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Is CRM Valuable?

July 30th, 2019

A Client Question
When clients decide to upgrade ERP, they also look at CRM (customer relationship management) because it makes sense to align the technology infrastructure into a common platform that will be fully integrated and scalable. However, what if it isn’t part of an ERP project? When does it make sense to jump into the CRM world? One client asked us just this question.

The Answer
In their case, they could achieve a powerful return on investment with CRM. It provided the tools and technology that would strengthen their relationship with their current customers, as well as help them expand sales with current customers and create a pipeline of new customers. Specifically, when meeting with customers, the sales reps gained insights into customer preferences and ways to strengthen the relationship. If they captured those ideas into CRM on the spot, the next person who interacted with that customer could see the notes and tailor the conversation. These seemingly small preferences can go a long way!

In terms of expanding business, they needed robust sales reporting that would tell them if they were falling off in a particular area or if they sold one product without its complimentary product so that the sales rep could follow up. Last but not least, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and expansions of business. For example, if a reseller was opening a new facility, they wanted to track it in CRM so that everyone had access to the timing, forecast, and other critical information. Also, since it was a collaborative sales environment, they wanted a way to track potential new customers and where they were in the sales cycle so that they could forecast future sales and the likelihood of it occurring. Sales forecasts were the 80/20 of success in this client because it was in a high growth mode where cash forecasting is of critical importance.

 A simple CRM solution fit the bill. A few years later, they were ready to upgrade their ERP infrastructure. At that time, they had the base CRM disciplines functioning and so it was an easy transition to a fully integrated system with CRM functionality. This client has been recognized multiple times for its substantial growth and success.

Food For Thought
Although CRM systems can be a great idea (as it was in our client’s case), if your sales and support teams aren’t ready to enter at least the key data, you’ve just bought an Audi that sits in your garage.

Start implementing process disciplines early. Enter information about your customers that will be handy at a later date.

Start tracking key meetings and prospects. Are you able to make good decisions from what you are tracking? If not, wait!

Aggressively push to start tracking vital information about your customers, even if you put it in Outlook or a spreadsheet to start. Soon you’ll be ready for a simple CRM solution, followed by more powerful ones as you get used to driving your car on city streets, you’ll be ready to brave the freeways.

If you are interested in running your situation by us, contact us.

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Obsession with Your Customer
A Systems Checkup


SIOP/ S&OP and Bottom Line Benefits

July 27th, 2019

According to a Hackett group study, the benefits of SIOP (Sales, Inventory & Operations Planning) can be dramatic.

First, let’s back up to describe SIOP: It is an integrated business process that aligns demand with supply through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization.

In our experience with over 20 SIOP projects, our clients have experienced these same results (and often even better ones), no matter the industry, company size or priority. Simply put, when done well, you’ll have more cash, profit and revenue. What’s not to like!

The types of results fall into three buckets:

  1. Working capital – Undoubtedly, freeing up inventory to increase cash flow is becoming a greater priority as executives realize just how much cash is tied up in servicing customers’ Amazon-like expectations with global supply considerations. Therefore, it is not surprising that we’ve received a serious uptick in requests to increase inventory turns. SIOP is always a part of the solution. Hackett research says 20-30% improvement is to be expected. We have certainly found this to be true.
  2. Cost reduction – Whether we term this cost reduction or margin improvement, 5-10% improvement is what the Hackett study shows. We have seen these results, even by default (when the SIOP program was focused on improving service). Thus, if they can be achieved by default, they certainly can be achieved with focus! Items that fall into this category include material cost reduction, freight cost reduction, labor productivity improvement, and fixed cost optimization.
  3. Sales growth – According to the study, a 2-4% improvement is not uncommon. We have experienced dramatic results in this area with lead time reduction, on-time delivery performance improvement, customer scorecard wins and strengthened partnerships that lead to new and expanded sales opportunities.

For example, in a significant metals-related aerospace business, we started the SIOP journey to reduce inventory levels to free up debt. By partnering with sales to better understand customer requirements and by better aligning the sites on a single plan and set of priorities, we were able to align demand with supply. It was truly about alignment as the performance measurements couldn’t be completely changed (and they often didn’t support the same decisions as SIOP). Yet, we gained executive alignment and focus. This led to our ability to align the various functional areas on a single objective while still recognizing the site level objectives. Therefore, we were able to reduce the inventory in the core product line by 30% while ensuring customer satisfaction levels were maintained or improved.

The question isn’t whether you’ll benefit from implementing SIOP. The only question relates to what you’ll achieve based on your priority focus. Will it lean in the direction of margins, cash flow or customer loyalty and revenue growth? If you’d like to learn more about how to benefit from SIOP, read about it in our blog, explore our proprietary process for SIOP, 4 Excel or contact us to discuss an assessment.

 

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The Strategic Benefit of SIOP
Have you Thought about Increasing Demand??



Why Southwest Customers Wouldn’t Buy a Bentley

July 24th, 2019

After giving 10 speeches on pricing and profits to groups of CEOs, it is certainly top of mind. Yet, it should always be top of mind for executive teams. One unanimous finding from the informal research of executives is that pricing is a strategic topic.  So, we must find time! When is the last time you focused on pricing?

Whether you consider pricing a strategic topic or not, it will directly impact your business. Let’s start with three typical options from a branding point-of-view.

  1. Low price leader – Southwest and Walmart are great examples of this. No one flies Southwest to have a first class experience. Instead, they are accessible to the general public and fun to fly. Their prices have to match their brand, and low prices do NOT equate to lower profits. Southwest has been consistently profitable when the higher priced airlines weren’t!
  2. Luxury brands – Similar to the low price leader, a Bentley or Gucci denotes the luxury image. If you found a low price on a Bentley, you would definitely think it was a lemon. In the B2B world, the same holds true. We work with a high quality lawn and garden equipment and tools supplier.  Their prices have to remain higher than the low cost brands to maintain their image and customer base. Of course, they need to provide more education and value for their customers as it is what they expect.
  3. Customer focused – In this case, the brand is all about the customer.  These companies are known for going the extra mile and providing superior value for their target customers. If it is all about value in the eyes of your customer, don’t you think your price better align to this value? Of course! If not, it is the epitome of the opposite of the brand.

Have you thought about your strategy and whether it relates to your pricing? It is easy to get caught up in competitive pricing situations and start to lower your price.  However, it might be the time to take a step back and see whether what you are doing matches your branding and strategy.

For example, one CEO provided an example of when she was a VP of Sales at a significant company. They had a niche product with unique value and higher prices. The sales teams were starting to see competition and thought they had to reduce pricing slightly to maintain their position.  The CEO said ‘no’. They were the leader and had value their competitors didn’t. It was a really hard process for the sales team to go back and talk value instead of giving in on price but they managed it. Fast forward to the next year. They were successful in maintaining their prices and didn’t lose business. Instead of falling into price war thinking, they talked about value.

What Do We Need to Think About Related to Strategic Pricing?

From an 80/20 perspective:

  • Who is your target customer? Think about your answer. Hopefully, it isn’t anyone willing to pay for your product or service! Yet that is an easy trap to fall into. Instead, take a step back and think about your target customer. What is their profile? How many current customers are target customers?
  • What do your target customers value? Although we tend to spend 80% of our time on 20% of our customers, the key question is whether these are the target customers. Do we know what our target customers value? Don’t think about your customer base and your daily interactions to answer this question. Instead, think only about your target customers. If you don’t know, find out! Being clear on this alone will yield dramatic results.
  • Is your pricing aligned with your target customers and their expectations of value? This is a tricky one. In our experience, 80%+ of our clients have room for improvement when we get to this point. It also changes over time.  If you last put thought into this even a year or two ago, you are acting on old information!

There is vast opportunity to keep pricing top of mind as it relates to your strategy. Why do this? It is a top strategy to ensure customer value (to grow your business) and increase bottom line profits simultaneously. If you are interested in a pricing & profits assessment, contact us.

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Who Are Your Stars?

July 21st, 2019

In our 14 years of consulting experience and almost 30 years of working experience, we have found that 80% of executives spend the majority of their time with the 20% of employees who do not achieve results. Unfortunately, this means they don’t have time to spend with the stars who achieve 80% of the results. Do you fall into this trap as well? As executives commented in our 2019 predictions document, talent is a hot topic in today’s tight labor market. If you aren’t paying attention to your stars, they will jump ship to someone who does pay attention.

People don’t leave companies. They leave bosses!
As an executive, stop to think about what questions you are asking. Do you ask your direct reports about their stars? Could you identify the future stars of your organization? Or are you just addressing issues as they arise? Key customer issues. Board questions. Performance problems. Etc. If so, undoubtedly, you are receiving information from stars or they could be working behind the scenes, invisible to you. We find that these stars can be easily overlooked because they might not like the spotlight or they are likely to be the person to bring up unpopular topics. Does your culture support these stars or encourage them to stay hidden?

Here are ways to find your stars:

  1. Pay attention to who your leaders go to in order to get information. There is always a star behind the scenes who has the information when you need it. It is likely this person could be several layers below you and so you’ll need to pay attention.
  2. Have you asked old-timers for information or ideas lately? Ask employees who have been around a while. If they feel overlooked, they aren’t going to offer ideas and information until asked. However, when valued, you just might be surprised with some amazing results. We have had countless numbers of clients with this sort of hidden gem! Typically there is at least one person like this in every organization.
  3. Look for someone who might be unpopular in meetings because they’ll bring up issues. Frequently, there is someone who is willing to speak up about issues who becomes unpopular because the rest of the team doesn’t understand or think the issue will occur. This person is also seen as delaying the process. Sometimes, these folks are just problem employees but often they can be your stars. Stars are willing to speak up about issues, and if you listen to them, they will save you from all sorts of problems. Of course, if it was only that easy! Typically these folks might not be the best communicators, so they aren’t seen as stars by their managers. You’ll have to look hard.
  4. Look for the influencers. Although not typically in a position of power, the masses will follow them because they trust their judgment. This isn’t obvious because leaders aren’t involved. Look for who employees go to with questions or look for who they will go to if issues occur.
  5. Ask each employee about his/her ideas and/or create small group discussions. Once you gain trust, you’ll rapidly identify your stars.

Since your stars are responsible for 80% of the results and are the go-to people for any project worth doing, there is a dramatic ROI in finding your stars and embracing them. It certainly seems worth the effort of checking in on a few employees each time you walk through the office. Don’t stop and talk with your favorites or those with which you have common interests. Instead, stop at the first desk that wouldn’t part be part of your routine. Be interested and listen. We’ll bet you learn compelling ideas rapidly. Let us know how it goes and what strategies you find the most successful in finding your stars! We are always interested in this vital topic.

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People Rule!



Biggest Shakeup in Decades Coming to the Shipping Industry with IMO Regulations

July 18th, 2019

According to Reuters, the biggest shakeup in decades is coming to the shipping industry as the IMO regulations go into force in January. Shipping owners have to cut sulfur emissions from 3.5% to .5% which is a reduction of 85%! This means they’ll have to use low-sulfur fuel, install exhaust gas cleaning systems, use expensive liquefied gas or go slower. None of these are nominal costs. And, certainly going more slowly will exacerbate an already problematic situation where customers’ Amazon-like expectations aren’t being met!

 

Analysts think the container industry could incur an extra $10 billion in costs. That isn’t pocket change! It is expected that there could be a 10-20% increase in operating costs in related companies. Twenty five shipping container executives said they plan to pass along costs to customers. The shipping industry is tired of absorbing costs. Are you prepared for the likely impacts of this massive change?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Are you keeping up on the latest news such as these changing regulations? If not, you must start unless you want to be run over by your competition! For starters, if you are in an industry related to the container and shipping industry (which almost every company has some relation because no one operates completely in isolation), figure out the likely impacts. Should you be doing what some beneficial cargo owners are doing in moving up shipments so that it is less likely you’ll get ‘stuck’ during the holiday season? On the other hand, last year, when the tariffs caused extra imports, rates increased and containers were held up.

If you are a manufacturer, are you re-evaluating sourcing? Perhaps it is time to re-shore and near-shore as the total cost is no longer compelling to source from Asia in most industries and non-commodity products. This is without considering the dramatic difference in lead times, inventory requirements and associated working capital considerations. Don’t just follow the fads. Find an expert and figure out what makes sense for your situation.

Trucking companies are also likely to be negatively impacted. Now, they’ll have increased competition for low sulfur fuel. According to the Reuters article, it could double the price of diesel fuel. Wow! If there ever was a topic related to the resilient supply chain, this could be it!

What are you doing to build flexibility into your supply chain and your organizational design? If you are interested in a resilient supply chain assessment, contact us. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.