Recently, we introduced a series that aims to boost your sales with scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs? Yup. You can read our first installment with a complete explanation here; but, basically, we think sales and operations shouldn’t be independent of one another. We suggest taking basic operational structure and principles and mixing them into your selling approach to fry up a more appetizing, protein-rich, top line.

Our first strategic recommendation had to do with hiring salespeople. Our second was about compensating them. Now, we’re going to wrap up the series with a discussion on an essential part of selling: customers.

Strategic Opportunity #3: Growing Sales Through Customer Management

How many times has this happened to you? Joe Schmo Contractor calls your office to get a price on some widgets; and, he speaks to Fred, an inside salesperson. An hour later, Joe Schmo calls back. But, this time he gets Sam, another inside salesperson. Sam doesn’t know that Fred talked to Joe Schmo earlier, and he gives Joe a different (lower) price.

Or, how about this one: Smith HVAC has been a loyal customer for ten years. You feel pretty pleased with the length and stability of your relationship, yet you don’t realize that you’re missing out on a big chunk of their business. You’re only selling them compressors because they got a better price on air handlers from your competitor many years ago. Even though you could probably get the handler business if you tried, no one has ever pursued it.

In both cases, you’re losing potential revenue because of a lack of visibility and tracking. It doesn’t have to be that way!

What Eclipse Does and Doesn’t Do

Your Epicor Eclipse software is focused on transactions. It’s intended to get them out the door; and, then get them billed and collected. It’s designed to help you buy and sell at a profit, then collect the money. It does each of these things very well; and, they’re attributes that are extremely important to a distributor. But, there’s something important missing … Eclipse isn’t helping you to be strategic and operational with your selling approach.

Why? Because Eclipse is looking at customer profitability, not customer potential. Since Eclipse doesn’t allow you to track customer touches in a reasonable, executable format, it may show you what you’re getting from a customer; but, it doesn’t show you what you’re not. In essence, it doesn’t tell you the other side to the story. And, it isn’t proactive by telling you what products you need to be selling to which customers to increase profits. It also doesn’t provide any good methods for tracking customer communication or prompting follow-up. There are bits and pieces available (such as with the bid follow-up queue, which we recommend); but, it doesn’t show the big picture. To achieve any of these things with Eclipse, you would need some very complex custom reporting.

What CRM Brings to the Breakfast Table

How can you close this gap? By applying some operational principles to sales, of course! Implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is the best way to get analytical. CRM can take all of the wonderful data Eclipse compiles and use it to tell you what you’re missing out on with each customer. The intention of a CRM is to drive sales, based on what’s actually happening with your customers. It’s geared toward customer touches, sales, and time spent.

A few years ago, we were skeptical about CRMs and their necessity. Nice to have? Sure. Truly going to drive business? We weren’t sold. But, Zerion had some challenges in our own business for which CRM quickly proved to be the best solution. We learned first-hand about the most important benefits of a CRM*:

  • Proactively identify sales opportunities
  • Increase customer retention rates
  • Increase productivity by getting a 360° view of all customer information
  • Increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team by giving them one place to review sales history, activities and communication by customer

By the time we made the decision to purchase a CRM for ourselves (Driven CRM), we had changed our opinion. We took the time to get the CRM “dialed in” to our own business processes; and, it has allowed us to hone in on more opportunities than ever before. For a distributor, those specific opportunities might include**:

  • Pull reports of sales by a vendor’s products so you can collaborate with strategic vendors
  • Analyze all customers’ buying habits in order to recognize trends and determine which customers should be buying products that they’re not
  • Create target customer lists by product or vendor based on the opportunities you find; and, track sales for those customers on those particular products
  • Identify your best customers, learn from their statistics and apply this to other customers
  • Recognize “holes” in your product sales by category
  • Pinpoint customers whose sales have dropped off
  • Identify what parts your customers are purchasing and the corresponding parts they should be purchasing
  • Target concern customers with a strategy to win business back
  • Develop, target, track, report and evaluate promotions (per our recommendations in part #2 of this series)
  • Present a united, coordinated and professional front to customers because of tracked conversations

In addition to all of these potential benefits, implementing a CRM provides a great opportunity to imbed more processes into your sales team. When you train them on the CRM, it’s also a perfect time to introduce or re-establish procedural steps that can benefit the entire business.

Integrating with Eclipse

So, how does an Eclipse customer go about adding a CRM tool? Well, the best place to start is by talking with Sales Management Plus (SMP) and Tour De Force. As of now, these are the only two CRM-specific vendors that we are certain have an integration to Eclipse. They are both viable options; and, we have customers using each. We haven’t been made aware of many issues with either of them.

Once you choose which of the two vendors best suits your needs, you would contact Eclipse regarding the implementation process. Currently, Zerion does not provide integration services for CRM (though we do for other third-party software).

Something else to consider is phocas. If you already have this business intelligence tool that we endorse, there is a CRM component that is imbedded in the software. Since phocas integrates with Eclipse, utilizing their CRM tool is a great option.

Regardless of the tool you choose (as long as it integrates with Eclipse), your salespeople should experience an easy and seamless tie-in to Eclipse’s valuable data. You’ll still need to tackle some basic training upon implementation, both on the processes and the tool itself. This can be challenging if your sales force is resistant to change, or they don’t readily recognize the benefits a CRM can bring. However, it shouldn’t be long until their commission checks reap the rewards of a more operationally savvy sales organization.

Just remember that, as with any tool, deriving true benefits is a result of proper application. If you don’t utilize the CRM to enhance your processes, be more strategic about your sales, and proactively identify more revenue opportunities, then you’ve just got an expensive address book.  Happy scrambled selling!

*adapted from Tour de Force’s web site

**adapted from SMP’s sales sheets

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