Another key feature that jan/san distributors say is a must for their ERP system is robust customer relationship management (CRM) functionality. A CRM tool gives sales staff a complete view of a client profile that includes its size, names of decision makers, location and contact information. It also allows users to build data-rich profiles on potential and current clients that can be organized based on such factors as previous and potential sales, industries and client size. 

This type of functionality is essential when coordinating sales processes and prospecting efforts in order to win major clients, says Louie Davis, the business development manager at Central Paper Company in Birmingham, Alabama.

Central Paper used its CRM system, along with a secondary file-sharing and communication application, to win the business of a major school district in Alabama about a year and a half ago.

“We had 15 to 20 people working on this when we acquired this account … it was crazy,” says Davis. “[CRM] really kept us together and we became big fans of it in terms of project communication.”

 The CRM platform allowed Davis’ team to collaborate as they were doing reviews at several of the school system’s 30 sites, interviews with key decision makers and developing a needs analysis of the school district.

“First of all, we had to determine what they were doing, what their needs were and why they were not happy,” says Davis. “So we had to do all the needs analysis … to find out what they were dissatisfied with, what they did not like and what they wanted to improve.”

Team members were able to use the CRM as a repository where they uploaded information, documents and even photos that could be shared with colleagues and ultimately used to create a proposal and manage the account. 

When CRM capabilities are integrated with other parts of the ERP system, it really becomes a powerful offering. At WAXIE Sanitary Supply in San Diego, the CRM platform includes business intelligence and analytics, as well as real-time product availability and pricing inquiries. 

“WAXIE sales reps can price new product offerings, generate professional looking sales quotes, and assign follow-up tasks to inside sales administration staff from within the CRM application,” says Aaron Gerraughty, vice president of management information systems (MIS).

There are myriad other uses and benefits of ERP systems. Manufacturers identified these three as the most essential for now, but as technology changes, so, too, may the best functions.  

Brendan O’Brien is a freelance writer based in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Additional reporting by Dan Weltin, Editor-in-Chief. 

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