In recent months, we’ve written a lot about the digital future of manufacturing, covering everything from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence. These new technologies make it an exciting time for the industry, and we’ve certainly let that excitement drive a handful of posts. At the same time, we recognize that for some manufacturers, that kind of high-tech future is still a long ways off — especially for small and mid-size firms. It can take years for some of the latest innovations to trickle down from the enterprise level.
For organizations looking to bridge the gap between the old way of doing things — that is, a lack of digital business technologies — and a futuristic way that’s just not realistic yet, Salesforce could be a good solution. As a platform, it can give your employees greater data visibility, as well as help them be more efficient and productive without reinventing the processes and structures that brought your company success in the first place. And thanks to its integration capabilities, Salesforce can help connect different business functions in a way that lays the groundwork for future implementations. For many manufacturers, it’s the right first step. Here’s a closer look at why.
Salesforce frees data from the confines of spreadsheets and notebooks.
Some industries evolve at a clip that’s hard to keep pace with — the technology industry, for instance. Others, like manufacturing, don’t move quiet as fast. In both cases, there are pros and cons. For the former, constant change and disruption provide access to new growth and revenue, but they also turn stability and comfort into scarce resources. For the latter, unchanging processes allow for deep specialization and expertise, but they can also lead to missed opportunities — literally.
Manufacturing sales reps who keep track of their accounts in spreadsheets and notebooks are missing out on bread-and-butter CRM tools that make it simpler to build relationships and close deals: Logged calls and emails, automated reminders, easy quoting capabilities — the list goes on. What’s more, when reps store their data in siloed locations, they make accurate pipeline forecasting much more difficult. With Salesforce, leaders can easily see and report on every deal their team has in the pipe. Without it? They’d have to gather and compile all that data manually.
Of course, Salesforce wasn’t only designed to make information and data available to your internal team. Thanks to self-service portals known as communities, you can also make some of that same information available to customers. With the right login credentials, they’ll be able to access helpful knowledge articles, post questions in discussion forums, place orders — all kinds of useful things. And, as the data shows, this is what they want: According to a recent study, “web self-service use increased from 67 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2014.”
Salesforce connects the different aspects of your business.
Disconnected business functions present a different kind of data visibility problem. Often, back-office folks don’t have easy access to the latest sales numbers, while reps struggle to know the status of available goods and current orders. Some of this information might live in your company’s ERP system, but not everybody has a way to get to it.
That’s why integrating your ERP with Salesforce can be so valuable. Employees across the organization can simply log into the platform and view the data they need. Workers on the shop floor can see recently closed deals and adjust their production accordingly. Sales reps, meanwhile, can check the product inventory before they make a promise the company can’t keep. It’s a win-win.
Higher up on the org chart, managers and execs can take advantage of these integrated systems to keep an eye on the total health of their business. Are sales outpacing the ability to meet demand? Are certain reps struggling to move a particular product? With a properly configured integration in place, leaders can see — and then act upon — the cause-and-effect relationship between different parts of the company.
Ultimately, then, taking a first step into manufacturing’s digital future means figuring out a way to gather, analyze and act on the vast amount of data your organization is already producing — and Salesforce is an effective solution. If you’ve got questions about what it could mean for your manufacturing firm to implement a CRM platform, let us know. We’d be happy to share some more information.