So how do you bridge the gap between the old and the new methods of ordering? Inserting UPC barcodes in your existing print catalogs allows you to...
Traditional sales and order management processes are no longer enough.
Traditional practices present some issues that could be preventing your business from scaling. Read more below to learn why and how you can change it.
One of the biggest challenges that any company faces is the weight of inertia. It’s easy to do the same thing you’ve always done because it works for you. It’s understandable — the call of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a siren song to companies everywhere. This goes for every industry across the board — from food and beverage, to manufacturing, to lawn and garden.
Unfortunately — processes that once were best in class and highly efficient have started to go by the wayside, especially in a B2B context. Pen and paper logging of employee hours and punch clocks are almost unheard of now, advertisements are no longer focused on industry periodicals, and common traditional practices surrounding sales and order management are starting to slow down the growth potential of companies that still use them.
Historically in the B2B space where we all play, order management and sales widely comes down to traditional processes. When an order is placed it usually arrives from three common sources.
- Fax (this is surprising, but yes, we still hear this happens)
There is a common issue that each of these methods have which is definitely slowing down your order management processes. On all fronts you and your customers are working with manual processes, and they present a wide range of disadvantages.
Order entry inefficiencies
If your customer is calling an order in, they have to pick up the phone, wait until they can talk to the right person, make sure they have your catalog in front of them, and finally place and double check the order. If it’s an email or a faxed order form — they still have to sit at their desk, fill out the form, attach it, and send it to the order desk.
That’s a lot of inconvenient time for your buyers, especially when you remember that they’re not carrying just your products. You’re part of a long chain of orders they have to complete. It takes them a lot of daily time and energy to create, check and cross reference their orders to make sure that everything is working for their company.
This can be exhausting for your buyers, and can lead to them making mistakes in their orders, creating headaches for you. But the worst part of manual processes is how much of a toll it takes on you as a supplier.
With traditional manual processes, someone needs to take those orders that your customers are sending in, key it into your own systems so you can take account of your inventories and get your pick and pack done. A lot of the companies that we’ve talked to have a large pool of dedicated staff just to accomplish this. They pay a significant amount of money a year to move an order from one place to another without the guarantee of perfect information being sent.
When all the order entry is said and done, your company still has a bevy of manual processes to complete before you’re ready to ship and a full invoice can be completed. Shipping and logistics can be another time-consuming process that gets between you and getting your order out efficiently.
This won’t be as bad for you if your organization uses a single carrier like FedEx for all your needs, but what if you need other arrangements or prefer to shop around for the best shipping price?
Let’s say your organization gets a major order and wants to shop through prices among DHL, FedEX and UPS. One of your employees has to spend their time manually juggling different portals and keying in the complete order for all three to get an accurate comparison on prices and shipping times.
If you’re really fortunate and have adopted a brokerage like ShipStation or Freightcom, all that information will be in one place. But your organization is still going to have to get all that information into a portal manually. For one order that might not sound so bad, but what if you have to do 20 orders in a day? What about more than 100?
From there, you still need to send it to your ERP or accounting system to manually plug in the shipping details you already have available and use those to generate your final invoice for the customer.
Remember, all of this is manual. These processes are resource heavy, rely on a lot of copy and paste activities, and are prone to human error. In fact, they’re especially prone to mistakes due to how many times the same information needs to change hands and be entered, starting from your buyers and filtering through your organization.
This leads us to the biggest reason why traditional order management practices are holding you back.
Traditional order management doesn’t scale well
We won’t go as far to say that it’s non-present, there are clear examples throughout history of companies managing to scale using traditional ordering systems. Japan’s economy is partially still built on the back of fax machines after all.
What we will say is that the traditional method of manual order management makes scaling your business more complex, and doesn’t give you the highest rate of return on your new sales.
To give an example, imagine that you’re at a clothing company that has gone from 100 orders a day to 300 orders a day in two years. The business is really taking off and you're trying to continue this success by expanding your capabilities and sales channels. There are a few bottlenecks that you’ll be facing.
You need to bring in a certain number of new employees to do order entry work for you, and train them on your multiple systems to get an order fully processed. So while you’ve grown by 200%, your expenses in terms of human cost have rapidly increased with your new influx of revenue.
This is assuming that you can even find people to work for your company. Almost every industry across the board is facing staffing issues, both through hiring and retention. We’ve had multiple talks with clients who were facing the same issue — they’d have an employee come in, get trained, and as soon as they hit their first piece of critical feedback or wall, they leave.
That left those companies back at square one, but with one critical issue… The order volume was still just as high as ever.
This kind of issue creates a feedback loop where your long-term employees need to step in and manage the higher order volume, leading to them burning out. As an alternative, senior management could step in to help manage the higher volume but that’s counterproductive in the long run.
2. Order management complexity
Even if you get your labor situation under control, you’re now going to have to face a growing spike in complexity. As your company grows and expands its sales channels, it also needs to create new processes for managing orders from each new customer it has.
Your clothing is selling really well, your salespeople are absolutely killing it, and over the next year or so you get three major deals with huge clothing retailers that require an EDI connection. One is a direct connection, and the other two are through different EDI providers your buyer has mandated to use in order to do business with them. You now immediately have to train your employees on each new complex manual step they must take for each one of these connections. This includes logging into the EDI portal multiple times to collect orders, bring it through your own internal processes, give updates on shipping, and make each step fit a specific EDI framework, all while ensuring that the information is up to date in your own internal systems.
For management and on-the-ground employees alike, that’s a hard ask.
A prominent supplier that we work with used to operate their sales channels through 20 different portals. When a new staff member would come in to get trained, they’d be handed a thick binder that was color coded and organized by channel. It contained specific and exact instructions on how to fulfill every type of order that could come through with specific itemized steps. From what we heard, it was a ton of work to collate everything effectively, and it still wasn’t very effective — senior management often had to step in to help get orders out. The company went through a herculean effort to simplify their manual processes and it still wasn’t enough.
EDI compliance is a black hole a lot of companies like yours deal with and there’s a lot of mystery surrounding this mandated ordering requirement. You’re not alone if you feel like everybody is speaking a different language when it comes to EDI… most companies we encounter are in the same situation when they come to us.
3. Sales management complexity
This is a whole other can of worms when it comes to manual labor, growth and traditional ordering processes. To start with the basic one, if you’re capped by how many orders you can fulfill in the backend, you’re also capped at how many new sales you can make — stifling your salespeople.
Even if you have the staff and capacity to fill orders, there’s still a major hurdle for you to overcome as you expand, managing pricing.
Let’s say you have around 70 reps working in 12 different territories. Within each territory you have general pricing books, then you have pricing by geography (let’s say Upstate New York vs New York City), finally you have client specific contract pricing. Each one of these is important for your salespeople in those geographies to know, and typically they’re all managed manually through Excel.
This is what your pricing might structure looks like from a high level.
Not only are you going to have to update each one of these sheets manually, you’re going to have to send new versions out to your employees and your customers every time there’s a major pricing update. That’s a lot of time to make sure that you’re avoiding mistakes, and it’s really difficult to track.
Growing as a company is nice, we can all agree on that. What’s even nicer is the ability to grow without substantially adding to your costs. With traditional order management systems a lot of the new revenue that you make has to be reinvested into managing the sales channels that the revenue comes from.
You’ll have to pay for new employees to do the manual entry, the portal fees for the companies that you’re working with, the transportation of goods for your new orders, and the cost that fixing order mistakes can have on your business.
Don’t get us wrong, it’s still really good that you’re growing — but imagine if you could take a significant chunk of that money and put it into other avenues that support your growth. Instead of eating the cost of maintaining your new revenue streams, you could reinvest it into a larger sales team, a more robust marketing department or increasing your capacity to make new products.
There’s a more effective way to scale your business
It comes down to one fundamental concept — automate your order management process from end to end.
That means removing the silos between your departments and integrating your orders and shipping directly to your ERP or accounting system. It means taking the wide variety of ordering systems that you’re currently working with (EDI, PDF’s, Excel sheets, phone, fax, text) and automatically converting them into a single format that standardizes the input into your business systems resulting in reduced to no manual input of information.
If your employees don’t have to swivel their chairs between portals and spend their time painstakingly logging information from one system to another, they can spend their time on making sure that they are providing the best possible service for your customers
When is an automation not an automation?
If you have to touch it, or there’s a manual step in any way or form. When we’re talking about automation in this context, we mean something that can operate without having a human needing to intervene in the process to move it along.
When we are talking about automation, we aren’t talking about a single step in a long series of processes being made easier, we’re talking about an entire operation being seamlessly performed.
Having an automated standard that starts with your ERP or accounting system can help streamline every aspect of your business. Finance, shipping, sales, order management can all work from a single source of truth that is easily accessible and updated across your company into your logistics and warehouse solution and your sales channels.
Integrating and automating your order management solves the four key problems that occur with scaling traditional manual management systems.
With automated order entry systems, you no longer need to bring in new employees to fit your growth. Automation means that your existing team can process a far higher volume of orders accurately while also having time in their day to work on things that help push your business forward, instead of just rote work.
This helps to insulate you from the difficulty of hiring and retaining new staff, while also giving your existing employees chances to grow in their careers and develop new skills to push your organization forward.
It also removes the negative feedback loop of your employees being burnt out by order volumes they can’t manage — and negates the chance of your senior management having to step in and fill orders themselves.
2. Order management complexity
With a system that takes all of your orders and translates them into a centralized format that can be applied across your systems, the complexity of scaling is taken out of the picture. Taking orders from differing EDI frameworks as well as orders through other portals is simple when there is only one format to work with for your employees.
You could have 100 different sales channels to work with, each needing different processes to complete an order, and there would be little difference to having just one, as your employees only need to work in a singular format for every single order.
No more swivel chairing, no more manually updating on shipping processes, and no more worrying about whether the information lines up with your back-end systems.
3. Sales management complexity
With all your information running through your ERP or accounting system — updating price books becomes as easy as updating the pricing in your backend. With automation, every single price across all of your sales sheets is instantly updated, providing your salespeople with up to date information. If your back end system is not able to handle multiple price levels, that’s ok, the robust user interface within OrderEase can be leveraged to pick up where your existing system lacks complexity.
Active inventory can also be shown with an automated integration (or manually updated), ensuring that your salespeople not only know the current prices for their respective regions, but whether you have the capability of fulfilling their customers’ orders.
Not only do you reduce the cost of hiring new team members to manage your growing order entry needs, you also remove the amount of portals that you have to pay for. With automation, mistakes also significantly decrease, removing uncertain hits to your income.
If you already have automations for certain parts of your process — finding a partner who can fully integrate and automate your order management through your ERP or accounting system can save large amounts of money for you as well. Many companies have layers of systems upon systems that cost a lot of money but only do one thing well. If you can replace them with a system that embraces your entire company, you can reduce the cost of paying for a stack of single automations.
The money you save on new hires and your existing automations can be used to put directly into your manufacturing capabilities or development of new revenue streams.
How OrderEase can provide a break from traditional order management
At our core, we want to simplify the day to day for every single one of your departments and help you scale your business more effectively. We provide integrations of your core business systems into your ERP or accounting system to help make the process of order management simple, easy and effective for your company.
We can help you take the vast majority of the work out of your shipping, sales processes and order management by providing a centralized way for your orders, shipping and internal systems to communicate with one language and through a single source of truth with a single piece of software.
This is all done without needing an extensive overhaul of your currently existing systems. We want to help you take what you already have, and make it the best it can possibly be while giving you the freedom and flexibility to grow as much as you can.
We act as a unifying bridge for all your order management needs.
If you want to know more about how you can take your order management practices to the next level, reach out to us today for a demo.