The days of only placing and receiving calls on cell phones have gone by the wayside.

Over the last couple of years conventional cell phones have received major facelifts, including a variety of features that have helped streamline a salesperson’s day-to-day operation.

Basic cell phones have evolved into personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones, which give salespeople the option to take a picture, record a voice message or video, input contact information, keep a schedule of tasks and meetings, send text messages, surf the Internet, check and send e-mail, as well as the ability to download customer account information, spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

Having a pocket-sized mobile device with all the bells and whistles is tempting, but for most salespeople in the jan/san industry it still remains to be seen if the justifications associated with these feature-laden devices are practical.

Mobile Office
If used properly, some jan/san distributors say features on mobile devices can result in better efficiency.

For example, Dan Ott, co-owner of Chicago-based Facility Supply Systems, recently outfitted his company’s sales staff with cell phones that have the option to take and send pictures. Utilizing the picture phones, Ott says, has been a boon in solving end users’ equipment and cleaning problems.

“We can take pictures of areas and situations and send that to the manufacturer to let them know the area they’re dealing with rather than trying to describe it over the phone,” he explains. “Having the capability of taking a snapshot can really save a lot of back and forth because the manufacturer can eyeball it and see what we’re talking about.”

The voice recorder is also an option one of Ott’s salesman sees as an added benefit. Making sure he doesn’t forget something important, the salesman records voice memos on his cell phone that can be referred to at a later time.

Salespeople also like that mobile devices offer the ability to download customer information while away from the office.

Jerry Garbett, general manager of Arkansas Bag & Equipment, Little Rock, Ark., says his salesmen’s PDAs serve as their price books in the field. With PDAs, his salesmen are able to download each customer’s account while on the road.

“We can go into a customer and we’ve got their items that they’re buying, prices and their pricing formulas,” he notes.

But while most distributors view mobile devices as an added benefit to their businesses, they also say the devices have their disadvantages.

Bogged Down
It’s important for a salesperson not to get too bogged down in relying on all the features a mobile device offers.

“A cell phone is just a tool,” Ott says. “It doesn’t actually do your job for you. You have to still do it. You still have to put in the appointment, the account information, and do the task. It’s easier to be organized, but you still have to have some organizational skills yourself.”

Bill Nourse, president of Brookmeade Hardware & Supply Co., Nashville, Tenn., says because of all of the features a BlackBerry smartphone offers, he views it as a burden to his sales staff.

“I deliberately won’t buy a BlackBerry for my guys in the field because I don’t want anybody to be able to e-mail them or text message them,” he says.

Nourse also says because most features a mobile device offers, a salesperson is more apt to skip sales calls and communicate in some form with their mobile device instead.

“They have the capacity to do that all day long now with cellular technology in the field,” he says. “We all know it goes on, so therefore, the primary function they have of putting a face in front of a customer gets short circuited.”

Anytime, Anywhere?
Because cell phones have promoted immediate contact, distributors say end users have the perception that salespeople should be available at anytime and anywhere. That however, is a common misconception.

“I tell our salesmen to pick up if they can,” Ott says. “But by the same token, if they’re in front of a customer, that customer is the most important person at that moment. So if a salesman gets a call when in a meeting or doing a presentation, they should let it go to voicemail. And then as soon as they get to a place where they can talk then they call back.”

Ott also hopes customers consider his salesmen’s safety.

“I don’t want my salesperson crashing their car while trying to take an order while on the expressway,” he says. “Sometimes it’s better to use the communication tool and say, hey, would you mind calling my office and giving them the order. If you have a question, I’m glad to answer it but I can’t take down your order right at this moment because I’m driving. So we try to be a little smarter about that.”

Proper cell phone etiquette, such as knowing when to turn it off should also be considered.

“You’re kind of tied to a cord all the time,” Garbett says. “I’ve got to the point now, where while I’m with customers, I will turn my cell phone to vibrate, turn it off or just leave it in the car. Sometimes you just want privacy and the cell phone kind of takes that away from you.”

Garbett is a proponent for using cell phones as much as possible as a way of communicating. At the same time, however, he says customers shouldn’t rely so heavily on instant gratification.

“Customers have gotten so used to rapid response,” he notes. “There are times when we need to get a hold of a manufacturer or a rep and sometimes it’s a day or so until we can get a definitive answer. Sometimes it just takes time to get the correct answer.”


CleanHound Now Offers A Distributor Search
CleanHound search engine,, now features a distributor search function. Building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house service providers (ISPs) can search for a jan/san distributor in their area and get contact information or locate Web sites for specific distributors.

If distributors don’t see their company listed they can check the “Get Listed” button and send in the appropriate URL..

Unger Gets A New Look
Unger Enterprises Inc. recently launched its new Web site,, featuring innovative solutions and a variety of informational resources to help cleaning professionals clean smarter.

From restrooms to windows, the new Web site makes it easy for customers to find information about all of Unger’s products.

The site also offers valuable educational resources such as Unger’s latest training videos that offer step-by-step instructions.

Customers can also view information on upcoming seminars, find out about workshops and print out training materials such as wall charts and brochures to help ease the training process and improve worker efficiency.

ASHES Launches New Web Site
The American Society for Healthcare Environmental Services (ASHES) has redesigned its Web site,

The new look is designed to reflect broad membership and represent all aspects of the environmental and support services professions.

The site provides a redesigned membership directory; corporate business directory; login features; newer, faster and easier to use search bar powered by Google; easier navigation; and a site map for better access to information and content.