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Digital Door-to-Door

10/18/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

When Suddenlink Communications
wanted to expand
its door-to-door sales program
last year — from scratch, essentially
— the MSO was thinking
about mobile gadgets, not polo
shirts.

The operator wanted to avoid
the inefficiencies of the age-old
way of drumming up business by
ringing doorbells. “We were looking
for a new way to execute an
old strategy,” MSO chief marketing
offi cer Jerry Dow said. “Selling
door-to-door as a technique is
as old as cable.”

To build a door-to-door sales
system that met its needs, Suddenl
ink contracted with a
hometown software vendor, St.
Louis-based Realtime Results.
Together, the companies developed
a mobile sales platform,
called Open Door, that lets sales
agents in the field use BlackBerry
devices to automatically see
which house they’re supposed to
visit next, log their results and enter
orders.

That’s in contrast to the way
door-to-door sales traditionally
have been managed, where
agents are handed printouts of
leads in the morning and then fan
out into a neighborhood. In that
scenario, “There’s a lack of visibility
into all aspects of the sales
channel,” Realtime Results CEO
John Santangelo said. “You don’t
know if you are losing leads.”

Added Dow, “It seemed like
some of the old problems and
old baggage could be solved with
technology.”

With Open Door, Suddenlink
managers now are able to track
every piece of the sales process.
For example, they can monitor
in real time which doors
the reps have knocked on and
where they have made sales,
tracking the location of agents
using GPS to map exactly where
each person is.

Another key feature of the
system is that it allows the field
agents to wirelessly enter orders,
which are instantly sent to Realtime
Results’ back-office system,
eliminating the need for the
reps to phone in the information.
Within 30 minutes, a customer-
service representative calls
the customer back, confi rms the
order, enters it into the billing
system and schedules the installation
— a process that used to
take as long as three days.

“Now, the customer feels better,
because some real, second
person just called [him or her],”
Dow said.

The results of the initial Open
Door rollout: Suddenlink was
able to increase the number of
sales reps in the field from approximately
20 to 150 in six
months — and saw sales per representative
jump 20%.

Suddenlink began testing the system in early 2009 and rolled
it out in earnest at the beginning
2010 in two of its five regions: in
west Texas and in the “Texoma”
region (which includes parts of
Oklahoma).

The MSO hopes to widen the
deployment of Open Door across
its entire footprint in the next several
months.

Because the system has established
uniform protocols for
door-to-door sales across the regions
where Suddenlink has deployed
the tool, the company has
been able to develop more accurate
measures for tracking sales
results.

Some agents used to doing it
the old way weren’t fans of Open
Door, Dow conceded: “They
didn’t like us knowing where they
are, when they start work, when
they end work and whether they
make sales.”

But others, particularly
younger field reps, took to the
new system and discovered that
it allowed them to be far more
productive. Noted Dow, “This allows
our salespeople to do more
selling and less back-office work.”

Realtime Results now has
pilots underway with three
broadband providers and two
energy providers and is looking
to branch out into other sectors,
including home security.

Of course, there are limits to
the technology. Sales is still a relationship-
based business, and it
takes people skills to get a foot in
the door in the first place and then
win someone’s business. “That’s
where the agent’s professionalism
comes into play,” Dow said.

At the same time, that 30-minute
call-back capability goes a
long way toward establishing
Suddenlink’s credibility in the
eyes of a new customer, he said:
“That’s as useful to us as anything
else, because Suddenlink just did
what we promised we would do
— it validated the action that just
happened.”

 

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