As a sales consultant, how can I help the local company that I work for (whose computer system is decades old) make the right choice now that they are planning on introducing tablets to the sales floor?
I’ve been working in sales for almost 4 years at a very large but local furniture store in a rural area. Like many local businesses in this area, they haven’t really stayed up to date on the most current technology. We still use paper sales worksheets to write up our orders, then enter the information in a computer program that is two decades old on computers that are a over a decade old. We have a very slow internet connection, we price out most of our products using paper price books, and our up system was built on the same decades old computer program. Recently our sales managers have partnered with our IT department (two guys who are just trying to keep our dinosaurs, I mean computers, alive and keep our internet connection from crashing) to implement a tablet program for our sales team to use on the floor. They announced this week that two of our managers have been testing a program created by our IT team for several months now and while it’s still in the very early stages, they want 8 salespeople, myself included, to be part of a group to test the functionality of the program on our own tablets.
My excitement quickly turned into disappointment today when they revealed that the program they have been building from scratch since 2011 is a HTML website that looks and functions like it was made in 2001. This program will eventually help us check live inventory, make quotes for the customer, write up an order and send it to our desktop PC’s, as well as integrate into our up system. Let me be honest when I say that this program is so far behind anything tablet friendly today that I just feel like this is an epic waste of time. When I agreed to join the test group, I assumed we would be testing an app of some sort with more features than this. I’m talking about point of sale capabilities on the sales floor, appointment management, barcode scanning, AirPrint, photo sharing capabilities, and a way to manage and email invoices to customers. The whole point of this tablet program is to keep us with our customers, use less paper (we use tons), and make the way we do things more efficient and up to date. The majority of our customers are shopping with smart phones and tablets, they are texting, emailing, and doing more on their mobiles than ever before. I understand that paying a developer to build an app for the company can get expensive, plus then you have to train your employees on how to use it but I just can’t see this being a smart choice.
I am also one of the youngest people in sales at my company (I’m 27 and the majority of my coworkers are aged 45–65) and I’m the only person under 45 in this new test group. I’m am often helping my coworkers adapt to the technology we have that I consider old. I’m still teaching people how to copy and paste, transfer digital photos to a computer, and use our copier/scanner. I also usually help sales with pricing from complicated order books and I get the feeling that I am appreciated as a valuable mentor within the sales staff. I am a part of a mentor program for new sales, I’m very outspoken about my ideas, and I always receive positive responses to my ideas. I know that they wanted me in this test group not only to help our older staff learn the program but also to hear my input on the program and it’s functionality. I keep wondering if they are keeping this program remedial because they are afraid the staff won’t be able to handle anything more advanced, if they are simply trying to save money, if they just aren’t aware of the advances in new technology, or all of the above. In any case I feel obligated to tell someone, more than likely the vp of sales who commissioned the program or the general manager of the store who is also a part of the development process for the program. I plan on working here for at least a few more years so I do want to benefit from the use of new technology. I think this could be a great way to streamline our sales process. Many times we get stuck sitting “in code” for several hours on slow days away from computers with internet access (that’s right, not all the computers in the store that we use have internet access) with no way to respond to email inquires, work on prospecting for clients, or quickly look up prices and inventory for customers that call in.
My question is how can I (and should I) professionally and effectively explain my true opinion on this HTML website that they want me to use on a daily basis? Should I suggest other methods of acquiring a tablet friendly program like purchasing a point of sale app or hiring a developer? Is it my place as a salesperson to offer my advice on what new technology to explore? It’s not like I’m a programmer or anything. I do have a bachelors degree in commercial photography but that’s unrelated. Or should I just stay quiet and try my best to give helpful feedback on what they are developing now? I don’t want to be disrespectful by stepping out of my place in sales but I feel like this needs to be addressed. I also wonder if this could be a great opportunity for me, maybe my manager will like my ideas and give me a place on the development team. I feel very torn. Help.
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