Articles  |   09-11-2021

How Manufacturers Can Approach Their Salesforce Projects

How Manufacturers Can Approach Their Salesforce Projects





What are the key concepts manufacturers should pay attention to when implementing Salesforce? How can the platform be used to manage distribution channels? What are the synergies between your CRM and your ERP? How can you use Salesforce to adapt to change?


Watch Or Read The Discussion Between

Louis-Nicolas Hamer, Eng.: manufacturing and digital transformation expert and angel investor.

David Lamarche: marketing, organizational culture and digital transformation expert.




Louis-Nicolas Hamer (00:00):

The more you can industrialize your sales process and your quoting process, the fewer errors the team is making. That’s where the magic starts.


Key concepts

David Lamarche (00:16):

Louis-Nicolas, nice to have you with me today. You have a lot of experience in the manufacturing sector. You cofounded a manufacturing company, which you later sold, that specialized in electronics and embedded software. You’ve now been in the digital transformation space for a few years, working with a lot of manufacturers. The first question for you is if I’m a manufacturer using Salesforce or planning to use Salesforce, what big concepts should I focus on and prioritize to get the most out of the solution?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (00:53):

We all know cash is king. There’s always a fine line between minimizing inventory and minimizing lead times. Too much inventory, you’re burning cash; not enough, your lead times are very long and your customers may go elsewhere. That’s why forecasting is critical for any manufacturer. You need the most accurate possible sales forecast so you can arm and communicate with both your operations team and supply team to ensure you’ll have the right products at the right time in the right quantity. It’s nearly impossible to achieve that without a good sales tool to collect this information from your sales team and make sure that you’re industrializing your entire sales process to have all of those key metrics in place.

David Lamarche (01:57):

You talked about the one key concept, which is forecasting. What would be the second and third key concepts that you’d also focus on as a manufacturer?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (02:10):

Looking at a high level, every manufacturing company is started to or has already integrated an ERP. You will need a very, very good back-end system and a very, very good front-end system. You need to make sure you take the best of breed of both. So, that’s integrations to ERP and choosing the right ERP. Next, focusing on your Salesforce process is really critical. The third high-level concept is user adoption. For any sales tool that you put in place, you need to have the best adoption possible. To achieve that, you need a tool that’s very simple and that people will love to use because it makes their lives easier. That’s the third concept. The fourth key concept is channel management. As a manufacturer, you might be selling directly to end customers, through distributors, through integrators or value-added resellers. You may have multiple channels and that’s another big challenge to think about.


Channel Management

David Lamarche (03:19):

How can a Salesforce CRM help manufacturers deal with go-to-market, channels, etc.?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (03:27):

This is a great question. The way you sell to a distributor is going to be radically different from the way you sell to an integrator or an end-user, right? The sales cycle may be different, the people you’re talking to might have different skillsets and might be looking for different things. You need to make sure that your CRM, the sales cycle, and the way you manage these opportunities are different. You need a tool that allows you to have different processes based on whom you’re selling to and makes it simple for your sales team to manage. That’s the first thing. Now that you’re selling to a distributor, you need to make it easy for them to access your price lists, your inventory, information about your products. A partner portal that enables them to submit leads and access prices and other relevant information is extremely important. Making sure that you’re picking a CRM that also has super easy portal functionalities is critical. Those are all things that are really, really important, to all you manage the different channels that you have.


Phase 1 vs. Phase 2

David Lamarche (04:39):

On the opposite side of the coin, what elements do you see manufacturers who are getting Salesforce (or already using it) focus on that should instead be secondary priorities? What can be postponed or looked at later in the implementation or in the continuous improvement of their Salesforce?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (05:04):

That’s one of the trickier things. Again, it depends on the industry and the sophistication of your products, but one of the best ways to get adoption from your CRM is getting your sales team to do quoting in Salesforce. The minute they’re quoting in Salesforce, you’ll have more accurate forecasting. You’ll have the exact products that their customers are looking for. And automating a lot of the quoting process will make life easier for your salespeople and they’ll love the tool even more. But if you have a complicated product with bundles, dependencies, constraints, and different options, it may be too complex to complete in phase one. We’ll typically put in place a good CRM with basic quoting and we’ll implement more sophisticated CPQ like processes as the second phase. Configuring, price and quoting, including all the dependencies, options, add-ons, and product bundles is probably what I would postpone to a second phase. But again, it depends on the sophistication and complexity of your product lineup.


CRM to Evolve in a Changing Market and Strengthen Operations

David Lamarche (06:24):

Going back to a point you touched on earlier: for a manufacturer, forecasting accuracy is fantastic to apply to the supply chain. Over the past year or two, we have seen huge disruptions to the supply chain due to many factors: pandemic, cargo and so on. What other CRM functions can help manufacturers adapt to a new reality?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (06:52):

It all comes back to your sales forecast, right? You can proactively reach out to customers and say: “Hey, Mr. Customer, we know that there’s a critical component to one of our products that has long lead times. Please tell me what your forecast is for the next 12 months”. The faster you can have this information in your forecast, the better you can arm your supply chain team with this updated forecasting. It’s about arming your sales team with the right tools to ask the right questions and get the most accurate portrait of the future. Again, it’s all about channel management. With an end-user and a set schedule, knowing exactly when they need what is easy. But with a distributor, it’s a much bigger challenge because they might be serving hundreds of customers, etc. If your sales team doesn’t have the right tools, it becomes…

David Lamarche (08:09):

Difficult. And to piggyback on what you mentioned, we see the CRM and the ERP as tools where you receive data. But if your CRM is in order and you have all your accounts, distributors, end-customers, go-to-market channel partners, whether it’s integrators or specifiers in your Salesforce, you can use it as a tool to reach out to each of these segments, ask them the right questions, get them to tell you where your forecast is going to go. So, you’ve flipped a switch where it’s not just the input of data. Now that I have my segmentations, I can flip it, contact all these segmentations with the right communications, the right messages, and get even more data to help the rest of my operations.

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (08:55):

Exactly. This is what Salesforce calls “Customer 360”. I think that’s one of the reasons why Salesforce is number one in the market: as a salesperson, having that 360-degree view of your customers, being able to look at their past orders for the past 12 months, what their buying patterns are, which products they ordered, etc. When you can learn from this, not only can you plan your forecast, but you can also use this in your QBRs with your customer and say: “Hey, Mr. Customer, here’s what you bought in the last 12 months. Do you anticipate the same schedule for this year, and the next … or how is that going to change?” It’s great because, without that information, you don’t know where to start. That’s where the ERP integration is so important. If you have all this ordering data from your ERP provided to your sales team, they can have stricter, more structured discussions with your customers.


Mindset to Approach Your Salesforce Project

David Lamarche (09:51):

It’s not only the sales team. Since you have all the data in one place—the CRM—your customer service can use it, your sales can use it, your marketing can use it… Multiple teams within the company can use the same information because it’s in the same place. If I’m a manufacturer that just got Salesforce and I’m about to start my project, with what mindset should I approach my project to get the best results?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (10:21):

The mindset is all about user adoption, right? That’s another reason why Salesforce is so successful; making sure that whatever tools and processes you put in place are super simple and have a real impact on the day-to-day lives of your sales or service team. I suggest involving a few champions from different departments and getting their feedback on what works well today, what doesn’t work well, what tedious manual tasks they’re having to do, etc. Then, let’s see how we can automate some of these tasks. The earlier you get their feedback, the faster you can get some early wins or low-hanging fruits. And the more Salesforce users will love it. So, keep it simple and get early feedback from your teams.

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (11:32):

What I don’t like is going into analysis paralysis. You can’t overthink these projects and take months on end to put in place your CRM. You need to take it one small step at a time. Identify whichever core things we need to do, core processes we need as a sales team, and put those in place as a first phase. After that, iterate with a few other phases to make sure that we have a CRM that’s going to evolve with time and over time for our company.


Mind traps to Avoid

David Lamarche (12:06):

I totally agree. What I love the most is when you can remove a click for a process, a click, a button. Everything you remove is a win. We went over the right mindset, so now, what would be a mind trap to avoid or the wrong mindset for a project.

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (12:30):

The wrong mindset is always going for the “Big Bang” approach of trying to solve every little corner case. If you try to address every process you have, you’re going to wind up with this huge project that will never get delivered and you won’t get any quick wins. You won’t get a quick ROI on it. Breaking the project into small manageable pieces is the way to go. The other trap is thinking that your business is unique. Every customer has their uniqueness, but at the end of the day, they’re a sales organization. They’re manufacturing products. They’re selling it through different channels. Believe it or not, most people face the same challenges. It’s great to try and stay within the best practices to avoid creating too much custom work. By applying that to the implementation of the CRM, you ensure that the platform is simple to use and easier to maintain. And you’re getting it in a very short timeframe. So, keep with best practices. If you don’t do that, that’s the trap.


Making the Life of Your Sales Teams Easier

David Lamarche (13:44):

You’ll have to make extra efforts to work around it all. My last question for you is for all these manufacturers out there. The stock market is performing well, many companies are growing despite all the disruptions seen in the market, but it remains a fast-paced and fluctuating market. What’s your wish for manufacturers out there navigating the current situation, whether they’re aiming for growth or trying to stay at the level they’re at?

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (14:19):

Definitely. Not only are there supply chain issues, but there are also labour issues—especially in manufacturing sectors like high-tech with complicated products and complicated solutions to sell. Finding people to sell, support, and maintain these solutions is tough these days. Make sure that your processes are simple and provide your teams with the tools they need to simplify their daily workflow for them to spend more time with their customers instead of fighting with the tools. We continually see customers with disjointed systems: they have to input data in different systems, they’re forced to create manual quotes from word templates. That creates a lot of stress for your teams, and they have a lot of customers to serve. Trying to simplify all that is what’s going to get you ahead of the curve. The other thing that we’ve noticed, especially in the quoting process, is if a team is making errors in the quoting process and delivering the wrong products, more customers return those products and the organization suffers a lot of damage, like additional operational costs, missed opportunities, and frustrated customers. The more you can industrialize your sales process and your quoting process, the fewer errors the team is making. That’s where the magic starts: customers feel confident that they’re getting the right products at the right time, different teams are collaborating and cross-selling and upselling. You can be selling a specific technology with a specific sales team on one side and have another team selling to a different type of company on the other, but there could be a cross-sell opportunity with the right CRM. As a manufacturer, you probably have multiple lines of business, multiple divisions. Trust me, if you’re not creating synergies across these, the competition is. With the right CRM and that “Customer 360”, you can now have different divisions collaborating and hitting those big projects with all your different product lines. Again, that’s where the magic happens. That’s where we’ve seen very successful manufacturers expand on their market, organically or through acquisitions. And right, now with acquisitions, if you’re not creating those cross synergies, those cross-selling opportunities, what’s the point? What’s the point of the acquisition in the first place?

David Lamarche (17:33):

Thanks. I’m sure we’ll discuss this topic further in the future. Nice to have you in, and let’s talk soon.

Louis-Nicolas Hamer (17:41):

Thanks, David.