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Salespeople scope the Net for leads

At the Field & Sales Force Automation Conference that opened today in San Jose, California, vendors of software for field salespeople focused on using the Web to make sure a sale never gets lost.

The salesman is still alive on the Web.

At the Field & Sales Force Automation Conference that opened today in San Jose, California, vendors of software for field salespeople focused on using the Web to make sure a sale never gets lost.

While much attention has been paid to the potential of home shopping, most sales force automation applications still use standard relational databases. But attendees at the conference this week are getting a look at a new generation of tools designed to take advantage of the Web's communication power to help salespeople track more customers and make more cold calls.

For example, Netscape Communications and Aurum Software announced a partnership to help salespeople generate leads from the Web. Under the partnership, Aurum will bundle Netscape Navigator and Web server software with its SalesTrack sales analysis software and WebTrak Internet Marketing Module, a client/server application that links a company's home page into back-end databases. With the combination, a company can put an HTML form on its home page for customers to fill out. The information then goes back to the company for follow-up by salespeople or telemarketers.

Pricing was not available at deadline.

Netscape will be among the first customers for the new system when it announces tomorrow that it will use the SalesTrack system for its own General Store, a portion of its Web site devoted to selling software over the Net.

"We see [this partnership] as a great opportunity to extend the way we do sales and telemarketing over the Internet," said Mary Coleman, president and CEO of Aurum.

Onyx Software likewise announced two Web Wizards that can be used to connect the Web to the back-end database in its Onyx Customer Center, a client/server system that the company calls a "customer asset management" application.

The Web Wizard for Sales and Marketing, due in March, helps designers define Web forms that link the client to the Customer Center and can be used to fetch product literature, qualify a sales lead, enroll the prospect in a marketing program, or otherwise give the salesperson the information needed to make the sale. The Wizard will cost $15,000 per server.

A similar Wizard for Customer Service is due in May to let customers send queries directly to the Customer Center database about the status of customer service. The company has not yet set a price.

SMART Technologies also wants to help salespeople get online but is aiming its pitch at technology vendors. The company is selling a package of tools called SMART Tools for integrating its sales force automation software with its existing IMT Direct Online Web site or a vendor's own Web site.

The IMT Direct Online site provides a link between a database of some 23,000 technology vendors and their products and a database of some 500,000 corporate buyers. The Web site lets customers assess the products from the Web site without sitting through a demonstration from a salesperson. The sales force automation software then helps the salesperson qualify leads and capture customer information from the activity on the site.

The SMART Tools lineup includes the Library for creating a contact library; Request for online lead generation and qualification; Sell for online secure purchasing; HelpDesk; and Spotlight for creating online advertisements. SMART Tools range from $25,000 for SMART Sell to $180,000 for SMART Request.