100 by xkzero to automate remote ordering. iSales 100 was an immediate success for Raja Foods. To start, they gave 35 of their top grocery customers an iPad Mini (with scanner accessory from Infinite Peripherals) with the iSales 100 app. The manual process—using pencil, paper, clipboards, fax machines, and redundant data entry—was eliminated overnight.

Now, using iPad Minis with iSales 100, these store representatives simply walk the grocery aisles, scan the bar coded shelves, and automatically submit the completed orders into Raja’s Sage 100 system. Because each iSales user can be assigned a default fulfillment warehouse depending upon geographical location, orders are immediately ready for picking from each of the four distribution center warehouses owned by Raja.

Patel said, “Our old process took twice as long as the scanning process using iSales 100. We completely eliminated having to enter the orders into Sage 100. That alone has saved about 100 hours per week. But in addition to that, we’re doing a better job of keeping the grocery shelves properly stocked and that means keeping loyal customers coming back.”

“Our next step is to provide the iSales 100 app to even more customers—the more who utilize the app, the more we’ll save and the better we can serve them. Anyone with remote ordering needs should be using iSales 100,” Patel said.

Raja VP Swetal Patel describes how iSales 100 streamlines distribution

Raja VP Swetal Patel describes how iSales 100 streamlines distribution

Learn more about Raja Foods on their website.

Other resources distributors may be interested in:

To learn how xkzero can help empower your sales team and processes with mobile enabled ERP, contact us at info@xkzero.com, call 847-416-2009 or visit us on the Internet at www.xkzero.com.