Customer relationship management is applicable to every industry, including the manufacturing sector. There is often a misconception that CRM software is meant primarily for sales departments and/or B2C companies, but this is simply not true. While all CRMs have functions across sales, services, marketing, and distribution; industry-specific systems like manufacturing CRM take those functions a step further. Manufacturing CRM is built for what manufacturers care about, with capabilities for achieving the accurate forecasting, long-term relationships, and streamlined production these companies need most.

Why Manufacturing CRM?

Timing is everything in the manufacturing world. If you make something too soon, it sits in a warehouse eating your profits. If you make it too late, you end up with a product no one needs. It’s all about precision planning and communication, which is why manufacturing CRM makes perfect sense.

Proper forecasting is the backbone of manufacturing. It’s the basis for every plan, schedule, order, and purchase in the organization. Historical sales data and growth percentages must be combined with real-time metrics on what’s actually moving – today. Manufacturing CRM provides this, and much more.

Companies using manufacturing CRM see its effects through:

  • Waste reduction
  • Forecasting accuracy
  • Shortened sales cycles
  • Inventory and product catalogue insights
  • Higher customer satisfaction rates
  • Higher customer retention rates
  • More cross-sell and upsell opportunities
  • Segmented marketing
  • Simplified reporting
  • Cross-organizational data transparency
  • Document management
  • Email & phone call record keeping
  • Integration with existing systems
  • Mobile and Cloud accessibility
  • Pipeline visibility
  • Streamlined quoting
  • Life cycle mapping
  • Automated sales activities and reminders
  • Controlled access to critical data

The list goes on. Manufacturing CRM takes the innate benefits of an out-of-the-box CRM and highlights its most valuable capabilities for manufacturers. As companies streamline their processes and pinpoint their forecasting, they alter the competitive landscape to their advantage, leaving slower adopters scrambling to keep pace.

What to Look for in Manufacturing CRM?

There are so many CRMs and so many features offered by each that the search for the right fit can be exasperating. Which features do manufacturers really need? What’s important? Here are some tips on what to look for in a manufacturing CRM system:

  • Demand Forecasting Functions
    I don’t think I need to explain how crucial this feature is. Demand forecasting is an absolute must for manufacturing CRM. Companies must be able to analyze the data, report on the trends, determine forecasts, account for variability, revise inventory, and schedule required operations.
  • Ability to Track Opportunities & Quotes
    Ideally, these opportunities and quotes would be trackable by end user, distributor and/or partner to allow multiple access points to information and deeper drilldowns for reporting.
  • ERP & Accounting Integrations
    If you’re investing in a CRM, you better be sure it works with your existing systems. Combining a CRMs front-office data with an ERPs back-office financials rockets your forecasting and reporting capacity to new heights. CRMs also can be integrated with email programs, which allow users to log conversations and input data faster. Tell your CRM consultant about all your existing systems and ask how each would fit with your desired CRM.
  • Mobile and Offline Functionality
    The CRM should be available and easily navigable no matter where it’s being accessed. Look for a CRM with an easy-to-use mobile app and offline capabilities to accommodate even the most remote user.
  • Ability to Track Products After They’ve Been Sold
    Once a product is sold, the account may change hands within your organization. A good CRM will track the move from one end user to another and allow outside information to be added to the file. For example, taking a picture of the equipment sold via a mobile device and uploading it to the CRM for reference.
  • Warranty/Case/Issue Management Capabilities
    Look for a CRM that offers a knowledge base and/or customer portal where you can collaborate with other users, find answers to questions, submit support requests, and get the latest product news. These additional contact points will be valuable in the long term.
  • Distributor Tracking
    Can the CRM pinpoint locations and quickly call up terms and pricing? Think about the distributor information you want to track and whether the solution is offering the right channels to execute it.
  • Email Integrations
    The right manufacturing CRM should work seamlessly with your Gmail, Outlook, Lotus Notes, or other email provider.
  • eSignature Functions
    There are lots of contracts that need to be signed and tracked in the manufacturing world. Make sure your CRM works with your current eSignature solution, or that an eSignature solution can be easily added if you so choose.

How to Get Started

If you’ve purchased software before, you are familiar with the general process. Figure out what you need the new system to do, decide your budget, determine a project timeline, and commit to the implementation.  As CRM consultants, we always recommend working with a partner to find and implement new systems. You’re probably thinking, “You would say that.” Well yes, we would, even if you don’t choose us. Why? Because working with a consultant takes the confusion and tedious research out of software buying. A good consultant will:

  • Do a deep assessment of your business processes
  • Know your industry and how that affects your CRM needs
  • Be familiar with multiple software products and able to address your concerns
  • Guide you through the selection and purchasing process
  • Point out any hidden costs or underlying factors that may influence your budget
  • Recommend integrations and personalized features to enhance your experience
  • Offer a complete project plan for getting you up-and-running on the system
  • Deliver online or live training to teach your teams how to use the product
  • Be your point of contact for technical roadblocks and their resolutions
  • Escalate issues on your behalf
  • Offer complimentary educational experiences

Software systems help automate, organize, and analyze business data, but not all systems are the same. The key to maximizing the ROI on your investment is selecting the product with the most functionality for your business and industry requirements. Start by ranking your most important features to narrow your industry-specific options. Not sure where to start? Download our Manufacturing CRM checklist as a guide.

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