A new tool that works with a dealership's information management system will allow managers to keep track of a customer's progress through the sales process.

Manhattan Projects LLC this fall will introduce a product called SalesMan CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Its designers say it offers a "never-before-seen level of showroom control and customer tracking for dealerships."

It's one of three information technology tools Manhattan has introduced in recent years.

Using hand-held devices and keypads strategically placed through the dealership and its lots, SalesMan will collect customer information, track the progress of the sale and prompt the sales person about when to move from one step in the sales process to the next.

Information will be collected and transmitted to the DMS when salespeople make entries at certain stages of the process.

Says Mike Sage, founder and CEO of Torrance, CA-based company. "Managers can track how long it takes sales people to perform each part of the sales process and find out where they're having problems.

"If you can't follow the salespeople, you can't manage them," says Mr. Sage who also co-owns Glendale Infiniti and Glendale Nissan in Glendale, CA.. "That's a big problem in automotive retailing.

"All the information is gathered and goes right into the Reynolds & Reynolds or ADT system," he adds. "You never have to enter it again."

Managers can get hourly, daily, weekly or monthly sales staff performance reports. They can even get real-time up-to-the-minute reports. Mr. Sage says SalesMan is web-based, so managers can look at a computer screen, see a map of the dealership and know where every salesperson is and where they are in the process with a customer. The screen even shows if a customer and salesperson are on a test drive and how long they've been gone.

"It's completely tailorable and is designed to be installed no matter what sales system the customer uses," says Mr. Sage.

When SalesMan hits the market, it will round out Manhattan Projects' portfolio of information technology products for dealerships.

The first was RepairTalk CRM. Introduced in 1994, this interactive voice-response server interfaces with a store's DMS to allow customers to check the status of their vehicle using an automated answering system.

If personal attention is required, the system transfers the call to service writers where a screen "pop" gives them complete access to the customer's service files.

ServiceMan CRM debuted early this year. It is a hand-held device that creates a link between manufacturer information and a dealership's DMS.

Service writers are equipped with a pocket-sized hand-held computer that scans a customer's vehicle identification number (VIN) and quickly builds a repair order.

The system queries the DMS and accesses the manufacturers service communications system for warranty information, service campaigns and recalls. All of this takes place while the service writer stays with the customer at his or her vehicle.

Mr. Sage says, "Our number-one focus is that we must integrate seemlessly with the ADP or Reynolds and Reynolds box. That gives us the capability to pull live data in real time.

"Our second focus is to automate processes without changing the process. If a product does not currently integrate, it requires a change in the process, which requires training and cost and lessens utilization.

"Our third focus is cost effectiveness and the return on investment must be immediate. And if you focus on number one, you get two and three automatically."