Business to Business (B2B) sales can be an incredibly nebulous, complicated, and uncertain arena to navigate and manage. The products may be varied and complex, the sales cycles are wide-ranging, and many decision-affecting influencers, contingencies, and persons/agencies may be involved.
Compete in B2B at the global level, and your challenges compound exponentially. Consider the situation of Lifetime Brands, a leading global provider of kitchenware products that include household brands such as Farberware®, KitchenAid®, Mikasa®, Pfaltzgraff®, Built®, and Fred and Friends®.
Cliff Siegel, EVP of Global Supply, at a Lifetime Brands warehouse in NJ.
Encompassing a vast, global network of factories, production schedules, warehouses, distribution points, demand planning systems, budgeting processes, and scheduling, you can imagine that Lifetime Brands’ B2B sales ecosystem is both complex and ever-changing. The sheer size and breadth of the product line makes the sales ecosystem especially vulnerable to issues and challenges that include prohibitive lead times, continually changing or unclear data, redundant manual tasks and interactions, difficult to manage budgeting processes, and difficulty in clearly aligning budget to strategic plan, among others.
Exactly how can a company sidestep or conquer these perils? Lifetime Brands reached out to True Interaction to help mitigate the inherent discord typified by complex sales operations. Cliff Siegel, the visionary EVP of Global Supply Chain at Lifetime Brands, had championed a set of core goals for his organization that should be familiar to all business leaders: Lifetime Brands wanted to grow revenues and increase profitability. They wanted to attract new customers, and keep existing customers happy. They wanted to make Sales operations as efficient and effective as possible. And they wanted to be able to identify and track opportunities and threats within their sales ecosystem.
Mr. Siegel knew that in order to attain these goals, Lifetime Brands would need to assume a proactive, progressive stance and shape their circumstances rather than react to them. They would need to true up the core engine of their business – the Platforms, Processes & People within their sales ecosphere – in order to transform a patchwork of disparate applications and methods into a harmonious, unified entity.
Liam Wright, CEO and Innovation Specialist of True Interaction, teamed up with Mr. Siegel to conduct an exhaustive bottom-up inventory of the existing system and all external data points and data sources, such as Demand Solutions and SAP. The disparate pieces were gathered, identified, organized, defined (and refined) using True Interaction’s proprietary innovation process including several rounds of whiteboard sessions and data identification meetings. Based upon this process, Matt Tidd, TI Chief Technical Director, had a complete map of the information landscape, and was able to architect a full-stack custom solution for Lifetime Brands, complete with the appropriate features and specifications; including Milestones, User Stories, and Tasks laid across a well-articulated development path.
The product outcome is a fully articulated and unified Sales Portal platform, encompassing both an operational planning component and a financial planning component, that can provide sales estimates based on past history as well as the numerous continuous factors, events, and data points that influence day-to-day operations and financials. As a result, the entire value-added planning process accepts revisions quickly and easily. The Sales Portal system is able to link planning and planning procedures to the strategic plan, minimizes the time spent gathering data, maximizes the time for strategic decision making, automates collections and consolidation of budgets, enables collaboration, tracks sentiment, provides various level managers with fiscal control, and establishes a data warehouse for insightful financial planning and reporting, all within a beautiful user-experience. But most importantly, True Interaction built a custom product for Lifetime Brands that is not only cost-effective to implement, but also saves Lifetime Brands hundreds of thousands of man-hours in future enterprise operations.
“Sales portal allows us to simplify and focus the sales process, and ensure the lines of communications between sales and marketing teams are in perfect harmony. Additional benefit is gained from the resulting structured data that we can use to make informed decisions on what our customers are looking for and to better equip our sales team,” says Cliff Siegel. By investing in technology and implementing the proper digital solution, Lifetime Brands has amplified both financial and human value for its organization.
Now that Lifetime Brands has harnessed all of these disparate data sources into a unified system, they are also reaping serendipitous, unplanned-for benefits as well. For example, based upon the collaborative sales projections that the system now provides Lifetime Brands, the organization is now able to more accurately plan the related inventory requirements throughout the calendar year.
Is the B2B sales process in your business well-organized? How well does your organization wield technology to achieve their better achieve their goals? According to SMB Group’s 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study, 29% of small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) view technology as helping them to significantly improve business outcomes. These “progressive” SMBs are 18% more likely to successfully forecast revenue increases than their peers. Progressive SMBs spend 29% more on technology, are 55% more likely to have fully integrated primary business applications (financials, CRM, HR, etc.) and are 86% more likely to use analytics than their counterparts.
By using technology to streamline workflows, slash time spent on repetitive data entry and inefficient processes, gain better insights into opportunities and threats, and create new business models, progressive SMBs are well positioned to tap into new customer requirements, improve customer engagement and experience, and enter new markets. As they move forward, they will continue to outpace their peers and reshape the SMB market. ~Laurie McCabe, Partner at SMB Group, Inc.
Are you able to make informed, actionable business decisions? Is your organization evolving with our digital ecosphere as it expands and develops? It’s time to invest in the future.