Articles  |   09-11-2021

How Manufacturers Should Approach Their CRM

How Manufacturers Should Approach Their CRM





What are the “must-haves” for manufacturers implementing a new CRM? What should be prioritized or deprioritized? What is the best mindset to approach such as project? How to use your CRM to navigate changing markets and supply chain issues?


Watch Or Read The Discussion between

Jean-Philippe Bernard, Eng.: manufacturing, sales and digital transformation expert.

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




Jean-Philippe Bernard (00:00):

The first thing that comes to mind is trying to make your CRM like an ERP. To me, that’s the biggest mistake that I see in the market. A sales cycle is never as linear as a production cycle of any sort.


Key Concepts

David Lamarche (00:20):

What big concepts should manufacturers keep in mind when it comes to their CRM and what’s around it?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (00:35):

With regards to the CRM, there are a few things that they need to do and take into consideration. One of them is acknowledging that a CRM is not an ERP. Manufacturing companies need to realize that those two tools are two distinct tools that serve two very different purposes. Companies need to focus their CRM on everything related to customer contact to get good visibility and a good understanding of their customers. The 360-degree view of their customers is really important. Doing that facilitates any interactions that they can have with their customers using a solid CRM.

David Lamarche (01:14):

You mentioned the ERP. With the ERP and the CRM working together, what can be leveraged by manufacturers to get the best returns?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (01:28):

What we’ve noticed to be the best combination among a few of our customers is the ERP interconnected to their CRM. A reason why it’s so powerful is that it brings the two sides together. An ERP is very robust, very defined, and very structured. It helps manage all your production and inventories, as well as any supplies currently in transit to be produced and to be shipped. On the other hand, the CRM allows for a more human touch: a more customer-centric approach to how you handle your customers. When you connect the two, you produce a highly positive customer experience that is supported by very efficient production or manufacturing machines.

David Lamarche (02:16):

Can we dive into the details, into more tangible things? Going down one level, what types of automations, applications, or integrations should the companies focus on, alongside their CRM to get the most right now.

Jean-Philippe Bernard (02:36):

One of the first tasks is to deliver comprehensive information to the customer-facing teams about what’s going on on the production side. For example, bringing back information about invoices, orders, the status of a specific order, etc. By bringing it through the CRM, it’s incredibly easy for team members to have the information they need when they interact with the customer. They have a better understanding of the account status and what’s going on. That’s one of the key things. The other point correlates to how you manage your business and how you manage the churn. Let’s say that you leverage the various reporting capabilities and alerts in your CRM, for example. If you’re expecting 100K a month from a certain customer, and it falls short to 50K the following month, an alert will warn you that this customer’s revenues have dropped by more than 20%. You can act quickly and investigate. That can give you great insights on what’s going on in the market, and let you know whether a competitor is eating at you, at one of your customers.


360-Degree View For Your Teams and Channels

David Lamarche (03:47):

When you’re talking about the customer-facing side of the company, you mean sales and customer support. Which teams can use a CRM to take their company to the next level?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (04:01):

Truly everybody! Inside sales, direct sales, channel managers at manufacturing companies; they can all leverage a CRM. Most manufacturing companies do business through a network of distributors. The CRM can really help you have a clear understanding of who your big end-customers are, as well as how to efficiently manage your distribution network.

David Lamarche (04:36):


Jean-Philippe Bernard (04:37):

How does it give you insights into the business? When you’re managing your distribution network, you need to know who handles what, which customer is handled by whom, who the distributors are, what type of business flows through which type of distributors. The CRM allows you to have that granularity and to bring the information to life for the people to manage it. Reporting and dashboard capabilities are where you’ll notice the most significant benefits. It’s what we call having a 360-degree view of the customer. You can have the same information about the distributors and other players. The main benefit of a properly set up CRM is the capacity to build relationships between those people. You can pivot very rapidly in reaction to what’s going on and who does what. That provides you with even more insights into your business.

David Lamarche (05:34):

If I’m trying to put these things together: your different sales teams, inside sales, sales, partner managers, customer service, etc. All the information related to their customers is in the CRM, which is connected to the ERP. I also have the ordering flow and details, and that enables them to sell better and service better?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (06:00):

Yes, precisely. For a lot of manufacturing companies, the market dynamics are quite complex. I’ll give you the example of one of the customers we’ve been working with. Traditionally, they were doing very large building projects via a specific distributor. By implementing a CRM, they’re now able to track those projects themselves and have a lot more direct interactions with the actual building builder, who is a general contractor. Plus, with the status of that project, they can now lead their growth themselves with those large building constructions. Without a CRM, they couldn’t. They did not have that ability because they were somewhat blind to what was going on in the market. The CRM brings everything to light, enabling the executives to take decisions and then realign their sales force and activities.


Low Effort, Big Returns

David Lamarche (07:08):

All right. When it’s appropriate, their inside teams have all the information they need. They can push some of that out to their partners who need it. They’re also fed information by their partners because they’re connected to their CRM. Sometimes small improvements. And we went a bit into the details. We didn’t go too deep. I do want to look at small concrete examples. Small improvements can sometimes generate big results. What is a small optimization that you can do in your CRM, that seems insignificant but can end up generating a lot of upsides for manufacturers?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (07:45):

One of my favorite ones relates to reports and dashboards. Reports pulled from ERP systems are usually pretty static, meaning you only have one real view of something. One thing that I really like to do with my customers is to grab one report and pivot it multiple times in the dashboard. With a click of a button, you have the whole thing refreshed with real-time information. You’re then able to see the same situation, but from multiple perspectives at the same time. That gives executives some very good insights into what’s going on, what’s going well, and what needs to be acted upon, and they can react accordingly.


Your CRM Is NOT Your ERP

David Lamarche (08:32):

Good example. I want to go on the opposite side of the coin. Sometimes you’re implementing a CRM, or upgrading it, or adding more stuff, and people focus on things that won’t give them good returns. Right? What is an example of something that shouldn’t grab people’s attention, that they shouldn’t focus on? Or at least that they should deprioritize from their to-do list.

Jean-Philippe Bernard (08:57):

The first thing that comes to mind is trying to make your CRM like an ERP. To me, that’s the biggest mistake that I see in the market. ERPs are meant to be very specific, very structured, robust. But CRMs, they’re not meant to be like that. A sales cycle is never as linear as a production cycle of any sort. The biggest mistake that manufacturers should avoid is trying to make their CRM too strict. Give the ability. Don’t put a lot of validation rules. Don’t think that you can add 40 questions that the salespeople need to fill before they get to a certain status, etc. Start by keeping it simple and, as you use it, understand what’s missing to generate the next value and invest in that specific improvement.


Using The CRM To Adapt To A Changing Market

David Lamarche (09:54):

With modern platforms like Salesforce, you can typically improve by increments very quickly. You don’t have to plan two years ahead. No, no, no. Do what you need for the next month. And then for the next month and the next month and the next month. Going back to a higher level, the market is moving very fast. Of course, everything was disrupted by the pandemic. There were supply chain issues due to the pandemic, but also due to other factors. If you look at everything that’s happening and the speed at which it’s happening, how can a CRM help a company navigate these disruptions?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (10:35):

The CRM will help navigate through all the changes and the market dynamics by providing you with better insights into what’s going on. That’s really a key driver, especially with manufacturers. They need to get closer to their end customers. That should be their target. With technology right now, the actual supply chain is getting shorter and shorter. Companies need to make sure that, whatever they do, they understand their larger customers and what’s going on with them—and not only from a marketing standpoint. How to try to secure sales directly, but then fulfilling it through their distribution network. But they need to have a very good understanding of what’s going on with the end-users so they can react to the market dynamics.


The Right Mindset And The Wrong Mindset

David Lamarche (11:26):

Going back to the people: if a company’s working on their CRM, that’s going to be an internal project. There might be an external service provider that works on that project. If I’m a manufacturer working on my own digital acceleration project, what mindset should I have to get the best outcomes for my project?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (11:57):

Keep it simple. Don’t try to boil the ocean. I’ve seen so many times what I call analysis paralysis. Because if you try to put in a system with a very complex process, you can put it on paper, you can draw boxes, but at one point it becomes too complex, even for a human brain to be able to process it. So, go one step at a time. There’s an old saying I like: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

David Lamarche (12:34):

I hadn’t heard that one. We talked about the right mindset. What would be the mind traps to avoid? So, if that’s the right mindset, what mindset or assumptions should companies avoid when working on their own projects?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (12:51):

I think it’s the mindset shift from how projects were run you know, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 20 years ago, compared to the capabilities of the new platforms. The mindset they should avoid is thinking that if they don’t describe or list all their requirements right now, they won’t have another shot at implementing them. The new platforms allow users to drive digital acceleration to make changes every month. That’s what they should leverage. Think, go with the priorities, and then build on it; add functionalities as you go along over time.


Continuous Improvement

David Lamarche (13:33):

I have one last question for you. What do you wish for manufacturers who are trying to navigate this environment, trying to grow, trying to seize these opportunities or mitigate the risks they’re facing? What is your wish for all the manufacturers out there?

Jean-Philippe Bernard (13:53):

I would wish for them to get into that digital acceleration path, to move from a digital transformation, which is really static in time, to invest a little bit every month to get better every month because the market changes every day, every month. They need to have a similar improvement track. They need to align how they do things to how the market is evolving. That’d be my wish, and the good thing is that the current platforms really allow you to do that. They should seize the opportunity.

David Lamarche (14:26):

All right. Thanks for dropping by, Jean-Phillipe. I’m sure we’ll talk again soon.

Jean-Philippe Bernard (14:31):