According to Melinda Elmowy, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing for CargoWise ™ edi, a leading provider of integrated international supply chain logistics management systems, the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and sales process for freight and logistics is considerably more complex in today’s dynamic global business environment than it has been in the past.
For instance, Elmowy says the buying decision has moved from the shipping dock and traffic department to C-level influencers.
“The entire CRM process as it relates to freight forwarding has evolved and requires more advanced IT tools to support this new paradigm,” says Elmowy.
“There are a number of IT solutions available that can be applied horizontally across a variety of industries to automate the sales process and manage it through CRM.”
“Most are adequate solutions. However, for logistics providers, the optimal solution is an integrated ERP system that applies this discipline vertically,” she says.
“This is especially important for the freight forwarding industry, where CRM is an integral part of the supply chain solution as it relates to running the entire company — from sales prospecting, to quotes, operations, finance and an optimized logistics process.”
Elmowy identifies 10 areas of supply chain functionality that can ensure an effective CRM process:
- Identify a Single Solution for Management Visibility
In many cases there are fragmented communications solutions that may serve one business segment more than another, and require multiple data entry.
Supply chain visibility can be better accomplished by a single solution that integrates information from both sales and operations.
With integrated information, sales reps can enter critical data that is used to facilitate increased sales and customer service by monitoring project status and meeting customer deadlines.
Operations management is then able to utilize the same, uniform information for reporting and oversight without requiring additional data entry.
Offering management visibility is a by-product of the sales effort, but invaluable to ongoing operations.
2. Establish Effective Freight-specific Marketing Tools
Key to improving CRM and increasing sales is continually building the sales funnel through effective marketing to both existing customers and prospects.
A proper freight CRM process can target marketing efforts based on attributes that only freight-specific CRM can deliver: shipment activity, lane segments, trade profiles, deliverables, etc.
3. Institute Data Efficiencies
Sales and marketing is the first contact with the customer/prospect.
Prospects turn into quoting opportunities, shipments and revenue.
If a customer record is entered into a CRM tool, then into a separate freight system, and then a financial system, there is no integrated efficiency developed beyond the original point of origin.
IT solutions with an integrated CRM process enables sales, operations, and finance to work from the same records, increasing companywide operating efficiencies.
4. Ensure Data Quality through a Single System
Data quality is even more of an issue for companies than efficiency.
Changing customer organization details, contacts, and procedures is an administrative nightmare with multiple data systems within a company.
A single data system with a common point of customer input ensures the entire team — from sales through operations to finance — has access to the same updated information to ensure a seamless flow of quality information.
5. Improve the Customer Experience
The sales process begins with your company contact sitting down across the desk from a prospect customer asking for business and committing to SOPs.
Communicating these SOPs to operations and adhering to them is difficult.
An integrated CRM solution extends beyond sales, allowing a customer profile to be established that includes operations.
A properly integrated CRM solution does not require sales to send memos, but rather enables the system to automatically inform operations of the dos and don’ts of managing that account.
6. Create Sales Management Visibility
Sales and CRM effectiveness are ultimately measured with numbers.
Management needs visibility of sales efforts to evaluate operating performance and strategy.
Asking what issues are affecting sales is an important element in establishing management visibility of the operating process.
Is there a common theme that can lead to opportunities if addressed? How many calls are being made; what is the call cycle for major accounts; how does the sales funnel look for the next week, month, quarter, and year?
These are all metrics that can be harvested from any good CRM process, but an integrated CRM procedure enables these items to be segmented by quotation, customer, SOP, trade lane, tonnage, destination point and delivery date, creating accurate reporting information throughout the entire sales and marketing system.
7. Establish Quoting and Communications Guidelines
Accurate quoting is the second, and often the most important step, in obtaining business for your company.
This can be as simple as a one-time ad hoc shipment or as complex as a request for a detailed proposed rate study.
Everything your sales department has done up until that point must be accessible to sales and operations for quoting.
An integrated IT-based CRM program ensures a more efficient and effective quoting and communications process by permitting real-time cross-functional accessibility to client data by the various business segments involved in the sales and operational processes.
8. Ensure Transparent Data Repository
A properly utilized CRM process offers transparency to the customer relationship within a logistics operation.
Ultimately relationships are between the customer and the logistics company, not individuals.
An integrated CRM process provides for a smooth transition in the event of staffing changes or employee turnover.
9. Improve Financial Visibility
Your sales department needs a single point of access for client intelligence, quoting visibility, and financial visibility.
A single, integrated CRM system will provide this, while ensuring security and giving access only to the information required in order to complete specific tasks necessary within the supply chain process.
10. Institute an Effective Sales Process
The obvious and most important value question asked about CRM should be: “Does our CRM process help sales reps work more efficiently and increase customer interface, or does it detract from time spent pursuing prospects to enter additional information needed by sales management and operations?”
An effective CRM effort generates comprehensive, relevant reports and permits the sales process to increase the time spent with customer interaction.
An integrated CRM system seamlessly benefits sales management and operations on the backend without redundant entry by sales.
It enables sales to manage customers, develop call cycles, and become more efficient as a company.
An inadequate CRM tool will be met with resistance. A good CRM process self-perpetuates with sales and customers.
As the sales department sees their efforts integrating into the calendar, eliminating manual call reporting, and offering their customers better results through customer service, they realize it maximizes their earning potential…just don’t tell them it is a management tool.
“Following these essential guidelines in establishing the right single-source CRM solution enables the sales team to be more efficient and sell more, while providing the entire sales team with virtually seamless visibility throughout the CRM process,” says Elmowy.
“In doing so,
it provides operational management with a clear view of what is happening throughout the entire freight logistics process and helps improve your company’s supply chain efficiency and ROI.”