This case study is from TJ Keitt and my social business playbook report, “The Road To Social Business Starts With A Burning Platform.” A social business harnesses mobile technology to empower sales reps in their moments of customer – or in this case, patient – engagement. Here’s the story.

Sales executive Barry Somervell has a passion for arming his team with tools that yield productivity; he believes in the power of technology to transform the selling process. Barry was asked to come into Kindred Healthcare, a $5 billion supplier of post-acute-care services, to energize and modernize its nursing center division's sales process to bring patients into its 224 skilled nursing and transitional care centers. Barry quickly saw that the tools that the "clinical liaisons" carried were lacking. This group of sales professionals, from a clinical or nursing background, needed better ways to collaborate with colleagues and with hospital medical staff to offer the right services to patients about to be discharged and in need of rehabilitation services. You can see Barry and his team in this video.

The problems were subtle but persistent. Even when powered by, Windows Slate computers didn't cut it — the poor connectivity and awkwardness of the device interfered with good engagement with hospital staff and patients and their families. The sales resources were largely paper-based and inconsistently applied. The results of a meeting were often lost in a morass of documentation done online in the evenings from home, resulting in lost sales, missed opportunities to share and learn, and a data vacuum that prevented management from knowing what was wrong and how to fix it.

The team was determined to find a solution and decided to find the best technology to drive collaborative engagement with the discharge planners responsible for getting patients onto the next phase of their recovery and rehabilitation, engage directly with patients and their families through video and rich media, and make each sales interaction a resource to be mined for insight and improvement.

But which tools would make this group of sales reps successful? That's what the sales and marketing collaboration council wanted to know in their monthly planning meeting. This steering committee, 15 people strong, is headed by the president and staffed by sales, marketing, field operations, and IT.

The answer, created by cloud integrator Appirio, was to use a smart combination of iPads for engagement; for content access, contacts, and sales process and analysis; Cisco WebEx for training; email for collaboration; and MobileIron for tablet security and app management.

Appirio worked with Barry and his core sales operations team for managing the environment and doing the analytics, with the IT department for device management, with the marketing team for content creation and porting, and with the regional sales directors to drive adoption, use, and collaboration.

One technique that Barry and his sales management team use to troubleshoot and solve problems is a regular field ride-along schedule. This hands-on approach to working with individual reps pays off in three ways: 1) The sales management team at Kindred understands the real issues in the daily work and hospital setting of its employees; 2) challenges with the technology and process are quickly exposed and resolved; and 3) best practices are identified and shared among sales regions and teams.

The results are proving to deliver on the expectation: higher close rates, deeper engagement with hospital staff leading to more opportunities, and a steady progression of success as more teams and reps master the tools. Next up for Kindred is to use Salesforce Chatter to improve sales team communication and best practice capture.