3 Reasons Why Manufacturers need CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

Article by Rod Mackay updated February 22, 2011

Article

The team at Audaxium (Javelin’s sister company) has a long history with manufacturing companies.  We’ve spent more than our fair share of time working with Engineering departments talking about design.  We’ve taken over whiteboards during ERP integration planning sessions.  And we’ve helped companies improve their document control systems.

But some of the most intriguing discussions take place when we sit down with owners and managers who are responsible for sales, and growing the business at smaller companies.  Sales is about Customer Relationship Management, no?

“We don’t have sales people.  We don’t need CRM.”

“Our sales reps are fine, they know their customers well and they use Outlook to manage their contacts.”

“We really only sell to existing customers and we have a lot of repeat business.”

Those are some of the reasons we’re given for not wanting to discuss a system for managing those relationships.  We don’t need a solution if there’s no problem, right?  And a small company doesn’t need more “Systems”.  But there is a problem.  These same managers will then begin to talk about how times are tricky and how they need to win new projects, expand into more markets, or introduce more product lines.  CRM is not just for some sales people.  And it’s not just for a big company with money to spend. It’s for everyone in the company who deals with prospects and customers.  It’s for managing their experience with you and to keep track of your company’s goals.  Which brings us to the 3 reasons.  3 out of 16 I’ve got written down.

Reason #1. Customer Service Excellence

How much time is spent by your staff searching answers to fairly basic questions from your customers?  Are they getting bounced from person to person?  Give your customer the confidence that you’re organized and they can get answers to their questions quickly and reliably.

The first area that comes to mind for me is post-sale implementation and delivery of a project.  As a manufacturer, your CRM system will include the ability to manage this information and keep your whole team in the loop, thereby getting the job done right and keeping the customer happy. You’ll incur fewer delays and penalties, and more follow on sales.

A solid CRM system will also help you keep track of any warranty, repair, or service issues.  Perhaps your ERP system keeps track of the material side of these issues, but day to day questions, inquiries, and service calls are an easy thing for a CRM system to manage and ensure that nothing gets overlooked.

Reason #2. Boost Your Sales

When it comes right down to it, everyone wants to sell more. But how will a CRM system help that?

The first way it will help your team is when you engage a customer or prospect on a new opportunity.  Gathering the customer requirements all in one place will make sure that everyone involved has a very clear idea of what’s needed and what the difficulties might be.  You can then work with the customer to craft a solution.  After some time, you’ll have a history of customer requirements that will give you insights into both specific customers, and your entire customer base.

We’ve seen many companies specifically having some challenges when it comes to responding to RFQ’s, the main issue being that the process takes too long as it’s handed off around the office, or, the configuring process, while a set of standard rules, is done manually.  There is often also very little knowledge of why business is being won, or lost.  This is incredibly valuable information that can be captured in your CRM system.

Reason #3. Expanding into New Markets

It might be easy to continue to take orders from existing companies, but launching new products, moving into new territories, or targeting different industries requires that your sales efforts are highly managed and effective.

As you undertake these activities a CRM system will help in targeting prospects and managing those communications.  It will measure the team against the goals set for them.  Being organized and diligent, in combination with some good marketing, will mean the difference between success and failure with your new initiative.

The selling process will be different and it’s important to track that process.

Conclusion

There’s a myriad of different ways a CRM system can help a manufacturing company.  It could mean managing distributors as opposed to customers.  It may be a way to give more people access to data already in ERP.  The list is long.

To read more on this topic, I encourage you to download this excellent whitepaper from IDC. Give it a read.  It goes into a great deal of depth on this topic and has several different ideas on how CRM will help.  It also concludes with a list of thought-provoking questions to ask for self-evaluation.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.