Pre-Order Sales and Handheld Software for Beverage Distributors of DSD, Pre-Order Sales Force

It is a well-kept secret that beverage distributors do not all run the same but that they, in fact, organize their operations with widely different procedures.

Many beverage companies send a sales force in the field to take orders at customer sites and drivers deliver the orders as scheduled, often the next day. Some companies have in-house call centers and obtain the orders over the phone. Their field force consists of the drivers who deliver the phone orders on the scheduled day. Then there are companies that send drivers on the route to sell items off the truck without a previously established order.

All of these companies benefit greatly from the implementation of routing handheld software. But companies with a pre-order taking sales force are in a particularly good position to profit from pre-order handheld software. It creates enormous win-win for both beverage distributors and their customers.

Here are five reasons why pre-order handheld software is so beneficial to such companies:

Reason # 1: Saving Time and Reducing Cost

Most people know that the use of handheld technology saves time and cost of services performed. The reasons for these time and cost saving effects relate to more cases sold, managed and targeted by the quote system fed into the handheld software.

Furthermore, sales people know their quota at every moment of the day, how many cases they sold so far and how many days are left for them to meet their quota.

Efficient calculations of the order-taking process, which include special promotions and introductory deals, also enable sales people to make more stops per day.

The routes are also organized in a denser way than without handhelds so that sales people do not lose time driving around unnecessarily. Start and stop times track the productivity at each stop which makes sales people perform their order-taking duties in a speedier fashion than without the handhelds.

There simply is no doubt that pre-order handheld technology saves time and reduces cost of sales people every day.

Reason # 2: Increasing Revenues Per Stop

Saved time and reduced cost are good news because they help sales people to increase the revenues per stop. A few numbers shall illustrate how quickly revenues increase when sales people use pre-order handheld software for their daily routes. Let’s imagine a company that has twenty sales people on the road every day.

Let’s also assume that each sales person is able to add another stop to the schedule due to saved time from the other stops, and this stop gives them an additional $ 100 of orders per day, certainly a conservative estimate but one that shows the quick ROI of the initial software and hardware expenses.

If a company has twenty sales people and each makes an additional $ 100 per day, a company’s revenues increase by $ 40,000 each month. In one year, the revenues increase by almost $ 500,000, an astounding number despite the rather conservative estimate. Of course, the revenue increase is considerably higher when the sales people get a higher sales order from the additional stop, a likely scenario.

The almost immediate ROI for the new handheld software is evident. If a comprehensive pre-order handheld solution costs about $ 250,000-$ 500,000 for a company of twenty sales people, it takes only six to twelve months for the software to pay for itself. These numbers make it reasonable to say that pre-order beverage distributors are really losing money every day if they do not already use handheld technology.

Yet besides these two obvious benefits of pre-order software, there are other good reasons that make handheld technology a “must have” for beverage distributors.

Reason # 3: Enhancing the Relationship with Your Customer Store

For distributors with a pre-order field force, face-to-face relationships with the customer stores are indispensable. The pre-order sales people are routed to each store on a regular and predictable interval so that personal relationships grow and sales people learn how to replenish the shelves correctly without under- or overselling.

The latter prevents returns and refusals when drivers delivery the products on the next day. The personal connections with the customer personnel help the sales person to know which particular item is currently a big seller and when a shelf becomes available to expand shelf space.
A minute understanding of popular items and buying trends in the customer’s store is an asset to the customer because the stocking of the shelves with the right products increases the store’s sales. Of course, it also increases the sales of the distributor. This situation is a great benefit. When pre-order sales people come to understand the fluctuations of the selling trends in their customer’s stores, store managers learn to appreciate the sales people as assets to their stores, a resource that does not cost them a cent.

And then store managers begin to depend on the pre-order sales people and are more hesitant to sell their shelf space to another distributor’s sales person. They rely on them as a second set of eyes watching out for optimal shelf stocking because the distributor sales person is equipped with pre-order handheld software that enables sales people to make precise calculations and predictions when items will be sold, are needed, and must be replaced with more popular products. When promotions are available in the form of discounts or free cases, the sales person ensures that the customer store gets the right products and pricing.

Store managers become dependent on the appropriately stocked shelves of a distribution company that equips its pre-order sales force with handhelds and they do not let them expand into additional shelf space in their stores.

Reason # 4: Accessing All the Information on the Road

A sure way for a pre-order sales people to give their customers informed attention and to merit their trust that they do the best job possible is to have all the needed information at hand.
Pre-order handheld software helps the sales force to provide just that information. It allows them to take orders more quickly and accurately on devices that contain the relevant information and recent sales history of each customer. By pushing a button, sales people have at their finger tips the details of previous orders and prices that are reliable and quickly accessible.

In addition, pre-order handheld technology enables sales people to choose authorized products where that is appropriate, to take orders fast and accurately, and to fill in case quantities with a standard order of products that is available by brand and size and/or by most popular products and personalized to each store.

Available promotions and deposits are automated, and they add to the accurate and more personalized information available to sales people on their handhelds.

The handhelds not only improve access to relevant customer store information, but they also enhance the communication with the delivery personnel. For instance, the handheld software suggests delivery dates according to the delivery schedule of the distributor that, however, can be changed by the sales person as needed.

The benefits of pre-order technology are therefore numerous and they boost the performance of sales people of distributors.

Reason # 5: Reducing Unnecessary Work in the Office

The wireless synchronization of orders reduces the cost of sales. Faxes and calls of orders are reduced or eliminated entirely. Orders do not need to be typed into computer desktops anymore since they are automatically transmitted into desktop route management systems and appropriately routed for delivery.

This process saves office personnel several hours a day and substantially reduces data-entering errors. Delivery orders can be optimized and also be loaded on the handhelds of the delivery drivers. This completely automated solution reduces considerable time involved in post-order processing.

Pre-order handheld software thus reduces unnecessary work in the office and frees up personnel to identify new customers and to provide better customer service.

Conclusion: Making the Leap…

In conclusion, pre-order handheld software creates great opportunities for beverage distributors, their sales force, and their customer stores. The ROI is almost immediate and ensures company growth, increased inventory control and order taking, and customer satisfaction.

Yet the challenge remains for beverage distributors to make the leap to a pre-order software system. Investing the time and the deliberation in identifying a vendor, trusting the vendor’s product, and implementing the system is a difficult task and will remain so. Of course, there is never a perfect time to move ahead in terms of software implementation. The time is now. There are excellent products out there that will help beverage distributors to succeed and grow!

Lorraine Keating is the president of Prism Visual Software, Inc., the publisher of MiniMate-a wireless handheld operational and customizable software that integrates with legacy accounting systems and handles preorder/delivery, route sales, equipment service and repair. For more information, visit http://www.prismvs.com or contact Prism at info@prismvs.com

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