Keeping up with technology can be a challenge for anyone — particularly for salespeople who are always on the go and may be more interested in maintaining the personal connections so crucial in the business world.

But some would argue that those relationships with vendors, colleagues and customers are the reason why utilizing mobile sales tools and software is so vital for salespeople. Technology is a tool that can be used to streamline important areas of focus for an employee, from communication and measurement to record-keeping and data entry.

Salespeople are the opposite of accounting people, says Brad Bobbitt, sales rep for AmSan, Pennsauken, N.J. — they typically aren’t very good with paperwork. So, one great tool technology provides is tracking of sales and report-creation. From dashboard reports and backorder reports to margin reports and sales reports, a wealth of information is at the fingertips of any salesperson.

“I would say every day when I start out in the morning, I have at least seven reports I can look at,” Bobbitt says. “We also have a report that lets everybody in the whole region know where you are sales-wise, what you were last year and tracks progress.”

These reports and sales tools can help keep in-the-field sales staff on track and energized while creating a little bit of competition internally.

“Some reports let you see how others on your team are doing,” he says. “Salespeople should be competitive.”

Some distributors, like Las Vegas-based Brady Industries Inc., will outfit their staff with certain devices (a laptop and an iPad), while others, like Armchem International Corp. of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., prefer to let their salespeople choose the mobile sales devices that will work best for them.

“It’s an expensive proposition” to provide tablets or smartphones for employees, says Andy Brahms, president. Plus, most of them buy devices they like on their own.

Whatever mobile devices they choose to get there, there are online applications and software that sales staff must use to do their jobs.

“These days, almost everybody has a smartphone, and they can download [information] whether they’re using an iPhone platform or an Android platform,” Brahms says.

Technology supports the sales process, through the ability to show customers a training video during a sales call, to stay on top of product orders and inventory levels, or to allow customers to contact their sales reps at any time.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the relay of information back and forth between sales reps and their customers, says Ryan Banks, vice president of sales and marketing for Brady Industries Inc. Sales software and tools have allowed Brady Industries to raise the level of customer service.

“If you’re not with them, you can use technology to essentially get them that information very quickly with some accompanying information, because of the ability to attach MSDS sheets for chemicals and the ability to attach the schematics to vacuums as far as parts replacement or repairs, the ability to attach a training video on a piece of equipment that you just sold, is essential,” Banks says.

Bobbitt agrees, saying that software and mobile sales tools have helped to shorten the buying cycle and enable reps to close deals more quickly. Also, certain products, such as equipment and chemicals, are much easier to sell with technological accoutrements available today that enhance communication with customers.

Technology is increasingly important for distributors to embrace, and part of that strategy should involve enabling sales staff to be the very best they can be. This means hardware, software and mobile devices should be easy enough for anyone to use, Brahms says.

“We employ technology in a very big way. A ‘broad brush approach’ is an appropriate way of describing it, but no matter what we put into our technology and the types of applications we use, we really try and make them tools that everybody can use,” he says.