fix a dysfunctional process.”
The key challenge in implementing any new process is communication and training, especially when you have several branches and sales teams used to old ways. The Neff Group operates eight branches in four states.
“You get some people that adapt early and do very well,” Norman says. But for others, it may take longer to integrate into the process.
The introduction of the new process and software took roughly two years. But it has taken at least three years to get to a point where the process and tool have made the difference the company hoped it would.
Neff Group Distributors Inc. includes the two Neff Engineering businesses in Indiana and Wisconsin which operate independently as well as three more companies acquired in 2000. Two of those were rolled into Neff Engineering. The third, FluidTrols, stands alone. Neff records between $50 million and $100 million in sales each year.
The company distributes pneumatic equipment such as valves, cylinders, vacuum pumps, gauges, and air treatment components; and electronic control equipment to OEMs and other end users in Indiana, Michigan, Northern Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Before becoming part of the Neff Group, each of the five companies had its own sales organization, and each of those had its own method of tracking customers and new business opportunities. Some used Act, Outlook or even tracked their activities on paper.
This hodgepodge of different tools made it difficult for Neff to evaluate its sales teams’ activities. It also made it difficult to share best practices of top account managers. The company wanted to implement a step-by-step sales process designed to identify prospects and locate decision-makers in those companies. The company also hoped its new process would make sales more transparent.
The Neff Group chose Tour de Force, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software from The MRH Technology Group. The package helped the Neff Group implement its new sales process and merge its disparate sales teams.
The company chose a tool that was designed as an add-on to Microsoft Outlook, which was already used by some of the sales teams. “Also, our account managers are sales experts rather than computer experts so they needed something easy to use,” says Don Norman, Neff’s director of sales and market development. “I felt that anything that worked within Outlook would be easy for them to pick up.”
Neff configured templates in the software with information account managers needed to set up new business; the managers fill in forms from pre-configured menu choices, using drop-down selections and check boxes.
The new sales process requires specific information on each new business opportunity. The account manager must input key players in the prospect company and classify them as decision-maker, champion, influencer, etc. The account manager meets with these people. Each meeting’s activities and action items are entered into the software the software provides decision points to help in moving new business opportunities forward or for dropping poor opportunities.
“We use the tool as a business development tool,” Norman says.
The information in the system is stored in a central database after it is entered and up-to-date account information can be accessed by authorized managers in or away from the office.
The Neff Group’s sales have risen at least 20 percent since implementing the new sales process and software. Norman says that though he cannot attribute all of that growth to the new sales process and software, he thinks the implementation has helped significantly.
The company has identified at least 10 new customers that it can tie directly to the process. “We have also noticed that the Neff Group offices that have performed the best have been the ones that have most aggressively implemented the new process,” Norman says.
He also says the process and software solution have helped his company to stay focused on its opportunity-driven sales goals. How well the company is doing depends on how well it develops new opportunities and follows up on those.
Norman emphasized that the tool merely helped the company implement its sales process. The success of the process itself was in the planning. “You must have a well-defined process that meets the goals of the company first,” he says. “No tool in the world can