How to Use ERP Data to Accelerate Sales

Learn how to increase your sales productivity by connecting your sales systems.

Time to read: 4.5 minutes

Christine Ooley
Product Marketing Manager, MuleSoft
John Withers
Product Marketing Manager, MuleSoft

Eighty-one percent of sales reps believe it is important to have a connected view of data across the entire customer journey. However, a lack of integrated systems linking data sources is holding many businesses back. According to Salesforce’s "State of Sales" report, only 49% of businesses say they have fully integrated systems, and high-performing sales teams are 2.1 times more likely than underperformers to have these integrated systems in place.

The proliferation of SaaS apps, in conjunction with existing on-premises solutions, poses a significant integration challenge. We surveyed 650 business leaders across the globe for our 2019 Connectivity benchmark report. We discovered that enterprises have an average of 900 different systems, but that only 29% of those systems are integrated. What’s more, the average transaction touches 35 different systems, with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems often acting as the hub for most of these transactions.

How products and services are delivered is changing, and new entrants can disrupt the relationship between businesses and their customers. Data on consumer behavior, such as information from an ERP or POS, can be used to help sales teams understand customer sentiment and intent and predict purchasing behaviors. Augmenting CRM data with back-office data will help unlock propensity-to-buy behaviors to help sales focus on high-value activities, and help sales leaders better forecast sales, create territories, and set more accurate targets.

Making the case for ERP integration is easy.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software has formed the digital backbone of businesses across virtually every industry for almost 30 years, enabling organizations to optimize many of their most essential business functions in finance, human capital management, enterprise performance management, and supplier relationship management. However, the world has changed dramatically since the 1990s, with an explosion in best-of-breed solutions across every industry, creating opportunities to drive innovation and differentiated customer experiences. While ERPs act as the system of record or data master for much of an organization’s data and transactions, these systems also contain important customer and business information.

Companies increasingly rely on modern CRM systems to act as a system of engagement, where employees prefer to do their work. IDG reports that 73% of enterprises have at least one application or a portion of their enterprise computing infrastructure in the cloud, with almost half of cloud computing budgets allocated to SaaS apps (48%). Thus, connecting all of these systems together is crucial to delivering the connected customer, partner, and employee experiences that bring digital transformation.

To meet business requirements, employees need real-time access to accurate data on any device in order to make timely and sound business decisions. As an example, salespeople spend almost one-third of their time searching for information instead of serving their customers. Without proper ERP integration, employees are forced to pivot between systems, sometimes requiring customers to talk to multiple departments, and often self-service is unavailable. And employees are just as frustrated as customers with these legacy experiences.

Digital transformation is about more than digitizing existing manual processes. It’s an opportunity to reimagine your entire business: how to create best-in-class customer and partner experiences, how to drive incremental revenue, and how to increase employee productivity. A connected, agile technology landscape serves as the foundation for a successful business, and core to delivering these outcomes is integrating your ERP with the rest of your technology.

How will you connect your data, departments, and channels to deliver the experiences that customers expect?

ERP interfaces can, in theory, be accessed directly by software applications. Many teams looking for quick solutions to integrate with ERPs choose to wire their applications directly to the ERP. The primary advantage of doing this is the initial time to write a single application. But the next project comes along, and IT writes more and more of this custom code, which turns into a spaghetti-shaped mess. Each custom code integration becomes a black box, where teams are unable to reuse what was developed. Over time, the system becomes increasingly coupled, brittle, and opaque. As new digital channels emerge and more devices are needed, custom code becomes increasingly complex, and this approach doesn’t scale.

With an application programming interface (API) approach, every asset, application, or system becomes a managed, modern API that is discoverable through self-service while maintaining security policies. APIs allow you to mediate ERP customizations and logic while orchestrating across multiple systems, simplifying your integrations between connected applications while creating a scalable, plug-and-play infrastructure. Further, this approach provides consistent, managed, and secure access to each system.

The heart of this methodology is seamless coordination between IT, sales, marketing, and other lines of business. Once APIs have been built, multiple business lines and stakeholders can discover, collaborate, and leverage these integration assets, reducing the burden on central IT while standardizing integration best practices. This API reusability is a significant benefit, allowing new integrations to leverage previous work, thereby accelerating development.

A proven strategy to unlock additional insights includes:

  1. Create building blocks: Leverage APIs to externalize data and functionality from core systems like partner information into discrete, consumable services.
  2. Orchestrate processes: Enable cross-functional access to these processes and combine them into new workflows that help every team understand how customer behaviors and intent affect sales.
  3. Expose assets as a service: Increase scale and create new business opportunities by leveraging a shared library of assets to drive the consumption and productization of those applications.

The benefits for sales are clear.

Integrating disparate systems provides the most accurate and complete view of your customers, empowering your sales teams with deep customer insights. And access to these insights is fast becoming a key differentiator for top sales teams. Sales processes need to be defined, orchestrated, and communicated for all activities, such as what sales cycle will be followed and how will leads be pursued and closed.

Incorporating third-party data and projections into sales forecasts helps to refine strategies, align to a target market's growth rates, forecast demand, and understand competitors and barriers to entry. The result is sales teams have a head start when it comes to prioritizing leads, forecasting, and building deeper customer relationships.

Key benefits of front- and back-office integration for sales teams are:

  • A connected selling experience
  • A single view of customers
  • Increased sales productivity

When building the next innovation for your sales teams, rather than turning to a tactical integration or quick solution, consider adopting an API-led approach — you can liberate ERPs and other systems with APIs, standardize across existing processes, integrate new ecosystems and value chains, and drive new business opportunities.

Eighty-one percent of sales reps believe it is important to have a connected view of data across the entire customer journey.”

Christine Ooley | Product Marketing Manager, MuleSoft


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