In today’s world, companies have long understood the benefits of process and measurement as they apply to manufacturing operations. Continuous improvement initiatives have been around for years as has the software used to plan, track, and measure them. As we all know, the proper implementation of these systems can have a dramatic impact on efficiency, predictability, quality, and profitability.

So, why is it that there are still manufacturers who don’t apply the same rigor to their sales organization? In sales, we tend to focus most of our efforts on what we’re selling rather than how we go about selling it. Quite often we attribute success or failure to the experience, knowledge, attitude, and relationships that our sales people have and we hope to replicate that success by hiring someone with the same set of soft skills. But, how often have you hired someone with a great track record, the right attitude, and the right relationships only to see them struggle to sell in your business? And, what would happen if a top performer left the company? Do you know what steps they are taking to generate those results?

Just like in other areas of your business, one of the secrets to developing a successful sales organization starts with your process. We begin by understanding the steps currently taken to convert a lead or opportunity into a sale. From there, we can break things down into the detailed activities and behaviors that need to occur at each step. It sounds simple enough, but like any other exercise of this sort the variances across team members will quickly begin to surface. Early on, identifying which of those activities are the most beneficial can be difficult because many companies simply measure sales, not the behaviors that drive the results.

This is where CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software can help. CRM systems are specifically designed to centralize your sales activities and collect the data that will provide measurable insights into what’s working and what’s not. A CRM can then help you replicate that formula across the entire sales organization and automate those steps to improve scalability.

Over time, this exercise will often involve other functional areas and will likely yield benefits across the entire company. For example, we can begin to identify which marketing activities generate the leads that ultimately convert to sales. Our marketing, sales, engineering, and service teams can share a 360-degree view of the customer, enabling improvements in support, product feedback, forecasting, planning, and decision making throughout the organization.

It sounds a bit overwhelming, but the good news is you can start small and begin to see immediate benefits. Because manufacturers often go through similar process improvements in other areas of the business, you’ll likely have the experience to draw upon and apply to this exercise.  And if you’re not sure where to start, engaging an experienced CRM partner can help you move the process forward.