Front-end sales tool brings newfound simplicity to complex products manufacture
Just because a company makes complex products doesn't mean configuring a sales proposal or a sales order needs to be complicated. Unfortunately, complexity is too often the case for sales in high-tech, industrial equipment, health care, and software/services. But that's not the case for best-in-class companies, which typically employ sales processes and technology that enable their sales forces...
Just because a company makes complex products doesn't mean configuring a sales proposal or a sales order needs to be complicated. Unfortunately, complexity is too often the case for sales in high-tech, industrial equipment, health care, and software/services.
But that's not the case for best-in-class companies, which typically employ sales processes and technology that enable their sales forces to spend more time selling.
“Besides ensuring consistency, automating access to marketing content saves sales time,” says Gretchen Duhaime, senior research analyst for customer management technology with Boston-based Aberdeen Group . “If salespeople don't have collateral readily available, they are burdened to create it themselves or work with marketing to draft it, which takes sales representatives out of the field or adds to support staff workload.”
At Colton, Calif.-based Williams Furnace Co. , for instance, a legacy configuration, proposal, and sales tool could process orders for only about 40 percent of Williams' extensive product line—and wasn't integrated with the IT structure.
Making matters worse, the system wasn't user-friendly, couldn't provide adequate detail about customer orders, and comprised a mix of automated and manual processes. For example, salespeople often would use black markers to cross out boilerplate information in their proposals that did not apply to a specific configuration, and had to manually copy and paste other information into the system, says Bill Hein, a company VP in Williams Furnace's applied/engineered products division.
The answer for Williams Furnace was Lean-Front End Software (LFE), an on-demand solution from BigMachines that streamlines configuration, pricing, quoting, proposal generation, and order management.
Lean-Front End enabled Williams Furnace to produce a complete set of branded documents for salespeople, eliminating the cut-and-paste action from multiple documents with multiple formats.
These documents include a quote summary, performance characteristics, product marketing information, CAD drawings and installation schematics, engineering submittal output, and terms and conditions.
Further benefit from automating the process, Hein says, involves how Williams' sales engineers often must supply as many as 100 to 300 pages of technical and business documentation on some systems—a process that could take up to three days to produce manually with the previous system.
“Today, after a product is fully configured online, it takes just seconds to print out the 'as configured' documentation,” says Hein.
With nonvalue-added tasks eliminated from the process, manual workload on quotes and orders has been significantly reduced, Hein says. Since the company started using the new front-end system, quote volume has increased and sales are up “generously”—all without the need to expand customer support or the applications engineering staff, he adds.
It's important to note that use of BigMachines' LFE solution benefits partners and resellers as well, says Jeff Braunstein, Web marketing manager at Spectra Logic , a data archive and back-up solution supplier.
Ensuring sales had the most up-to-date information was no easy feat for Spectra Logic in the past. While a few major products are introduced each year, there are price, product, and rules changes made several times weekly, Braunstein says.
“Our goal is to provide real-time product and pricing updates to sales—both internal employees and resellers—and since we have more than 500 partners, it required considerable effort with our old system to get updated information out to everyone,” Braunstein says. “Today, several thousand users are able to log in via a Web portal and use the BigMachines solution to quickly and accurately configure quotes.”
Case Study Database
Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.
These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.
Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.
2012 Salary Survey
In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.
Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.