Jim Schwertner, president of Capitol Land and Livestock, says he has improved his telemarketing staff's productivity thanks to clever use of the World Wide Web. Every day, Schwertner's cattle-brokering business, which has about 100 employees, buys 1,500 head of cattle at auctions and trucks them back to headquarters in Schwertner, Tex. (named for his great-grandfather). By day's end, all 1,500 are gone -- sold by five telemarketers, in lots of about 100 animals each, to ranchers and feed yards.
In the past those salespeople had to spend several minutes of each call describing the day's offerings to cattle buyers. Now Schwertner's telemarketers let customers do their own visual inspection on the company's Web site, which contains enlargeable photos of each of the lots of cattle. (Schwertner's controller takes the photos each morning using a digital camera.)
Schwertner says that about a third of his company's 400 regular clients refer to the Web site during calls. And Schwertner's staff members find that they can close their Web-supported sales calls within roughly half the customary time. The time they save is important because the company turns its inventory every day; as a result, Capitol Land and Livestock can generally get better prices if its salespeople can reach more prospects.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan