Lincoln takes CRM on the road with SAP mobile

With a rollout of SAP for Mobile Sales and a tablet PC deployment, Lincoln Electric transformed its sales system and processes.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- When John Goetz moved over from sales to IT to help launch a mobile sales effort and refocus the sales methodology at Lincoln Electric Holdings Inc., a Cleveland, Ohio-based manufacturer of welding equipment, he knew it was going to be a challenge from the start.

"Reps had their own contact management tools," Goetz said at the SAP Sapphire user conference held last week. "When I started, I was just given a stack of business cards. I didn't know a million-dollar customer from one who bought one welder."

So, two years ago, Lincoln and Goetz, systems development manager for the company, set about revamping sales operations with three key strategies: focusing on the end user, maximizing relationships with distributors (which account for 80% of Lincoln's business), and selling profitably.

The road to success lay on the road. Lincoln launched a mobile sales initiative based on SAP's CRM for Mobile Sales 4.0, Enterprise Portal 6.0, Business Warehouse 3.5, Human Resources 4.6, and a widespread tablet PC deployment.

Lincoln's existing customer database was based on a disconnected Lotus Notes system, with reps using their own contact management tools and repeatedly entering information into Microsoft Excel and Word documents for reporting.

"It was monotonous, redundant and you really couldn't go back and see the history," Goetz said. "We couldn't manage what we didn't measure."

Goetz had his own memories of entering data into multiple systems, and it was something he was determined to avoid. The system also had to provide a benefit to reps if it was going to succeed, so Goetz made certain there was something that would make their lives easier.

"You gotta give them a 'wow,' " he advised.

That came in the form of an improved travel and expense reimbursement process. Previously, reps would charge expenses to their own credit cards and then be reimbursed by Lincoln. With the new system, reps use a corporate credit card that is charged to Lincoln, but reps must assign expenses to specific customers and activities in the system, which they access through their tablet PCs. Expenses that are not assigned are then withheld from the next paycheck. The new process kept employees from having to front their own expenses while also ensuring that data was entered correctly and in a timely manner, Goetz said. One rep, who typically waited until the end of the month to enter his expenses, was thrilled with the process, which cut the time he spent from hours to minutes.

The system also provides reps with improved opportunity and activity management. Reports are sent directly to reps' tablet PCs, showing their top revenue by customer and how much customers are spending with the competition, without forcing them to dig around SAP's Business Warehouse. Similar reports are sent to management.

As part of the implementation, Lincoln was determined to improve its sales into big accounts rather than focusing on several sales to smaller accounts.

"That's what we're trying to drive -- the quality of sales calls, not the quantity," Goetz said. "The sales reps all got a little scared of this new methodology, but we conveyed how easy it is to use SAP Mobile Sales."

The tablet PC deployment was also critical to the success of the program. Lincoln chose the tablet project partly because it was more cost effective than deploying personal data assistants (PDAs) plus a laptop. It also allowed for real-time data collection. Reps could enter information directly into the tablet after a sales call. It serves as a great presentation tool as well, according to Goetz, who conducted his presentation at Sapphire with his own tablet PC. One company whose business Lincoln had been trying to get into for years was convinced after a tablet presentation.

"They said, 'We think your product is right for us, but we're interested in doing business with you because Lincoln Electric values technology,' " Goetz said.

The tablet PC system also integrates with Microsoft's Streets and Trips application, allowing reps to build maps and directions for sales calls. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Lincoln was able to see which of its most important customers was affected by the disaster by mapping out its customer base.

Clearing mobile roadblocks

The project was not without a hiccup or two along the way. Lincoln quickly learned that data cleansing is critical to the process and any mass data changes to the company's SAP R/3 system resulted in slower performance by the tablets. Additionally, the configuration of the tablet PCs took longer than expected. Goetz had hoped to hand out the tablets in conjunction with several training sessions and configure them over the weekends, but it required some scrambling to get them out in time, he said.

SAP for Mobile Sales also required some configuration because, out of the box, it is created for direct sales. Lincoln had to make some modifications to have it fit its distributor channel.

Lincoln developed a program to win over sales reps to the program as well, issuing a series of video demonstrations and updates on the corporate portal. One video features the senior vice president of sales who served as the executive sponsor for the project.

Finally, Goetz warned against scope creep. The SAP application had lots of functionality Lincoln could use, but that might have delayed the project.

"Track only what's crucial to the business; you've got to keep your eye on the ball," Goetz said. "I knew what I wanted to do before I ever saw the tool."

With a consolidated customer database, reps can now see immediately who the top 30 customers are and their penetration into it when they change territories. No longer are they handed a big stack of business cards, and management has a clearer view into reps' performance and communication with distributors.

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