CRM and Fluid Handling Equipment Manufacturers: Silver Bullet or BB?

by Dave Brockway

In a report issued June, 2017, market research commissioned by predicts that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increase global business revenues by $1.1 trillion and create 800,000 net new jobs.

The report specifically highlights how AI is transforming Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. A news release characterizes the impact as “profound…new levels of productivity for employees and even better experiences for their customers.”

CRM seems to have lit up all sectors of the business world. It appeals to chief executive officers and marketing managers alike because of its potential to close more sales and offer critical market analytics. And with estimates like those offered by Nucleus Research that promise a $8.71 return for every $1 invested, CRM seems SOLD.

So why am I a bit skeptical about the value of CRM to the niche we call fluid handling equipment manufacturing? I’ve lived, eaten and breathed pumps and fluid handling equipment for nearly 40 years. Call me a curmudgeon, but I remain concerned that, at least in our niche, we are mistaking a BB for a silver bullet.

My reluctance stems in part from 2013 findings by the Merkle Group which assert that 63% of CRM projects fail to deliver their promised return on investment. Other more recent estimates peg failure rates at 30–60%.

The failure rate in our industry might be much higher, especially if you count the number of systems currently on life support. I think there are four reasons for this:

Reason One: Implementing CRM for management rather than for sales.

I don’t know how many times I have seen a company attempt to implement CRM based on promised management reporting. But, in order to generate those reports, salesmen are tasked with the burden of summarizing and entering data into the CRM from their daily proposal system (I use the term system here lightly).

Double entry. Really? Is that what you want your sales team doing?

Good salespeople, like thoroughbred horses, figure out a way to win when you point them in the right direction. When you hitch them up like a plow horse, you suck the life out of them.

Reason Two: Setting unrealistic expectations.

CRM often falls into the category of “over-sell and under-deliver.” Some of this stems from CIOs, CEOs and Sales Directors falling in love with perceived features and then establishing totally unrealistic expectations for what they want to accomplish. Although CRM systems offer a plethora of functionality, most companies never use 90% of those options—ever!

As my partner Trygve Dahl often says “You can’t boil the ocean.” Don’t attempt to do everything at once.  Keep it simple. Take implementation one step at a time. Be sure to actively seek feedback and buy-in from sales and other key end-users.

Reason Three: Adding CRM before implementing your robust sCPQ (Selection, Configuration, Pricing and Quoting) system.

In the often complex and unrelentingly precise world in which we live, your sales live and die by the quality of your proposal package. Did you select the best products and assemble them in the best way given the conditions of service? Did you accurately pull the best prices, including special discounts, and then create a comprehensive quote package with all the drawings, curves and literature that the customer needs?

These foundational steps far outweigh customer relations because they are directly connected to customer responsiveness. If you can’t deliver what customers demand, it doesn’t matter how well and how often you call or email them.

If you add a CRM package without an existing SCPQ system, (front end sales automation platform) expect to waste money. A robust SCPQ system should be your first priority. Build a system that makes life easier and more productive for your sales team, not more difficult. Build a system that sales and marketing can’t live without, not one they wish had never left the drawing board.

With a proven SCPQ system deployed, then review your take CRM options. SCPQ will change the way you look at CRM – and for the better.

Reason Four: Not integrating CRM with your sCPQ system.

If you move ahead with CRM, be sure to integrate it with your SCPQ. Make it easy and useful for sales to use all the components and they will. Likewise, managers can extract all the reporting they crave without double entry. This makes for a double win – accurate reporting and forecasting without burdening and demoralizing your sales force.

With these four steps in mind, CRM could be powerful ammunition for your entire team.