top of page
  • Mike Shields

CRM in Manufacturing – From the Frontlines of AHR Expo 2015

It’s still the early days and most companies have not realized the true potential of CRM for Manufacturers.

A couple of co-workers and I just came back from the AHR Show in Chicago with some fresh realizations. The Headline? Despite growing market penetration, the true value of integrated CRM/Commerce has a long way to go before reaching its true potential in the manufacturing sector. Here’s our admittedly ‘non-scientific’ and not statistically validated scorecard:

  • 30% do not have CRM or do not know what their company uses for CRM

  • 30% have CRM, but find it to create MORE work, and it serves as a management tool

  • 30% have and use CRM for parts of their sales cycle, but find it limited/not integrated

  • <5% have and use CRM as a true Sales, Marketing, and Commerce Platform for competitive advantage

The full story:

Somewhat to our surprise, and much to my disappointment, there are very few fully leveraged CRM platform deployments visible amongst that population of 2,000 manufacturing-centric companies at this huge trade expo. How did we get this data? We asked the sales people at the show, over 200 of them. It wasn’t a big/formal questionnaire… I see these types of survey results frequently, but many actually turn out to be a bit self-serving toward some vendor or industry analyst who’s paying, or paid, to make a point. Our assessment comes from direct conversations with sales people who were on the floor of the Expo. Three of us from eLogic, all machinery industry veterans who know the business of selling equipment into these markets walked the floor and talked with sales people. This is a community that is the front line of their companies’ demand creation processes. We asked what they were doing with CRM and Sales Tools in their companies. It was informal to the point that any statistician or industry analyst would shoot holes in our method of sampling. But that said, we now have much clearer first-hand insights into what’s going on – and what is not yet going on. We had enough direct input to loosely group this feedback into four basic categories (with some variations on these themes). Here’s a quick summary of what we heard:

Type 1 Responses: “I Don’t Know.” We heard this from sales people in about a third of our conversations – and these were mostly with SALES or inside sales people. This tells us that if there is any CRM in place within these manufacturers, it is not widely used by sales. My takeaway? In an industry where almost everything is QUOTED before being sold, if sales people aren’t using CRM then you don’t have pipeline/front-log visibility; and you are leaving all of that market and demand intelligence on the table. Further, the business practices have a long way to go to become high productivity with streamlined information flows. Big takeaway – LOTS of room for quick improvement by getting a high-function CRM solution into the hands of this community. This includes finding ‘federated’ solutions that can capture pipeline visibility from CHANNEL PARTNERS and expose that in CRM analysis.

Type 2 Responses: “We have XYZ CRM but it creates more work for me and doesn't provide much benefit.” This one is also pretty common… maybe another third of the conversations went toward sales people saying that CRM was an overhead they were required to support for management oversight and visibility. A common complaint is that it required double-entry of much of the same data that was already being captured in their quotations – hence adding administration time instead of customer and partner ‘face time’.

Type 3 Responses: “I use XYZ CRM and it does help both me and management; but it’s still not a seamless experience.” This segment has good CRM usage, but found many non-integrated aspects of selling that were outside of their core CRM tool set. These included disconnected sales portals, sales and engineering tools and content management tools. Other shortfalls were in lack of integrated Business Intelligence and Analytic tools for quick response to questions and follow up on marketing needs.

Type 4 Responses: “I can show you something that we’re doing that’s really good.” In the final category, only a few of these companies had sales people on the floor who were very fluent in their company’s CRM tools and were happy to show off their more seamless (and usually relatively new) Commerce Tools. We saw some very impressive new automated, and self-service oriented, tools to search, select, configure, quote and order products. This last group were the satisfied users who had a lot of positive feedback on what their companies have been doing to lead in their industry sectors.

Our Takeaways:

CRM in Manufacturing is still in its formative stages – the full benefits are yet to be realized. The early-adopters of well integrated and seamless solutions for Manufacturing feel that they are gaining advantages over their competitors. Conversely, many companies’ sales forces feel that they are falling behind the leaders, even as their companies push them into low-function and high administration CRM systems. The leaders have done a lot of pre-work to get it ‘right’ for their business. The laggards have not even started and many don’t have plans that are visible to their sales people. Bottom line from our little survey? We still have a lot of work ahead to make CRM fully relevant in Manufacturing; and it cannot be done without an integrated, platform approach. The simple SFA point solutions are not the answer for this segment of the economy.

Final points: eLogic’s Adoption Life Cycle Insights

When we compared our own survey information with the classical Technology Adoption Life Cycle it made sense. CRM in Manufacturing is just moving from the stage where results from that 10% or so of early adopters are influencing the more forward thinking organizations to get started with stronger solutions. This is likely to force more complete and integrated solutions that are lower cost and lower risk as these become more mainstream. This is where the real business simplification opportunities and next practices realization will be formed. The laggards, as always, will wait until this wave passes and then try to catch up to at least a minimum level of competitiveness. Many will not succeed.

bottom of page