Operational Excellence with Technology

Can We Talk? Rep/Manufacturer Electronic Commerce

Alternate Title:

Using Data to Maximum Mutual Benefit

Are you and your representatives getting the most out of your relationship? There are things you can do to make your representatives more productive and have more time in the field doing what you think you pay them for-selling.

All too often we find reps entering data into a computer from data supplied by manufacturers that was generated by their computer? In the plumbing industry, just re-keying invoice information alone costs reps $37 million a year. That's $37 million less selling every year. The answer is to transfer that data electronically! That doesn't include the costs to the manufacturers to create that data, especially printing and distributing invoice copies.

Are your customers slow to embrace EDI? Perhaps through a partnership with your reps (i.e. maybe you provide the equipment and training, even pay them for the service) you could have them providing the EDI link between you and the customer. You may find many of your reps already enter customer orders into their computer systems, why not get those orders transferred to you via EDI?

How many customer service people do you have answering routine questions from your customers and reps? Questions such as do you have XYZ in stock, or when will my order ship? Perhaps the solution is to provide on-line access to your main computers for your reps. Or even better, create and adopt an industry standard "EDI" protocol that allows their computer to ask your computer those questions.

Or does your staff spend hours preparing forecast worksheets, send them to your reps (with only a hope of getting them back), only to spend more hours entering the results and creating your annual forecast? Why not give them a spreadsheet they can manipulate and return, which you can "roll-up" into a single comprehensive forecast?

Have you noticed that since the widespread acceptance of voicemail you are spending more time playing "voicemail tag"? Are you spending loads of money distributing memos and literature only to find that your reps claim they never got them (or were out of town when they came in and didn't get them in time, or read them and filed them where they can't find them, or whose dog ate them)? Maybe e-mail is the answer. With e-mail you can send out messages, get responses and transfer files--almost for free and virtually instantaneously.

Do your reps never have the right literature, operations manuals, or other reference material? Or are they throwing stacks of old literature away when you print a new version? Maybe the answer is to supplement your literature with inexpensive, easily filed electronic equivalents.

We'll talk about all the many ways data can make you and your reps more productive.