iPad CRM Mobilizes AgReliant Genetics' Sales

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Mobile CRM is helping the seed company be more agile in its sales process and led to more robust customer database.
Gold: Sales Force Effectiveness

Business Boost: By introducing a mobile CRM system, AgReliant Genetics has increased usage and achieved growth.

Sales representatives have one of the most important roles in an organization. For many customers, they are the main contact to the brand and are instrumental in ensuring that customers become regulars and advocates for the company through excellent and personalized service.

Seed company AgReliant Genetics, recognizes the crucial role that the organization's 300 specialized sales representatives have in forging a great relationship with their customer base of farmers, dealers, and retailers. The organization has been working hard to improve the sales call experience for both the company and its customers and also increase the efficiency of the sales process. The company's business leaders were cognizant of the need for a robust CRM solution that was accessible to the sales representatives even while on the road, which is where they spend an inordinate amount of their time, each travelling an average of 35,000 miles per year to service their territories.

AgReliant Genetics, which was formed in 2000 and markets five product brands in corn and soybean states in the Midwest, was collecting information about its customers and prospects in its CRM system, through which the company was also managing seed orders, scoring prospects to ensure a better sales cycle, and automating marketing campaigns. However, for sales representatives to make the most out of the system, they needed to carry their laptops to client meetings, which are often held in fields. This was impractical, notes Steve Thompson, AgReliant Genetics' director of IT. Connectivity in remote areas was sometimes challenging and it was cumbersome for sales reps to boot up their laptops, hold the machine, and input the needed data while continuing with the conversation. The company didn't mandate that reps use the system. "Instead, we expected to show the sales force the benefits of using a CRM system," Thompson says. But only 5 percent were inputting customer data.

Eager to find a solution that made sense, Thompson's team started looking into mobile CRM and decided to invest in a customized Sage SalesLogix iPad app that gives easy and secure on-the-go access. "The computer had to feel like one was carrying around a paper notebook, which would allow them to use it while standing up," Thompson says. The device also needed to be functional without a keyboard and allow them to voice record data. Regional sales teams who were shown the iPad system immediately recognized how this could help them with their daily business activities and the company kicked off a pilot project in December 2011, allowing Thompson's team to gather feedback from both users and customers who were exposed to the device's use for sales purposes. The system was deployed to all 300 sales representatives six months later.

The success of the mobile CRM solution was apparent from the beginning, allowing sales representatives to be more agile in their work and present a professional appearance. The voice-to-text note logging feature proved to be extremely helpful to reps, allowing them to speak out the notes from their meeting rather than type them in, increasing the amount of recorded sales activities. "[The company's regional and brand managers] were amazed how well it worked, so from that point forward the managers knew there was no excuse for a salesperson not to enter sales activities. That was our big shift moment."

With sales reps calling on up to 300 farmers every year, they need a good planning system to be as efficient as possible. The app includes a planning map which leverages Google Maps' technology and uses color-coded pins to visually show each account's current acreage, how recently a particular farmer has purchased seed, and each farm's unique agronomic specifications, like soil type. Thompson notes that sales reps wanted to start using it right away after the demonstration. "This reaction was a first to me."

Sales reps can choose a number of different views, for example a sales status view indicates the status of each opportunity within the sales process of each account, including pending orders, shipping status, and follow-up. Different colored pins are used on the map to give reps an at-a-glance view of different factors, like the size of each opportunity based on previous orders. Reps are also able to see each farmer's position within the sales funnel, giving them informed knowledge about who they should be calling on next. They're also able to see which farmers were included in specific marketing campaigns.

Adoption of the CRM solution has increased drastically and is now being used by 95 percent of sales employees. This facilitates sales interactions and the company is benefitting from consistent and accurate forecasting and sales stage reporting since more reps are actively recording their notes. AgReliant Genetics has also seen an increase in customer satisfaction since the solution is helping sales reps deliver a more personalized service-a crucial element in the company's strategy that seeks to understand and address the individual needs of its customers. "Every farm and farmer can have their own unique needs, so it's all about delivering a personalized solution for them," he notes. The brand that utilized the new system most is all set for a 25 percent growth this year, compared to 5 percent for AgReliant Genetics' other four brands. "I believe we're just starting to scratch the surface on improving customer satisfaction with our new system," Thompson says.

Having information at their fingertips is helping sales employees reduce wasted travel time since they can prioritize visits to the largest sales opportunities. Further, accurate information is helping regional sales manager identify coaching opportunities for individual sales employees. "Overcoming the customers' issues or objections is probably how we can best serve them," Thompson says.

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