Must-Have Manufacturing
CRM Features

Charlie Spaneas photo

Charlie Spaneas

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.

Quoting Software for Manufacturing

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.

Building customer loyalty

Improved quality and far more granular forecasting are big reasons why manufacturers need a CRM. But an even more compelling rationale for manufacturers to embrace the use of a powerful CRM is because it is an unrivaled tool for earning and keeping a customer’s loyalty over the long-term.

In large part, that is because a CRM for manufacturers provides the kind of data that is critical to forge personalized and responsive relationships with customers. For example, the right CRM tracks everything from warranties to repair information to service issues and calls. By accessing and proactively responding to this information—which can be augmented with alerts and reports about the activities of top customers—manufacturers can ensure that customers are receiving the kind of service and attention they deserve. Ready access to this kind of customer information can also lower the expense of servicing customers because the right information can trigger actions that address potential problems before they ever arise.

Servicing valuable customers consistently and at the lowest possible price is critical to establishing a long-term relationship: Any successful manufacturer knows that one-time sales are a rarity. That makes having the tools to handle multiple transactions over the course of years or decades even more important.

A manufacturing CRM is also an essential tool for winning more business. Information about a customer’s purchase history and behavior can be delivered to sales and marketing teams so they can craft offers that meet the specific needs of customers.

Done right, a CRM also improves internal cohesiveness. With a history of communication and transactions with customers available for all to see, siloes of information are broken down. This improves the customer experience because it means that manufacturers are able to engage with them consistently and with the same context and message. That’s important because even though much about manufacturing is changing, the need to delight customers will always remain constant.

Powering accurate forecasting

Why? One big reason is because a powerful manufacturing CRM acts a bit like a crystal ball to help predict everything from demand for products to future revenue and profits. For example, the predictive power of a manufacturer’s CRM means that a factory can have the right amount of products on hand to meet customer demand both faster than competitors and without having to contend with excess inventory. This is possible because a manufacturing CRM allows for forecasting based on real numbers instead of best guesses.

Having that foundation in real numbers is important not just for inventory management. When there’s a bi-directional flow of information from operations and sales, sales forecasting can be done with far more confidence. A sophisticated manufacturing CRM also serves as a single source of truth for a company. Because information about production can be gathered from disparate sources and analyzed, process errors that harm product quality can be pinpointed and addressed quickly.

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