STIHL Inc., maker of the world's top-selling brand of chainsaws, aims to provide the best possible experience to the dealers it sells to. The field sales force at the company’s network of six distribution facilities found that existing contact management software was unhelpful in dealer engagements and stopped using it. Replacing that software, the company deployed Microsoft Dynamics CRM and integrated it with business analysis and enterprise resource planning systems. Now, the sales force has a full view of the dealers’ history with STIHL and can efficiently address dealers’ issues and help them meet revenue targets. Company leadership has a high level of insight into market trends that affect dealer sales. STIHL is taking Microsoft Dynamics CRM to other business groups to support business growth and maintain productive dealer relationships. Situation
STIHL Inc., part of the Germany-based STIHL Group, manufactures and distributes a wide range of tools and accessories including chainsaws, string trimmers, hedge trimmers, and leaf blowers. The company, which has its US headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, employs approximately 2,100 people.
The manufacturing operation in Virginia Beach transacts business with the company’s branches and independent distributors. Those branches and distributors, in turn, sell products to more than 8,000 independent equipment retailer businesses that also service the products. Territory managers who work out of the company’s branches across the country coordinate with the retailers to help them meet their revenue targets and ensure they have the STIHL products their customers look for.
|By working with the dealer relationship records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, territory managers can approach dealers with just the right products and promotions, help them reach their revenue goals, and more efficiently meet their own sales targets.|
| Joe Quartararo,|
Manager, eCommerce and Branch and Distribution Systems, STIHL Inc.
Some years ago, STIHL had deployed contact management software to give its field sales force a way to record sales calls and appointments, and record their notes from dealer interactions. As Joe Quartararo, Manager, eCommerce and Branch and Distribution Systems at STIHL Inc., describes, “We quickly outgrew that software package, which never worked all that well for us. Sometimes, when territory managers synchronized data between their laptops and the corporate server, they found other representatives’ data in their database. Other times, previously entered information was not available. When we upgraded to a more advanced version of the product, the same problems remained. In consequence, the sales team became dissatisfied and lost all confidence in the software. Many sales territory managers simply stopped using it.”
In addition, STIHL found it difficult to connect the contact management software with a sales force analysis application that the company had developed to deliver sales data to the field. Once a month, territory managers could download a snapshot of all updated dealer information in their areas, but the records quickly became outdated within the first few days of sales. The contact management software also did not integrate with either of STIHL’s industry-leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. What’s more, the sales and dealers service databases did not connect, leaving an incomplete picture of STIHL’s dealer relationships. David Bussey, Business Systems Analyst at STIHL Inc., comments, “Because we were unable to integrate our business databases, territory managers never had a complete view of a dealer’s transactions and interactions with us. They did not know whether a dealer had been in touch regarding any issues, submitted orders, or looked for product information. Without that information, they could not address any of the dealers’ issues before contacting them about new business and were unable to make the most productive use of their time with dealers.”
Many territory managers, having dropped use of the content management software, relied on spreadsheets or other tools to record sales and customer information. There was no way to devise a consistent process for sharing these records with managers and other STIHL teams. Similar to the territory managers, sales executives and company leadership only had partial insight into the needs and trends affecting their dealers day-to-day and were limited by the system in effectively managing the sales force’s activities. In their business planning, they often also relied on spreadsheets or anecdotal information. STIHL decided to look for a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to replace the contact management software. Solution
The STIHL technology team thoroughly reviewed several competing offerings. “We considered Gartner and Forrester research as well as other independent sources and received input from our colleagues across the global STIHL organization to find the right fit,” says Quartararo. “We hoped for a well-established solution that would be customizable for our business and work well with our other systems to surpass the limited functionality of our previous solution by reaching into all the business areas where we capture dealer information. Long-term support and a firm commitment to the solution by the vendor were also important to us.”
|STIHL string trimmers are highly |
popular with professional
landscapers and gardeners.
Familiar Solution Backed by Strong Vision
Eventually, Microsoft Dynamics CRM emerged as one of the strongest contenders among the most highly regarded, on-premises and cloud-based CRM solutions. Trying to make the best match between requirements and what the competitors offered, STIHL visited various vendors’ customers and viewed solution demos. Bussey says, “The Microsoft vision and strategy for Microsoft Dynamics CRM meant a lot to us. We saw the power of the tool in giving us what we were looking for in terms of integrating systems, connecting information, and bridging between teams. We also liked the fact that Microsoft offered a flexible deployment model, where the solution could be on-premises or in the cloud. The solution could integrate closely with Microsoft Office software and provided a comfortable user interface. We expected that territory managers and other users would have an easy time learning Microsoft Dynamics CRM and that the adoption rate would be high.”
In STIHL’s software selection, cost was not the prime consideration, although it clearly supported the choice of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Quartararo states, “Microsoft Dynamics CRM had very attractive pricing compared to other enterprise-level systems we reviewed, in line with our expectations with other Microsoft products.”
Successful Implementation and Expanding User Community
STIHL engaged with a Microsoft partner to plan and perform the implementation, replacing its previous CRM software system. Bussey also met with all of the branch managers to gather their requirements for the new CRM solution, and incorporated all shared requests into the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. A small pilot project in a test environment with a few members of the sales team successfully proved the solution’s capabilities. The company initially made the solution available to 120 employees in the sales organization and business management. Currently, STIHL is preparing a rollout of Microsoft Dynamics CRM to 25 employees in the credit department and other business groups. “It’s a great credit to Microsoft Dynamics CRM that we were able to deploy the solution very quickly and are taking it to other user groups so soon after the initial implementation,” says Steve Meriam, National Sales Manager at STIHL Inc.
Field sales employees who use laptops take advantage of the integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Outlook to efficiently manage their calls and meetings with customers and record their notes. They regularly sync their records with the corporate server so that the data is safe and can be shared. Employees at company headquarters, who don’t have a need for synchronization, work with the web client for Microsoft Dynamics CRM to maintain a complete log of customer interactions.
Strategic Integrations with Key Business Systems
At STIHL Inc., Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates with the company’s sales force analysis application, giving territory managers a rich reporting resource with extensive, current dealer information. As Bussey relates, “Through many years, we have built a sophisticated data warehouse for sales reporting that employees are very comfortable with. We did not need to re-create it; instead, we simply connected it to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. With daily updates, sales figures are always current. In addition, territory managers can access the application to look up accounts, click on a tab, and receive a custom report about a dealer’s business relationship with STIHL—all within the Microsoft Dynamics CRM interface.”
|I have not had to turn down any customization requests so far, and we have been able to accommodate everything we have wanted to accomplish. Working this way is a lot more satisfying for me than continuing to fix an application that never quite works the way it’s expected to.|
| David Bussey,|
Business Systems Analyst, STIHL Inc.
STIHL also integrated Microsoft Dynamics CRM with an ERP system used to manage distribution. The ERP system’s records of dealer credits and purchases, accounts receivable, and other data are available to territory managers and sales executives in the CRM solution. In addition, STIHL tracks a wealth of marketing information on STIHL dealers, such as specific dealer classifications, in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to better track its dealer sales. Currently, the solution facilitates relationship management with the roughly 4,000 dealers whom the territory managers and other field personnel serve directly.
Quartararo expects that STIHL is going to find more ways to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to advance the company’s business and its key relationships with customers. “The capabilities of Microsoft Dynamics CRM are very broad, and, so far, we have only focused on certain important areas for our initial implementation,” he says. “We are expanding our use of the solution day by day and plan to take advantage of other capabilities that we are only beginning to explore.” Benefits
With its new dealer relationship management solution, STIHL is enabling more effective engagement between territory managers and dealers, delivering a better experience, and facilitating greater executive insight. Quartararo and Bussey are busy with enhancements that will benefit other business groups and provide increased process efficiencies. Quartararo notes, “Microsoft Dynamics CRM has very quickly become a strategic, business-enabling tool for STIHL. I am recommending it to our independent distributors, so they can experience the same benefits we do.”
Meriam comments, “Microsoft Dynamics CRM is an excellent tool for advancing the success of our sales force with up-to-date, valuable information about dealers. I would recommend it to any company that wants to make its sales organization more effective.”
Increase Sales Effectiveness
STIHL territory managers experienced positive differences right after the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM: They did not suffer the synchronization problems that bothered them previously. And, they were able to enter information immediately after coming out of a dealer meeting without fear of losing updates. “Users at all different skill levels grasped Microsoft Dynamics CRM very well,” says Quartararo. “They were enthusiastic about having a tool that would help them in working with their dealers. They especially like the advanced search and query functions, with so much data directly available to them.”
Territory managers use the solution’s reporting capabilities to review dealer information, inclu
|Chainsaws from STIHL are one of the most well-known product|
families the company offers.
ding issues under resolution, sales numbers, and sales targets—information that was not easily available before. Meriam explains, “We understand and approach our market through dealer segmentation. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it’s extremely easy to review sales data by dealer segment. The sales force loves having that capability.” Quartararo adds, “By working with the dealer relationship records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM, territory managers can approach dealers with just the right products and promotions, help them reach their revenue goals, and more efficiently meet their own sales targets.”
Introduce New Efficiencies and Provide a Better Dealer Experience
Throughout the STIHL operation, Microsoft Dynamics CRM introduced process improvements. “Employees in our branches are working with the solution to find new, efficient ways to communicate with territory managers,” says Quartararo. “Whereas, in the past, they used to send emails or make calls, today they use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to record information that the representatives need to have. It’s much more efficient. And, when we at headquarters need branch-related business information, we can access Microsoft Dynamics CRM to view it instead of requesting the information from branch employees.”
Quartararo also draws a clear line between Microsoft Dynamics CRM, newly gained efficiencies, and the STIHL experience. “The territory managers today have a much better understanding of a dealer’s situation and communications with STIHL,” he says. “They are not blindsided by issues they should have known about and can address any concerns before they go into a meeting. That also means our dealers receive more helpful, informed, and effective service.”
|Managers can understand, at a companywide level, what dealers are selling, what their performance is like, which companies they are affiliated with, and much more.… We not only gained the ability to perform effective dealer relationship management, but we are also becoming smarter and more effective in selling our products.|
| Steve Meriam,|
National Sales Manager, STIHL Inc.
Enable Managers to Advance the Business
Similar to the territory managers who review dealer histories and purchasing trends, sales executives and company leadership use Microsoft Dynamics CRM to gain insight into sales performance and market developments. “Managers can understand, at a companywide level, what dealers are selling, what their performance is like, which companies they are affiliated with, and much more,” says Meriam. “For example, they can see which dealers have elite status, meaning they only sell STIHL products; which of them represent multiple brands; and where the revenue comes from. We not only gained the ability to perform effective dealer relationship management, but we are also becoming smarter and more effective in selling our products.”
Going beyond business requirements, Microsoft Dynamics CRM supports the company’s long-range vision. Quartararo notes, “With Microsoft Dynamics CRM, my job has changed in a way that lets me benefit the business by making key processes more efficient. With an implementation that the company views as hugely successful, we have a track record of great promise for meeting elevated expectations.”
Empower IT to Boost Technology Value
STIHL’s IT department absorbed management of Microsoft Dynamics CRM without adding any capacity. “The solution generates a minimal management workload,” says Bussey. “A main reason for that is that Microsoft Dynamics CRM is extremely stable and reliable. We have not had any downtime whatsoever.”
Bussey used to spend a large part of his time in addressing issues with the previous technologies or helping people locate data in the company’s disconnected systems. Today, his role is that of a technological innovator who helps the business move forward. “I no longer receive endless support calls,” he says. “Instead of resolving problems around the clock, I develop within Microsoft Dynamics CRM, giving my colleagues the forms, views, fields, workflows, reports, and other capabilities they ask for. The solution’s xRM application development framework makes it easy to support many different business relationships and operating conditions. I have not had to turn down any customization requests so far, and we have been able to accommodate everything we have wanted to accomplish. Working this way is a lot more satisfying for me than continuing to fix an application that never quite works the way it’s expected to.” Additional Resources Microsoft Dynamics
Microsoft Dynamics is a line of integrated, adaptable business management solutions that enables you and your people to make business decisions with greater confidence. Microsoft Dynamics works like familiar Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office, which means less of a learning curve for your people, so they can get up and running quickly and focus on what’s most important. And because it is from Microsoft, it easily works with the systems that your company already has implemented. By automating and streamlining financial, customer relationship, and supply chain processes, Microsoft Dynamics brings together people, processes, and technologies, increasing the productivity and effectiveness of your business, and helping you drive business success.
For more information about Microsoft Dynamics, go to:
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