In the world of manufacturing, it might be tempting to think you don’t need CRM software. It’s only helpful for the marketing and sales pros right? After all, you have a lot of things to focus on as a manufacturer — production, distribution, the supply chain. But if a manufacturing CRM system isn’t on the list, you’re missing out on a world of opportunity.
Manufacturing encompasses many areas, and your company — like the inner workings of a clock — has lots of moving parts. It’s true that you can’t run a successful business without focusing on the core elements and related software (ERP, for example). But systems that might seem unnecessary can make a big difference.
And one of the biggest is CRM.
It’s not just for flashy digital marketing firms that handle things like marketing automation or for companies with a mega sales team. That line of thinking is like saying exercise is only important for athletes.
A CRM for manufacturing can help your business get into shape in multiple ways. Let’s see how.
7 Benefits of a Manufacturing CRM
1. 360-Degree Customer View
Everyone and their grandma touts having a 360-degree customer view. And for good reason. It means having the ability to gain complete insight into your customer data across people and platforms.
What does this mean at a practical level?
A 360-degree view enhances collaboration across teams.
Once a customer’s profile is in your CRM system, everyone from sales reps to customer service personnel can access the same information. This smooths the handoff from marketing to sales and ensures customers receive personalized experiences every time they interact with your company.
And with complex B2B purchases, it’s likely multiple people are involved in the process. A CRM for manufacturing enables you to track several contacts within a single account and use an org chart to arrange them based on their status and decision-making power.
A 360-degree view provides more consistency.
A pen-and-paper (or spreadsheet) approach doesn’t guarantee any level of accuracy. It would be too easy for marketing to update a lead’s contact info but forget to tell sales. And when a rep calls the lead, they find out it’s the wrong number. Whoops.
Furthermore, by the time someone comes to your help desk with an issue, they’ve already had multiple touchpoints with your business. But if the service agent doesn’t have that historical information readily accessible, they won’t be able to provide a seamless experience.
For example, say the customer wanted to cancel an order but was accidentally charged for it along with their intended purchase. Having that information at hand would give the service rep insight into the situation and enable them to address it accordingly and in a timely manner.
A CRM solves these inconsistencies by centralizing everything in one place. It gives your teams a dashboard of interactions, activities and relevant info, where everyone gets access to the same, current data.
2. Greater Visibility Into the Sales Pipeline
Knowing where deals stand in your sales pipeline is critical. But without a CRM, gaining that insight can be a confusing, jumbled process. Not having this visibility is the business version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
You can certainly use a spreadsheet to track each lead as it travels through your pipeline, but that’s an inefficient approach. It keeps you from scaling, requires too much manual work and doesn’t provide true visibility.
A CRM designed for manufacturing streamlines and simplifies the process.
A variety of pipeline tools and graphs visualize data so it’s easy to understand. They provide summaries of your entire pipeline for the big picture view as well as let you drill into specific accounts. You can see what stage every opportunity is in and how much each deal is worth.
With CRM software, you also get pipeline automation. You can define rules that when triggered automatically move leads through the various stages you have set up. The system can also send notifications when leads hit certain milestones or transition from one stage to the next.
This way, your pipeline stays up to date, and no one has to play guessing games.
3. Improved Customer Service
One of the main reasons CRM solutions exist is to improve customer service. Retaining customers starts with ensuring consistent satisfaction.
Salesforce data shows that customer satisfaction plays a major role in revenue earning. Customers will happily pay more to receive a positive experience when interacting with your brand.
And when your customers aren’t satisfied, you need to be proactive in addressing their concerns in order to put your company back in their good graces.
Organizing customer data is one crucial area where CRM software improves customer service. A customer won’t appreciate it if they’re on hold for 10 minutes as your service agent searches high and low for what should be a simple answer.
Say a customer wants to know the history of warranty claims over the last quarter. With a CRM, your customer service rep can look up that information in seconds and quickly relay it. No annoying holds while the agent goes on a wild goose hunt.
CRMs also come with case management. This allows your company to create a ticketing system for tracking, updating and resolving issues. It gives customers a way to bring attention to problems and ensures no case slips through the cracks or gets forgotten.
When it comes to customer service, expectations are high. Shep Hyken, CAO of Shepard Presentations, explains. “The service a customer has is being compared to the best service they received from anyone.”
So even if your company is in a deep B2B vertical, your customers will expect the same level of experience they receive from companies like Amazon. Without a CRM, that becomes a tall order.
4. Higher Quality Leads
Better sales processes means more customers, and more customers equal higher revenue. But improved sales processes also means you have to identify quality leads.
Manufacturing CRM software helps you do just that via lead management. When your sales team tries to find new distributors and/or retailers to partner with, they need to focus on the ones most likely to convert.
As you target leads with marketing campaigns, the CRM tracks their responses and interactions. The system presents this data via tools like lead scoring to show which contacts are worth pursuing based on their likelihood of converting.
This lets your sales team hone in on the best opportunities. That makes them more productive and your company more profitable.
5. Better Sales Projections
Accurately predicting what’ll happen in the future is one of the hardest parts of any job — just ask your local weatherman.
Luckily for your sales team, a manufacturing CRM can do most of that work for them. CRMs track every order your customers place so you have a full record of what each customer ordered, when they placed the order and how much it cost.
Using these records and platforms such as business analytics tools, a CRM system can generate accurate sales forecasts. Here’s how:
- It uses to find the buying patterns of each customer, such as peak times and down times.
- Then it finds the long-term trends, such as year-over-year sales increases or decreases.
- After compiling and analyzing the data, the system generates accurate sales projections that you can use for future planning.
6. Intelligent Production Planning
Speaking of future planning, those sales projections help more than just your sales team plan for the year ahead. They also support production planning efforts.
After all, you base what you produce on what you sell. If you don’t have accurate estimations of what you’ll sell, production planning becomes a string of wild shots in the dark.
However, knowing the amounts of each product ordered and when they were ordered lets you create a detailed production plan. Instead of leaving it up to guesswork, you can pinpoint which products you should make, and when.
Those sales projections have a trickle down effect. By helping production planning they also help budgeting. When you have a detailed production plan laid out for the year, you can properly budget based on the corresponding production costs. And with a proper budget in hand, you can better plan for future hires, equipment upgrades and other line items.
7. Increased Sales
Finally, a CRM for manufacturing leads to increased sales. This is thanks again to your sales projections. Having a window into customers’ buying patterns enables you to leverage that data to increase sales.
Historical data reveals the peak order times and down times for each customer. And with the CRM data mapped out by big data analytics tools, your team can make informed decisions not only when to sell, but also what to sell.
Your sales team or customer success managers can then use this information in upselling and cross-selling, using the crunched numbers to identify the best times and products for cross-selling and upselling.
For example, a customer’s peak ordering time is a good entry point for both cross-selling and upselling, since the customer’s already in a buying mindset. And if the additional purchase adds value and is relevant, you’re even more likely to boost the sale size.
How to Determine if You Need a Manufacturing CRM
The benefits we just covered are some of the main perks of adopting a CRM. But that begs the question: how can you know if a CRM is the right choice for your business?
There’s not one right answer. Whether a CRM would help your company depends on a host of factors — particularly your unique needs.
With that in mind, here are some criteria to keep in mind as you evaluate the pros and cons of investing in a CRM for manufacturing:
- How are you managing leads, contacts, orders, customer service issues and other CRM activities? If you answered spreadsheets and notepads, a CRM is probably a good idea.
- What’s the potential ROI? As with any software purchase, you need to justify the investment.
- Do you have CRM functionality via an ERP system? If so, does it actually contribute to your operations or is it gathering digital dust on a forgotten virtual shelf?
If you have an ERP in place and it has CRM capabilities, you might be wondering, “Isn’t that enough?”
While it’s true that ERP systems can handle many CRM activities, it’s important to distinguish between traditional ERPs and modern ones. Traditional ERPs are known for being all-in-one solutions. They may come with an add-on here or there, but you generally receive the whole package in one system. They focus on a lot of different business areas, and as such, the vendor may not have time to develop deep CRM features.
However, most modern ERPs are comprised of pick-and-choose modules that can be sold as part of the ERP or as a standalone. The CRM capabilities of these types of ERP are much more comprehensive and effective.
If you’re still using a traditional ERP, you’re likely better off implementing a true CRM and integrating it with your ERP.
However, small businesses in particular can benefit from using the CRM component of their ERP, whether it’s traditional or modern.
David Dozer, CTO of Blaze IT LLC, says, “For most SMBs, this out-of-the-box functionality suits their needs, is significantly more cost effective than paying for third-party CRM and usually integrates with the ERP seamlessly because it’s already a part of it.”
CRM Features for the Manufacturing Industry
The manufacturing industry is huge and has particular needs. As such, many CRM vendors have solutions tailored for manufacturers. Google “manufacturing CRM” and you’ll see a host of products pop up on the first page.
The majority of CRM systems have core capabilities and features — things like lead management and a database for storing contact info. But manufacturing has some unique demands.
Here are several key features to look for in your manufacturing CRM:
- CPQ (configure-price-quote) application. This is a must-have if you sell highly customizable products. It includes features such as a product catalog, quote management and inventory tracking.
- Channel management. Capabilities here range from activity streams to loyalty programs, enabling you to manage relationships with distributors and other partners.
- Forecasting tools. Algorithms can predict future demand so your operations stay on top of inventory needs rather than always being a step behind in the production process. Forecasting also lets you predict sales projections.
- Integration options. You’ll want to the ability to connect your CRM with your ERP for a smooth data flow and holistic approach. You may also need CRM CPQ integration if your system doesn’t have built-in CPQ capabilities.
- Business process management (BPM). This feature enables you to build workflows and automate processes for more efficient operations.
What to Do Now?
We’ve looked at the benefits of manufacturing CRM systems, how to determine if your business can benefit from a CRM and what essential features to look for. So what comes next?
We recommend that you start by exploring the main CRM features. This will give you a better idea of what to expect from your average CRM software vendor.
From there, you can begin researching potential solutions. Our free CRM comparison report lets you compare the top products side by side. You can adjust the requirements to find products that fit your specific manufacturing needs, such as a solution that includes a CPQ module.
Manufacturing involves a lot of moving parts and produces loads of information that require vigilant tracking. Investing in a CRM designed for the manufacturing industry can bring a lot of benefits to your operations and your bottom line.
What top features are you looking for in a manufacturing CRM? Let us know in the comments!
Contributing Thought Leaders
Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and his articles have been read in hundreds of publications. He also created a customer service training program that helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees.
David Dozer is a business consulting and IT specialist with more than 15 years of experience in the enterprise software realm. He has dedicated his career to helping clients find and implement software solutions that meet real-world business needs. In his current role as CTO of Blaze IT LLC, he focuses on helping small companies with their digital operations. David is also a member of the SelectHub Thought Leader program.