Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

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

3 Key Reasons to Integrate CRM and ERP

Today's post is written by Matt Baker, Practice Director at Sonoma Partners.

Businesses often choose to employ multiple systems to ensure that processes run as efficiently as possible. More times than not, these systems include a Customer Relationship Management solution (CRM) and an Enterprise Resource Planning solution (ERP). Your ERP system provides your key stakeholders with much needed internal information, while your CRM system creates the entry point for customer engagement.

Without a clear CRM and ERP integration strategy, your organization may not be realizing it's full potential in the marketplace.  

In our experience, we've seen 85% of our net new implementations begin with some type of integration between CRM and ERP, and close to 100% of our implementations have some sort of long-term integration plan. 

There are three key reasons for integrating CRM and ERP:

  1. Efficiency: Resulting in reduced process steps
  2. Usability: True 360-degree view of the customer in one solution
  3. Data Quality: Clean accurate data and reduced errors when inputting data

In order to successfully integrate your CRM solution with your ERP solution, you need to be able to identify a clear ERP integration strategy. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself as you start to build this strategy:

Is integration needed?

Most companies do not start with a clean slate when implementing CRM as there is usually a significant legacy factor. The majority of organizations have pieced their business applications together over time and through acquisitions. This usually yields a business application portfolio that does not support the business goals, requirements, or processes. An integration strategy is crucial, as the ERP solution is the backbone of a business's operations and the primary system-of-record.

How will this benefit the end user?

In order for these types of integrations to work, everyone involved has to recognize a measurable benefit. If it currently takes a sales rep 5 emails and 4 phone calls to get an order status; you can reduce that activity time to under a minute by implementing a CRM system. That improved efficiency is an example of a big win.

How does this affect control of data?

Most financial teams cringe at the idea of their ERP financial data being displayed in CRM. They worry about how the data might be manipulated or changed. Remember that ERP is the system-of-record for this type of information, and fears can be eliminated by doing a one-way sync into CRM.

How do you assign process ownership?

You don't want to put everything in both systems; you want to use each system for what it is best suited for. For example, Product Information should be mastered within ERP. Contact information should be mastered within CRM.

The above questions are just a few of those you will need to examine as you define your ERP to CRM Integration Strategy.  These questions will continue to evolve as your business changes. Contact Sonoma Partners today to find out more information on how we can help you successfully integrate your ERP and CRM solutions. 

How to get executives to pay attention to CRM


Topics: CRM for Manufacturing

Just Say No to Homegrown CRM Systems

When we sit down to meet with prospects in the manufacturing and distribution verticals, we frequently encounter organizations looking to move off their existing homegrown CRM system. What these individuals are looking for is a consolidated system that can scale with their growing business and be easily managed by several members of their team. These seem like simple enough requests (they are when using Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce), but can be a nightmare to tackle in a homegrown CRM system.

Why do homegrown CRM systems even exist? 

Homegrown CRM systems are largely created as a result of the IT team raising their hand and volunteering their services to "quickly spin up a CRM". We've seen homegrown systems that are 20 years old and for the most part, are thrown together versions of Outlook. Oftentimes, the original architect behind the homegrown CRM system is no longer at the company; leaving present employees with nothing but duct tape, spit, and prayers to change or update the system. 

If you're ready to migrate off of your homegrown CRM system but don't know which platform to choose (we know this can be a confusing process), let us help you work through a CRM vendor selection

If you’re a manufacturer or distributor looking to become more efficient, but are still running a homegrown CRM…keep reading.

A formal CRM system will pay for itself.

If you think purchasing a formal CRM system and engaging with an implementation partner comes with a big price tag, just wait until you see the bill after years of trying to make your homegrown system scale.

Homegrown CRM systems do not scale, and the more you try to make them, the more money it’s going to cost you.

In our experience, we’ve discovered that manufacturing and distribution companies can recoup the cost of a formal CRM system and contract with an implementation partner in 3-4 new hires. We estimate that every time a manufacturer or distributor puts a new sales rep in the field, they spend about $50k-$60k to get them ramped up and running. An investment in an established CRM platform will save you time and money and pay for itself in a handful of hires.

Support is good. You want support.

Another reason you should just say ‘no’ to homegrown CRM systems is because they don’t come with support. Since they belong to you, exist on-prem, and can only be updated by existing employees, you have no one to turn to when things go wrong or need to be updated.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce release regular updates 2-3 times a year… and you don’t have to do a thing.

With all these regular updates come add-ons and free stuff; like authentication, mobile access, reporting, dashboards, automation, page reports, workflows, notifications, and the list goes on and on. You would have to spend millions of dollars to integrate these products with a homegrown CRM system, or you could have them out of the box with your purchase. It’s up to you.

Homegrown systems aren’t user-friendly.

In other words, a lot of homegrown CRM systems are ugly. If you’re trying to get your people to use your CRM (and hello, that’s the whole point) good luck getting your team to regularly use a system that’s as painful to look at as it is to use. 

Let’s work together. We’re here to help you successfully implement a CRM system that can scale with your business, provide real value to your employees, and replace your existing homegrown system, once and for all. 

Topics: CRM Best Practices CRM for Manufacturing

How Changing Nothing Can Change Everything: M.Holland & Mobility

"We can do this in a better way."

That's the conclusion that M. Holland came to when they recognized the need for a CRM solution. They pinpointed deficiencies in their business processes and looked to CRM to take them from -1 to 0. But what started as a CRM implementation project evolved into so much more the moment they realized that by changing nothing, they could change everything. They didn't need to invent new processes or technologies. They needed to alter the delivery of the information they already had and make the functions they always had to do more accessible. To get from 0 to 1, and a place where they had a competitive advantage, they needed a mobile application.

Take it to the field

In the early stages of their CRM project, M. Holland team members took our UX architects into the field to collect essential observational data. They went on ride alongs to watch how people actually did their jobs, instead of listening to them explain how they thought they did their jobs. We found that what was supposedly being met on paper wasn't being met within the context of modern mobility. And with that, the conversation headed in a new direction - towards the creation of a mobile app.

No wheel to reinvent

The mobile app discussion was far from revolutionary. Mobilizing your business doesn't require you to make big changes in relation to what you do or how you do it; it requires you to change how the information and processes you have are communicated and accessed. Once in the field, M. Holland recognized that their people were trapped in the paradigm of their every day. Their sales force was frustrated with their existing tools and felt stuck. Getting information from various locations and drives in their laptop was a painful task. What their team needed was a fresh perspective.

IT to the rescue

It took a technology person to uncover that fresh perspective. Through the participation of junior-level UX activities, M. Holland's IT team was able to understand the tactical flow of events that the field team completed in the real world. Understanding the back and forth of activities and data in a dynamic way allowed them to see things differently, and beg the question: what if we did all of the things we're doing but in a mobile-centric way?

Enter Sonoma Partners

M. Holland’s IT team laid the framework that allowed our UX team to create the mobile solution that they were looking for. Take a tour of two of the app screens below:

Account – Canadian + Ship To
Account - Canadian + Ship To
Take a look at the landing page for an account in the phone app. We put the absolute key information, specifically information that a user might need on their phone, on the surface as soon as an account is located. 

Here you can see the account name and number along with the ship-to details. This is useful for the common case of speaking with M. Holland Customer Service on the phone. If a shipment is delayed, a rep will need this info and it’s important that it’s easily accessible.

The Alerts + Tasks section clearly shows any outstanding work items related to this account. The contacts section allows the rep to tap in and see all contacts at this account. Since we know a rep typically deals with one primary point of contact at a given account, we created a special display of that person’s info on the front page. We then give one-tap access to the rep so they can quickly email or call that individual.

Task List
Task List
Breaking the task list into “Needs my attention” and “Awaiting others” is a relatively simple concept from a CRM customization perspective. But in a mobile app, it is a very big deal. This function allows the app to replace excessive amounts of emails back and forth between sales reps and product folks. With one tap they can answer two questions:

-      What do I need to work on?

-      What’s the status of XYZ I fired off?

Finding the answer to both of these questions used to require annoying searches through an overfilled inbox. With the app, problem solved.

The result

A solution that has:

  • Improved customer experience, leading to more opportunities and growth
  • Pushed the technology team to be engaged in the business
  • Increased credibility of the organization in the eyes of their customers
  • Capitalized on the momentum of mobility to better serve their field team

Neil Goodrich, CIO of M. Holland Company will be presenting How Changing Nothing Can Change Everything on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 3:30 pm at appsworld North America 2015. Come learn more about how M.Holland achieved their mobility goals and how the IT team played a central role in creating that vision.


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Topics: CRM for Manufacturing Enterprise Mobility

5 Benefits of Integrating CRM and ERP Systems for Manufacturing Firms


Whether you're operating in wholesale and distribution, life sciences, or industrial manufacturing; you're well aware that today's global economy and technology explosion have created a hyper-competitive operating environment for manufacturing firms.  In order to help your company improve the efficiency of your business processes so you can compete, you've implemented an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool. Whether it's JD Edwards, SAP or Oracle that you're using, your ERP system allows you to get a real-time view of your entire enterprise. But what about a real-time view of your customer? Have you invested in a CRM system that gives you a comprehensive understanding of who your customer is and what they're purchasing? There are two very important sides of the profitability coin: the business and the buyer; the tools your company uses should address both. When properly integrated, manufacturing firms can experience major benefits from the marriage of CRM and ERP.

1. Consolidated Sales Processe

One specific challenge that manufacturing firms face is supporting two modes of selling: a direct sales team and a distribution channel. Not only are you focused on appealing to your distributors so they push your product, you're managing your direct sales team and their relationships with your clients. So what happens when your direct sales team goes head-to-head with your distributor on the same project? Are you even aware of the overlap before it's too late? A well-implemented CRM system is flexible enough to support the two different modes of selling and get your teams the information they need to ensure you aren't engaging yourself in a bidding war.

2. Increased Visibility and Improved Forecasting

In our experience, we've found that a majority of sellers don't have access to their ERP systems. This is a problem! If you don't have a CRM system and you're storing valuable client and product information that your sales force needs, you have a problem. Because of this lack of access and information, any hope for accurate forecasting goes out the window. When integrated, ERP and CRM systems can give your team real-time visibility into the business data so they can properly sell and have compelling conversations with customers.

3. Cleaner Quote to Cash Process

This is a conversation we have with almost every one of our manufacturing clients. The concept of having to create accurate quotes off of complicated product configurations is an extremely difficult task. But with increased visibility comes an improved quote to cash process (hallelujah!) We know that the product configurations that you create can be very complex because you build to order. Every choice impacts the next and without a deep understanding of the product configuration at the beginning of the project you’re setting yourself up to fail. Unfortunately, we've found that the beginning of the sales process hasn’t paid enough attention to product configurations and how this impacts the entirety of the project’s lifecycle. When CRM and ERP systems are integrated, your sales team can access the information they need at the beginning to accurately quote and deliver.

4. Mobility

Now that you’ve addressed the two modes of selling, determined who is responsible for the sale, and integrated your CRM and ERP systems properly, your team is ready to hit the ground running. Or are they? Your field team is on the road having dynamic conversations with customers and they must be able to update content at the point of interaction, not at the end of the day. You have to have a mobility strategy that allows you to update pipeline and quote information on the fly. Mobile CRM applications allow you to capture and document this information, ultimately helping you to engage and make better decisions for your customers based off of order information, historical purchases, and current production schedules; all accessible with just a swipe and a tap.

5. The Distributor Portal

A trend that we are currently seeing in manufacturing is an increased focus on keeping existing customers, rather than winning new business. This means that once you’ve made the sale, you have to pivot your attention to keeping the conversation going. Manufacturers, repeat after me: cross-selling is your friend. And how can your team cross-sell more effectively? Through portals updated with information from both ERP and CRM systems. Portals allow you to see where in the manufacturing process an order is, check the status and delivery of past orders, and see the account in real-time. All of this information gives you valuable insight that can help you make the next sale while keeping your existing customers in the know.

CRM is no replacement for ERP and ERP is no replacement for CRM, but the integration between these two systems is essential to increasing collaboration between departments. If you're considering integrating a CRM tool with your existing ERP system, remember this: the key is to create two systems that are tightly integrated and designed in a way that creates a customer-centric environment.

Want to learn more about CRM and ERP integrations for manufacturing? We can get you get actionable data into the right people's hands at the right time to keep your sales and production cycles moving forward.

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Topics: CRM for Manufacturing