STAMFORD, Conn. -- Mott's North America this week begins formal training of its field sales people in the use of a new sales automation system.
"We have completed a pilot program with our Western zone sales team, and [on Oct. 20] held a kick-off meeting for our national sales organization," said Bob O'Brien, vice president of information technology at Mott's North America here, a division of Cadbury Beverages.
The company has installed a system called FastTrack from Fastech Inc., Broomall, Pa., which employs client-server computer technology to allow many individuals in different locations to access information from a central database. The concept, which has wide application to field sales organizations, is also sometimes called distributed computing.
Mott's 50 or so field management people have been equipped with notebook computers and will begin using the system immediately to tap into the database and for retail call reporting, O'Brien said. The company's brokers will follow.
"The primary benefit of the system is that it will enable them to spend more time with customers," he said. "It will add greater value to the retailer-manufacturer relationship with up-to-date, pertinent information, so we can be a category manager for our customers. We want our customers to look to us to help them make the right shelving, merchandising, and promotion decisions."
Mott's go-to-market system is organized into five zones, each with a manager, located in Stamford, Chicago, Orange County, Calif., Dallas and Atlanta. Each zone manager has between five and eight region managers who in turn supervise the brokers. The company has a direct sales force in Canada.
O'Brien said the company gave 486-class laptop computers out to its field people about a year ago, equipping and training them to use electronic mail, word processing and other basic software. The Fastech software is designed to work on those machines.
"The primary things the Fastech system does include daily sales information, share information, audit information and some promotion-tracking. We will be able to do trade promotion planning and tracking -- that will be happening next year," he said.
Mott's buys daily data from Information Resources Inc., and has invested aggressively in in-house category management capabilities.
The West Coast test included Mott's Phoenix and Los Angeles area brokers, O'Brien said. Plans call for linking all its brokers to the network and giving them access to appropriate levels of information.
While Mott's is extending its software capabilities to its brokers, it is leaving the issue of hardware up to them.
"We are encouraging them to make an investment in Mott's and in the technology. We are looking for them to share with us in the benefits of this investment."
Mott's brokers will use the information to check category status, price changes and promotions. They also relay information about displays, shelf position and orders back to headquarters.
With its broker force equipped with computer technology, Mott's expects to be able to use them for tasks like tracking a shelving program or other information-gathering. These tasks would have previously been done using paper reporting, which causes a time lag in information flow.
"What this is all about is we want to speed up the decision-making process, and provide quicker access to information. We feel we will have more reliable information as well," he said.