Order Writing Apps: The Before & After Story

Chris Layne
June 26, 2015

Order writing apps, wholesale commerce technology, sales order management software...whatever you want to call it, digital mobile order writing solutions are changing the way wholesale sales reps serve their customers. The sales visits of the past were largely transactional, with sales reps working with retailers to write an order down on paper. Today, these sales conversations are becoming increasingly strategic, with sales reps acting as more of a business partner than a salesperson. Let’s take a look at what a store visit looked like before the advent of the mobile sales order writing app, and what they’re beginning to look like today.

Order Writing Apps: What Store Visits Looked Like Before & After

Step 1. Preparing for the Meeting

Before: In the days of paper and pen, sales reps on the road would prepare for store visits by gathering their samples, catalogs, brochures, and order forms for the meeting. The sales rep might have a vague idea of what the retailer ordered during the last visit, or have to pull out their laptop to look up the information before leaving the hotel. After: To prepare for a meeting with an order writing application in hand, sales reps need only grab their tablet. On the device, they have all the information they need stored and accessible offline. Sales reps can quickly swipe through the app to check customer order history. With just a few minutes on their tablet, they know what products to suggest, what the latest bestsellers are, and what is and isn’t in stock.

Step 2. Showing Products

Before: After dragging a suitcase overflowing with product samples into the store, sales reps would be able to present their lines to the customer. This process involved price sheets and product catalogs, many of which could be outdated, as new products were added or old products were discontinued. In this scenario, a sales rep might unknowingly sell a product that’s no longer available, requiring the customer service team to call the customer after the meeting and notify them that their order can’t be shipped complete. Sales reps might also have difficulty selling products that don’t have images in the catalog, or be unable to let the customer know whether or not a certain product is in stock. If the company is selling hundreds or thousands of SKUs, this process can be extremely overwhelming. After: With all information managed from a central web order management portal, sales reps are always on the same page as headquarters. If products are added or removed, those updates automatically sync with reps’ devices in the field. To show products, sales reps can work with customers on a tablet, swiping through a digital catalog for a much faster way to browse. High resolution images are available for each product, and they’re easily searchable. Reps can also scan a barcode to pull up a particular product. With the time and efficiency gained in this process, sales reps can take the time to have a real dialog with the customer, educating them about products and how they can increase sell-through.

Step 3. Entering the Order

Before: The process of physically writing an order on pen and paper could take an agonizingly long time. Reps have to collect customer contact information, look up pricing, manually apply customer-specific discounts, and write a new line item for every color or size variant. When the order is finally written, the customer might receive a faded pink carbon copy, or no order confirmation at all until the order is entered into the ERP. After: The order writing process is an ongoing conversation. Products can be added to an order in just a few quick taps, right as the products are being shown to the customer. Customer specific pricing is automatically applied to the order, and the customer’s information is already stored in the database. Variants can also be added quickly and easily. Before the appointment is even over, the customer can receive an order confirmation email with product details and images, so they can see exactly what they ordered.

Step 4. After the Meeting: Submitting the Order for Fulfillment

Before: To submit an order on paper, sales reps needed to hold onto that order form for dear life. If the sales rep lost the form for some reason, there would be no record of the order––disaster. To submit the order to the back office, sales reps might have to go to the hotel to find a fax machine, enter the order manually into an ERP on their laptop, put it into an excel spread sheet, or scan and email it. In the back office, that order would then have to be read and manually entered into the system for fulfillment. If a sales rep doesn’t have time to enter the orders in every night of the week, they may be submitted late, leading to fulfillment delays. After: After completing and confirming the order, there’s no extra step to submit the order for fulfillment. The order is instantaneously synced with back office systems once connected to the internet. How’s that for a new way of doing things?