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DATA ON AIR ON TRACK TO TRAIN RETAILERS

Most wireless carriers haven’t been successful in marketing wireless data products in retail outlets because the people selling the products and service haven’t been properly trained.

Data On Air Inc. hopes to change all that.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company is offering a new course that focuses on the needs of the retail cellular sales representative. Ameritech Cellular Services is the first carrier to adopt the program.

“The cellular industry has built its business on serving the voice customer,” said Cynthia Cotteta, director of business development for Data On Air. “Now it needs to address cellular data products. The average cellular retail person needs to get educated.”

The course, “Selling Wireless Data in Retail,” explains the fundamentals for sending data over wireless networks, provides information on the cellular modems available for sending data using cellular phones and provides time for hands-on experience, said the company.

“PC card cellular modems are now relatively plug and play so they can be successfully promoted by cellular carriers in their retail stores. The fundamental concept of using a modem to send data over wireless as compared to landline can be explained in rather simple terms. The cellular retail sales staff must learn to convey this to customers in order for these products to be accepted on a broad scale,” said Cotteta.

“The retail channel is a new distribution channel for wireless data, and it’s different from a corporate climate,” said Rob Litrento, manager of distribution and channel marketing for Ameritech Cellular Services. “The retail customer is in the area for only 10 to 20 minutes.”

Ameritech plans to offer the course in all of its markets. The company recently introduced its first retail wireless data product, MobilePartner, a cellular-capable modem that includes a direct connect cable plug that can be used with a laptop computer. The product, which is used on the company’s circuit-switched network, retails for about $269, said Litrento.

“We want to be able to offer [wireless data] service to all customer segments. A good channel to reach is the horizontal user,” said Litrento. “We realized we needed to provide special training on how to communicate the benefits to horizontal users.”

The hurdle in marketing wireless data products to retail customers is lack of knowledge, said Litrento. “In general, people think the capability of the technology is fairly low, and once they do realize and see a demonstration, this eliminates the barriers,” he said.

“Carriers really haven’t gone out there to train reps on how to feel confident enough to talk about it,” she said. “Pricing has come down so the modem isn’t much more expensive than a landline modem, and it can be sold as an accessory. Many carriers now have modem gateways.”

Data On Air is a Motorola Inc. authorized wireless data training center. Its products and service offerings include wireless data training courses and customized education programs, reseller channel development services, telemarketing and industry seminar production.

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