February 24, 2006



Posted: 08.01.05

Large Deployment Winner: Nourishing Sales

Sales team gains productivity, managers gain insight.
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By Eric M. Zeman

If you’ve ever cared for an infant or elderly relative, chances are you fed them with products from Ross. Founded in 1903, Abbott Laboratories’ Ross Division grew from a small milk business in Columbus, Ohio, to a large provider of pediatric and adult nutritionals and is responsible for name-brand products such as Similac and Ensure. In fact, co-founders Harry C. Moore and Stanley M. Ross were the first to ever make and market milk-based infant formula.

The national field sales team at Ross drives product sales through physician relationships and the distribution of samples to physicians at clinics and hospitals in their geographies. Ross’ ability to distribute information and receive immediate market input from field interactions is crucial to its sales and marketing efforts but was limited by an old paper-based system that prevented quick
dissemination. Delays could last up to six weeks or more from the time of a visit. In addition, Ross’ reps didn’t have full-time connectivity, so they needed offline productivity to capture the most up-to-date information and a sync solution to keep them productive.

Led by its business systems manager, Alger Waller, and driven with the support of Richard Marasco, general manager for pediatric nutrition, Ross turned to Adesso Systems to automate its field sales process with a mobile application that could eliminate paperwork and enable instant data capture and reporting to support strategic decision making for marketing effectiveness.

“A couple of years ago there was a change in senior management and a change in the expectations
of timeliness in turning around information,” says Waller. “They wanted to see quicker turnaround. They needed visibility into marketing promotions and what was going on out in the field.”

Ross wanted to move pretty quickly, so it did a bit of research and found very few options that met its criteria, the most pressing of which was that it didn’t want to write code from scratch. “We wanted an integrated solution that let us access information from the Web,” says Waller.
Through Adesso Systems’ Professional Services offering, two Ross representatives were trained on the solution over three days. Having successfully learned how to use the Adesso Platform, these representatives trained the remaining users and managers on a territory-by-territory rollout. The implementation was very successful. The end-user application was developed in five weeks and deployed to nearly 600 geographically dispersed field users in less than three months. “It really only took a few months from start to finish to develop the application and pick hardware,” notes Waller.

Ross chose Dell Axim X5 Pocket PCs for its sales reps. “Most enterprise solutions providers have invested in the Pocket PC platform due to integration with backend systems, so we had no choice but to pursue Pocket PC. Dell entered the market with a low-price unit that was half the price of its competitors, so we picked it,” says Nick Iammartino, acting director of public affairs.

“Training was a challenge,” says Waller, “because sales people are scattered across 49 states. We used the train-the-trainers approach, organized by districts. Since it was the first exposure to a PDA for many sales reps, the hardest part was getting over the hump of the Pocket PC interface—that and the fear of Big Brother and resistance to the cultural change. Learning the application was straightforward and easy.” Cultural bugaboos aside, continues Waller, “We really got 100 percent compliance after rollout very quickly.”

Users go about their daily routes and sync the data at the end of the day. “For now, that is enough. Our sales model doesn’t require instant wireless transmission or that degree of immediacy,” says Waller.

Ever since the deployment, “senior management is ecstatic and remains so. They have better access and control over the information,” notes Waller. “Being able to keep track of activity and product status, capture info on a timely basis and assess relative value on using investments was a huge benefit.”

Some of the tangible benefits enjoyed by Ross include: a 98 percent adoption rate; eliminated paperwork; instant data capture and reporting; a 30 percent gain in sample tracking efficiency; 3 million records synced at a rate of 10,000 per day; and ROI in six months.

Overall, the Adesso platform makes it easier for the Ross sales and marketing team to closely target the best industry influencers for each product and to track the effectiveness of its overall success. “Not only are we saving time and money and getting more visibility into our business than ever before,” says Waller, “but we are providing a real-time link between marketing promotion and sales execution. This assists the whole team in maximizing performance, and it helps Ross to compete in a very fast-moving market.”•
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