01 Sep 3 reasons process manufacturers are demanding CRM sample management
by Alyssa Suchy
Organizations in process manufacturing, or chemical manufacturing, are the catalysts for creating just about everything we know and love. Whether it’s the chemical that makes your paint stick to the wall or the additives that keep your food fresh longer, chemical manufacturing is involved in it all. Altogether, the industry logged over $765 billion in sales and utilized over $99 billion of R&D investments in 2017. But for an industry so well off and integral to every other manufacturer out there, there’s one glaring omission from most CRMs in the subsector: sample management.
For many companies in process manufacturing, a lead is a sample, and a sample is a lead. Sending out samples tends to be the kickstart behind new relationships, as the manufacturers develop new catalysts, chemicals, and compounds for dropping into a multitude of processing refineries. New research leads to new chemicals, which leads to new samples that are ready to be tested and evaluated by potential customers. The challenge manufacturers in this sub-industry face is proving that their latest and greatest chemical will achieve the outcome they say it will. Thus, the origin of a request for a sample.
But many manufacturers are not adequately prepared to qualify, track, follow-up on, or deliver these samples in a way that will satisfy the expectations of both their internal team and their would-be customers. That’s why there’s a big opportunity to transform the sample experience entirely with some CRM integration. Here are three big reasons process manufacturers need a customer-centric sample management setup:
Sending out samples includes many potential points of failure
Unlike those Friday nights having a meal of Costco samples or trying every flavor of ice cream before finally picking a scoop, samples for process manufacturing are not seamless. By the very nature of what chemical/process manufacturers do, it’s inherently complicated. According to McKinsey, “[chemical companies] must manage an enormous amount of complexity: volatile costs and prices, multiple plants, and products that can be made in various ways from diverse combinations of materials, involving output of different combinations of coproduct of varying values, as well as managing by-product flows.” That’s a lot. Let’s take a look at just how involved the sample segment of that process alone is
A prospect submits a request for a sample, or the manufacturer offers to send a sample out to a lead it would like to nurture. That’s great, but coordinating everything after that initial request can quickly become a nightmare:
– What temperature does the chemical need to be kept at while in transit?
– How long can the chemical spend in transit?
– What time will the delivery site be ready for a sample? (Many sites only have adequate plant shutdown times once every few years, making the timing for samples all the more critical.)
– When will the appropriate technicians be on call?
– Does the prospect have the right tools on hand to properly test this sample?
– Who will document the testing conditions?
The questions go on. Clearly, the amount of capital and resources required to put together, deliver, and test a sample isn’t discretionary spending. It’s a serious investment. Coordinating just the right conditions and timing on both sides of the transaction takes an extremely high level of information sharing in real-time because the points of failure are around every corner. If one thing goes wrong, the sample and consequent testing become unreliable—moot for both the seller and potential customer.
If sales reps don’t have the answers to these questions or the right CRM workflows built out to identify this information easily, they can’t properly qualify who to send samples to and how to nurture their leads. Or, even worse, they may not even know when and to who these samples are being sent.
And for the sake of customers requesting samples to test new product applications, sample distribution very much resembles a project. So, for best results, it should usually be treated like one: clear points of contact, schedules, milestones, triggers for next action, trackable activities, and more. Because of its linkage to customer and product information, CRM is an excellent environment for tying this all together.
A lack of sample ownership creates a lack of revenue recognition
When sample management is handled with traditional methods (meaning email thread after email thread across many different inboxes), it’s never quite clear who is owning the lead/sample request and where to associate the funds for it. Sales pressures finance to approve the request, and finance wonders where the lead qualification from sales is. The back and forth eventually leads to an abandoned conversation and a lack of follow-up on the sample results.
Ultimately, any revenue earned from a new customer that started out initially with a sample isn’t recognized for what it is: sampling ROI. When sales, finance, accounts receivable, and other departments aren’t correctly collaborating and sharing critical information, no one knows where to attribute revenue properly. This also means reps don’t know who has been sent what samples in the past, what the results were, and when the prime downtimes at those target accounts are.
Now you may think, “We already have an ERP for handling this information.” That’s great—but is your ERP really handling all that information? While an ERP will work for managing existing accounts and any samples sent their way, it fails to take care of prospects and leads before they’re formally in your system. That’s where CRM sample management comes in: whether it’s self-fulfillment B2B commerce requests or a custom stage/object in Sales Cloud, Salesforce can be leveraged to best handle these cases.
With greater visibility comes clearer ownership over the sample management and lead nurturing process—a workflow chemical manufacturers have been doing for so long without fully empowering its sales reps with data or proving ROI to finance. But, with a little CRM treatment, you can start to do both.
Prospects demand a better sample experience to become your customer
It’s been said over and over, but however trite it remains true: every industry is moving towards the “Amazon experience,” and process manufacturing is no exception. As it stands, however, the prospects chemical manufacturers reach out to are not often having that pleasant, seamless experience when it comes to testing out compounds and receiving samples. If the internal sales reps are having a tough time gathering all the necessary information to coordinate a sample, just imagine how in the dark the customers must feel.
On the receiving end of a sample transaction, a prospective buyer needs to have easy access to several pieces of critical information to give the sample the ideal conditions and best shot at testing
– Where is my sample coming from?
– When will the sample arrive?
– How will it be packaged? Will we need to schedule particular loading dock resources?
– What are the instructions for testing?
– What happens if the sample is approved? What’s next?
– And much more.
If you’re only giving these would-be customers snippets of information, they’ll end up scrambling to make the sample testing work or just abandoning the relationship altogether. Either way, it’s money lost for the chemical manufacturer’s pocket. It’s the manufacturers prioritizing service that outperform time and time again on margin.
The longstanding woes of sample management for process and chemical manufacturers can be solved with an expert assimilation of the sampling process into your CRM. Reach out to Simplus today for a roadmap on how to configure your Sales Cloud data, workflows, and triggers to elevate the sample experience for employees and customers alike.
Alyssa Suchy is Simplus’ manufacturing sales director. She shares extensive knowledge in sales, Quote-to-Cash implementations, enterprise-wide digital transformation, change management, custom configuration, predictive analytic, and managed services. Alyssa has worked as a trusted advisor to C-Level executives at $2BN–$5BN Fortune 1,000 organizations in the industrial space and led multiple global (APAC, EMEA, North America) digital transformation projects. She has extensive knowledge of the unique change management and training efforts required for global transformative success and a deep understanding of minimizing revenue leakage through centralized data and automation. Alyssa graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.