question mark sales force automation

The Misunderstood CPG

5 reasons why traditional sales automation tools just don’t fit the bill for consumer packaged goods companies.

Hands down, sales automation (aka CRM Sales) is a great concept, with a multitude of commercial solutions that have driven top and bottom-line gains for companies of all sizes. So why is it that despite big-name CRM deployments from the likes of SalesForce, NetSuite, Oracle and Microsoft, too many CPG B2B sales reps from coast to coast still rely heavily on inefficient selling methods like pen and paper? Why have we yet to witness a takeover of all CPG sales by traditional CRM systems? Why have so many CPG companies failed in their deployments of sales force automation?

5 reasons why traditional CRM systems are NOT meeting your CPG sales needs:

1. Traditional CRM systems are built to develop and monitor the sales cycle, pipeline and forecast. They’re most concerned with nurturing new opportunities and providing visibility into the sales pipeline. Sounds good, except that we know that CPG sales are actually product catalog-centric, are they not?! The features that CPG sales reps most need are interactive catalog-presentation, quoting, sophisticated pricing, efficient order taking with cross-selling and up-selling recommendations…and in-store retail execution for stock taking, customer surveying, handling returns, and more — capabilities foreign to traditional sales force automation systems.

2. Traditional CRM sales systems were built for always-online back office use. The customer is not exposed to the CRM application; 1-2 seconds wait time for HTML screens to refresh is acceptable, and if you need to access the system in the field, well, it’s probably to access reports and dashboards. CPG sales is a different ball game. Mobile-first design is a must; delivery as a native mobile wholesale ordering app that’s lightning fast for in-store retail execution, and operable in offline mode (so that data integrity is never compromised), on any mobile device, is crucial. And a slick user experience – that leaves a WOW impression with the customer – provides a strategic competitive edge (and happy sales reps!).

3. Traditional CRM systems are built for non-transactional sales (see #1 above), with sales cycles measured in days/weeks/months. But CPG sales are in fact highly transactional, are they not?! CPG sales reps repeatedly write orders with tens/hundreds of lines, in the field, while engaged with the client. They need to quickly locate the relevant products in their often-huge product catalog, efficiently enter the orders into the system, present special offers, negotiate discounts and terms based on strict rules that vary by customer/product/rep, all-the-while being consultative and helpful to the customer. That’s a tall order. Traditional CRMs where not built to tackle these challenges unlike mobile CRM.

4. The majority of the data required in the sales cycle is managed in the CRM system (think opportunity management). But CPG sales reps are constantly dipping into their ERP systems for operational data to support the sales process (previous orders, shipments, invoices, pricing, debts, products…). CPG sales is tied to the hip with the ERP system. Tight, bi-directional integration is required.

5. Traditional CRM systems capture and manage phone, email, and chat interactions in support of the rep’s hunt for new clients – but CPG sales reps must handle debts, returns, replenishment, picture-taking and other transactions that are nowhere to be found in traditional CRM systems.

And so, CPGs are basically misunderstood by the CRM powerhouses. What CPG sales reps need is a system that is designed with their transactional B2B sales processes in their core (Hurray!). They want a system that recognizes that mobility is critical in their work, as they are mostly en route to store visits and trade shows and NOT usually behind their PCs back in the office. They require a mobile-native app that is fast and reliable both online and when internet connectivity is sketchy.

  • No frustrating delays for pages to be loaded from the product catalog with hi-res pics
  • No frustrating delays for records to be accessed from the back-office ERP
  • No frustrating delays for complex orders to be entered online
  • No frustrations delays when internet connectivity fails for a split second, forcing the rep to re-enter the order from scratch

Leading CPG companies such as Kimberly-Clark, SodaStream, Dermalogica, and Seiko are ditching their CRMs in favor of a central omni-channel commerce platform that can guarantee uniformity in buying experience, brand imaging, messaging, and pricing across all sales channels – in-person and online.

The time has finally come for CPG sales reps around the country to be seen, understood, and offered a trash bin for their no-longer desirable pens and paper.

Interested in reading more – Download our free white paper or request a demo with one of our experts.