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4 Ways To Do Manufacturing Sales Remotely (and Successfully)

Brett Ames

Brett Ames,

Verenia CPQ Product Manager

Leaders at manufactures need to understand and quickly adapt to the dramatically evolving social, health and business landscape that has changed fundamentally in a matter of weeks. One crucial aspect of this business transformation is adapting sales processes and systems swiftly and successfully to service and sales teams that are now remote, optimizing the interaction of remote sales people with both customers and internal teams. 

"Some reports speculate that we may need to live with social distancing for a year or more, causing widespread worry about how we will keep business running and people in jobs.

Executives in every industry are having to seriously reconsider their company spending, while boosting their selling activities across their newly remote teams. The role of sales has possibly never been more relevant, and the job of selling has never been more challenging than it is right now..."

         Forbes- March 27, 2020

Now, more than ever, remote sales and service teams require front-end, cloud based software solutions like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Configure Price Quote (CPQ) that are built to address their specific needs. These solutions need to support and optimize:

  1. Remote Communication  
  2. Remote Customer Transactions
  3. External, Channel Sales Network 
  4. Mobile Responsive Design and UX

Remote Communication

Remote salespeople need communication tools that optimize their communication with customers as well as internal support and sales management in order to maximize efficiency, increase sales and reduce costs. Leading CRM and CPQ solutions accomplish this.

Sales and services organizations at manufacturers are moving to remote and away from in-office environments where they could previously communicate with each other in a physical conference room, office or in the break room. 

The same is true of the landscape of customer interaction, which is also increasingly done virtually, eliminating travel and face-to-face interaction that is costly and, more and more, potentially represents health risk. 

Remote communication

These developing business conditions double-down on the importance of manufacturers’ sales software systems’ ability to efficiently and quickly communicate with one another and customers. Every day, it becomes more important that all systems serving remote sales and services need to communicate with each other smoothly to help teams communicate with each other and customers.

The sales software ecosystem in the manufacturing space typically includes CRM and CPQ solutions, as well as third party systems like email. These systems need to be fully integrated, particularly for remote personnel to remain fully informed as well as creating, editing and publishing crucial email records around Contacts, Customers, Opportunities, Quotes and Orders and making them visible throughout the organization. 

Salespeople typically use Outlook, and increasingly GMail, as their primary system for communicating with customers via email, both to customers and internally with management, service and engineering. However, only a powerful, leading, front-end CRM/CPQ solution provides out of the box email integration with any third-party system.  Email integration between front-end solutions like CRM should be two-way and real-time. Emails sent by salespeople in the CRM solution should be instantly visible, recorded and archived in the third-party email system. EMails sent from users’ third-party systems should be available in the CRM in real-time as well. EMails sent from customers should be integrated in the same way. For example, emails sent to or from a customer in GMail by a salesperson should be visible instantaneously via scroll or search in the CRM system, providing complete 360 degree visibility into all customer email interaction to sales, sales management and service.

Remote Customer Transactions

The move to remote, work-from-home sales teams in manufacturing, and most other industries, has been a well-documented and generally acknowledged sea change for quite some time. Many, if not most, outside sales forces work from a home office now and travel to visit customers on face to face visits to create opportunities, quotes, and orders. But we are already now experiencing another inevitable, fundamental change in the evolution of remote sales forces that is going to only gain momentum in the current global environment. 

Cust Transaction

Sales travel, which puts your sales reps into an enclosed, large group of other travelers, hardly seems viable or tenable now. In an age of social distancing, meeting face to face with customers will also be less appealing to sales reps or customers.  Leading CRM and CPQ solutions need to shift with this trend.

Front-end business to business sales solutions need to be more interactive and transactional in order to take the sales process to the finish line online for sales reps and service. These solutions cannot dead-end at a flat PDF proposal that a sales rep emails to a customer or prospect. Quotes, and orders that are sent to customers need to be interactive, so they can comment or confirm purchase on the quote document and have their interaction with the transaction communicated to their rep in real time. Reps need to be able to communicate back to the customer, and collaborate on the sale. Change of Status also needs to be automated in the Quote, or Order in the CRM system. E.G., online confirmation of purchase of an interactive Quote by a Customer needs to trigger a change in the Status of the Quote in CRM to Closed Won.

External, Channel Sales Network

For many manufacturers, their primary remote sales team is their dealer/distributor network. The ideal dealer/distributor network is one where dealers and their reps only sell your products. However, many manufacturers sell primarily through a dealer network that sells multiple manufacturers’ products. The challenge for companies like these is losing sales because they cannot differentiate their brand versus other manufacturers to their channel salespeople. For companies who sell exclusively through their channel partners, this is even more critical.   

Having the most well designed, engineered and manufactured products is certainly essential for brand differentiation. Dealers want to sell products that work, meet customers needs, and don't break, so they win return business. However, dealer salespeople who sell complex products from many manufacturers are also going to position manufacturers that are easy to do business with. So, products need to be easy to quote, configure, price, propose and, ultimately, sell. 

Channel Sales

For manufacturers of complex physical products, providing dealers with advanced sales acceleration tools makes them the easiest vendor to do business with and is a key differentiator. Not only does this streamline the sales process for their reps, the investment necessary to provide these tools demonstrates a commitment to a partnership with their dealerships. 

Leading configurators ensure 100% accurate quotes, 100% of the time, in minutes if not seconds. However, providing dealers with a best-of-breed CPQ sales solution, where the product configurator has been built to work with a CRM solution is where manufacturers can really differentiate themselves. Complete CPQ solutions convert Quotes to Orders and then integrate seamlessly to any ERP to send these Orders for fulfillment and manufacturing to the customer’s ERP. They support Quotes and Orders that can contain configured or standard items like parts .They contain a robust, visual B2C-like product catalog with filtering capabilities that allow reps to find a single item in a catalog of thousands of SKUs in a few moments. Finally, but probably most importantly, complete CPQ solutions for manufacturers’ dealers foster collaboration with tools that bring dealer reps and manufacturers’ sales and engineering people together to accelerate the sales process.

Mobile Responsive Design and UX

Remote salespeople are in front of their laptops much less often than in-office sales teams. They need a mobile CRM and CPQ experience that is optimized for their device, provides them with full functionality all in a UI/UX that is instantly recognizable and usable like the connected experience. The mobile CRM/CPQ also has to be tethered in real-time to the connected application for remote reps to remain fully productive. 

Mobile Responsive design

When asked, industrial manufacturing CEOs named their top technology priority as mobility. 86% of CEOs say a clear vision of how digital technologies including mobile can create competitive advantage is key to the success of their investments. Providing a fully functional  mobile, front end sales solution to manufacturing salespeople working and interacting virtually with customers is essential for remote sales success. 

Front-end CPQ and CRM applications must feature fully responsive, fully functional, real-time tethered mobile experiences that come out of the box to ensure adoption, especially for newly remote salespeople and service personnel. Tabular, searchable pages displaying mission critical, multiple-field customer and contact information that CRM and CPQ applications collect have to be displayed on mobile apps in a way that puts this information at salespeople’s fingertips on a small screen, mobile device. Even more importantly, the transactional functionality for creating, configuring and editing opportunities, quotes and orders of complex products have to remain at salespeople’s fingertips in the mobile CRM and CPQ experience. Sales and service needs to be able to quickly, easily and accurately provide quotes and orders for customers on their phones and tablets.. The streamlining of the sales process provides the key value proposition for CRM and CPQ solutions- increasing sales and reducing costs- and in today’s marketplace it needs to be fully supported on mobile.  


To learn more about Verenia and how our CPQ tools can help you achieve amazing results for your business, please contact us at 800-738-7760.

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