Web Plus: Online tool strengthens distributor's sales force

Online collaboration tool helps distributor’s sales reps find cost savings for packagers.

Afflink, a group of more than 500 independent distributors, including about 170 distributors of packaging machines and materials, recently developed a collaborative and web-based sales force automation tool called iSys.

Designed to support continuous-improvement efforts at customer locations, iSys helps identify cost-saving opportunities for customers. All activities related to such an opportunity, and the savings realized from the continuous-improvement efforts, are captured by iSys so they can be documented and shown to the customer. The Web-based system is said to be especially good at enabling Afflink distributors to bring cost-saving opportunities to multi-unit customers across North America.

Among the early adopters of iSys is Shippers Supply Co. An Afflink member based in Louisville, KY, Shippers Supply handles primarily end-of-line materials such as stretch wrap, shrink wrap, and tape, as well as the equipment that applies them. Coding and marking throughout packaging and manufacturing lines is also the firm’s area of expertise.

“Before we began using iSys,” says Henry Camp, president of Shippers Supply, “we had no good way of tracking a sales person’s activity. Now we do. And not just one sales person’s activity, but the activity of all 18 sales people. Because it’s a Web-based system easily accessed by each of our sales people, they can bench mark against each other and gain a clearer idea of just how well they’re doing.”

A user name and password are required to access the system. For each person given access, Shippers Supply pays Afflink a fee. “Annually, the cost is less than half of what most sales-contact management software systems would cost,” says Camp.

Camp acknowledges that the activity tracked via iSys could also be tracked in more traditional and less Web-enabled ways. But he finds a Web-based system is far more efficient.

“Suppose sales representative John Doe makes a call and realizes a customer is using a stretch film that only stretches 72%,” says Camp. “John knows there’s a film that stretches 300%, and he also knows the equipment that’s needed to handle it. What iSys provides is a clean, easy-to-comprehend mechanism for presenting such cost-savings opportunities to customers. John doesn’t have to work up a proposal. He simply goes online, signs in, and prints a report right there in the customer’s office. It’s easy and it requires virtually no training. And because it’s accessible via the Web, anybody who is authorized can use it.”

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