Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

9 Wins for Manufacturers Using Mobile CRM - Part 2: Data To-Go

Today's blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

In today’s rapidly paced market, manufacturers must push their products in the right place at the right time. Your field sellers are doing the best they can to meet with prospective clients on-the-go. Are your dated tools slowing them down? If your customer relationship management (CRM) system is only accessible on-premises, your sellers are limited by needing to physically be in the office to enter data. As a result, your sellers are likely to forget key pieces of information from their conversations in the field, and worst case scenario: you aren’t getting access to any of this important data.

What you need is a tool that’s just as mobile as your sellers.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share nine key wins for manufacturing companies using mobile CRM solutions. Are you a manufacturing company with a field sales team? These nine wins should inspire an investment in a mobile application sooner, rather than later. Previously, we covered how CRM mobility provides sellers with the information that matters. Next: data-to-go.

2. Access Critical Data On-the-Go

The most obvious benefit of a mobile CRM application? Constant access to data. With mobility, your sellers can access everything they need in terms of data while on the go. Think of your customers who have access to multiple search methods to evaluate and select products no matter where they go. If you want your sellers to stay ahead of the competition, you must equip them with the proper tools. With CRM, your sales team can immediately access the information they need to best manage their efforts, keep customers engaged, and close deals before prospects search elsewhere.

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You can provide your field sellers with the marketing materials they need at their fingertips. A digital portfolio is faster (and cheaper!) to update with your latest products. Ensure your sellers are pushing the right products to the most accurately targeted clientele by providing them with something that’s easy to navigate, beautiful, and impressionable for your clients. Digital sales kits demonstrate an investment in your sales process when you enable your sellers with such a useful tool. As a result, your clients will be impressed, your sellers happy, and your products purchased at the point of sale, rather than days later when your seller has a chance to go back to the office to forward follow-up materials.

Customer Example: Columbia Distributing

Based in Portland, Oregon, Columbia Distributing is one of the largest malt beverage distributors in the country. They have a 300-person team of field sellers completing onsite surveys to record how stores and bars display their products. They hired Sonoma Partners to improve their existing custom iOS mobile application (previously, it was ridden with bugs and almost incapable of use). When we sat down with Project Manager Alyssa Wood at Columbia Distributing to discuss the project, she shared her thoughts on the improved application:

CTA for Columbia Distributing“We can’t be everywhere at once – with so many field sellers collecting data, we have to have a tool that presents all of our customer information in one place. It’s a competitive business; there’s only so much grocery store shelf space or tap handles in a bar. To keep up, you have to be strategic in how you’re presenting your product to your consumers. We need to constantly evaluate our work and be positioned to collect data in the field, analyze it, and act on those insights. CRM allows us to do this.”

Next Generation Workflow

Mobile CRM is a differentiator from your competition for new talent. Manufacturing is a mature industry. The up-and-coming workforce expect updated technology that allows them to do their work more effectively. The more experienced sales reps, for example, who still manage accounts by writing down information are being slowly replaced by this tech-savvy workforce. This pool of talent, comfortable using smartphones, tablets, and other devices, and digital services, expects to hit the ground running with a tool that capture legacy information and allows them to grow their book of business from there. The fundamental point for companies switching to a CRM system might not be about solving talent issues, but modernizing systems to feel more like the tools employees are used to using outside of work.

Stay tuned for more wins for manufacturers who invest in a CRM mobile application. If you’re interested in learning what might be possible at your organization, contact us.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Enterprise Mobility

The ABC’s of CPQ - Part 1: Advanced Approvals through Discount Schedules

Today’s blog post was written by Justin Concepcion (Developer), Diego Gallego (Developer), and Troy Oliveira (Principal Architect) at Sonoma Partners.

Salesforce CPQ (formerly Steelbrick) is one of the most advanced Configure-Price-Quote software available on the market today.

Built natively on the Salesforce platform, Salesforce CPQ can drastically improve the efficiency of your sales organization with fast and easy quoting that leads to more revenue for your business.

In this 5-part blog post series, we breakdown the “ABC’s of CPQ,” listing out the most notable functionalities, features, and best practices of this impressive platform.

To start, we’ll begin with letters “A” through “D”:

A is for Advanced Approvals and Alert Rules

Advanced Approvals

With Advanced Approvals, you can approve quotes according to your personnel and departmental hierarchy. With subsequent features such as Approval Chains, Dynamics Approvers, and Smart Approvals, Advanced Approvals go above and beyond a standard approval process in Salesforce. Set up approval chains of independent approval verticals occurring in parallel within the same approval process. If you’re looking for flexibility in your advanced approvals, this is a critical advantage of Salesforce CPQ’s functionality.

Alert Rules ABCs_of_CPQ_Alert_Rules_300x400

If you’re a rep who must be able to quickly configure product options and needs to do so without hard stops from validations in the underlying Salesforce data model, you’ll find Alert Rules extremely useful. Alert Rules prevent combining incompatible options within a bundle or removing key components of a product configuration. Managing a product set-up without alerts requires manual auditing to ensure each product’s implicit or explicit business requirements are met correctly. Salesforce’s CPQ Alert Rules allow users to assemble quotes with much greater efficiency.

B is for Bundles and Block Pricing

Bundles

Bundles are the building blocks upon which CPQ truly becomes configurable. Salesforce CPQ allows you to customize product bundles for items that need to be included together, or items that have optional features. The amount of variability in setting up bundles is one of the most powerful pieces of Salesforce CPQ functionality because it can be entirely customized to how your business distributes products. When setting up a bundle, you can control the pricing at overall bundle level or within the different options of the bundle.

Block Pricing

Block Pricing allows you to assign a fixed price to a product based on quantity, overriding the automatic calculation of quantity multiplied by unit price. Block Pricing helps for modeling real world business products that do not have a simplistic single price point. Any business without a flat product pricing model will take advantage of the flexibility offered by Block Pricing.

Combining pricing strategies this way works so that, for example, a customer pays a flat fee for purchasing in quantities of 1-25, a different flat fee if they buy 26-50 of that item, and any quantity above 50 could be charged an over price of $1 per unit. Without this helpful tool, you would need to set up duplicate versions of the same product within the system to try to account for the different ways a single product could be priced with simple block pricing configuration.

C is for Customers, Configuration Attribute, Configuration Selection Rules, Contract Pricing, and Constraints

Customers

Salesforce CPQ refers to what is called “Accounts” in Salesforce as “Customers.” Salesforce CPQ uses the existing Account object in Salesforce so that you can leverage your existing Account information when creating quotes for your customers.

Quotes in Salesforce CPQ can be related to your Accounts in Salesforce, helping you identify who you are selling to and how to enter your information accordingly.

Accounts can also be set up to drive some of the automatic pricing and discounts in Salesforce CPQ, using such features as contracted prices and discount schedules. This is especially useful for B2B sellers who want to leverage Account information to create quotes for customers. Automatic pricing and discounts ensures your quotes are always accurate, consistent, and timely for your customers.

Configuration Attributes

Some products may require more configuration or information before they are added to a quote. Configuration Attributes allow you to input that information. You can add any type of Salesforce field as a Configuration Attribute to a product. Sellers who use any sort of configuration products will find Configuration Attributes useful. For example, you can add a picklist that lets you select the color of a t-shirt or a text field that lets you type in a custom message for a banner. Using Configuration Attributes helps ensure that your quotes have the necessary product details before they are passed onto the customer and that no information is missed.

Configuration Selection Rules

Configuration Selection Rules automate product selections on product bundles. Configuration Selection Rules can be used to automatically add, remove, show, and hide products in a bundle. This feature allows you to match real world business rules, such as automatically adding a laptop charger when a laptop is added to a bundle. Configuration Selection Rules also mean fewer clicks for the sales rep as it automates more of the product selections upon creation of the quote.

Contracted Pricing

Using Contracted Pricing means that pricing is always accurate in your quotes. This feature of Salesforce CPQ allows you to set up customer-specific prices for a product or a group of products. You can also set a date range for when these prices should be effective. If you come to any agreements or deals regarding pricing with a select customer, Contracted Pricing makes sure that Salesforce CPQ accurately reflects those prices. You can set up a lower price for a specific product for one customers or you can set up a discount percentage. You can set up any sort of price or discount really, for one product or a group of products, and for a date range or for an open-ended timeframe. Any sellers who negotiate prices with their customers will find this useful.

Constraints

Option Constraints allow product bundles to be configured with product options that act in dependence of each other, either via inclusion or exclusion. They eliminate the need to cross-reference multiple lists of products to ensure compatibility and prevent invalid or missing product selections. We see them most commonly used to automatically select a dependent product to a bundle or disable product options that cannot be sold together. Sales reps will find this particularly helpful when configuring a product that involves several parts and depending on options selected further “up the chain,” downstream products may or may not be valid for selection. Constraints can be used by anyone, but are highly beneficial in manufacturing and service-based industries where the products within a bundle are largely dependent upon other options that have been selected. Ultimately, Constraints reduce the manual effort of ensuring that products are compatible, removing the need to cross-reference multiple spreadsheets, and eliminating the risk of human error as much as possible.

D is for Document Generation, DocuSign Integration, and Discount Schedules

ABCs_of_CPQ_Docu_Gen_300x400Document Generation

Document Generation is the native ability within Salesforce CPQ to produce a PDF output document of the configured quotes, terms and conditions, etc., to be presented to the end customer. Document Generation allows users to produce high quality documentation that can be tailored to their internal branding with the relevant merge data from the CPQ quote. Customers trying to create quotes without Salesforce CPQ would need to either transcribe the quote details into a document template manually or use another third-party document generation tool.

DocuSign Integration

The DocuSign integration in Salesforce CPQ allows reps to distribute documents for e-signatures. DocuSign is a leading e-signature platform and by integrating with DocuSign, Salesforce CPQ brings best-in-class document signature collecting directly into the quoting process. Automatically sending documents to signers, collecting signatures, all while sending status updates into Salesforce so that the sales teams always know what is happening with the quote. Without the integration, the process of collecting signatures is a manual, tedious step. Enjoy this streamlined process directly from Salesforce CPQ to move your quotes along swiftly and easily.

Discount Schedules

Discount Schedules allow for automatic discounting to be set up in a manner that allows for the discount to be dependent on the quantity being purchased. For products where the more of a product is purchased, the cheaper the product is, this can be especially helpful by eliminating the need for manually discounting pricing within the quote. We see this feature most often used by those in the services and manufacturing industry where the first item produced is more expensive than the 100th, passing discounted pricing along to the customer. While this could be managed via manual discounting, Discount Schedules provide an automated approach that reduces human error.

Stay tuned for the next post in our series to read more about the features Salesforce CPQ can offer for fast and efficient quoting.

Questions or looking to get started? Contact us.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Salesforce

9 Wins for Manufacturers Using Mobile CRM - Part 1: Surface Info that Matters

Today’s blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

To keep up with today’s rapidly paced market, manufacturers must push their products at the right moment, in the right place, at the right time. Your field sellers are doing the best they can to stay on-the-move and in the field, talking to and meeting with potential customers. You need a customer relationship management (CRM) system that’s just as mobile as they are to track activities, pipeline, and progress to capitalize on your team in the field.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share nine key wins for manufacturing companies using mobile CRM solutions.

Are you a manufacturing company with a field sales team? These nine wins should have you considering an investment in a mobile application sooner than later.

1. Surface the information that matters.

The old days of field selling are gone. No more printed excel sheets, spiral bound notebooks, or  wrinkled pages of contact information. With today’s technology you can access information on-the-go, anytime, anywhere.

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Tracking quality, inventory, quotes, and individual client information… there’s a lot that a field sales rep is responsible for when meeting with customers on the road. When time is of the essence (as it always is), you need to be able to access all of this in one place. Don’t waste time working in disparate systems and spending minutes (and energy) navigating between windows. A mobile application that surfaces the information you need – when you need it – can leave you, and your team, with more time and resources to turn a greater profit.

Consider an Integration

An application designed for the field can help you surface critical data from a variety of systems, such as historical sales data, product catalogs, pricing information, and more. For example, you can utilize an integration with a back-end content database to surface product catalogs when meeting with potential clients onsite.

Consider an integration with your ERP system to display critical financial data within CRM. Without a clear CRM and ERP integration strategy, your organization might not be realizing its full potential in the marketplace. With an integration, you will reduce the amount of process steps, increase efficiencies, reduce errors when inputting data, all while providing your key stakeholders with a true 360-degree view of your customers in a single solution.

With complete visibility into each and every opportunity, you can save time clicking and updating your disparate systems and spend more time selling. If your customer information is stored in a variety of email systems and spreadsheets across your different offices, your customer service efforts also become inconsistent, translating to lost sales and unhappy customers. Enable your sales staff to deliver exactly what the customer needs exactly when it’s needed.

Customer Example: New Belgium Brewery

New Belgium Brewery worked with Sonoma Partners to help their field sales team (also known as “Beer Rangers”) provide the best service to their customers in the field. We created a touch-based mobile application to provide them with easy-to-access customer data when they needed it most.

Functionality on the Road

In today’s highly mobile and data-centric world, access to information on-the-go is not only necessary, but expected. A consulting partner can help you access your CRM data via a mobile application, while supporting a range of mobile devices and dashboards tailored for ease-of-use in remote locations.

Stay tuned for more wins for manufacturers who invest in a CRM mobile application. If you’re interested in learning what might be possible at your organization, contact us.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Enterprise Mobility

Columbia Distributing Taps into More Effective Sales Management and Operations with CRM

Today's customer success story and interview were completed by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

Based in Portland, Oregon, Columbia Distributing serves a customer base of retailers and restauranteurs throughout the Pacific Northwest. Well-known for offering a diverse portfolio of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, they are one of the country’s largest malt beverage distributors and employ approximately 3,100 people.

Columbia Distributing has 300 sales people who are out in the field for a majority of the day. A large part of their work involves completing onsite surveys to assess how the stores and bars display their products. Columbia initially hired a different partner to integrate Dynamics 365 with a custom iOS mobile application. They found this previous partner to be unresponsive and unable to fix their many existing bugs within the application. The leadership team decided to improve the app and invest in a new partnership with Sonoma Partners to successfully meet the following needs:

  • They needed a data tracking tool to effectively share valuable information, such as consumption rates and in-store marketing efforts with their suppliers. Their previous tool was unstable and made it difficult to extract data, sometimes requiring weeks of work.
  • They needed a standardized process to conduct on-site surveys. The team responsible for visiting distribution sites found tracking quality control difficult to evaluate.

Columbia Distributing wanted to equip their sales team with a tool to help them perform their jobs more effectively.

We sat down with Project Manager Alyssa Wood to learn more about the project, the importance of tracking customer data in Dynamics 365, and the new and improved mobile application at Columbia Distributing:

Why is CRM important to Columbia Distributing?

Alyssa: CRM is the only way to truly analyze our data to understand what is and isn’t working for us. We have certain methods of tracking our products and supplier relationships, and CRM allows us to do so with a complete 360-view, recording and analyzing our sales process. We can’t be everywhere at once – with so many field sellers collecting data, we have to have a tool that presents all of this information in one place. Making an investment into CRM was an obvious move for us as it gives us the ability to deliver consistent, exceptional products to our customers while analyzing how we can be better.

How have your data efforts improved with the deployment of the new application and its integration with CRM?

Alyssa: We’ve streamlined our data collection process. Before, each branch collected data differently. We would get data from one branch in one form, but receive a completely different subset of data from another form. We wanted to make sure everyone used the same survey and delivered data in the same method. This effort also improves the quality of our data. Our sellers report in real-time using the mobile application. This means they don’t have to wait until they get back to the office, eliminating the risk that they might forget to log something.

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Before, taking these onsite surveys was an incredibly manual process. The reps had no product information at their fingertips. With standardized screens and preprogrammed options to choose from, the reps can differentiate products based on what they’re seeing on tap. With the data collection process controlled and consistent, we can see how we’re performing as an entire company rather than just on a granular, rep vs. rep scale.

How does that help Columbia Distributing?

Alyssa: We can now extract and compile the data and truly compare apples to apples to understand our analytics and performance in the field as a company. All of this helps our analytics team to understand what’s going on in the field, to help forecast sales more accurately, and so forth.

How does this impact management?

Alyssa: A single, easy-to-read dashboard helps management better oversee and direct our sales teams. Our sales reps are held accountable for the information they’re collecting. One dashboard shows the number of surveys per site completed by a rep. If this percentage is low, we can have a conversation about it with the seller. This visibility didn’t exist before and there was no way to hold our reps accountable.

What problems have you been able to solve with a reinvestment in CRM and the enhanced mobile application?

Alyssa: We now have a platform we can build on. In the future, we’ll have the ability to provide more granular surveys to collect more data specific to where it is collected. Now that we have the groundwork built with this application and the connection to CRM, we can start optimizing and improving the application.

How are you using the data you’re collecting?

Alyssa: Not only does CRM help us track the performance of our sales reps, but we’re now able to see trends and opportunities as a company at a higher level. We look forward to being able to leverage this tool in the future – once we’ve collected a years-worth of information, for example – to take a clear snapshot of how things have improved pre-/post- project. But I can say, that the sheer amount of data we have to analyze is so much greater. We’re optimistic we’ll have some very valuable insights in the months ahead.

What efforts did you use to boost user adoption of the new application?

Alyssa: We’ve learned the value in having leadership drive a project like this. Reporting is part of the job. If leadership positions it this way, and says the reps have to do this as part of their jobs, it’s powerful. The dashboards help our adoption levels too.

What was the hardest decision you had to make during the implementation process?

Alyssa: The hardest decision during this process was knowing when to go live. There’s only so much we can test on our own and plan for, but ultimately, pushing it live and giving the sales reps access gave us far more to go off in terms of improving the system than we could have without going live. Our business has adapted well, and we have feedback loops in place to make sure we’re keeping track of what we can improve in the future.

How does CRM help Columbia Distributing better compete in your industry?

Alyssa: It’s a competitive business; there’s only so much grocery store shelf space or tap handles in a bar. To keep up, you have to be strategic in how you’re presenting your product to your consumers. We need to constantly evaluate our work and be positioned to collect data, analyze it, and act on those insights. CRM allows us to do this.

What was it like working with Sonoma Partners?

Alyssa: We’ve really enjoyed working with Sonoma Partners. I found the team incredibly knowledgeable; they clearly know their stuff when it comes to CRM. Whenever questions would come up or there were problems we weren’t sure how to tackle; Sonoma was there to answer them all. It felt like having a translator. I’m rather new to CRM and we have a lot of non-technical sellers who didn’t understand the system initially. Sonoma bridged this gap effortlessly. In working with our previous partner, we sometimes felt like we were speaking two different languages. I never felt that way working with Sonoma Partners because of how well they got to know our business.

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What interested you in working with Sonoma Partners?

Alyssa: During one of our initial conversations with Sonoma Partners, they showed us the Ranger App they built for New Belgium Brewery. Immediately I thought: that’s it! That’s what our sellers need. In the demo, I saw how the app changed throughout the project with New Belgium, and seeing this phased approach made me even more confident that this partnership would be a good fit. Sonoma Partners knows the food and beverage industry and CRM. We made a great decision in switching partners.

What do you think the future is for Columbia Distributing, mobile applications, and CRM?

Alyssa: Now that we can see CRM and the mobile application used the way it’s supposed to be, I’m optimistic that we have only just begun our CRM program as an organization. Even in just a few months of having the application in the field, I’ve already heard from the sales reps how they want the app improved and added to. Management has their own list of asks. I think we’ll continue to evolve and build upon our platform to make sure that we’re continuing to provide value and quality products to our suppliers.

CRM puts us in a strategic mindset. We can already see what we’ve learned from the data we’ve collected thus far. Just imagine what else we could be tracking at our organization and what we could learn from that data, etc. It’s pushed us to be more strategic and given us the tool to do so.

 

Our thanks to Alyssa for taking the time to sit down with us to discuss their project with us.

Are you interested in learning about how a mobile application could help your sellers in the field? Contact us.

Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Microsoft Dynamics 365

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.

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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.

Feralloy

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:

Eat_drink_deploy_blog

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