Palm-top computers for selecting agricultural tires

In Italy, hand held technology is helping agricultural tire dealers by providing an easily accessible database of tire specifications.

In a market where performance is more decisive than price alone, this is a welcome innovation. Farmers lives are never easythey have to contend with the forces of nature and with politics, crop prices, exchange rate fluctuations and shifting consumer trends. Life is not easy for agricultural tire dealers either. They are affected by all their clients problems and need to keep up-to-date on an ever expanding inventory of products developed to meet the needs of the increasingly sophisticated tractors, trailers and other farm equipment on which their tires are mounted.

Trelleborg Wheel Systems alone offers 600 different products for the agricultural market, ranging from three to 46 inches in diameter. Since different sizes of tire are used at the front and back of the vehicle, the technical information required for a single sale is formidable.

So, for a tire dealer like Agostino Provana of Provana Gomme Srl, one of Trelleborgs top Italian customers, the main problem isnt so much selling the product as in managing the sale. Anything a supplier can do to help him commands his attention and earns his respect.

In 2004, Paolo Fogagnolo, the Trelleborg Wheel Systems country manager for Italy and Greece, set out to do just that by initiating the development of software containing technical data for Trelleborg Wheel Systems products, packaging this in a Palm One Zire 31 and presenting the device to 60 key Trelleborg clients in Italy, including Agostino Provana. The database includes information about tire speeds, sizes, pressure loads, technical features and load indices.

When I received this on 13 January, at first I thought it was the usual holiday gift, said Provana, But this is as brisk as a winter wind. Its not the Palm Pilot in itself but the database Trelleborg has developed, which is something we have been considering for a while. When I visit clients, I have to be prepared with answers because my clients today are very prepared. The Palm Pilot solves the problem of managing our large number of products. It eliminates 80 percent of the sweat in a sale.

Palm for performance
We sell on product performance. Performance means providing more information to our clients, offering local sites with advice, direct access to our server and, most recently, a services marketing program called Amici per la Terra (Friends of the Earth), including courses, documentation and marketing support. In this context, the Palm Pilot is an added-value differentiator, and it has been very effective, priming key customers for the next step, he said.

Provana views this version as a starting point. The next thing he would like to see added is a price list. Then he hopes for more technical information and perhaps a GPS system, because, he said, Our salesmen have to visit remote countryside locations and its easy to get lost. Fogagnolo reports that his counterparts in other countries are following the success of the Palm Pilot with interest, and the database has already been translated into English.

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