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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6 Questions To Ask Before Deciding To Invest In Mobile Business

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Best-in-class companies are much more likely (2.4 times, in fact) than less successful organizations to enable ERP through mobile devices. The most effective solutions are those tailored to meet the needs of the individual or role in the organization. These statistics were gathered by the Aberdeen Group.*

No matter if your small or mid-sized company is a manufacturer, distributor, or focuses on service, to create a mobile strategy, where do you start? Before you get to that point, it’s important to determine whether investing in a mobile sales app is right for you. Here are some questions that can help you decide if your company should take that step and move to a mobile-enabled ERP.

1. Which software and other information sources does your sales team already use?

Before Mobile

Salesperson tools: Before

Is your business using traditional sales tools such as CRM systems, price catalogues, white papers, technical spec documents, ERP/order entry and quoting systems, and proposal templates? If so, take a hard look at how responsive these tools are to customers’ demands. If your salesperson or customer service rep can only access needed information sources while seated at a desk, or if the alternative is to lug around multiple devices, then your company may not be as effectively responsive. Consider the data and images your salesperson needs.

In this fast-paced competitive world, do you want to be the ones saying you’ll get back to a customer later? No way! Your sales team needs to quickly provide current pricing, product photos, video demos, or other descriptors, and rapid quotes.

Take a good inventory of your current systems and processes. Have your top sales people explain how they use each tool. Consider doing mock presentations and play the role of customer to assess potential frustration levels with information availability. This analysis will go a long way toward determining the current viability of your sales process.

2. Which software tools are used by your industry’s best-in-class companies?

“Know that if you are not doing it, someone in your industry is.” This was the conclusion drawn in a study by Deloitte called, “The Dawn of Mobile Influence.” They also determined that m-commerce (mobile commerce) will grow by 250% through 2016, a rate 6 times the expected growth rate of e-commerce. Will your company be left behind?

What’s so great about mobile? Ask the CEO of Groupon and founder of Echo Global Logistics Eric Lefkovsky. Here are a few of the excellent points he lists in his blog article, “A Spoonful of Mobile:”

  • “It’s real time: you use it to achieve something NOW.”
  • “It’s opportunistic: technology is at its best when it’s relevant.”
  • “It’s geo targeted: knowing where you are makes it technology smarter and more relevant.”
  • “It’s social: it’s designed to interact with those around you.”
After Mobile

Salesperson tools: After

3. Would you freak out if you learned when top competitors conduct sales meetings with their prospects and customers, they provide quotes and close new business–on the spot?

In case you didn’t already know, this is happening while you read this article. The companies in your industry with mobile apps are better prepared to answer questions, record data and eliminate redundancy each step of the way. (Oh, and close those deals, too.)

In time, the fastest, best processes will cannibalize old methods, as well they should. Mobile capabilities give prospects or customers reason to gain confidence, as they receive speedy, accurate responses. Also, from a behind-the-scenes perspective, manual methods of doing business are time consuming, and require unnecessary personnel costs. Save your HR budget for more meaningful tasks and free up the hours employees devote to data entry.

This begs the question: Will you be a forerunner or can you afford to wait?

4. What is the value of mobility for your sales reps? Does your sales team count on tools only available at the office to serve the customer or prospect?

In this mobile world of quick information retrieval options, businesses can’t afford to rely on desktops and other office-based peripherals. People have come to expect answers in real-time, and from any location.

Also, the workforce culture has changed, with more employees working from home, often to accommodate a work-life balance. The line between business and personal time can also be difficult to differentiate, as we may even cultivate our most meaningful connections on the soccer field sidelines or the train platform.

In a world where business can be conducted on the fly, and opportunities arise when least expected, is having your sales and customer service reps tethered to a two foot long landline telephone cord going to cut it for you?

5. Do you pretty much have either a smart phone or tablet with you all the time?

Consider going for 12 hours without a phone or tablet. (Breathe!! This is hypothetical!) In this scenario, you are not spending the day in waders, fly fishing with your buddies in a beautiful brook, or lying supine under the Tahitian sun with the sand under your bare feet, with a cold drink while catching up on fiction.

(Re-focus!) Bring your mind back to a regular workday. How many ways do you rely on your phone or tablet throughout the course of a day? If you think it’s just frivolous, keep a mobile journal on a weekday.

Here’s an example of one morning in the life of an iPhone user:

6:00 a.m. Woke up to phone alarm. Checked work e-mail with Mail app. Calendar alert reminded of meeting at office. Grabbed documents. Turned on radio app and listened to news while making breakfast. Over cereal, checked Facebook. Exchanged texts with a loved one. Checked bank account with app, and paid a bill. Used transit tracker to check for any travel delays. On train, used blog app to edit article. Using music app and headphones, listened to uplifting song. Checked notes app to verify new office entry code. 8:30, sat at desk. Switched to laptop.

6. Can you imagine business shifting away from the smart phone and tablet technology? In other words, do you think it’s a fad?

If it works, why fix it? Smart phones and tablets are only getting more powerful, with added features, apps, and options for interaction. Even the youngest humans among us are rocking the iPads long before entering kindergarten, with educational games and art making apps.

Would it make sense to take this away when mobile technology is becoming imbedded into our culture from an early age? When mobile apps can connect more people, more quickly, and allow businesses to close deals from remote locations, would the smart people who develop the devices and apps simply bail because it’s “too trendy?” Businesses that decide not to hop on board will soon wish they didn’t think they were too cool to join the bandwagon train, as they watch the string of cars roll down the tracks and disappear into the horizon.

_________

At xkzero we’re passionate about mobile technology and making it work in your ERP system environment.  If you would like to talk with us about creating a whole new mobile reality for your business we would love to hear from you.

You can reach us at info@xkzero.com or 847-416-2009.

* Published 8/25/14 Mobile ERP: Taking ROI Into Your Own Hands

Four Reasons to Visit xkzero at Sage Summit 2014

We are particularly excited about Sage Summit this year. We have a few new things to show you, so come on by booth #414. A lot of hard work goes into developing amazing apps and integrations for Sage ERP systems, so it’s great when we are able to get them in front of ERP users and Sage Software VARs. So, with that in mind, I’d like point out four reasons you should visit xkzero at Sage Summit (booth #414) this year:

Max-Large

Still frame from our xkzero Mobile Commerce video

One:

You may have heard this, but we launched xkzero Mobile Commerce last month at Interbev 2014. It’s an incredible new iPhone app that makes DSD, distribution and information gathering (competitive, operational, or otherwise strategic) super easy. While it was designed for Sage ERP X3, its flexible framework allows it to work with other ERP systems just as seamlessly. It’ll be great for you to see it first hand at Summit, and I encourage you to watch the 90 second video beforehand.

Two:
Pick up a cool new bottle koozie and enter to win an iPad Air (booth #414)!

Love_Customer_Giveawayipad_air

Three:
So, there’s this popular mobile sales and service app called iSales 100. We’ll have an exciting “3″ announcement about it and have many things to show you. If you are interested in mobilizing your sales and service teams (and getting mobile business intelligence), stop on by!

Four:
Did I mention stopping by booth #414 to grab a bottle koozie and a chance to win an iPad Air!?

Also, Paul will be speaking at one of the Thought Leadership Theaters at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. The session is called “Why mobile, why now? A decision maker’s guide to business success.” Didn’t sign up yet? You’ll have to settle for standing room only.

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xkzero Mobile Commerce–Automated Sales and Direct Store Delivery

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) June 11, 2014

xkzero, a Chicago-based software developer, today released the general availability of its new mobile sales and delivery application, xkzero Mobile Commerce. Mobile Commerce is designed for companies with direct store delivery (DSD) type requirements, and automates vehicle loading and scheduling, route and driver/sales rep assignments, pre-sales, delivery, product exchanges, returns, truck transfers and payments.

Equip your drivers for success

Equip your drivers for success

Paul Ziliak, co-founder of xkzero made the announcement from the floor of the FMI Connect/Interbev 2014 tradeshow in Chicago, attended by approximately 15,000 food and beverage-related industry professionals, many of whom rely on the DSD that xkzero Mobile Commerce serves. DSD is especially relevant to manufacturers and distributors of bread and baked goods, fresh produce, carbonated beverages, energy drinks, milk, dairy and ice cream, salty snacks, beer, wine and spirits, and prepared foods.

“Other industries will need this technology, too. We expect to serve any company with a dispersed sales force—and especially those that deliver their own products. xkzero Mobile Commerce has the tools for best-in-class sales, delivery and customer service, and is instrumental to building brand loyalty. As a product that is already live with a large distribution and delivery company, we are already seeing the results–xkzero Mobile Commerce is a sales and profit generating machine,” said Ziliak.

xkzero Mobile Commerce is a native iOS (Apple iPhone and iPad) application which allows for offline processing. Technology highlights include signature capture, geo-coded transactions and the ability to print documents such as invoices and proof of delivery forms. Custom survey functionality is another standout feature built into xkzero Mobile Commerce. It enables companies to create their own forms to automate vehicle inspections, gather retail and competitive intelligence, and survey customers. Also, any survey question can include a photo with tags. Reports can then be run on survey data–including photo tags–to target any customer, competitor, or operational information desired.

xkzero Mobile Commerce was engineered to integrate with Sage ERP X3 and will support other Sage ERPs such as Sage 100 ERP and Sage 500 ERP. Ziliak said, “Everything about the design was built with the manufacturer and distributor in mind, including the ability to plug it in to any ERP or accounting system. Although xkzero is a certified Sage developer, our company can create solutions for other ERP markets, too.”

About xkzero
xkzero provides Mobile ERP leadership and supply chain optimization for small and mid-sized distribution and manufacturing companies. Specializing in Sage ERP X3, Sage 100 ERP and Sage 500 ERP, xkzero’s published apps include iSales 100, GetX Universal Search for Sage 100 ERP and now xkzero Mobile Commerce. http://www.xkzero.com/MobileCommerce

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xkzero to Exhibit at Interbev 2014

xkzero To Exhibit At Interbev 2014 – Booth 5415

xkzero is excited to announce its participation once again at the Interbev tradeshow at McCormick Place in Chicago (our home town!) June 10-13, 2014. InterBev 2014 will co-locate with FMI Connect, United Fresh, PMMI-Pack EXPO Possibilities in Packaging Innovations and U.S. Food Showcase. 15,000 innovators from every channel of food and beverage retail and wholesale distribution are expected, making this event the center of the this industry’s universe for that week.

xkzero will be previewing xkzero Mobile Commerce, the new solution geared to meet the mobile sales, delivery, route selling, load management, intelligence gathering and other key operational functions for growing distributors. The target industries for the new mobile platform, which is built to integrate with major ERP and accounting software packages include bakery, wine and spirits, dairy, ethnic foods, snack foods and more.

Here is a two-minute preview video showing some of the capabilities for xkzero Mobile Commerce:

xkzero Mobile Commerce

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For more information about xkzero and xkzero Mobile Commerce, please contact us at info@xkzero.com.