A lot of salespeople we know just aren't sold on technology - and they're not afraid to say so. Waiting to secure an online connection to their home office is a timesink. So is having to learn yet another clunky program. They're often tempted to scrap the laptop, and go back to the days of Filofaxes and shoe leather. Well, we've got some good news: four new tools that will boost your chance of nailing your quota - without getting in the way of your selling.
The Challenge: Typing into a database the 300 business cards you collected at the trade show. You're a seller, not a typist!
This Just In: CardScan Plus 300 ($299)
The CardScan Plus 300 from Corex Technologies is a compact unit that hooks into a PC. Feed business cards through the scanner one at a time, and the device reads text from the images and organizes it by name, company, title, and other database fields. The scanner isn't perfect: stylized fonts don't always scan accurately.
"You still have to edit some of the cards," says Rick Ferenchick, vice president of sales and marketing for Canton, Massachusetts-based Arnold Industries Inc., which supplies mechanical components to large manufacturers. "But despite the diversity of fonts and logos that it must deal with, the scanner is a real time-saver." The product is compatible with Act, the contact manager that Ferenchick uses - so he can share his contact database with his sales staff.
Coordinates: Corex Technologies Corp., http://www.corex.com
The Challenge: Traveling light while making heavy-duty calls.
This Just In: Libretto 50CT ($1,999)
You can't walk tall if you're lugging around an eight-pound laptop. Want some relief? Consider Toshiba's Libretto 50CT, a Windows 95-based mininotebook that weighs less than two pounds.
With a 75-MHz Pentium processor, a 772-MB hard drive, and 16 MB of high-speed EDO DRAM, the Libretto works well if you use applications that don't require a lot of data entry or processing power, such as PowerPoint. It comes loaded with Windows 95 - not Windows CE, the subnotebook standard - so it can handle any program that you use on your desktop PC. Nor do you have to worry about converting files as you move them back and forth between computers. If a file is in Excel, it stays in Excel on the Libretto.
Coordinates: Toshiba, http://www.toshiba.com
The Challenge: Tracking each stage of every sale, as contacts turn into customers.
This Just In: : SalesLogix ($695 per user)
Brian McGarvey, manager of sales operations and distribution for iCat Corp., a Seattle-based electronic-commerce software developer, says his biggest challenge is trying to tie sales reports to each contact as a sale progresses from cold call to closing.
With the SalesLogix enterprise-wide software, McGarvey's team can track sales opportunities and closings by territory, and catch up on report updates while traveling. In just a few minutes, McGarvey can dial into his home database and download 2,000 contact updates and up-to-the-minute progress reports to his laptop. If your sales team is missing important opportunities because its contact news isn't new, then consider recommending SalesLogix to your IT department.
Coordinates: SalesLogix, http://www.saleslogix.com
The Challenge: Staying wired without plugging in.
This Just In: Cordless Computer Connection ($209)
You're in your hotel room with just 30 minutes until your next call. You need to download the new product specs from your company's server. Bad news: there's no data port on the telephone for your laptop to plug into. Now are you ready to go wireless?
IBM's Cordless Computer Connection lets you work on your laptop without worrying about where to plug in. It comes in two easy pieces: a remote unit plugs into what-ever modem you have installed on your laptop; and a base unit plugs into a standard phone jack. The Connection transmits a 900-MHz radio wave between your laptop and the base unit over a distance of up to 200 feet - saving you from waiting for an open cellular line or hassling with dropped connections. Together, the two units weigh about 2.5 pounds. Leave the device in your hotel room and use it for sending sales reports. It will take a load off your mind, if not off your feet.
Coordinates: IBM, http://www.ibm.com
A version of this article appeared in the December 1997/January 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.