CRM data sharing between independent manufacturer reps and manufacturers is a tricky, and touchy, issue.
One of a rep’s value propositions is local market knowledge as well as account / opportunity knowledge. No salesperson likes to let their “boss” know everything they know, but times have changed. The value in information sharing is significant and can help close sales while also providing beneficial information to a factory.
Further, leading manufacturer rep firms are using CRM systems much like distributors and direct sales organizations … to synthesize data, convert it into information and use it to support a sales organization. And this is beyond the benefit of helping sales be organized.
For many reps, however, it is very painful to share data with their manufacturers. The process can be difficult. A rep needs to interact with the CRM systems of each of its manufacturers (that have them) and they require different information, in different formats. It becomes, to say it nicely, a “time suck.”
CRM is here to stay, and will only expand. So, the key is educating salespeople on the benefit, using it wisely, and collecting information (and sharing it) effortlessly
To generate adoption, and then encourage utilization, CRM needs to be efficient. It does no good if adds administrative work .. and costs. This frequently happens as rarely is there a one-to-one relationship between the number of rep salespeople and the number of CRM licenses granted by a manufacturer according to Kurt Nelson, Adoption Success Coach at RepFabric who is well known within the electrical rep community for pioneering CRM usage.
Kurt and I spoke about this issue at a recent rep conference in the electrical industry, and he offered to share his insights, and solutions.
Efficiency, Productivity and Performance from Syncing Data – More than Pays for Itself
“In a recent article on ElectricalTrends David brought up some very good reasons for manufacturer reps, manufacturers, and others to connect their systems to share data automatically. This article is an additional perspective, from a former manufacturers’ rep’s view, speaking to the tremendous potential gain in efficiency, productivity, and cost savings.
Most reps, with or without a CRM solution, do not generally receive licenses for all of their outside salespeople and inside specialists from their manufacturers with a CRM. In several instances, that cost could be as much as $1500 per salesperson a year. (Having a license for everyone is not a good thing either but for different reasons.) Because Rep firms are usually granted one license per firm, most rep firms provide a custom “cheat sheet” with all of the fields that are required to be filled in for a manufacturer and do this for every manufacturer with a CRM system.
When reps have between two to eight manufacturers requiring information sharing via a CRM system, that rep firm usually has a matching number of cheat sheets to be filled out for each manufacturer. These cheat sheets document new business opportunities or activities the salesperson has completed like training, a significant sales call, or responses to products they presented in the field.
In a typical week, this is a high number of sheets to be filled out.
If you consider that a salesperson makes at least 4 calls a day, and with a team of 5 salespeople, that could be as many as 400 sheets to add to a manufacturer’s CRM system. Now multiple this by 2. By eight!
This quantity creates the need for the firm to higher administrative people to load all those forms into the manufacturer’s systems. And remember, CRM is supposed to improve efficiency and productivity.
Imagine how difficult it is to find administrative people who are familiar with four to five different CRM systems. Based on the difficulty of adoption with a single system, it can be almost impossible to find this type of help. Repfabric conducted a study on the cost of an administrative person updating opportunities in various systems from the start of the opportunity until it was closed. Not only did the administrators have to sign in to the correct person or locate the opportunity in each system, many times the administrator had to reach out to the salespeople to clarify what was written or to reconcile the most recent comment with the previous comment. The study showed that the cost of updating an opportunity on average was $150 for each opportunity. Using cheat sheets to update manufacturers’ CRM systems creates a culture of “filling in the blanks” with relatively flat information rather than capitalizing on using the tools of a CRM and gathering detailed information.
When Rep firms connect their CRM to their manufacturers with products like CRMSync from Repfabric CRM software, the firm can eliminate the cost of the additional administrative people required to update the various manufacturer CRM systems.
But the most important and beneficial reason to synchronize data from a CRM solution like Repfabric with CRMSync is the increased productivity for each salesperson.
When a Rep firm uses their own CRM, its salespeople can capitalize on all the features in the system to make them the best salespeople they can be. When they boot up the system in the morning, they are:
- reminded on how they are doing regarding sales vs quota
- they view the shape of their opportunity funnel, and are
- reminded on activity journals and other items they set for that day.
When a salesperson uses one system, they tend to become more proficient in the single system and come to rely upon it. They have the tools to manage increased amount of business. They can run sales reports if they have a meeting with a customer’s district office or can view the sales numbers by product group – even down to a specific part number on the mobile app on sales calls at distribution if they utilize the Repfabric Sales & Commission Module.
While CRM benefits many people in an organization, it is critical that everyone remembers that without the effective use of CRM by the salesperson, there are no benefits for all the other parties using information from the system.
With a system like Repfabric, its planning module can increase sales as much as 29%, our internal sales process provided (that can be modified) can increase sales by as much as 20 %, and freeing up salespeople to professionally sell versus filling out cheat sheets makes room for sales increases. Between the efficiencies and potential sales growth percentages, they provide sound financial reasons to make the necessary changes to sync systems. That is why it is paramount that companies choose a single CRM to use, one that handles sales & commissions, and syncs to all their manufacturers. The more familiar a single CRM becomes for a salesperson, they tend to implement other features not used before and their journey in adopting CRM is followed by a trailer of increased sales, and new and satisfied customers.”
Kurt Nelson, CPMR, is an Adoption Success Coach at Repfabric, a company specializing in cloud-based CRM software solutions. As an Adoption Success Coach, he helps clients integrate Repfabric’s software into their workflows. His expertise helps Repfabric’s clients realize the full potential of their investment in the company’s software, streamlining their operations and achieving new levels of efficiency and productivity. Prior to Repfabric, Kurt served as President of Nelson & Associates, a leading electrical manufacturer rep agency. Kurt is recognized as an early adopter of CRM for rep agencies in the electrical industry.
Some thoughts …
- If you are a rep agency, regardless of size, you need some type of CRM system to, at least, organize yourself (if a one-person agency) and your team. Yes, each salesperson feels that they know best for themselves and how they work, but with agency salespeople having many distributor customers, many more end-user customers, then multiple it by the number of jobs working on and add in the responsibility to share some information with a multitude of manufacturers … it is information overload and “things” will get lost and not followed-up on. In other words, the world has become more complicated and different times require different tools.
- Kurt’s observations about the processes that most agencies need to do to populate a manufacturer’s CRM system, via “checklists” means that a manufacturer is adding costs into a rep agency. Probably none have pushed back other than unacceptable adoption of the CRM system. If a manufacturer wants the information, time to no longer be “penny wise, pound foolish.” And more licenses isn’t the answer as the data needs to be aggregated. If manufacturers want the information, they should support the effective implementation of the data collection and sharing process.
- While many leading manufacturers have deployed CRM systems to their reps, the real reason for a rep to adopt CRM is to improve their internal operations, their sales effectiveness, and their sales efficiency.
- If you’re a rep using RepFabric, the CRMSync makes sense as a way to improve salesforce efficiency and share a better quality of information with your manufacturers.
- If you’re a rep using a standalone CRM system that doesn’t communicate with your manufacturers and/or you are investing in the “checklist process”, the question is “why” and should you at least investigate if there is a better means.
- If you are a manufacturer, rather than expecting your reps to “come to you” (your portal), perhaps reach out to RepFabric, learn which of your reps are on their system, and see how you can develop tighter connections with them or, perhaps, develop a stronger, more efficient, network of data sharing.
If you’re a manufacturer not familiar with RepFabric, or a rep not using them, either go to www.repfabric.com or email me and I’ll give you some contact names. If you are a RepFabric user and want to proactively reach out to engage your manufacturers and want some help, start by reaching out to Kurt.