Why Do Manufacturers Still Fail To Leverage Their CRM

Posted by Leo Boon Yeow on Dec 16, 2021 5:15:18 PM
Leo Boon Yeow
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CRM has been around for a long time. It started off as a contact database (AKA digital Rolodex) for enterprise businesses but has evolved tremendously in the past 30 years. Today, CRM is one of the fastest-growing segments in business software. And it’s easy to see why. Modern CRMs let businesses attach much more data to customers or accounts—purchase history, payment preferences, install-base, deal size and progress, planned purchases, and more. This gives them deep insights into buying behavior and interactions, which leads to more upselling or cross-selling opportunities. 

In a 2015 report done by Capterra, the retail industry is CRM’s biggest supporter while manufacturing was in 6th place. Why is the manufacturing sector trailing so far behind in terms of CRM adoption when they seem to need it more? B2B manufacturing businesses have much more complex products and solutions to sell. The contracts last longer. The sales process is convoluted (at best). The sales cycle is incredibly long from start to finish to aftersales. Deals can take months to complete. CRM should be the logical software of choice for manufacturers to keep track of sales.  

But manufacturers are not using it enough.  

4 reasons why B2B manufacturing businesses are not getting the promised value from their CRM 

Manufacturers know that they need a CRM to manage sales. Many have even tried to implement it in their business, but are not seeing the results they want. That counts as a failed initiative. Here are the top 3 reasons why manufacturers are not getting the value they need out of their CRM.  


Download our Digital Sales Software Requirements Checklist to find out what features a winning CRM software for manufacturing should have. 


Manufacturers need to manage these common barriers to reach CRM success

Your CRM is used for inspection instead of improving sales efficiency

  • Contrary to popular belief, a CRM is not meant for tracking the sales team. A CRM can do this task very well, but using a CRM for inspection (to see if sales is busy selling) instead of improving sales can lead to fictional data or logs. Using such inaccurate data to analyze sales performance or generate forecasts can lead to errors that affect decision-making negatively. Your CRM should instead be used to help sales by giving them access to the relevant information they need to close deals. It should provide them with insights into customer buying behavior, sentiments, readiness, budgets, constraints, and other types of information that can help sales strategize on solving the customers’ problems. Simply put, your CRM should help sales be more efficient, instead of checking if they are being efficient.  

Your CRM is dealing with too many objectives from multiple departments

  • Businesses typically use CRM software to improve sales. However, according to Capterra’s report, it can also be used by marketing (prospect tracking), customer service (customer retention), IT (process improvement), or finance (billing and contracts). Your CRM is a powerful software, and it can be used for all these functions. But the focus should be on increasing sales, and it should be easy for the sales team to use. That’s because the sales team is the data source and it needs to be easy for them to use. Any inaccuracy they introduce can impact the rest of the business that uses data from your CRM. For example, general-purpose CRMs include social tracking, which is great for marketing teams in the retail sector. But does your B2B manufacturing business need it? If not, why should you pay for it?  

Your CRM is implemented in a silo and not aligned with your existing sales tools

  • CRM software plays a critical role in any manufacturing business. Its main objective is to improve revenue generation for the business. Some manufacturers make the mistake of holding IT responsible for implementing a CRM solution. When that happens, your state-of-the-art general-purpose CRM can end up becoming a standalone software that looks good but doesn’t add any value to the sales team. For your CRM to deliver any value, it needs to be integrated with the other industry-specific digital tools that you use. For example, when it’s integrated with your ERP, sales teams get instant access to historical sales or customer data that can help them make strategic decisions. Order data also flows into the ERP, keeping it updated. When it’s integrated with CPQ, sales can generate 100% accurate, profitable, and perfect-fit quotes and solutions on the fly. With eCommerce, sales get a complete picture of customer interactions and buying behavior across all channels.  

Your CRM is not built for the manufacturing industry or your business

  • Digitizing sales is a decision that’s not taken lightly. It is understandable that manufacturers would want to buy a CRM that is widely considered best-of-breed. However, the best CRM could be measured using parameters laid out by the industries that use CRMs the most. That means the best CRMs are general-purpose software built to fit other industries better. Getting it to fit businesses in the manufacturing industry could end up in a lengthy implementation project that can cost more than what manufacturers are prepared to pay or take more time than what manufacturers are willing to spend. The result is a CRM that is “good enough,” for basic purposes but doesn’t come with the needle-moving features and functions that your business or your complex sales process needs.

So what does CRM success look like? 

A CRM built for manufacturing is a sales tool. It can help your sales team keep track of deal progress and customer buying behavior and preferences. However, it also has the potential to transform how you sell. Instead of getting a CRM as standalone software, manufacturers can integrate it with their existing systems and tools. This puts powerful product information and capabilities at the fingertips of your sales team. Rather than bringing catalogs and a calculator to engage your customers—which your competitors are doing—your sales team is bringing knowledge from your entire business to the table.  

Instead of doing the necessary solution planning and calculations manually, an integrated CRM can help sales generate deal-winning solutions from a single system with just a few clicks. This speed is critical because your customers come to you for help with solving a problem. They may want to furnish a new factory, create a new type of product, or start irrigating a new plot of land. Your business will be in pole position to win the deal if you can end the conversation with a feasible solution instead of a promise to deliver a solution two weeks later. In other words, a CRM built for manufacturing businesses makes it simple for your customers to buy—and increases your chances of winning deals.

In sales digitization, your CRM is the dashboard from where you drive stronger customer relationships.

Prioritize opportunities and accurately anticipate demand  

Your salesforce is a precious resource. However, they are forced to chase every lead that brings in revenue. In reality, not every lead is worth chasing. Your CRM should reflect that, and lead them to where they are needed most—the largest, most profitable deals, or the strategic deals that improve your market position. The CRM should have all the information every member of the team needs to stay prepared for all customer engagements or help them pick up instantly where the last engagement left off in new conversations.  

Fine control over your sales pipeline can have a positive impact on the rest of your business  

Fine control over your sales pipeline can have a positive impact on the rest of your business 

In short, your CRM needs to lead your salesforce to where they can add the most value to your customers, and your business. When you have fine control over a healthy pipeline, reports and forecasts also become more accurate. At a glance, sales leaders can quickly identify deals that will close, and deals that need a little more time. For production-driven businesses in manufacturing, forecast accuracy can help make the best hiring or procurement decisions. If pipeline management helps with knowing how to reach sales success, forecasting is knowing when you will get there.  

Understand your customers to drive stronger relationships 

Your customers are under pressure to deliver. That puts your business under the same pressure. To meet their needs, it is essential to understand everything about their business. The better you understand them, the better your business can respond to their needs. To do that, your CRM needs to keep track of every customer interaction and preference. Your CRM would ideally help your sales team monitor past and present quotes, orders, installed-based, and online inquiries.  

Knowing your customers well can help uncover new selling opportunities

Knowing your customers well can help uncover new selling opportunities

When your CRM is integrated with digital sales tools like CPQ and eCommerce, your sales team can get a 360-degree overview of what they bought, and what they might need in the future. Besides discovering upselling and cross-selling opportunities, knowing your customers inside out can help you solve their problems at their speed. Having this level of insight into your customers' needs can help your business build a stronger, more mutually beneficial relationship with them.  

Follow-up and respond faster and before competitors can react 

The global economy is recovering slowly. But that does not mean that your customers are slowing down. If anything, they are accelerating their pursuit of growth. This is their new speed, and your business needs to keep up. A CRM Sales Cockpit lets your team do just that. It provides transparency into all customer conversations and emails so you can keep an eye on even the smallest change to your customers’ needs and capitalize on hidden upselling and cross-selling opportunities.  

A CRM has a sales cockpit that can provide manufacturers with the speed needed to keep pace with customers

A CRM can provide manufacturers with the speed needed to keep pace with customers

ECommerce integration also allows sales to respond instantly to online inquiries, without having to sift through thousands of emails. With email and calendar integrations, your sales team can drive sales engagements without leaving the email client. CPQ integration lets sales generate and send 100% accurate quotes with all the necessary approvals and attachments (T&Cs, etc.) in minutes directly from their email. A modern CRM should also come with project management tools like Gantt chart visualizations. This allows your sales team to manage even the most complex projects that take months or even years to complete.  

Expand your reach with a fully managed sales network  

Channel sales is a game-changing strategy for manufacturers looking to grow. It can help you expand into markets through third parties like partners, distributors, and dealers. However, managing a growing sales network can be a challenge. Communication is reduced and can cause delays in the overall sales strategy. Manufacturers also often have little to no control over the sales process, their brand, or the sales strategy. Some manufacturers may also sell using a mixed model; direct sales and channel sales—adding to an already complex sales network.  

A manufacturing CRM empowers the entire sales network with speed and efficiency

A manufacturing CRM empowers the entire sales network with speed and efficiency

To address this challenge, some manufacturers are turning to integrated sales systems. All sales channels access the same platform, use the same set of sales tools, push the same promotions, and sell using the same product and solution information. This keeps your external sales channels as updated and as efficient as your own sales team. Meanwhile, intelligent controls automatically apply partner-specific prices, discounts, ERP-maintained currency exchange rates, and in-house branding on quotations and invoices. This means no matter the channel your customer engages with, they only see a single brand—yours.  

Digital success in a single Digital Sales Platform 

A CRM built for manufacturing can help manufacturers maintain brand consistency and control over all customer touchpoints, across every sales channel. But its true potential as a single-source-of-sales-truth shines through when it works alongside all your other digital tools. When your CRM is part of a Digital Sales Platform, you can completely transform your manufacturing go-to-market. When it has CPQ integration, your sales team brings your entire business along with them with every customer engagement. With eCommerce, your entire sales network gets instant, personalized access to every product, service, solution, and promotion the moment it gets launched.  

Find out why manufacturers are still failing to get the right CPQ

Find out why manufacturers still fail to get results from eCommerce

That’s end-to-end sales efficiency in a single, easy-to-maintain, and cost-effective platform. With it, your business can successfully digitalize the entire sales process with just one initiative. It delivers sales efficiency and accuracy, which leads to reduced costs. Lower costs lead to a competitive advantage that helps your business increase revenue. The benefits are inter-connected, and your business becomes much more competitive when serving the market.

This inter-connectivity of benefits is a distinct advantage of a Digital Sales Platform. If you have any questions, book a no-obligation consultation with our manufacturing sales experts to understand how our Digital Sales Platform is built to elevate manufacturing sales. If you would like to take the next step towards sales digitalization, you can download our Sales Digitalization Requirements Checklist to find out more about the digital sales features your business needs.  

Download Requirements Checklist Template: CRM, CPQ, Commerce
Leo Boon Yeow

Written by Leo Boon Yeow

Boon Yeow – is passionate about all things tech. His background as a journalist helps him understand complex B2B technology. His mission is to translate it into fact-based, comprehensible stories that help manufacturers improve their businesses.

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