The Missing Link in CRM?

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The advent of sophisticated sales automation tools is one of the fastest-growing and most interesting technology trends of the last decade. As sales order management (SOM) technology becomes more important for customer satisfaction, retailer accuracy, and profitability, many retailers and wholesalers are investing in these systems, and wisely so. Although many buyers and sellers still work in the age of negotiating via fax machines, Internet technology has become an invaluable tool to access and share real-time inventory and sales information. Today, Web-based sales automation is easy to obtain and use (even for small specialty buyers and sellers) and is more affordable than ever before. SOM systems balance the needs of the manufacturer with those of the sales reps and retailers, delivering significant cost-savings, boosting revenue, and improving customer service on both ends of the spectrum. Effective SOM systems allow retailers to access all the information they need to place orders with just a few clicks of the mouse. Suppliers who use the system can check inventory and prepare orders to ship within minutes, while a customer is on the phone. "The system has really streamlined our sales process and significantly increased sales. Our order fulfillment time has decreased by about 50 percent, because we can check availability so quickly with customers in front of us or on the phone," says Jeffery Wolfe of outdoor specialty shop Moosejaw Mountaineering. "Our customers no longer need to wait on hold for answers, and we don't have to worry about losing sales because of it. And because we can directly enter our orders into the system, mistakes are cut dramatically, saving us time and money." Suppliers also see big marketing benefits from the online SOM system as they gain the ability to communicate directly with retailers about special programs and deals they want to promote. Using an automated approach, suppliers can communicate messages much more efficiently and inexpensively to all their customers or to a specific group of customers. On the retailer side the system provides an opportunity for retailers to create loyalty as well. Because stores can immediately search inventory and place orders, they can fulfill consumer needs at the point-of-sale, rather than sending a buyer to another retailer in search of the product they are looking for. Implementing the system improves customer service and gives retailers the tools to create a level of loyalty that the retail industry dreams about. Is SOM the wave of the future? Retailers say yes. As SOM systems revolutionize the way they do business, specialty retailers across the country are discovering a way to increase profits and efficiency, while making their jobs a whole lot easier and ultimately keeping customers happy. For a system that only requires high-speed Internet access, that's a benefit that's worth the investment. About the Author E. Thomas Detmer Jr., president and CEO, joined CenterStone in April 2002 with extensive experience leading venture-backed IT companies. Detmer held the position of president and general manager of the eMarketing Services group within Experian until joining CenterStone. Detmer was founder, president, and CEO of Atlantes, a consumer database information management company. He founded Atlantes in 1992, and sold the company to Metromail in 1997. Experian acquired Metromail in 1998. Detmer then became president and CEO of After merging Exactis with 24/7 Media, Detmer served as COO of 24/7 Media before reselling the Exactis business unit to Experian in May 2001. He holds a BA degree from Williams College and an MBA from the University of Denver.
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