Why Manufacturers Need to Know a Thing or Two About CRMs

Gone are the days when sales could be left to tribal knowledge. It's time to put a system in place.

The transfer of tribal knowledge has been a dilemma for years for manufacturers. The context usually is around the difficulty in finding, hiring, training and retaining replacements for key machine operators who are aging out. The skilled worker shortage still exists, though in many cases it is for new skill sets as Industry 4.0 demands more software knowledge and programming experience. To some extent, the issue is mitigated by the power of technology and how much easier it is to operate complex machinery.

But there also is a need to gain customer knowledge that traditionally was gleaned from personal sales networks and trade shows. Not only are longtime sales people and their company contacts turning over, but industrial buyers are doing as much as 50 percent of their research on their own, before they ever reach out to engage with a potential OEM or supplier. 

It would be great if there was a way for companies to capture the history of that customer relationship. Of course, there is. The technology is Customer Relationship Management software, or CRMs as they are most commonly called. These are powerful platforms, and it’s important for industrials and manufacturers to understand how they can benefit from a CRM

Just like technology improves your overall equipment efficiency (OEE), a CRM provides data for how long it takes to get through your marketing funnel or a sales cycle, information about your close rate and critical information about why deals don’t close, such as responsiveness or competitor price. 

For example, some companies have patterns for their budgets and buying. Your longtime sales rep might have known this, especially if she or he dealt with the same person at your customer company for many years. But as people age out, not just at your company but at your clients’, how do you capture this kind of “tribal knowledge?”

A CRM allows you to systematically track communications with a customer. You have a record of what has been pitched, and to whom. A CRM can help you track more effective KPIs or reduce a six-step process for qualifying a lead to three or four.

This helps with organic growth opportunities as well; adding social to the account, or changing the media buy, adding content, SEO services or work on their website development. That knowledge also can be transferred to someone else on your team, or it can be put to use in pitching someone else.

There are scores of CRMs out there, including some you may already have access to through other marketing technology, such as inbound platforms. Investments vary from a few dollars a month to six figures.

Ultimately, a CRM is a true “relationship” tool, which means it’s not just about installing the software — it’s how you use it. So you should definitely look for a partner to help you with training and best practices, just as you would for equipment or other solutions. Your partner should understand your industry and its nuances, whether those are geographic considerations, the seasonality of sales, or the unique nature of buying journeys (such as those within certain sub-segments of the manufacturing and industrial sectors).

Industrials and manufacturers have a lot to gain from using a CRM. In any case, it’s important to leverage their potential. And haven’t you heard that before about ERPs and other new technologies that have come to benefit your business?

Listen to the Podcast to Learn More About CRMs for Manufacturers

Listen to Episode 10 of the Industrial Marketer podcast for a more in-depth exploration of CRMs and what they have to offer manufacturers. Plus, learn a thing or two more about them.

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