Metal Center News
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Summer 2011
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New Sales Tools for Tough Times

Stop blaming the economy! Difficult market conditions call for new tools. Let technology empower your sales processes.

Metals service center sales departments, large and small, are populated by salespeople who generally are passionate, smart and hard working. But more often than not their sales processes have not changed much over their careers. In this new era of the “superjob,” businesses expect a lot more out of their sales departments. Some believe this shift is permanent, as the pace of change demands more work from everyone in the office.

Maybe it’s time to modify the old adage “work smarter and not harder” to “work smarter and faster.” It’s time to rethink your sales department in terms of efficient workflow. Much has been written about sales techniques and strategies. However, not as much has been said about how utilizing new IT-based technologies can improve sales management.

Do you track your sales staff’s numbers daily? Are you aware of their new prospective customers, their outstanding quotes and current orders? Think of your own operation—how do your salespeople stack up? If you don’t know or only know off the cuff, you’d better keep reading.

Far too many service center managers are concerned about quotas and goals, not the actual details that make their sales team really hum. Nevertheless, how do you get sales team members to maximize their potential if you don’t know their numbers?

A fully integrated sales solution is all about making the sales rep more effective at every stage of the sales process. It gives sales and management the tools, information and insight they need to form a clearer picture not only of their own performance, but also the company’s sales performance overall.

Technology now exists to make a service center’s sales department far more effective. These systems create distinct advantages over the competition in terms of efficiency and response. A good system provides your sales staff with the following information while the customer is still on the phone:

  • Do I have that in stock?
  • If not, when is it coming in?
  • What other sizes are in stock?
  • When did this customer buy last?
  • What did the customer pay for this product the last time?
  • What quantity did the customer purchase the last time?
  • If the customer has not purchased before, what should I charge?
  • What is the profit for this order?

When a salesperson has a customer on the phone, time is absolutely of the essence. E-mailing a quote to the customer’s inbox before hanging up the phone will dramatically increase the chances of getting the order.

The notion of “selling-time” is critical. No matter how talented the sales rep, spending hours each day in administrative non-selling activities is a productivity drain. Assuming that qualified sales opportunities are available to pursue, any reduction in non-selling time can translate directly into increased sales.

Modern technology tools available today further that cause, allowing sales personnel to easily create, track and reuse their sales quotes, orders and prospects. For example, a good system can tie customers’ and prospects’ quotes and sales orders together with inventory, pricing, credit, collateral documents, part numbers, etc., allowing the sales force to collaborate with others in the department and the rest of the company.

It’s tempting to think of productivity as merely doing something more efficiently. After sorting it all out, however, sales reps’ productivity really depends on how well their available time is used with customers, and that’s where technology makes the difference. Simply said, a good system saves time. With more time, salespeople have greater opportunity to sell more.

First, the focus of sales technology should be on improving the execution of the sales process—reducing the non-selling time. So why are you entering information—sometimes two or three times—if it does not give you anything additional in return? Second, don’t implement a system that’s hard to use. Regardless of the benefits a system can provide, if salespeople perceive it as difficult to use, they will seek ways to work around it, diminishing its value to the company. One of the best ways to improve usability is to make sure your system is designed for the metal service center industry and can speak your language.

Increasing the productivity of your sales team isn’t easy. There is no one “silver bullet” that will boost revenue production. If it were easy, salespeople would simply reach their potential all by themselves. Because of the time, money and commitment it takes to upgrade systems, relatively few companies opt to make the necessary investment. Those that do typically see tremendous returns, however. Not only do they increase their revenues, they bring innovation and vitality to their sales team, which finds its way throughout the company.

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by the experts at Enmark Systems Inc.

Enmark Systems Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., offers the Eniteo ERP system for metals service centers. For more information, visit www.enmark.com.

  
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