Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

New Dynamics 365 for Field Sellers Demo Videos

Today's blog post and its video content were created by Bryson Engelen, Sales Engineer at Sonoma Partners.

We've put together two video demos of Dynamics 365 for Field Sellers in Manufacturing and Distribution. One is about ten minutes, and one is about thirty minutes. 

We know from plenty of experience that Manufacturing and Distribution Field Sellers are commonly on the road most of the week, heavily relationship-focused, and typically not tech-savvy (sometimes sealing deals with a handshake and shipping product before finance and legal can draw up a contract). This can severely limit visibility for management and lead to avoidable losses, which makes CRM appealing to the boss. But the value statement of CRM to a sales rep has to be very different.

The main benefits of CRM for Manufacturing and Distribution Field Sellers are sales performance metrics and dashboards, the ability to track customer relationships, visibility into ERP data, and getting all this on a mobile phone. CRM integration with an ERP provides a much cleaner access point to the ERP data that sales staff use daily such as commission splits, order histories, invoices, repairs, returns, and the customer's credit so when entering an order or looking at a customer, the rep can see the credit limit, overages, and past due invoices of the customer and place the order without finance blocking the sale down the line because the customer is past due. Of course, one of the core purposes of a CRM system is to present the full picture of a given account and to monitor interactions. Additionally, CRM tools can automatically identify related products for upselling and cross-selling.

Dynamics 365 can provide a great mobile experience for Manufacturing and Distribution Field Sellers by giving them a complete picture of current pursuits, closed orders, invoices, quality issues, sample and display requests, and more on an account.  Right from your phone you can have access to the owners, buyers, distributors and other people on an account, see financial data, create quick account snapshot reports, record notes, log requests, and create service tickets.  In these two videos, we demo how a Field Seller could use Outlook and D365 together on a mobile phone, leverage Power BI for analytics, in addition to manufacturing-specific account management, opportunity tracking, and more.  Below is an outline of the things covered in the video as well as the videos themselves.

  • Outlook Mobile App integrated with Dynamics 365:
    • Tracking Outlook Emails to Dynamics 365
    • Viewing Contact Details from Dynamics 365 in the Outlook Mobile App
    • Creating New Records (like Opportunities) in Dynamics 365 from the Outlook Mobile App
  • Account Overview in Dynamics 365 Mobile App
    • Recording Calls into the Account
    • ERP Data for the Account
    • Activities, Notes, Contacts, Sales Team, OneNote, Opportunities
    • Account Summary Report in in Dynamics 365 Mobile App emailed to Manager
  • Mobile Dashboard with Pipeline, Accounts, Etc. in Dynamics 365 Mobile App
  • Relationship Assistant in Dynamics 365 Mobile App – What’s Most Important to Me Today?
  • Opportunity Management in Dynamics 365 Mobile App
    • Following a Business Process
    • Activities, Products, Competitors and More
  • Power BI Mobile App
    • Overall State of Business Dashboard
    • Q&A: Ask the Robot a Question and Get and Answer
    • Predictive Questions and Insights from Power BI Robot
    • Texting an Annotated Report to a Colleague
  • Outlook Integration on the Desktop
    • Display CRM Data Against Emails
    • Replies include CRM Items like Email Templates, Marketing Brochures, Emails, and Open Tracking
  • Dynamics 365 on Desktop Browser
    • Dashboards with Slice and Dice
    • Account 360 with Orders, Cases, Opportunities, Work Orders, Equipment Tracking, Invoices, Charts, Forecasting by Units or Dollars, Sold Product
    • Account Insights – Data from External Sources bringing in News, Contacts, Industry Research
    • Opportunities – Following a Process, Approval Branching for Discounts, Document Tracking, Collaboration (Warehouse, Finance, etc.)
    • Generating Quotes and Sending via Docusign
  • Reporting
    • Dashboards with Excel-like Filters and Slice and Dice
    • Dynamic Excel Exports and Updates on a PowerPoint or from Recurring Outlook Appointment

If you’re a manufacturer with Field Service needs, don’t forget our Field Service demo video here:

Happy watching! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Microsoft Dynamics 365

How CPQ Impacts a Sales Rep, By a Sales Rep

Today's blog post was written by Niki Somerfield, Senior Account Executive at Sonoma Partners.

When I began my sales career, I started in an inside sales role in a call center environment. I sold hardware and software to companies, generating anywhere from five to fifteen quotes a day. This type of transactional quoting can be fast-paced and exciting…for me, this was not the case.

At the time (though I’m sure they’ve upgraded systems since then), we would use approximately five different applications to get a quote together.

I used one application to store and gather all my customer information; a website to look up product data; another website for pricing and comparisons; another application for shipping and distribution; and a final order fulfillment application. I would assemble information from each application and manually input it into Excel… which I would then convert to PDF and send through e-mail. Whew. If your head isn’t spinning, I applaud your ability to understand what took me months to get a hang of.

Each quote took me 15-20 minutes to put together. In a highly transactional sales position, that’s an impossible amount of time. Every moment of the day that I wasn’t making calls or sending e-mails, I was missing opportunities. But I couldn’t wait until the end of the day to get the quotes together because the customer would likely purchase from a competitor in the meantime.

Fast forward to a point where I was ready to move on in my career and started looking around. I learned about a company that sold CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote). I fell in love and couldn’t believe this solution existed! As a sales rep, these are the things that made the most difference for me:

1. Better System

This product was built for me – the sales rep – in mind. The application streamlines business processes across the sales organization. Its modern, slick, and created for the 21st century sales process. And its cloud-based! So that means push upgrades with new features to take advantage of all the time.

CPQ_blog_infographic 750x392

2. Better Productivity

When I use CPQ… I have ONE… I repeat ONE… screen open at a time to get a quote together. It plugs into my CRM which means I’m also not manually entering anything.
Ever had to deal with data entry? Manual entry equals multiple errors. It’s hard to even put into words how much more I could fit into a work day when I wasn’t spending hours completing quotes or correcting errors.

3. Better Relationships

In my previous role, a customer would often send an email to multiple vendors asking for competing quotes. I’d typically save the quote for the end of the day so I could use the time customers are in the office to call on them (remember – 15-20 minutes to get a quote together!). But sometimes a customer didn’t want to wait and would execute the first quote that came across their desk. With CPQ, I can get quotes out to a customer in five minutes or less. I could even generate one while on the phone with them! That makes a huge difference to the seller!

4. Better Management

I would say I’m a fairly typical sales rep. And as a typical sales rep, I’m not interested in any activity that isn’t revenue-generating. In my previous position, I’d have to enter data into an application my manager used so he could report off of it. Then, I’d re-enter some of the same information in a separate application to generate my customer facing quote. If I’m honest, I’m only going to do one of those things. And that one is going to be the revenue-generating option.

Using CPQ, you enter the information in ONE place. My manager gets the data he’s requested, and I get the quote to close the deal. CPQ in tandem with CRM helps decrease the amount of administrative work required to forecast accurately.

Are you interested in talking with us more about CRM and CPQ? You can contact us here, and we’d be happy to help.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing

A Lesson for all Manufacturers: Ace Hardware Gets Better Operational Insight with Salesforce

Ace Hardware implemented SAP CRM back in 2011. The deployment was unsuccessful from the start due to the product’s inflexibility and inability to meet specific business needs. For example, SAP didn’t allow for customized workflows for District Managers and the Business Development team to document investor relationships. Ace Hardware invested in a custom Salesforce deployment to provide their employees with a more effective tool to manage store operations and productivity.

Who is Ace Hardware?

Ace Hardware is a national hardware store chain with over 4,000 locations. Their headquarters is in Oak Brook, Illinois.

ACE infographic may 2017

Driving Initiatives

One objective of the CRM project focused on assisting Ace Hardware’s District Managers. For District Managers, one of their primary responsibilities is to implement new initiatives in their stores to drive increased revenue. These initiatives could be, for example, driving the sale of more paint or creating new product displays. With SAP, Ace Hardware was unable to see how these store operations were carried out and what their success – or lack thereof – looked like. Too often managers would agree to move forward and forget to follow-up with corporate management after the concept was “sold.” Ace Hardware needed a solution that would better track and monitor individual store activities to further enable their managers and support continued growth for their company.

Stronger Operations

With Salesforce, Ace Hardware could automate this campaign process. You can call that a huge win. With CRM, District Managers are prompted to follow-up and guide a store through the implementation of the initiative. This automation also provides better insight into the effectiveness of these campaigns. Every year, there are several corporate campaigns that they want implemented in all stores. Salesforce allows Ace Hardware to easily push a single opportunity to every user in the field.

Lead Management Automation

Salesforce completely automates Ace Hardware’s lead management process. From the moment an interested investor reaches out to open a new store, CRM prompts Ace Hardware’s Business Development team to complete the multiple transactions to go through this process. First, an initial inquiry reaches the team. Once Business Development qualifies the lead, Salesforce automatically generates the Contact record for the lead. Workflows initiate background checks, qualifies the funds available to invest in the store, and so on. Salesforce automation speeds up these transactions and encourages further investment opportunities for Ace Hardware.

Data and Even More Data

Custom-built store visit reports in Salesforce allow district managers to track various data points each time they visit a store, such as “are employees all wearing uniforms, “do they have the craftsman display set up correctly,” etc. This is a checklist that is also accessible through Salesforce1 for easy on-the-go reporting.

Dashboards are a Manager’s Best Friend

Salesforce provides custom dashboards and reports for easy tracking and stronger store management. These reports track things like top stores year-to-date, bottom 10 stores, wholesale sales metrics reports, and more. These critical numbers allow corporate management to make key departmental decisions with informed, easy-to-read reports.

Looking to take your company’s operations to the next level with a custom Salesforce deployment? Let us know.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Salesforce

Customer Success Story: Building A Stronger Foundation with Salesforce

Before deploying Salesforce, Feralloy lacked a centralized method for tracking and managing existing client relationships. As one of the country’s largest high volume steel processing plants, Feralloy needed a customer relationship management system that could measure up in equal strength to the materials they manufacture.


Who is Feralloy?

Feralloy Corporation consists of an extensive network of plants throughout the United States and Mexico. They bring over 60 years of experience to the table as they deliver high quality processed flat rolled steel.

Supporting Customization

Before CRM, Feralloy managed business operations through a myriad of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and verbal and email communication. This system created many problems for their organization, one of which was maintaining data after an employee departure. When a member of their sales team left, so would their customers’ information. Furthermore, without a formal process for managing customers, sales processes differed between business units, making communication and collaboration very challenging. Overall, the sales organization lacked the tools needed to adequately manage existing client relationships and nurture prospective business.

Building Systematic Inventory Management

Sonoma Partners helped Feralloy get up and running with a custom Salesforce deployment and an integration between CRM and their ERP System, STAR (AS 400). The integration allows Feralloy to more accurately document their inventory and assist customers in finding what they need when they need it. By more effectively overseeing their assets, Feralloy drives profitability for not only themselves but also their clients.

Facilitating Employee Management

With improved visibility into team performance, CRM allows Feralloy to more productively manage their employees. Knowledge management tools and streamlined onboarding process helped employees work strategically in their new environment, no matter what their experience in the industry. 

Going Mobile

Feralloy’s outside sale team can be on the road up to four days a week, working multi-state territories. By leveraging Salesforce1’s native capabilities, Feralloy’s sales teams can view account and territory management in the field. Since investing in a mobile strategy they’ve seen an improvement in the accuracy of their data due to their team having a more efficient way to enter it on-the-go.

Interested in a custom CRM system to call your own? Let us know.

Is your CRM

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Salesforce

Eat, Drink, and Deploy: CRM for Food and Beverage Manufacturers

Sonoma Partners is no stranger to the food and beverage industry. Even the name Sonoma Partners is inspired by the wine producing region of Northern California!

Our experience in deploying CRM for manufacturers in the food and beverage industry ranges from breweries to hard lemonade. We’ve written summaries on a few of our F&B projects to highlight what we’ve learned along the way about successful CRM implementations for food and beverage manufacturers:


New Belgium Brewing Company
Craft brewery located in Fort Collins, Colorado.

When we first started working with New Belgium, they had a CRM system up and running; however, the employees underutilized the system and the data had long grown stale. This ineffective system failed to provide their sales team with a productive tool in the field. In order to provide optimal service to their customers, we built them a touch-based mobile app to access CRM account information wherever, whenever.

“This new application that Sonoma Partners has designed for us has really taken things to the next level for us, in terms of being able to do everything on-the-go. It is a very valuable tool from both a time-saving perspective and the ability to have information at your fingertips with the swipe or click of a button.” – Matt Furlong, Sales Project Manager, New Belgium

With their new application Rangerland, sales reps can manage appointments, conduct surveys, take notes, and even view sales histories using CRM data on-the-go. While on site, sales reps can easily pull up client information to display past transactional information to help the customer repeat orders andlook up previous records. Since deployment, data entry time has dropped by 5 minutes per sales call, giving sales reps more time to sell, meet with clients, and distribute product.

“Working with New Belgium taught us the value of an on-the-go application for food and beverage manufacturers. Their sales reps are constantly in the field, meeting with the locations that sell their product. Having access to critical customer data while in the field along with a simple way to communicate any issues back to the home office has proven instrumental for their team’s efficiency.” – Kristie Reid, VP of Consulting, Sonoma Partners

Mark Anthony Brands
U.S. division of Mark Anthony Group, leading distributor of wine, beer, and beverages in Canada. Flagship product: Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

Mark Anthony Brands (MABI) leadership team wanted to provide their sales reps with a more productive method of doing their jobs. Depending on the sales rep and their region, the mechanisms for collecting and storing account information varied. Without a single procedure in place, th quality of the data and data collection suffered. Further, without a defined method for data collection, leadership struggled to track customer engagement and transactions. The outdated procedures and lackluster tools caused the sales team’s morale to suffer.

Sonoma Partners conducted a Mobility Test Drive with the MABI salespeople to learn how they operated in their day-to-day jobs. Based on ride along observations, we created an optimized mobile application that satisfied their unique requirements. Ultimately, the mobile app revitalized the sales team by providing them with a tool to better access customer information in the field.

“The Mobility Test Drive was key for us to get an inside look into how the sales reps operated and to allow us to customize an application accordingly. For an industry that demands detail-oriented focus and customer experience consistency to survive, a customized application that fits into the daily lives of sales reps can be essential for productivity.” – Aaron Robinson, Principal Consultant, Sonoma Partners

Brooklyn Brewery
Based in Brooklyn, distributes beer to over 25 states and 17 countries.

Like most breweries, Brooklyn Brewery’s sales reps maintain relationships with their customers (restaurants, bars, stores, etc.). Mostly, this work involves monitoring product quality, building relationships with buyers, and conducting surveys. Previously, Brooklyn Brewery sales reps lacked an outlined process or set of procedures to ensure client interactions were consistent in the field. Without a centralized system to track procedure or historical performance data, leadership struggled to make key business decisions.

“CRM has brought a ton of focus into what we’re doing. A brewery of our size has a lot of brands and items we are trying to sell. That can be a big headache. CRM helps our sellers focus on what they need to do from day to day.” – Greg Donheiser, Sales Analyst, Brooklyn Brewery

With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Brooklyn Brewery provides their sellers with better support and record keeping that improves both efficiency and process, resulting in faster and more strategic sales. A new Sales Call Template built into CRM provides a survey and list of to-do's for reps to follow each time they visit with customers.

“The responsibilities for sales reps at food and beverage manufacturers can manage hundreds of accounts at a time. CRM can allow this industry to better compete by providing client-specific experiences with data available at their fingertips.” – Tom Demana, Consultant, Sonoma Partners

You can read more customer success stories on our website here.

Looking to take your sales organization to the next level with CRM? Contact us.

Download our infographic on D365 for manufacturing

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing

CPQ for Manufacturers and Distributors

Today's blog post was written by Nathen Drees, Senior Developer at Sonoma Partners.

Cpq manu

Quoting is a difficult process. It takes a lot of time, energy, and attention to detail to do it correctly. It is made doubly difficult when you are attempting to do many quotes a day in a transactional setting, reducing the amount of time you have to think about each quote and the amount of effort you want to spend digging through the various systems to find the correct prices. It is further complicated by the fact that often times the client has negotiated special pricing on certain items, and often this information is in yet another system disconnected from the quoting tool or isn’t in any tool at all.

When we sit down with our manufacturing clients to talk through pain points in their sales cycles, we inevitably arrive at quoting.

It is not uncommon for us to see sales reps quoting out of Excel or having to dig through ERP, Account Management, and perhaps even other Excel docs to be able to put quotes together, all while under pressure to deliver more quotes to clients. The net effect is that it is not uncommon for quotes to be incomplete or inaccurate on both list prices and customer negotiated prices, or simply discounted beyond profitability in the attempt to close the deal and generate a new order.

Often times, when we start investigating this with the sales team, we sense a hesitance to talk about the problem. Everyone at the business knows that quoting is difficult and that the current process is imperfect, but nobody knows what to do about it. Management wants visibility into margins and quote volumes; sales reps don’t want to dig through multiple systems or documents to put a quote together. Everyone wants the quotes to be created quickly and accurately the first time, reducing the need to create updated quotes due to simple mistakes.

If this sounds familiar to you, then fear not: you’re not alone. We have seen this situation many times and have helped our clients build an integrated solution inside the CRM based off of CPQ functionality. In doing so, we give both management and the sales team tools to allow quick creation of accurate quotes, reporting on margins and quote volumes, enforcing sales methodologies and pricing structures, and automatically applying negotiated prices and discounts for the customer to the quote. The net effect is that your sales team can create more quotes, accurate the first time, increasing sales and reducing stress for everyone involved.

C is for Configuration

C configure 1

When talking about creating a quote, a common requirement that comes up is the need to enforce rules around which products can be sold when and in what configurations. When talking about configuration, we most often see the following requests:

  • Exclusive products (You cannot sell Product A with Product B and vice versa)
  • Required products (Product A must always be sold with Product B)
  • Quantity values (You can only buy Product A in units of 5)
  • Relative Quantities (You must buy 1 Product A for every 5 Product B)
  • Cross-sell products (Suggest and optionally add Product B when adding Product A)

This list is by no means exhaustive, and we have developers and CPQ experts on staff to build any configuration you need.

P is for Pricing

P 2

Pricing is the heart of the quote, and usually also the most complicated part. It’s not uncommon to have multiple factors play in to the price of a single line item on a quote. To ensure accurate pricing, we have experience assisting our clients in:

  • Integrating with an ERP, ensuring product pricing and availability is always up-to-date and available for the sales team to use without leaving CRM
  • Configuring discounting schedules, allowing for the automatic discounting of products based on criteria such as meeting a quantity threshold
  • Configuring pricing methodologies, allowing pricing to be viewed in terms of list pricing, cost + margin pricing, block pricing, and custom pricing
  • Automatically applying previously negotiated product prices and discount scheduled for a customer, freeing the sales team from having to manually apply it

In addition to ensuring accuracy of the quote price, we also can assist with:

  • Approval processes based on multiple factors, to ensure no quote is presented to a client unless it meets the sales requirements of your team
  • Margin calculations and reporting, to allow management to forecast profitability
  • Quote auditing, to allow management to track the sales team’s activities

Q is for Quote

At the end of the day, the sales team needs to present a formal quote to the customer. We can assist with creating branded quote templates that are automatically filled with the correct data and emailed to the client, all without leaving CRM.

Let Us Help You

If you are looking to improve your quoting process, let us help. We bring with us industry-wide experience and have in-house experts on CPQ. We can help you work through the decisions needed to successfully build and deploy a CPQ solution on top of CRM, empowering your sales team to make smarter, more accurate quotes the first time, every time.

Still not sure if we are right for you? Have questions that we didn’t address here? Just want to talk to a human being? Contact us and we’re happy to talk.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing

Customer Success Story: Wacom Consolidates Global Business with CRM

In order to better equip their customers with the creativity-enabling tools they manufacture, Wacom needed to get a better tool of their own – one with a 360-view of their global customers.

Who is Wacom?

Wacom develops, manufactures, and sells tablet pens and displays to support creative projects such as movies, games, photo imaging, and consumer product design. Their devices are integrated into smartphones and tablets, and, while headquartered in Japan, Wacom has offices around the world.


Going Global

Wacom has always believed in the power of CRM. They felt the need to reinvest in the tool when they realized their current iteration of Microsoft Dynamics CRM wasn’t helping them reach their business goals. Specifically, they believed CRM was preventing them from operating as a single global organization.

First, a bit of history. Up until two years ago, Wacom was a publically traded company with separate regions that operated autonomously. Each viewed themselves as their own entity, using their own methodologies and business practices. Operations differed by region and objectives, and products were inconsistently sold.

It was apparent that this disjointed model was not working in their favor. Wacom decided to replace the loosely connected companies (roughly segmented into their respective regions: U.S., Japan, and Europe) with a single CEO, one CRM system, and a complete commitment to operating as one organization.

Along with the effort to truly invest in going global, Wacom had ambitions growth plants to move into the greater B2C market. Wacom has always created niche products for creative professionals. For a long period of time, they were the gold standard and owned the space. Over the past two years, Wacom has made a big move to become an active player in the B2C space. They recognize the need to move faster and be more innovative in order to compete with like Amazon and Cintiq.

Their current instance of Dynamics CRM was failing them in a few different ways. For one, the platform was rarely taken advantage of to share information across the organization. With regions operating independently – and sometimes “in the dark” – opportunities were lost and product information would be missing. Furthermore, this made introducing a global branding, marketing, or sales initiative nearly impossible with no way to coordinate between regions.

Another big issue for Wacom: duplicate information. Master records were hard to identify. The band aide solution Wacom’s divisions had clung to for so long was to just create more content, rather than first looking for what information was already there.

Lastly, they found inefficiencies in their selling channels. Wacom sells through retailers and distributors, using SAP to manage orders. Because each region has their own laws and compliance regulations, business processes weren’t being adhered to on a global scale.

Wacom decided to move from Microsoft Dynamics CRM On-Premise to Online based on their existing commitment to Microsoft solutions. Wacom found a strategic partner in Sonoma Partners that could help them outline the strengths and weaknesses of their organization and how CRM can help.

Reinvested and Relaunched

Since the relaunch of their CRM platform, Wacom has felt a significant shift towards the globalized organization they set out to become. CRM helps them better know their customers, by identifying what they’re selling, what they’re buying, when they’re making purchases, and better predict future purchases as a result in relation to their manufacturing schedule. The CRM and SAP integration also helps Wacom manufacture more accurately against their forecast.

CRM provides a channel for Wacom to better manage product feedback, properly address customer issues, and enhance future product development. Their service team finally has the tools they need to see the complete history of their existing customers and provide them with the customer care they expect.

Interested in reinvesting in your organization’s CRM system? We’re happy to help.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing

Making their Mark: Landmark's Adoption of Salesforce


Landmark Services Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative business with five divisions: Agronomy, Animal Nutrition, Energy and Retail Services, Grain, and their financial division, Verity Business Solutions. They provide agriculture products, services, and resources to over 15,000 members in communities throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

When we first met Landmark in the fall of 2015, their divisions operated independently from each other when it came to customer data. Tim Dusek, Landmark’s Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, spearheaded this CRM project primarily to improve visibility into customer data and as a result, increase cross divisional sales and gain greater efficiency in their sales efforts.

By implementing Salesforce and increasing their investment in CRM, Landmark looks to revolutionize how their company operates.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim a few weeks ago for a Q&A session on the progress of the project as Landmark continues to roll out their new CRM solution.

How have your employees taken to the new CRM system?

Tim: It’s been an evolving work in progress. When we first rolled it out, we gathered a lot of excitement around the new tool. We branded the project with a creative name – “Mark” – and did some internal marketing to spread the word, answer any questions in advance of the deployment, and get our sellers looking forward to the new and improved resource. That being said, there was a bit of resistance from some of the more seasoned sellers. I think they saw this to be more administrative burden with little reward with them. We continue to focus on the “What’s in it for Them” approach. We’re still working to appease this group of individuals, but ultimately, this is going to make our organization stronger and I think they’ll understand that once they get more familiar with the new system.

How will CRM improve your sales’ team effectiveness?

There are a lot of different ways CRM is going to be a tool for our sales team. We’ve built out functionality to access existing customer’s recent activity and basic customer information easily while in the field. All of this data is integrated with our ERP system, too. It’s seamless and efficient in a way that our processes never were before.

How do you plan to use CRM to better compete in your industry?

An edge Landmark already holds over our competitors is our ability to provide services across our different divisions. We have a few competitors who offer agronomy services but not necessarily animal nutrition. CRM allows us to channel this competitive edge to increase visibility across our departments. We ran into a situation recently where a client of the agronomy division wasn’t even aware we had a grain or animal nutrition division. We’d like that to never be the case.

What business problems are you trying to solve with CRM?

For us, it’s really a platform for centralized information. We have a lot of information kept in the brains of our very intelligent employees. We needed a way to spread this knowledge and make it accessible to all. By providing our employees with a single resource to hold information, we eliminate informal communication as a way of “storing data.”

Another key motivator to improve our CRM system was the cross-departmental visibility into accounts. As I mentioned, we never want someone to be missing out on an opportunity just because the client is unaware we have those capabilities here.

Why do you think your industry needs CRM?

I think customer retention is a huge motivator for the agribusiness sector – and most other industries who gain more revenue from existing than new clients – to get CRM. If you’re able to be more strategic in how you market to your current clients, you have a better chance of continuing to do business with them.

I also believe that technology in agribusiness has historically been behind. We need to evolve not only to rapidly grow our business, but to continue to attract the top talent in the industry who have come to expect this level of expertise.

Our thanks to Tim and Landmark for sharing their progress so far on their implementation. We look forward to reporting back on the project post-completion!

Are you looking for some CRM advice? We’re always happy to hop on a call.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Salesforce

How Mark Anthony Brands Revitalized Sales Culture with CRM and Mobility


Mark Anthony Brands (MABI), the United States division of Mark Anthony Group (MAG), imports and distributes fine wine, premium beer, and specialty beverages. Due to alcohol distribution regulations, MABI can’t sell directly into accounts (e.g. bars/restaurants/stores). Instead, they rely on a network of distributors to facilitate these transactions. Field sales representatives (FSR) coordinate these operations and are crucial to how MABI does business. Overtime, business practices grew inconsistent and their sales tools outdated. The FSRs needed a mobile application to enhance the way they did business.


Time for a Change

Prior to this project, sales processes varied from region to region and from FSR to FSR. Practices for collecting/storing account information were piloted by single regions or teams, only to be abandoned shortly thereafter.

Their Leadership team aimed to provide the FSRs with a better means of doing their jobs, in order to secure better data and reporting capabilities. This shift in process would not only revitalize their sales culture but also spur enthusiasm from the FSRs by providing them with a new and unique means to reach their sales goals.


The use cases for this project revolved around the tasks of the FSRs, which included:

  • Maintaining relationships with the account (bar/restaurant)
  • Quality assurance and evaluation of distributor performance via site surveys
  • Up-selling/cross-selling Mark Anthony Brands products

The plan?  A two-phased program including a Mobile Test Drive and mobile app development.

Download our free eBook: 5 Fundamental Features of Custom Mobile CRM Applications.

Post-Launch Life

The new mobile application – named, Mability (MABI + Mobility) – completely transformed the way the FSR team functions. With the new mobile CRM tool, they have better access to customer information in the field and an easier method for entering that transactional and account information. FSRs work more consistently than before with an implemented and defined sales process. Bonus: Mability features cross-device flexibility, providing endless opportunity taking the application to a tablet, an iPad, and beyond.

If you’d like to read more about the project, check out their customer success story here.

If you’d like to learn more about Sonoma Partners’ mobile applications, visit here.

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Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Enterprise Mobility Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

How manufacturers can baby step their way into the Internet of Things (on the cheap)

ManualIOTWhile at the gym today (no jokes please, yes I do make it there occasionally!), I noticed that all of the gym equipment included stickers that allowed members to text the manager about an equipment problem. This sticker included a unique machine number so that the gym manager could identify exactly which piece of equipment didn't work correctly. 

This sticker got me thinking about CRM systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). In a perfect world, all of the gym equipment could include self-monitoring tools and sophisticated diagnostic calculations that would allow the machines to report cycle information and possibly predict upcoming required maintenance. The machines would then connect to the Internet and report their data electronically to a central database. Both Microsoft and Salesforce offer comprehensive IoT technology platforms that could handle this type of monitoring and reporting. This type of IoT technology could provide a lot of benefits to both the equipment manufacturer and the gym/retail location, including reduced maintenance costs, lower operating costs and increased customer satisfaction.

I thought this sticker idea offered a clever way for them to "baby step" their way into the future of IoT. The sticker implementation provides a few benefits:

  • Saves the cost of buying and installing electronic monitoring sensors on each piece of equipment.  Stickers are CHEAP and EASY! Any manufacturer could deploy a similar system quite easily. This particular gym had me sign no less than 50 pages of paper to join, so believe me when I say they're not on the cutting edge of technology. If they can do this, any manufacturer can.
  • Sets up their reporting infrastructure to have a service / maintenance history on each piece of equipment they own. If/when they implement electronic IoT monitors in the future, they're already on their way from a reporting standpoint.
  • Centralizes service requests into a central location (via the one text number). The service desk can then monitor and report on any service level agreements they might have in place with the equipment manufacturer. They can also report on any equipment maintenance trends such as certain machines / brands break down more often than others.
  • Captures their customer's mobile information (via the incoming text). This mobile information might come in handy in future marketing and sales efforts.

Taking this idea beyond the gym to industrial equipment and commercial manufacturing, IoT continues to remain top of mind for many businesses. Most manufacturers I speak with acknowledge that IoT systems will eventually become universal on everything they manufacture...but different sub-industries carry a wide range of expectations on when IoT might hit their industry. Some "old school" industrial equipment manufacturers talk about IoT with a 10-20 year horizon, while we hear life science manufacturers thinking shorter term (next 5 years).

If you're one of the companies thinking IoT remains 10+ years away, perhaps this sticker reporting idea might work for your business in the interim? It might help jump start your IoT effort by getting your business to start tracking and monitoring individual machine data into a central system (CRM of course). If you're thinking IoT lurks right around the corner, you would probably jump right into electronic sensors and monitoring. Either way, please contact us and let Sonoma Partners help you improve customer service and operational efficiency by leveraging IoT concepts and technology to hook up your equipment to your CRM system.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing