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Don Cooper

Don Cooper

Small and midsized businesses are busy these days with questions about software and software changes. They are somewhere between packaged software and enterprise resource planning (ERP), and considering a leap of faith. Software preference for smaller firms is being very much discussed today. The reason for that has a lot to do with ERP and an extended software platform.

ERP Software

What’s your Software Preference?

Web-based, on-demand, software as a service (SaaS) has given smaller entities the opportunity to work with one software system that has the ability to manage their entire operations. Many are making the move to take advantage of enterprise software, while others are still considering it. Some are wondering if their business is too small for ERP. But the fact is, that this software system can be administered by as few as 3-5 staff members. And you get a lot more bang for your buck than you would with packaged software. Another reason small firms have been reluctant to transition to enterprise software is that they don’t believe they are well schooled enough about the software system.

There is plenty of information available about ERP and a demo of the software system can easily be arranged. Still, these businesses need to take the initiative and educate themselves about the software system. While a demo will prove to be informative, nothing will take the place of proactive research and reviews. And this task is made easier when you involve other members of your staff. Take a good look at the software you are using now and how productive it makes your business. Make a list of the things you would like to see improved and determine whether or not your current software programs can accommodate any changes you might want to make. Next, investigate ERP and compare notes. It’s more than likely that you find that enterprise software can make your business much more productive than anything you will get out of a box.

Your software preference should be based on the software that will be best for your needs and that come at a good cost. If you’ve done your homework thoroughly, it is more than likely that you will find ERP coming out ahead any software programs you are using now. This is, after all, a one stop software system that is all-inclusive and distributed. It covers all business processing tasks across your organization and can also link you to outside resources. These tasks are carried out by application modules that work in concert to transmit information and data. They are all integrated together on one platform for close communication. Further, this same platform is automated, so that all of your information and data is transmitted quickly and with real-time visibility.

You’re never too old to learn and you are never too small to grow. ERP can grow right along with your business, as it scales up. And you don’t have to worry about software updates. With the enterprise system you will always be working with the latest software applications. this software system also includes tools for making reports, doing objective analysis and making assessments on business intelligence for management.

So, what’s your software preference?

 

 

Often suppliers play a powerful role in defining the expansion plans of their distributors. This is particularly true for distributors of exclusively or selectively distributed branded products, where the supplier awards authorization to distribute product lines within defined areas. The supplier may not be able to prevent shipment from an authorized location to customers outside the designated area; however, they are able to withhold sales and cost support as well as apply pressure in various ways.

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 4)

The first step in the geographic market segment exercise is to decide which markets are included in the matrix versus being left off altogether. The next step is assignment of the Growth, Status Quo or Harvest analysis to each geographic market. The scope varies based on the size of the distributor. For example, a local company may look at new sales territories or small branches near its central location; a regional firm may consider opening (or closing) large branches in nearby geographic areas.

The segment matrix is an exercise for small groups to work on and to report their recommendations to the planning group as a whole. The entire group can engage in a discussion that leads to decisions. I recommend that the teams assign this grow, maintain or harvest evaluation to each segment matrix item rather than checking two boxes or using plusses and minuses where the group has trouble reaching a conclusion.

The geographic market segment exercise may lead to a deadlock in which people want to grow every market. This problem can be resolved by carefully defining the categories. The growth category requires significant commitment of time and dollars to fully develop the company’s market potential. The maintain designation indicates that the company intends to invest in a market where it feels its market share has reached its potential and a strong effort may be needed to protect market position. Even the harvest designation requires continued effort to protect existing customers even though the company does not intend to actively seek other customers in that market.

After the geographic analysis, next tackle the question of arriving at the right mix of products and services. The products and services analysis is a series of investment decisions about deployment of sales resources and capital for inventory. The products and services analysis is complicated by the inclusion of both products and services in the same matrix.  Traditionally distributors get into the services business out of necessity, the services being a means to the end of selling more product. The service demand may have come from customers or from suppliers, such as a requirement that authorized distributors perform warranty work or minor repairs on equipment. The decision to get into equipment may well have been an effort to sell more product.

Distributors often find making money on maintenance and repair work very difficult. The problem is made worse by inability to track labor and travel time and the cost of parts. Service technicians are often used to assist in sales presentations and provide other support. So what do you do? More about the right mix of products and services in Part 5.

Continued in Part 5

 

What strategic approach can you take to analyzing services business that, simply, doesn’t seem that strategic? The determination to grow a product line that requires services is also a decision to provide those services. Growth designation is a commitment to invest heavily in people and assets to achieve the company’s full potential with a product line. Broadly speaking, it is feasible for distributors to develop services as a product center separate from product lines but this is rare.

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 5)

The decision to maintain the status quo of a product line is a commitment to invest as needed to hold the company’s market position or share of that product line. Doing so requires growing the business fast enough to expand with the market as well as to find pieces of business to replace those that are inevitably lost to competition or for other reasons.

Harvesting a product line is potentially difficult because of the way suppliers may react. The distributor’s intention is to hold onto the customers already buying the products while not seeking other customers for those products. The resulting loss of buying power may be a problem even if the supplier is supportive. The decision to harvest a product line is sometimes a determination to replace the supplier’s line with another line or to drop the unprofitable products altogether.

It is much easier for sales people to build sales with a product line they are familiar with and feel confident with than to be a market pioneer with a line they don’t know much about. Some sources state that it is four times more difficult to introduce new product lines, even to a well-established customer, than to sell what the sales person (and the company) is already proficient with. The decision to move into a totally new line is a difficult one because of the commitment of time and capital over a long period, possibly several years. This is a “zero sum game” when trying to sell a new line through the existing sales force. The new products will take sales time and energy away from established products. The new products must be more profitable, and have more growth potential, than those they will displace.

Many products have become more complex with the stunning growth of technology. Suppliers expect more technical expertise from their distributor sales forces partly due to a reduction of the size of some supplier sales teams. Customers often demand that distributors provide technical support for products and equipment including the ability to solve complex problems. The technical evolution is both an opportunity and a threat for distributors in many lines. Some companies choose to solve the need for field technical support by adding technicians to the staff to assist the sales reps. Others are training their sales reps to provide more expertise. Adding new product lines may require hiring sales specialists for the new line, hiring more technically savvy sales reps or engaging technical support staff. The incremental costs place more demands on the profitability of the new line. The customers’ current suppliers will react to the entrance of a new competitor to the field and a plan needs to be in place to deal with their responses.

Continued in part 6

 

The next part of the strategic planning process directly impacts how you set up your CRM system, and will affect pricing, terms and levels of service for customers with different strategic attributes. 

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 6)

The customer segments analysis has a great deal to do with sales force deployment. Whether or not sales staff specialize in certain segments, they get comfortable with the customers in the segments where they spend most of their time. Sales reps become more valuable to their customers when the reps are intimate not only with the customer’s operation but also with the industry the customer is in.

The traditional distributor ways to segment customers, such as by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, are not necessarily useful for strategic planning. For example, consider segmenting customers based on what they want from distributors, how they buy and what it takes to capture their business. Consider the following:

• Auctioneers. These customers buy from the vendor with the lowest price. A junior buyer has no loyalty to your company, and the selling cycle is 30 days or less.

• Wheeler Dealers. The decision-maker is a purchasing agent who wants low price, but also good service. The selling cycle is six months.

• Negotiators. This departmental manager wants a fair price and extra services. This customer will have some loyalty because the relationship is built on more than price.

• Partners. These customers are focused on value. The decision-maker is a C-level executive willing to pay a higher price if there is a return on that investment. The loyalty level is high, but it takes a long time to gain their trust, up to two years.

Segment your customers into these categories to help you better understand how you can better serve them. The importance of looking at customer segments differently is tied to the sales function and rules you’ll embed in the CRM system. The number and type of sales reps, how they are deployed and managed, are fundamental strategy questions for wholesale distributors.

The customer segments matrix, as well as the geographic markets matrix and products and services matrix, drive the questions of: Which sales skill sets, and how many salespeople, do we need in this geographic market to sell these products and services to these customer segments? It makes an enormous difference if you are intending to grow, to maintain or to harvest. Like capital, sales power and technical capabilities are scarce resources. What’s in short supply must be allocated with precision. It is a trap to say “grow” for every market, product, service and segment.

The successful distribution business needs to focus people resources and assets on a small number of high potential (profitable sales) opportunities. The rest is maintained, harvested or dropped altogether.

For many distributors the driving force of their business is the deep knowledge of the customer and the customer’s business. The old rule of thumb that it is four times harder to sell even a familiar product to a new customer than an established customer applies to new customer segments as well. The decision to grow a new customer segment to its full potential for a distributor may require hiring new sales people or sales specialists to focus on that particular segment. It takes significant time and effort to develop expertise, relationships and a good reputation in a new customer segment. Expect a reaction from entrenched competitors to your new sales and marketing efforts!

Concluded in Part 7

 

The next part of the strategic planning process directly impacts how you set up your CRM system, and will affect pricing, terms and levels of service for customers with different strategic attributes. 

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 6)

The customer segments analysis has a great deal to do with sales force deployment. Whether or not sales staff specialize in certain segments, they get comfortable with the customers in the segments where they spend most of their time. Sales reps become more valuable to their customers when the reps are intimate not only with the customer’s operation but also with the industry the customer is in.

The traditional distributor ways to segment customers, such as by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes, are not necessarily useful for strategic planning. For example, consider segmenting customers based on what they want from distributors, how they buy and what it takes to capture their business. Consider the following:

• Auctioneers. These customers buy from the vendor with the lowest price. A junior buyer has no loyalty to your company, and the selling cycle is 30 days or less.

• Wheeler Dealers. The decision-maker is a purchasing agent who wants low price, but also good service. The selling cycle is six months.

• Negotiators. This departmental manager wants a fair price and extra services. This customer will have some loyalty because the relationship is built on more than price.

• Partners. These customers are focused on value. The decision-maker is a C-level executive willing to pay a higher price if there is a return on that investment. The loyalty level is high, but it takes a long time to gain their trust, up to two years.

Segment your customers into these categories to help you better understand how you can better serve them. The importance of looking at customer segments differently is tied to the sales function and rules you’ll embed in the CRM system. The number and type of sales reps, how they are deployed and managed, are fundamental strategy questions for wholesale distributors.

The customer segments matrix, as well as the geographic markets matrix and products and services matrix, drive the questions of: Which sales skill sets, and how many salespeople, do we need in this geographic market to sell these products and services to these customer segments? It makes an enormous difference if you are intending to grow, to maintain or to harvest. Like capital, sales power and technical capabilities are scarce resources. What’s in short supply must be allocated with precision. It is a trap to say “grow” for every market, product, service and segment.

The successful distribution business needs to focus people resources and assets on a small number of high potential (profitable sales) opportunities. The rest is maintained, harvested or dropped altogether.

For many distributors the driving force of their business is the deep knowledge of the customer and the customer’s business. The old rule of thumb that it is four times harder to sell even a familiar product to a new customer than an established customer applies to new customer segments as well. The decision to grow a new customer segment to its full potential for a distributor may require hiring new sales people or sales specialists to focus on that particular segment. It takes significant time and effort to develop expertise, relationships and a good reputation in a new customer segment. Expect a reaction from entrenched competitors to your new sales and marketing efforts!

Concluded in Part 7

 

What strategic approach can you take to analyzing services business that, simply, doesn’t seem that strategic? The determination to grow a product line that requires services is also a decision to provide those services. Growth designation is a commitment to invest heavily in people and assets to achieve the company’s full potential with a product line. Broadly speaking, it is feasible for distributors to develop services as a product center separate from product lines but this is rare.

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 5)

The decision to maintain the status quo of a product line is a commitment to invest as needed to hold the company’s market position or share of that product line. Doing so requires growing the business fast enough to expand with the market as well as to find pieces of business to replace those that are inevitably lost to competition or for other reasons.

Harvesting a product line is potentially difficult because of the way suppliers may react. The distributor’s intention is to hold onto the customers already buying the products while not seeking other customers for those products. The resulting loss of buying power may be a problem even if the supplier is supportive. The decision to harvest a product line is sometimes a determination to replace the supplier’s line with another line or to drop the unprofitable products altogether.

It is much easier for sales people to build sales with a product line they are familiar with and feel confident with than to be a market pioneer with a line they don’t know much about. Some sources state that it is four times more difficult to introduce new product lines, even to a well-established customer, than to sell what the sales person (and the company) is already proficient with. The decision to move into a totally new line is a difficult one because of the commitment of time and capital over a long period, possibly several years. This is a “zero sum game” when trying to sell a new line through the existing sales force. The new products will take sales time and energy away from established products. The new products must be more profitable, and have more growth potential, than those they will displace.

Many products have become more complex with the stunning growth of technology. Suppliers expect more technical expertise from their distributor sales forces partly due to a reduction of the size of some supplier sales teams. Customers often demand that distributors provide technical support for products and equipment including the ability to solve complex problems. The technical evolution is both an opportunity and a threat for distributors in many lines. Some companies choose to solve the need for field technical support by adding technicians to the staff to assist the sales reps. Others are training their sales reps to provide more expertise. Adding new product lines may require hiring sales specialists for the new line, hiring more technically savvy sales reps or engaging technical support staff. The incremental costs place more demands on the profitability of the new line. The customers’ current suppliers will react to the entrance of a new competitor to the field and a plan needs to be in place to deal with their responses.

Continued in part 6

 

Often suppliers play a powerful role in defining the expansion plans of their distributors. This is particularly true for distributors of exclusively or selectively distributed branded products, where the supplier awards authorization to distribute product lines within defined areas. The supplier may not be able to prevent shipment from an authorized location to customers outside the designated area; however, they are able to withhold sales and cost support as well as apply pressure in various ways.

ERP Software

ERP and CRM as Strategic Tools for Wholesale Distributors (Part 4)

The first step in the geographic market segment exercise is to decide which markets are included in the matrix versus being left off altogether. The next step is assignment of the Growth, Status Quo or Harvest analysis to each geographic market. The scope varies based on the size of the distributor. For example, a local company may look at new sales territories or small branches near its central location; a regional firm may consider opening (or closing) large branches in nearby geographic areas.

The segment matrix is an exercise for small groups to work on and to report their recommendations to the planning group as a whole. The entire group can engage in a discussion that leads to decisions. I recommend that the teams assign this grow, maintain or harvest evaluation to each segment matrix item rather than checking two boxes or using plusses and minuses where the group has trouble reaching a conclusion.

The geographic market segment exercise may lead to a deadlock in which people want to grow every market. This problem can be resolved by carefully defining the categories. The growth category requires significant commitment of time and dollars to fully develop the company’s market potential. The maintain designation indicates that the company intends to invest in a market where it feels its market share has reached its potential and a strong effort may be needed to protect market position. Even the harvest designation requires continued effort to protect existing customers even though the company does not intend to actively seek other customers in that market.

After the geographic analysis, next tackle the question of arriving at the right mix of products and services. The products and services analysis is a series of investment decisions about deployment of sales resources and capital for inventory. The products and services analysis is complicated by the inclusion of both products and services in the same matrix.  Traditionally distributors get into the services business out of necessity, the services being a means to the end of selling more product. The service demand may have come from customers or from suppliers, such as a requirement that authorized distributors perform warranty work or minor repairs on equipment. The decision to get into equipment may well have been an effort to sell more product.

Distributors often find making money on maintenance and repair work very difficult. The problem is made worse by inability to track labor and travel time and the cost of parts. Service technicians are often used to assist in sales presentations and provide other support. So what do you do? More about the right mix of products and services in Part 5.

Continued in Part 5

 

Small and midsized businesses that are just getting acquainted with enterprise resource planning (ERP) are asking questions about application modules,  what they  do and how they work. they are more used to working with software programs that work differently than enterprise software. Some of them ask if these modules are something that you can download like apps for your smartphone, or games.

ERP Software

What are Application Modules?

These are questions that come about before they have had an introduction to the software system and had an opportunity to see demos of the system in action. It just goes to show that many smaller businesses that are considering transitioning to ERP are still in the learning process. But that’s a good thing because they need to know in advance what this software system is all about and how it can benefit their business. Software application modules play a big role in administering an enterprise platform. They cover such tasks as accounting, manufacturing, sales and marketing, distribution, retail operations, supply chain management, and much more. They fuel the enterprise platform and are a very significant component of it.

These application modules communicate with one another to process business tasks. They are integrated onto one platform or into one database in a stand alone or bundled arrangement. The platform is unified and it is automated as well. The automation means that all processing of business, information and data, is performed swiftly and with real-time visibility. This is a software system that allows for sharing of information and data and makes it easier to collaborate on and communicate information to others. The modules can cover operations across the entire enterprise, as well as link to outside partners, suppliers and customers. This integrated, automated system is all-inclusive and distributed, which means it has great reach.  The system is accessible from one convenient location, which acts as the repository or communications hub.

With packaged software programs you are working with programs that address tasks such as accounting, word processing, spread sheets and other programs. With ERP you get much more. Indeed with this system you get all of the software you need to effectively run your business and you don’t need any added-on programs to get the job done. As mentioned above, it is all-inclusive. And what’s great about this system is how the application modules work together to process business tasks. No other software communicates like enterprise software.

With this software system you can see what is taking place as it happens. The processing of business tasks are administered in real time. Everyone who has a “seat” at the table, as it were, can see what is happening as it happens. These seats are assigned to users and only employees or users of the system, can get a seat. this also represents part of the cost of the enterprise system; pay per seat.

So, when someone asks you about application modules, they will have to assume that you are working with enterprise resource planning and its application modules. This is the progressive software trend today and more small firms are moving to it, by way of the Web.

 

 

Small and midsized businesses are busy these days with questions about software and software changes. They are somewhere between packaged software and enterprise resource planning (ERP), and considering a leap of faith. Software preference for smaller firms is being very much discussed today. The reason for that has a lot to do with ERP and an extended software platform.

ERP Software

What’s your Software Preference?

Web-based, on-demand, software as a service (SaaS) has given smaller entities the opportunity to work with one software system that has the ability to manage their entire operations. Many are making the move to take advantage of enterprise software, while others are still considering it. Some are wondering if their business is too small for ERP. But the fact is, that this software system can be administered by as few as 3-5 staff members. And you get a lot more bang for your buck than you would with packaged software. Another reason small firms have been reluctant to transition to enterprise software is that they don’t believe they are well schooled enough about the software system.

There is plenty of information available about ERP and a demo of the software system can easily be arranged. Still, these businesses need to take the initiative and educate themselves about the software system. While a demo will prove to be informative, nothing will take the place of proactive research and reviews. And this task is made easier when you involve other members of your staff. Take a good look at the software you are using now and how productive it makes your business. Make a list of the things you would like to see improved and determine whether or not your current software programs can accommodate any changes you might want to make. Next, investigate ERP and compare notes. It’s more than likely that you find that enterprise software can make your business much more productive than anything you will get out of a box.

Your software preference should be based on the software that will be best for your needs and that come at a good cost. If you’ve done your homework thoroughly, it is more than likely that you will find ERP coming out ahead any software programs you are using now. This is, after all, a one stop software system that is all-inclusive and distributed. It covers all business processing tasks across your organization and can also link you to outside resources. These tasks are carried out by application modules that work in concert to transmit information and data. They are all integrated together on one platform for close communication. Further, this same platform is automated, so that all of your information and data is transmitted quickly and with real-time visibility.

You’re never too old to learn and you are never too small to grow. ERP can grow right along with your business, as it scales up. And you don’t have to worry about software updates. With the enterprise system you will always be working with the latest software applications. this software system also includes tools for making reports, doing objective analysis and making assessments on business intelligence for management.

So, what’s your software preference?

 

 

The software industry has gone through some big changes over the past decade. It has gone from out of the box purchasing  to online subscribing; and from various software programs that don’t communicate to enterprise resource planning (ERP), that does. As a result,  small and midsized businesses now have the opportunity to work on an extended software platform.

ERP Software

Welcome to the Extended Software Platform

The World Wide Web has again come to the rescue, offering up software as a service (SaaS). This is software that you don’t have to purchase; you can subscribe to it online, for a fee. It’s always updated so that you are working with the latest applications. What’s more, this enterprise software system integrates all of your software into one database or you can call it one platform, which is all-inclusive and distributed. But wait. As if that weren’t enough, this same platform is also automated. That means that all of your processing tasks, information and data, are transmitted swiftly. I know what you’re thinking, integrated,  automated software. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

If you have spent years, like many small and midsized firms have, working with  packaged software, then you can really appreciate where I’m coming from. This is where software is today and this enterprise software system, ERP, represents the largest software market for small and midsized businesses. And, that’s significant. There was a time when smaller firms couldn’t get their hands on this software system, because it was so expensive. It had to be installed on-site, at your place of business and that meant putting in software, servers and storage space. The whole process cost big bucks, hundreds of thousands of dollars and even into the millions. But now, an online version of ERP is available and it’s no longer business as usual.

So, today, when someone asks what type of extended software platform are you working on, it won’t seem so unusual. Yes, there are still businesses that are working with out of the box software and some of them may appear a little confused, but a great many of them will respond in kind; we’re working on an enterprise platform. Software as a service is changing the way companies and other organizations do business today. And they are getting more done,  saving time and being more productive, in the process. Who would have thought that you wouldn’t have to purchase software anymore, not unless you really want to.

An enterprise software platform can take your business to another level. It can help you to share, collaborate and communicate information and data to others, within and without your business. And this information and data is quickly transmitted with real-time visibility. This software system is a game changer. You can use it not only to enhance your business, but to grow it as well. It’s smart to take the opportunity to learn more about it and to see a demo of the system in action, if you haven’t already done so yet.

The extended software platform is here and it’s ERP. Isn’t it about time you found out about it?

 

 

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