With budgets and staffing stretched thin, jan/san distributors must create new efficiencies to remain competitive. For help, many use enterprise resource planning, or ERP software, to streamline business practices.

Newer versions of ERP are more comprehensive than ever, managing most day-to-day activities of a distributorship. They also include applications to boost productivity among sales staff and management.

ERP software can be installed on a salesperson's laptop or smartphone to provide on-the-go access to a wealth of data. When a sales rep logs into the system, he or she can find complete information about each of his or her accounts. In a matter of seconds, the rep can also check inventory, stay abreast of price changes and schedule deliveries.

The software also can further simplify the sales process by making reps more proactive. An ERP program can anticipate any customer's needs based on order history and automatically prompt a salesperson to ask about reorders.

Using this system, salespeople can capture complete contact information for potential and current accounts as well as track and monitor their communication with these customers. The software prompts reps to record in an activity log the details and deadlines of any quote or conversation. The logs can then be used to create a daily to-do list that also includes any company-related tasks, such as staff meetings.