Volume 8, Issue 11 - December 2007

Software Savvy

Remote Quoting and Order Entry Creates Win, Win—
Now and Long-Term
by Ron Crowl

Patience is a virtue. Making people wait a week, a day or even an hour for price quotes is not. Customers and prospects expect answers now, and the people in your sales channel want to provide those answers without delay. The problem? You still want to maintain control and ensure quality.

Today, you can give them exactly the capabilities they desire. In the process, your company can acquire new business while becoming more responsive and efficient. This can be accomplished without giving up the control needed to prevent costly errors in estimation, scheduling and production. 

Providing Instant Information 
This is possible through remote and online quoting and sales tools. These tools are more than a short-term remedy. Long-term, providing them can build good will with your channel. It also can allow you to keep pace with the competition—or even create a competitive advantage. And with the right system and built-in rules, errors can be reduced.

What should you look for? Certainly, think of the capabilities your business needs. The chosen tools should allow quotes preparation in all the sales situations in your channel. Quote preparation should also be available when disconnected from the Internet. It is important that these tools are relatively easy to learn, use and maintain.

For these reasons, we recommend our customers choose tools that integrate tightly with their manufacturing packages. This provides numerous advantages, including the following. 

  • Reduced system maintenance. You don’t want to incur costs to make the same changes twice in two applications. Also avoid redoing expensive customizations when one or the other application is upgraded.
  • Reduced set-up. One setup for an additional program above what you’ve already done for your manufacturing/ERP application is all that is required.
  • Easy one-change updates. This includes products, pricing, options and configuration rules. 
  • Similar menus and user interface. Having similar menus for the primary manufacturing system makes training easier.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that the further you push quotation out into the sales channel, the less the person preparing an estimate is likely to know about what wins orders for your products and company. Look for applications that enhance and promote, not limit or hide, your competitive advantages. If you win on features and options, be sure the application offers these so they cannot be missed. If you win on specials, make sure the application can quote and display even the most complex mulled shapes you fabricate. In addition, be certain the application allows modification of the display screens to include your company logo and colors. 

Minimizing Errors 
How do integrated online quotation and sales tools help control errors? This happens in several ways. They: 

  • Prevent an estimate from being created for a unit your company cannot or does not wish to make. 
  • Enforce your pricing rules for features, components, options, customers, discount levels or any other factor you choose. These rules are usually established in the product configurator in your ERP. They must pass through to your remote sales tools. 
  • Eliminate re-entry of data from sales to scheduling and production.

As long as your online quoting and sales tools enforce accuracy, speed and convenience they can be valuable attributes in the sales process. Your entire sales channel can be equipped to respond rapidly to opportunities rather than keep prospects or customers waiting. Meanwhile, efficiency is enhanced for everyone. These needs are best meet through a system that integrates closely with your current solution. 

Ron Crowl is president of FeneTech. He may be reached at ron_crowl@fenetech.com. Mr. Crowl’s opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


© Copyright 2007 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.