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Salesforce for Manufacturing Companies: What to Know before Taking the Leap

Salesforce for Manufacturing Companies: What to Know before Taking the Leap

The past year has been challenging for many manufacturing companies.

Disruptions to supply chains around the world have made it difficult to both get raw materials and deliver parts to clients. In addition to dealing with shortages in physical goods, many manufacturers are also dealing with the logistical challenges of communicating with clients about what’s changing, what’s available, and when (or whether) their sales agreements will be fulfilled.

While there’s not much any of us can do about pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, it is possible to smooth out internal operations, streamline client communications, and operate more efficiently overall by adopting software like Salesforce.

Here, I’ll offer an overview of how Salesforce can help manufacturing organizations move along the road to digital transformation and offer some guidelines about what to consider before taking the leap.

How Salesforce Can Streamline Internal Operations for Manufacturing Companies

When the unexpected happens, being able to respond quickly is key to the success of a manufacturing firm’s operations. Salesforce makes that possible by enabling four key capabilities:

  1. Managing Sales Agreements

Sales agreements are essential to the operations of manufacturing businesses – but keeping them updated month to month can be painstaking work when you’re relying on spreadsheets, emails, and other documents that have to be updated manually.

Salesforce streamlines this process by storing all relevant data in one place and automatically updating it when it changes anywhere in the organization. Let’s look at an example:

  • A customer has a 12-month sales agreement for 50 widgets a month at $100 per widget.
  • In the first five months, the customer actually purchases between 35 and 40 widgets.
  • In month six, a supplier shortage means you have fewer widgets in inventory than needed to fulfill all customer orders.
  • Because Salesforce automatically updated the customer account with actuals each month, their sales rep can reach out and ask if they can adjust their sales agreement for the next several months because of the supplier shortage.
  • More broadly, sales teams could see at a glance whether agreements matched actual orders across the organization and whether the inventory shortage will affect their ability to fulfill actual demand for existing contracts.

Salesforce can also pull data in from an ERP system to ensure that any time information from one part of the organization changes, every part of the organization knows about it.

Another benefit of having all the organization’s data in one place is that sales reps can more efficiently negotiate contracts. If a customer asks for a volume discount, for example, the sales rep can view other sales agreements to see what’s been approved, and negotiate confidently with the customer – in real time – knowing what kinds of offers align with the organization’s larger financial goals.

  1. Account-Based Forecasting

Account-based forecasting lets manufacturing sales teams forecast growth both within individual accounts and across an entire organization.

Sales managers can set team targets and measure how they’re doing against those targets – in real time. Because Salesforce makes it possible to display performance metrics in easy-to-understand dashboards, sales managers can see at a glance what’s on track and what’s not, making it easier to offer support where it’s most needed and identify what’s working best so the team can replicate it.

Forecasting can also improve client relationships. When you can forecast an account’s growth six months out, for example, and compare that growth with your projected inventory, you can see whether you’ll be able to meet a customer’s likely future needs.

If your forecasts indicate that you can’t meet future customer needs, you can communicate with the customer as soon as possible about alternatives, which prevents unpleasant surprises and helps keep the relationship strong.

Conversely, if a customer communicates that their demand will be less than expected, you can update this information in Salesforce in real-time for everyone across the organization to see, from sales to manufacturing operations to inventory management. Knowing the actual quantities required as early as possible makes it easier for everyone to plan!

  1. Eliminating Internal Silos

I mentioned that Salesforce makes it possible to store all of an organization’s data in a single place. This eliminates internal silos and improves communication among teams.

With Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud in place, for example, sales teams get insight into the operational or manufacturing side of the house. They can see real-time inventory levels. And operational teams can easily view sales agreements to know what’s coming in the future.

Customer service, too, can benefit from greater data visibility. If a customer calls about a delayed shipment, their service agent can see at a glance whether the shipment was sent and identify any problems that might have prevented it from leaving – e.g., that an updated contract never got signed because it went to the email address of someone who left.

This makes for more efficient and productive service calls that keep everyone involved happier.

  1. Communicating Better with Partners

One intriguing benefit of Salesforce’s Manufacturing Cloud is that it allows manufacturers to share data with partner organizations.

Features like Slack for Sales let manufacturers chat in real time with partner teams about everything from past client needs to discount opportunities and more to streamline the process of finalizing and renewing sales agreements.

Rather than trying to juggle emails and spreadsheets, track down old conversations, etc., invested parties can access all the information they need in a single place, which makes life easier not just on manufacturers and their partners but also on the customers you’re all trying to serve.

In addition, adding Experience Cloud for Manufacturing lets manufacturers share leads with channel partners and gain real-time insights into the demand being generated in those channels. At the same time, channel partners can gain insight into inventory levels and other key data that will allow them to make confident commitments to their end customers.

Salesforce Isn’t a Silver Bullet for Manufacturers

Like any element of digital transformation, it’s important to understand that Salesforce isn’t a silver bullet that will transform manufacturing organizations on its own.

First, it’s important to recognize that adoption requires work on the part of manufacturing organizations’ teams. While Salesforce’s automation tools and unification of information make work more efficient in the long term, teams will likely be less efficient while they are getting up to speed and learning the new platform.

Working with your consulting partner to develop a sound Organizational Change Management (OCM) strategy and providing adequate training and support during rollout is an essential part of realizing the ROI you used to determine that Salesforce was a good investment for your organization.

Second, to get the full benefits Salesforce can offer – and there are many – manufacturers have to set up their Salesforce org correctly. This is much easier with support from someone who has experience doing this many times. Infrostretch has this experience, and we’d love to talk with you about what to expect from the setup and onboarding process!

(For more information, read What Is a Salesforce Architect?)

Finally, Salesforce isn’t inexpensive. The gains in efficiency and production it enables justify its cost, but, as I hinted above, you will only enjoy those gains if you set Salesforce up properly and train your team to use it effectively.

We at Apexon are obviously big believers in the power of Salesforce, but we also want to set expectations: making Salesforce work requires work. We think the payoff is worth the effort, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge this reality.

With Salesforce, Manufacturers Can React and Adjust Faster to Changing Conditions

The pandemic caused major disruptions for manufacturers, but it’s far from unique in that regard. In a constantly changing world, the ability to react and adjust quickly will be paramount. Salesforce empowers manufacturing firms to do both those things – and because of that, it helps facilitate stronger relationships with customers, which can have significant bottom-line benefits.

To start a conversation about how Salesforce might help your manufacturing organization, get in touch with us today. We’d love to hear more about your situation and your desired end state so we can help you determine whether Salesforce is the best path there.

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