How Equipment Manufacturers
Can Create More Value from
Customer Relationships

CRM technology for Equipment Manufacturing companies —  with Sikich as your consulting partner

We need Equipment Manufacturers
to succeed

Equipment manufacturing plays a key role in the economy. Equipment manufacturing  companies’ products are almost too many to name. They make it possible to perform medical procedures, run automated distribution facilities, produce electronics and food, motor vehicles and rocket ships – and so much more. EM customers use these products to fuel their own success, whether it be by making, distributing, or servicing their own customers. As individuals and as companies, we all benefit when EMs do well and suffer when they don’t.

Many equipment manufacturers specialize in a certain kind of equipment for a particular market segment. Often, they commit large investments over many years to innovate and create Intellectual Property, secure patents, and deliver value in a unique manner. Over many years, many of them also build teams of account reps and service organizations of industry insiders who know how to win customers and maintain productive and profitable relationships with them.

In this blog, we consider the critical role of customer relationships in the equipment manufacturing industry and how equipment manufacturers can use CRM technology to maintain their health. 

Engineer and Factory Worker using Tablet in workshop

THE BUSINESS CASE FOR A CRM partner

Why should you think about CRM, and what can you and your customers expect from it? Customer relationships are a critical asset. CRM can help you do well by treating customers right at every touchpoint.

Customer relationships at risk

Today, some equipment manufacturers find that workforce turnover and changing global conditions expose their customer relationships to the liabilities of discontinuity and competitive takeovers. The pandemic accelerates and intensifies many of their challenges that were already present.

The traditional equipment manufacturing approach to selling and serving customers is relationship-based. Some of the most successful sales reps travel along with customers for many years. Much of the insight regarding these customers and their needs lives in the heads of long-term account reps and field service managers.

Due to the large-scale generational change that is underway right now, many of these customer-loyal employees are about to leave the workplace. When they take their experience with them, they may force their successors to start from scratch and make it difficult for sales and service execs to get a firm handle on the business. These departing professionals likely have an excellent understanding of customer motivations and their buying journeys. However, they might never have taken the time to document their expertise, and now they may lack an effective way to pass it on.

Industrial Engineer in the Hard Hat Uses Laptop

Challenges in global growth

Globalization has made the management of customer relationships more difficult for equipment manufacturers. When customers can be almost anywhere in the world, it’s much harder to get to know and work with them in the traditional, face-to-face manner. This has driven some to set up global sales organizations with local reps in key geographies or establish international dealer networks, thereby pushing the manufacturers one step back in the supply chain—and further away from their customers. Finding ways to work with their far-flung teams and business partners and keep trading relationships alive without the risks and costs of travel—or with convenient travel being curtailed during the pandemic—can be a challenge.

From an executive perspective, it may be increasingly difficult to have insight into those customer relationships and formulate strategies on how to best nurture them. That can be a real threat to a company’s ability to retain customers and grow.

Why is CRM SOFTWARE a good idea?

CRM software can enable equipment manufacturers to manage all customer relationships, communications, buying histories, customer preferences, and commitments in one single resource. CRM applications also give managers and executives a way to consolidate and review account data, see how their reps and teams perform, offer assistance, and make timely course corrections.

The best of today’s CRM systems are easy to use, even for sales reps who may not be thrilled by the promise of a new technology tool. If CRM lives in the cloud or is delivered as software-as-a-service, sales and service reps and their managers can access it from anywhere and on any hardware device they like. And as manufacturers globally struggle to find new talent, investments in modern technology provide evidence to new recruits that you are company that they want to work for. Your use of tech can help you attract and retain the best and brightest recruits.

From basic priorities to strategic opportunities

If seasoned reps in your equipment manufacturing business are about to leave, your first step should be to bring their notes and insights into the CRM environment. Equipment manufacturers we know have created various practices to overcome new-user hesitancy. Sometimes, the new software tool is so attractive and easy to use that even reluctant technology users won’t balk at recording insights and customer data. Sometimes, equipment manufacturers reward their reps for documenting their knowledge and account histories. Other organizations find embedding processes critical to the reps job (like pricing or quoting or accessing promotional material), or to their performance measures, is the most effective way to drive consistent user adoption.

In any case, you can immediately start benefiting from that new transparency to improve sales management and service delivery. Once experienced reps adopt the CRM software and seed it with data, onboarding new talent can be painless and fast.

However, you can use CRM for much more:

What does CRM mean for YOUR customers?

No matter how and where customers prefer to do business and interact with their equipment manufacturer, you can manage the entire engagement consistently in the CRM software. Invitations and records of past virtual meetings, phone conferences, and face-to-face meetings. Emails, instant messages, shared documents and contracts, photos and diagrams—you can attach all these things to a customer record and keep them easily accessible. Your customers might not know that you’ve brought a new set of tools into your business, but will anything at all change for them?

For one thing, communications from your company might be more timely. A response to a sales or service inquiry may arrive faster than before, because the equipment manufacturing company’s employees could act and coordinate their steps immediately instead of researching the account or waiting for somebody else do to so. Even promotions can be more meaningful and compelling, because it’s easier to incorporate known customer interests and plans into your marketing.

When customers connect with your sales and service reps, they may meet new people, but thorough recordkeeping in CRM will help your team members interact with customers as if they had worked the accounts for years. What’s remarkable, in that case, is what doesn’t change for customers—they don’t feel like they need to train a new person, because it’s clear that they are known and appreciated at a company level.
When other businesses lose sight of their customer relationships as people come and go, CRM allows you to demonstrate that your company is different. You’re well organized and professional, and losing an experienced employee won’t slow you down or compromise customers’ experiences.
factory worker standing next to boiler and holding tablet

CRM SOLUTIONS THAT HELP YOU MANAGE CUSTOMERS AND GROW YOUR Equipment manufacturing BUSINESS

Sikich recommends Microsoft CRM solutions that we deploy and support, and which we can help you evolve as needs change. We use a proven, nondisruptive approach that follows your priorities for productive change.

Keeping CRM real, simple, and practical

CRM may be easy to use, but it’s still a complex software product. Technology providers can take missteps if they are not deeply familiar with their customers’ industry and business model or with CRM technology. Poorly planned and managed CRM projects can fail or may never deliver the benefits companies hope for. Some customers invest in technology that is too difficult to use. Or, they omit one key step—getting buy-in from sales leadership. In those situations, user adoption typically starts small and stays that way, eventually causing a CRM project to fizzle out.

Sikich makes use of industry-best practices that incorporate our experience from many successful CRM projects for equipment manufacturers, and we also bring our project management expertise to bear. Our teams follow a simple, predictable, step-by-step approach to bring CRM into your equipment manufacturing business.

We focus on realistic outcomes that make a practical difference for your people. We engage with the sales and service teams and execs who are the key audience for a CRM deployment, and will also work with IT to make sure our solutions fit into your technology environment and strategy. Most important, we work with you to understand what you want to accomplish, help you take the right steps, and assess the results. We start small and follow your lead in evolving your CRM initiative.

Comfortable, easy-to-use technology

For many equipment manufacturers that want to focus on managing and growing their business without distractions from complex technology deployments, Microsoft CRM solutions are the best fit. They are designed for real people in businesses who need to get work done, not expert users who have the time for experimental technology. Sikich relies on several proven Microsoft products to deliver CRM and customer insight capabilities:

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement (CRM)

Suite is a multi-module cloud solution that provides sales, customer service, field service, and marketing functionality in a consistent, intuitive, highly usable manner. You can deploy these capabilities in a sequence that reflects your priorities, adding apps anytime. Sales functionalities are specifically designed and ready to go for a variety of professional roles. With enablement for virtual agents, remote assistance, product design collaboration, and listening to what customers say, the broader Dynamics 365 CRM offering delivers mixed reality, artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics to help you break new ground and get ahead of the competition.

Microsoft Power BI

Lets you unify data from many different sources to build dashboards and reports that help you understand customers and steer the company toward growth. You can give all team members the ability to make decisions based on data and be confident in making a greater contribution to your equipment manufacturing business.

Microsoft Power Apps

Make it easy to quickly build targeted apps to meet specific information needs for users of various devices and operating systems. Using templates and simple steps, the people who know the business best can create apps to extend, improve, and innovate how information and content are shared, and refocus workflows on customers.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights

Is a purpose-built, intuitive data platform to deliver 360-degree, realtime insights and enable personalized customer experiences. Using Customer Insights, you can substantiate hunches and impressions with realtime data, understand customer journeys, and build on your team’s expertise to deliver rewarding customer experiences that can sustain long-term engagements.

WORKING WITH YOUR CRM PARTNER

What’s a joint effort with Sikich like? Our consultants partner with your team members to deliver results in a fast, low-risk, best practices-infused process. we share expert guidance both informally, and also in a structured, document manner. You are always in control of the collaboration and any follow-on projects or service engagements.

Managing change to your advantage

Every time you change how people do their work, the company culture also shifts. Sometimes, everybody welcomes the new tools and processes, but very often early, enthusiastic adopters set the pace. Others follow them when they see that the new approaches are effective, although some may remain hesitant. It’s part of a Sikich CRM project to assist you in managing the organizational and cultural changes that accompany a major software undertaking. Some steps Sikich typically takes include the following:
We help you communicate with the sales and service reps who will be the initial users of the new software, so they can look forward to technology that is designed with them in mind.
If you need to secure sponsorship from the CIO, the CFO or even the VP of sales, we collaborate with you to prepare conversations and achieve the commitments you seek.
When executives wonder what the ROI of CRM might be, we work with you to develop realistic projections.
We connect with your most influential team members to gain their support and speed up user adoption, diving into their use cases to show them how CRM can help them succeed.
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EM industry experts deliver CRM that fits your business

Part of what makes the Sikich team effective in working with equipment manufacturing businesses like you is that most of us had other careers before we came to Sikich. Our consultants, project managers, and team leads were involved in both successful and flawed CRM projects in manufacturing and EM businesses before they decided to pursue technology innovation full-time. That gives them an invaluable inside perspective, which allows for instant reality checks when working with our clients.

Sometimes, Sikich has to help a client turn around a CRM project that is taking too long, runs over budget, isn’t delivering what the company expected, or meets with user resistance. In those situations, we often find that the EM’s previous technology partner allowed the effort to become too complicated. Just like we do in new projects, we follow your priorities and make sure the effort is contained and predictable.

Getting to results rapidly

When Sikich delivers CRM solutions, you can put them to work immediately. We have developed a rapid methodology, HEADSTART, which reflects our experience and best practices from many successful CRM deployments over many years. You know exactly what to expect, when. You can run sales, service, and opportunity management, along with reporting, in your CRM environment within weeks rather than months. You don’t even need to have Sikich consultants travel to your location. We can perform software implementations remotely through the cloud, so there’s no risk to your team members and you don’t need to delay your CRM initiative until the pandemic ends. Your Sikich teams rolls out the new CRM tools without disrupting your workflows, but makes sure they fit into them. We manage to firm deadlines and conditions, and your Sikich project manager will always be available and accountable. We meet your most urgent needs first, but also configure the CRM solutions in such a way that they can serve you for years to come.

Taking the next step

Sikich will gladly help you explore the CRM opportunity for your EM business. Get in touch anytime to have your questions answered or move forward.

Explore our HEADSTART for Equipment Manufacturers solution and have a look at some of our featured case studies.

Ready to explore how Sikich expertise and the right CRM for Equipment Manufacturers can help you?