Must-Have Features for a Manufacturing CRM

Everybody involved in manufacturing knows that the list of skills, tools and competencies required for success is long and always evolving. One of the tools necessary for success that have emerged over the past few years is a powerful CRM for manufacturers.

Indeed, a specially designed manufacturing CRM provides the kind of visibility and versatility all manufacturers need to delight current customers and attract new ones. But an important question for all manufacturers is this: What features should they insist on to achieve the many benefits of a versatile and effective manufacturer’s CRM? There are many possible answers to that question—which is why it can be so confusing—so here is a handy list of must-have features:

Integration with Outlook: Like a lot of industries, manufacturing has an aging workforce. This is particularly true when it comes to existing sales teams, which makes it critical that CRM for manufacturers be incorporated in a way that ensures that those who need the software most will actually use it. The ability to integrate a CRM so that it syncs well with email systems like Outlook is part of that equation. Because older sales forces—and really all employees of all generations—tend to resist change, it’s vital that a CRM for manufacturers allow the sales team to continue to create appointments and other activities in Outlook but also have that information flow back into the CRM. This will elevate usage of the CRM and begin the process of making it a recognized part of a manufacturer’s culture and way of doing business.

A robust ticketing system: Customer service and the ability to identify unmet needs a client has, but doesn’t recognize, are vital aspects of a manufacturer’s success. Having the visibility that comes through a CRM’s robust ticketing system—complete with a knowledge base—enables follow-up and support that customers will genuinely value. With the right algorithms and artificial intelligence, a manufacturer’s CRM can also promote cross-selling and up-selling opportunities that align with a customer’s priorities.

An effective quoting tool: Manufacturers come in a lot of flavors, with some producing chemicals and others making shoes or electronics. That diversity shouldn’t mask one commonality that all manufacturers share: Everyone builds and sells a product. Because of that basic reality, it’s vital that any manufacturing CRM have an effective quoting tool. And by effective, that means it must be supported by multiple price books, product catalogs and has the ability to mail out templates directly from the CRM.

Vigorous sales territory management: Even as the manufacturing industry embraces high-tech tools like robots and AI and predictive analytics, personal relationships remain the foundation of any company’s success. An effective CRM for manufacturers makes it easier for account managers to cultivate those important personal relationships by giving them the information they need to tend to existing customers in their territory while prospecting for new ones. This territory management approach is most effective when sales reps know how to parcel out their precious time in ways that maximize their impact. An effective CRM for manufacturers provides the information to make the most of every on-site appointment and allows for the market segmentation needed to help sales reps track sales and do better account planning.

Dashboards and reports that are easy to use and create: Data can only be powerful when it is easy to communicate and understand. This is especially true for manufacturers. Besides the typical silos that exist within any company, manufacturers also have a network of distributors, resellers, suppliers and even customers who need to have visibility into data. A powerful CRM for manufacturers will provide visibility into critical areas like supply and demand that will help boost customer confidence while also identify new trends and opportunities for partnerships and sales.

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