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 Processes
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.
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.