Sales reps and agencies have a daunting task in needing to sell multiple product lines from multiple manufacturers. A big headache for these reps is managing all their different product catalogs from multiple manufacturers, including constant price and model changes. Some reps may even say it’s the most tedious and difficult part of their job.
What if there was a more straightforward system to manage all this information? What would it look like, what should it be able to do and what benefits would it provide?
What would a sales catalog management system look like?
It would be a fully computer based product catalog system that could be effectively managed and automatically updated for price and model changes. With the ease of creating .pdf files of any printed material, virtually every bit of product information created can be converted to an electronic file and added to such a system
It would be online and available at all times
It would be under the complete control of the rep or sales agency
It would be completely secure, but updates would be easy to perform either manually or through data imports
What should it be able to do?
Provide item numbers and descriptions
Deliver different prices depending on the customer, the product or the quantity purchased.
Allow for viewing images of products
Have links to other information about products, such as information on a manufacturer’s website
Information in the online catalog should be able to be updated automatically. Also, updating should be able to done to an individual item or on a mass basis by allowing for complete replacement of all data for a group of products.
Allow for the grouping of products into categories and sub-categories. Also, it should allow for products to be grouped into more than one category or sub-category.
Ideally, it would be linked to a sales quote to order management system
What would the benefits be?
The rep would have all products for all the companies he represents in one place
Errors would be reduced as updates to information would be managed much more efficiently and effectively. The following errors would be greatly reduced:
Basic pricing errors
Price breaks at specific quantities would be not be missed
Items on sale would be clearly visible and therefore, more easily promoted by the sales force
Obsolete or inactive Items would no longer appear in the online catalog
Dramatically less time spent juggling catalog information. Products would be easy to find.
It would be much easier for manufacturers and reps to have their product information match exactly
Software tools are available now (or soon will be) that can do all of these things. It will develop rapidly and it’s because the technology to easily store data, link to data and simply leave information in an available area on the internet where others can find it, is so prevalent. All that is needed is an internet connection. Another big development is the rise in use of hosted software, where users can just rent specialty software on a monthly basis and use it right over the internet, instead of having to buy and maintain the software themselves. Intelligent tools are there for those who recognize their value. That is how I see this arena developing and it’s going to lead to a dynamic and fast moving future as even the little guy will be able to have the same software horsepower as his much more established big company rivals.
By John Hester