The world of industrial distribution and manufacturing often focuses on the development of new technologies that change how things are made, moved, and delivered globally. These technologies have produced exciting results for businesses. Unfortunately, many sales and marketing teams, especially those from smaller companies with limited staff and resources, have been left behind in this revolution and continue to rely on the same outdated tools to grow their business.
But that’s changing. In recent years, forward-thinking sales and marketing teams are beginning to revolutionize the industrial distribution and manufacturing space by using technology to deepen customer relationships and drive more sales. It’s not just about using the latest laptop computer or smart mobile device. Innovative software can help your salespeople deepen their relationships with top accounts, improve communication amongst teams, and heighten a team’s overall efficiency. In fact, case studies show that choosing the right software for your team can increase your time-to-close new deals by nearly 50 percent, double your revenue and decrease your overall sales and marketing costs.
Below is a trusty road map for identifying the must-have software products. With these tools in tow, industrial sales teams can successfully start, build and grow the strongest customer relationships, allowing them to generate new and repeat business that is pivotal to their long-term success.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
It’s common for many industrial distribution and manufacturing companies to keep track of accounts and sales on old-school spreadsheets and home-built systems. For sales managers, these dual systems make it difficult to track the sales pipeline, are rarely accessible on multiple devices and come with the ever-present threat that information may, at best, be out of date, or at worst, be outright lost.
Fortunately, a cloud-based CRM solution can help you manage your leads and accounts, and maintain your deals pipeline. Keeping track of your accounts and following up on potential new business in a timely fashion are, more often than not, the key to being the one to win the deal. Even better, cloud-based solutions ensure that a team can access the data it needs on any device, anywhere. Additionally, companies can rest assured that information on your most valuable accounts won’t get lost.
There is no shortage of options out there, many of which are quite good. The important things to keep in mind when shopping is the ease of use, the level of customizability and the cost. For the majority of companies, simple is preferable. The most important function of this software is to accurately capture account and deal information. Quite simply, the easier a CRM is to use, the faster sales staff will adopt it.
Email Tracking - Know What Happens After You Click Send
While many in sales still prefer to do business over the phone, there is no denying email is essential in a salesperson’s toolkit. Email can often feel like you’re shouting into a bottomless pit, especially when you’re in the early stages of business development. Thankfully, a number of email tracking software systems are designed with salespeople in mind.
The top industrial distribution and manufacturing companies use email tracking software to understand what happens after sales teams click send. Want to know when the best time to send your email is? Wondering if an executive on a key account has opened up your proposal, or shared it with other stakeholders in his or her company? With email tracking services, you can easily discover this information. Most email trackers will tell you if a prospect has opened an email, clicked on links or downloaded an attachment that has been shared.
There are a number of different options available in the market. Look for an option that integrates well with your existing email solution. Even better, choose a system that is fully integrated with your CRM.
Online (e-signature) Document Management
The delivery of quotes, proposals and contracts is a stressful experience in the sales business. Preparing these documents can be a painstaking experience that takes precious time during the day when you could be actively selling. Additionally, it can often be unclear whether someone has received your document or has begun to review it. Finally, if your client objects to even the smallest detail listed in a traditional proposal, the whole document must be revised and reissued. Suffice to say, the whole process of getting contracts signed can be a real hassle that eats up days or weeks of time.
E-signature software is a critical element in helping a smart industrial distribution and manufacturing company accelerate sales processes and reclaim sales team’s time. Some studies show the e-signature software can boost the velocity of sales closing by 35 percent. That’s a huge time saver for most companies. Again, hone in on simplicity here. Some of the bigger players in the industry deliver features that most people don’t need and shouldn’t have to pay for. Choose the software that is intuitive and easy for your salespeople to learn and use.
There are so many different programs built with industrial distribution and manufacturing in mind that it can be overwhelming. No doubt, as you dive into the world of technology, you’ll ultimately find certain programs that you can’t live without and others that you simply don’t need. Until then, take these three types of software: customer relationship management, email tracking and e-signature software, as the essential technology elements you need to increase sales and deepen your customer relationships.
JP Werlin is CEO and Founder of PipelineDeals.