Mobile salespeople face a wide variety of headaches, such as difficulty processing orders and accessing up-to-date product and pricing data from company networks while in the field. New York-based ColeConnect aims to solve those problems with its OrderPad 2.0, which allows salespeople to manage every stage of the sales process directly from a Tablet PC.
OrderPad integrates well with Microsoft applications, allowing salespeople to easily access data and resources in other applications. The software also makes excellent use of the Tablet PC's ink capability. Information written with a tablet's stylus can be converted to digital text or preserved as ink, which is useful for capturing customer signatures. The application's handwriting recognition is excellent, and the application provides alternate choices if a word is converted incorrectly. The software can also recognize particular item styles"for example, data input as a phone number or URL will be saved as such and not translated into standard text.
Several editions are available. The OrderPad Professional edition is intended primarily for individual users, and costs $149.99. Also available are the OrderPad Great Plains Edition, which integrates with Microsoft Solutions Great Plains and starts at $4,500 for three client devices; and OrderPad Enterprise, which integrates with the Microsoft SQL Server and costs $2,200 per client. CRN Test Center engineers tested the Professional edition on a Gateway M275 Tablet PC.
OrderPad's sales cycle begins with the creation of a customer entry form. Contact information can be imported from Microsoft Outlook or Windows applications, or input via the stylus or a keyboard. Up to three different addresses and phone numbers can be stored to include different locations for receipt of products, billing information and statements.
From the customer entry form, users can directly launch a new order form that automatically includes information such as the customer's contact info, financial summary and sales history. Comments can be written in a notes area at the bottom of the screen.
Product information such as photographs, pricing details and item availability info can be included in OrderPad's integrated product catalog, eliminating the need to carry bulky samples or paper catalogs. Information can be imported from other applications, typed, written or inputted via a bar-code scanner. The catalog includes a search capability that allows users to locate an item simply by entering the first few characters of its name or number.
Once an item is selected, it is placed directly into the order form, and the user can write or type in the quantity and other fees such as tax and shipping. The application automatically totals the prices of all products and fees. Notes can be written on the form, and the customer's signature can be captured and stored as ink.
A Sync Now icon at the top of the screen allows the order to be uploaded to Excel, Great Plains or SQL Server, depending on the version. The Enterprise Edition also allows users to synchronize their data wirelessly via a cellular WAN card.
Users can organize and view all orders by customer name, order amount or other parameters, which is helpful for tracking the success of particular products, planning sales and measuring performance.
ColeConnect developed a version of the Enterprise Edition specifically for use in lottery organizations, which includes capabilities for salespeople in this industry, such as a route management application and a mileage and expense tracking feature. Test Center engineers would like to see some of the features of the lottery version brought into the other editions, which ColeConnect said it plans to do.
Engineers also think a version of the software for handheld devices would be useful, but the vendor said that it has no plans to create one. Engineers encountered some technical problems during testing, which were unresolved at press time.
ColeConnect provides sales training; integration support over the phone, Web or e-mail; and tech- nical support over e-mail.