The age of digital transformation offers manufacturers many opportunities to create efficiencies and gain a competitive edge in the global B2B marketplace. Customer relationship management (CRM) applications enable supply chain manufacturers to streamline business processes and increase profitability. CRM analytics engines improve visibility into critical insights about your suppliers, distributors, and ultimate consumers. Unfortunately, many executives evaluate CRM platforms only for their “sell-side” functionality. Yet CRM can enable manufacturers to add value and increase engagement up and down the end-to-end supply chain.
Using spreadsheets to capture interactions with suppliers of raw materials and components is just as clumsy and ineffective for procurement professionals as for salespeople. It is crucial for procurement VPs to generate reports on supplier performance metrics like price competitiveness, on-time deliveries, and product quality. It’s as crucial for their sales executive counterparts to forecast sales revenues, track distributor satisfaction, and campaign-driven leads and opportunities.
Below are five CRM supply chain and distribution channel management tactics for manufacturers.
1. Contact and Interaction Management
As a manufacturer, your company needs to capture their employees’ conversations across all your interaction channels including online chat, phone calls, in-person meetings and emails. In addition, manufacturers need to ensure the prospects, distributors, and suppliers who interact with your business across all channels and over time receive consistent information. Get your supplier or channel partner-facing finance, customer service, procurement, and sales teams are all on the same page. You earn credibility and trust by delivering consistent messaging to your suppliers and distributors on matters like pricing, payment terms, and contractual obligations.
Most of us can recall an experience with calls, text chats, or email conversations with different representatives of the same company where each conversation told a different story. Modern CRM solutions can ensure conversations across all platforms are captured, enabling each of your representatives with greater visibility into a distributor’s recent and historical interactions with your company. They can help sellers see what wholesalers have purchased historically for their clients. Buyers can identify which suppliers have been flexible and accommodating on rush orders like new product launches.
Late payments are common in the B2B marketplace; high transaction values and sales cycles last long and involve many conversations. CRM platforms can help buyers and sellers find strategies and approaches that work as well as obstacles that derail experiences for those on either side of the negotiating table.
2. Integration with Document-Centric Business Processes and Workflows
Offering your buyers and sellers permission-based access to essential documents like quotes, contracts, purchase orders, and invoices through CRM creates transparency. Accessing these documents through the contextual filters of account records increases efficiency and eliminates manual searching. Robotic process automation can extract important data from key fields on files like contracts or bills of lading, then automatically (and accurately) populate the information where it belongs in CRM.
Documents like quotes, custom order configurations, RFPs, and proposals often need to go through multi-step approval processes. A CRM platform can facilitate these workflows by sending messages to approvers for sign-off and then back to the purchasing or sales representative once terms are verified.
Project management, document management, and accounting applications are just a few other points of integration that enable seamless workflows and enrich the strategic value of your CRM deployment.
3. Enabling Supplier and Distributor Self-Service
CRM-integrated online portals empower channel relationship managers and buyers to do business with manufacturers on their own time and their preferred devices. For example, Bombardier Recreational Products offers their 4,200 worldwide dealers a wealth of information and support resources on their service portal.
Consider the value of offering your domestic or international suppliers and distributors personalized content and experiences like:
- The flexibility to open a support request or take a certification course whenever it’s most convenient.
- The freedom to configure, price, and order a large custom product shipment online.
- Access to upload or download documents like proposals, contracts, technical diagrams, purchase orders, bills of materials, or marketing materials.
Offering online self-service convenience increases a manufacturer’s reputation as straightforward for both buying and selling. News of this reputation travels fast and can help to retain clients and accelerate deals through the pipeline.
4. Data Quality and Analytics
Enabling suppliers to enter their own data and extract critical information from documents are two reasons intelligent CRM platforms can increase data quality. It also helps if your CRM fields reflect how you describe your sales and procurement processes in your day-to-day business discussions.
Executives can use accurate, reliable data to identify trends and patterns which happen in the real world. To make the most of quality data, leverage some of the “out of the box” reports included in many manufacturing-oriented CRM platforms. Then, create some reusable ones of your own, like:
- Supplier on-time delivery performance
- Supplier raw material or component product quality
- Distributor orders and certifications by territory
- Marketing campaign performance metrics
- Sales or purchasing representative activity KPIs
- Distributor sales revenue by region or product line
Any CRM project is only as good as the data loaded into it. By choosing an intuitive, flexible CRM platform and an expert consulting team to help you tailor it to how you run your business.
5. Mobile and Remote Access
Your industrial employees likely spend most of their days on your factory floor, yet your sales and purchasing staff are likely working remotely more than ever before. Deploying a mobile-friendly, cloud-based CRM can enable your teams to work as effectively as they would have in the office, even when they are not. In many cases, even more so.
CRM usually stands for Customer Relationship Management. Yet, it might be time to change that to Company Relationship Management, as many manufacturers and other companies use the platform for suppliers, prospects, partners, and even employees. CRM platforms have evolved to become highly customizable and compatible with analytics platforms, web-facing portals, and mobile devices. For manufacturers looking to manage their relationships and interactions throughout their supply chain from their upstream suppliers to their downstream distributors, retailers, and end-user customers, CRM is a secure, centralized collaboration platform.
Discover how MasterSolve helped GN Thermoforming Equipment leave static spreadsheets behind, and improve business process efficiency worldwide by implementing an integrated, modern CRM platform.