Process improvement – process improvement – process improvement
As a manufacturing company process improvement is your credo. Process improvement is your mantra. Your DNA. It’s what you preach to your supervisors. It’s what you ingrain in the minds of your new hires. Process improvement informs everything you do in your work – and in manufacturing companies, process improvement informs everything from research and development to quality control to production planning, to packaging, shipping, receiving, and so on. But what about mobile sales in your manufacturing business? That could be a process worth re-evaluating.
Technology has given shape to most of the great process improvements in manufacturing business over the last 30 years. The great desktop PC era has revolutionized the way we work in business in almost every conceivable way all across your business from purchasing to materials planning to warehouse management, customer service and accounting. Paper-based and manual processes have been identified and targeted for replacement. Replaced by technology tools such as keyboards, monitors, printers, and scanners – to drive information and communication faster across your enterprise. The reason you’ve done so? To create a better experience for the user, to save time (aka labor cost), to accelerate your supply chain, and to improve overall communications. Quite simply – you made these changes in order to make your business better.
Yet, perhaps ironically, there is one group of workers inside most manufacturing companies whose jobs have not been impacted much at all by technology and process improvement over the last 30 years, and that is the outside sales rep. How can that be? The group of people most responsible for generating revenue growth, and most able to convey directly to your customers the experience of doing business with you – yes, that group – is by and large stuck using the same tools and following the same processes for the last 30 years.
A great many sales processes are built around:
- Printed product catalogs
- Price books
- Spec sheets
- Order forms
- Phone calls back to the office
These sales reps have little or no visibility to customer status, product pricing, ability to promise, cross sell suggestions. Whether the sales rep is onsite with the customer or prospect, at a special event, staffing a tradeshow, or roaming a showroom floor, the chances are they have a smart phone in their pocket – but the chances are almost as great that the smart phone will NOT have intelligence to help them close business or otherwise assist the customer. Smart phone and tablet technology is available now that can provide sales reps with far more meaningful interactions with customers.
Sales apps that are connected with your Sage ERP and CRM systems abound. The key is finding the right level of enablement for you and your sales team. As a manufacturing company this should be easily enough done because it’s all about making the selling process – the experience your customer has doing business with you – a faster, better informed and more complete experience. And that is exactly what you should expect to accomplish for your sales team.