How to increase sales without expanding staff or spending time training sales managers

24.5.2023

Content

How automation made it possible to speed up the search for similar products 17,000 times (from three working days to five seconds), regardless of the sales manager's qualifications.

  • When the time to select goods turns not into money, but into losses
  • Find among 2 million items
  • Problem Statement: Main Criteria for an Analogue Selection System
  • Creating a single component database and launching an MVP in three months
  • Results: search for analogues in 5 seconds, turnover control and automatic database updates

The article was published on vc.ru

The goal of automating any process is to remove restrictions on business scaling. In the case of the Russian Association of Electrotechnical Companies (abbreviated. RAEC), such a restriction was the qualifications of sales managers. To fulfill complex orders, RAEC companies had to hire, train, retain and, at times, overload managers with trained memory and a deep understanding of the field.

In this article, Andrey Putin, Managing Partner at KT.team, explains how automation was able to speed up the search for similar products 17,000 times (from three business days to five seconds), regardless of the sales manager's qualifications.

When the time to select goods turns not into money, but into losses

Let's imagine a situation: you want to buy a batch of 500 Philips bulbs with a nominal power of 60 W for the E27 base, but the seller does not have such bulbs in stock. The seller offers you to find an analogue, but it delays you for three or even a whole week.

What are you going to do? It seems that light bulbs are not such a rare product to hold on to the (far from) only available seller with your hands and feet, obediently waiting for his verdict for weeks. It's easier to contact another supplier who has the right product in stock or at least can quickly find a replacement for it.

And the payment for seller No. 1's slowness is the company's falling revenue, reputation among customers, and product turnover.

What should seller No. 1 do? It seems that well-trained counselors can save him — and it will work out until a certain point. But inflating the staff of consultants and resources to train them will result in a budget drain when the number of branches or nomenclature exceeds the point of no return.

Find among 2 million items

RAEC, a major association of distributors of electrical products, addressed KT.team with a similar problem. The client's portfolio includes about 30 suppliers and 2 million titles, which are constantly updated and supplemented.

No sales manager can accurately remember all 2 million components. If for some reason the right product was not in stock in the right configuration or quantity, even the most qualified and attentive manager had to spend long hours selecting analogues. He had to remember not only all possible analogues, but also check their price, availability in the company's warehouses, and turnover for a specific item.

Okay, light bulbs are really a pretty simple product. But if the buyer needed a protective shutdown device whose nominal current and voltage are rigidly fixed, and the price and the shutdown current were set to an acceptable range, then the order had to be queued up with the most qualified manager who would not be mistaken in technical nuances. It took several days to solve the problem.

What problems did this create?

  • Low service speed. While managers search for an analogue manually and clarify the details, the buyer may find another offer.
  • Uneven workload distribution between sales managers: managers with extensive experience have a much higher rate, as only they can process complex requests.
  • Difficulty in controlling the turnover of goods in stock. Managers do not have information about the popularity and margins of different types of components, so some of them run out quickly, while others “lie down” in stock.
  • Inability to promptly update product availability data. For example, a manager knows that one component was out of stock 3 days ago. Most likely, he will not offer it to the client if the delivery was made on the day of the consultation.
  • Reputational risks. If it takes too long to select an analogue of an electrical component or cannot find the right one, the buyer loses confidence.

Problem Statement: Main Criteria for an Analogue Selection System

Taking into account the specifics of the business of members of the Russian Association of Electrical Engineering Companies, we have identified four main criteria for such software:

  1. Search speed. The manager should receive a list of analogues of the electrical component in a few seconds, regardless of his experience and the complexity of the request.
  2. Taking into account the characteristics of the component. The search should work by product specifications, price, brand, manufacturer, stock availability, delivery speed, and take into account contracts between distributors that are members of the association.
  3. Search for both full and partial analogues. Thus, two bulbs with the same base and power are considered complete analogues, and when only the base is the same, they are already partial.
  4. Easy implementation of updates to the system. Analogs should be calculated automatically: when a new product enters the system, full and partial analogues are calculated for it. At the same time, this new product appears in the corresponding product cards as a full or partial analogue. Information on the availability of components in warehouses should also be automatically updated.

Какая PIM-система вам подходит?

Сравнили самые популярные на российском рынке системы Pimcore и Brandquad

Creating a single component database and launching an MVP in three months

Different distributors that are members of the association could write the same component in their systems in different ways, with different attributes and names. Therefore, an important task on the way to MVP was to unify the entire database of two million titles. The KT.team programmed the new structure in the Pimcore PIM system and linked it via API to the company's database and distribution systems.

The next step is to create rules for selecting analogues for each subcategory of components together with the company's specialists. The entire search system is based on these rules: as soon as products appear in the distributor's database, they are automatically uploaded to Pimcore via the API. Then the system automatically categorizes components and selects analogues for them.

Three months later, we launched MVP systems for the Lighting Engineering category. And for the remaining 13 categories of components, RAEC employees themselves could now customize the search logic without the help of IT specialists:

  1. In the process of working together on the first category, we have developed a working frame for formulating rules that can be conveniently used for other categories.
  2. The formulated rules for the “Lighting Engineering” category, translated into the Pimcore handbook, have become a model for other categories.
  3. We gave the client instructions for creating directories on their own.
  4. Pimcore is easy to use due to the large number of low-code functions that do not require developer assistance.

Results: search for analogues in 5 seconds, turnover control and automatic database updates

KT.team, together with RAEC specialists, has built a smart system for instant search for analogues of electrical components. Automating an important business process has made sales many times more efficient.

  • The new system finds analogues of electrical components in 5 seconds.
  • Now the manager can advise clients in real time by phone, in messengers or in person. The workload on managers is now evenly distributed, regardless of work experience and detailed knowledge of the range.

  • Monitoring the turnover of components in warehouses and accounting for margins.
  • Now the manager can offer the client an analogue component that has been in stock for a long time, for example, because it is manufactured under a less popular brand. Also, when choosing an analogue, a manager can now take into account the margins of goods.
  • The database of components and analogues is automatically updated without technical support.
  • One of our client's requirements for the analog selection system was the system's adaptability to changes. It was important that when names were added or removed (for example, when a new supplier appeared or an old one was broken), the system was updated automatically.

We took this requirement into account, so that any changes in the component's characteristics are synchronized by the system in Pimcore, and database updates are launched every 8 hours.

Какая PIM-система вам подходит?

Сравнили самые популярные на российском рынке системы Pimcore и Brandquad

Results

The new system for selecting analogues has allowed RAEC member companies to increase the efficiency of customer service and the turnover of goods in stocks, balance the burden on managers, and avoid reputational costs and customer outflow.

  • Any manager, regardless of experience, can find an analogue for any product in 5 seconds, not in 3 days, as it was before.

  • The MVP system has been implemented for 1 out of 13 categories. The client added the remaining categories on his own, using instructions and not involving IT contractors in resolving the issue. The development budget has been reduced several times.
  • The analogue search system is synchronized with the component database and the analogues are recalculated automatically every 8 hours. Managers use the latest data to select products.
  • The project was launched in 3 months.
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