Canadian sales execs make their own BlackBerry killer app

Sales executives are well known for their BlackBerry addiction, which is why a Canadian industry association has created a tool to help the wireless device guide them from the airport to the power lunch and beyond.

The BTSidekick, which was only launched last month, has already made it into the top 25 downloads in Research In Motion’s App Store. The application takes a user’s location and instantly recommends travel information such a nearby hotels, car rentals or restaurants. The free download can be used individually or deployed at the enterprise level by BlackBerry administrators.

Created by the Canadian Sales Professional Association, the BTSidekick also offers information on special discounts available to its membership. This includes savings at more than 10,000 hotels around the world, as well as car rentals from firms such as Avis, Hertz and Thrifty. BT Sidekick users don’t need to be CSPA members to use the application but they can try out a 90-day membership to make use of the discounts. A regular annual membership to the CSPA costs $119, plus tax and a set-up fee.

CSPA president Harvey Copeman said the BT Sidekick is a natural extension of its collective purchasing power.

“In the old days we had a hard copy book with all of the hotels in it,” he said. “That’s evolved to being on the Web and now booking all their accommodation on the Web. The next evolution was PDAs.”

The BTSidekick uses Google to power its local business search results. This allows the application to tailor its recommendations, according to Aaron Pais, the CPSA’s head of IT who came up with the product.

“It makes you an instant local,” he says. “Let’s say you’re meeting up with a client in another part of Toronto. You can set your location somewhere else. You might be meeting with client in Mississauga, for example, so you just enter an intersection and the app will pretend you’re in that location.”

The CPSA is more than 100 years old and claims 30,000 members in sales and marketing jobs, but Copeman hopes the BTSidekick may push that number higher still.

“We hope to recover some of our costs through increased membership, or to use this as a (member) retention tool,” he says. “One of the things that’s occurred to us is there may be other organizations or companies who might be interested in white-labelling their own version. There’s the American Assocation of Retired People, or perhaps an automobile association.”

Although the CPSA logo will appear next to hotels or organizations with member benefits, Pais attributed the app’s popularity to its soft-sell approach to potential users.

“We went in with the premise that behind every business traveller is a normal person,” says Pais. “After the conference, Jim may want to watch a movie or go to a bar with his friends. It goes above and beyond all the things that CPSA does.”

The CPSA is planning to extend the BTSidekick to other devices and platforms, including Apple’s iPhone and App Store.

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