Having talked about sales order management software with a wide range of wholesale brands and their sales teams, we’ve been able to gain a good sense of the questions that we get most often from people either being introduced to or considering the tool for their business.

In this post, we want to clearly address those questions. If you’re not sure what sales order management technology is, or how it will help your wholesale business succeed, find out what you need to know below:

Sales Order Management Software FAQs

1. What is sales order management software?

At the most basic level, sales order management (SOM) software allows brands to write and fulfill orders more easily and efficiently. It’s a comprehensive order management solution that includes mobile order writing, web order management, B2B eCommerce, and the ability to integrate with your back office systems (typically, your ERP).

Brands who choose to adopt sales order management software are typically replacing a manual pen and paper order writing process or transitioning from a failed internal solution that has become too unwieldy to manage. The star of SOM software is the mobile order writing app, which allows sales reps to place orders at field appointments and trade shows.

The app typically includes the ability to showcase products using a digital catalog interface, detailed product information (including descriptions and images), the brand’s customer list, and customer order history. Preferably, it also gives you access to the inventory levels of each of your products, so that reps can sell more intelligently.

The web portion of sales order management software is an interface for a customer service team to receive, modify and confirm orders that were written in the field. It’s also the place where brands set up the software, make product and customer edits, and even write orders on the web.

Ideally, your sales order management solution also includes a B2B eCommerce component that allows your retailers to log in at their convenience, view your product line, and place orders any time.

2. How is Sales Order Management different from ERPs and CRMs?

Because SOM involves your order and customer data, we often get questions on how it differs from ERP and CRM software. CRM, or Customer Relationship Management software, is a system for managing a company’s current and future interactions with customers. It’s a robust system that’s optimized for pipeline management, data aggregation across large sets of contacts, and reporting and oversight.

Salesforce is the most popular CRM. While you can upload, access and update your customer information in SOM software, it is definitely not a CRM. While CRM offers great utility, it’s missing one of (if not the most) critical offering of an SOM system – order writing functionality. While some companies attempt to use their CRM to write sales orders, these workarounds consistently come up short.

An ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning system, is a collection of hard facts about financial or inventory events. It’s what a brand runs its business on. While there is a fairly good chance a wholesale brand doesn’t use a CRM, there’s a very slim chance that they’re not using an ERP. ERPs range from smaller systems like Quickbooks to complex beasts like SAP and Oracle. An invoice is to the ERP as a sales order is to SOM.

While an invoice is a hard fact, a sales order hasn’t happened yet. It’s a conversation about a transaction between your business and a customer; it can change in any number of ways before it becomes an invoice. Only then does your ERP enter the picture. To summarize, we have a concept we call “The Three Orders” that describes the differences between these systems at a very fundamental level. Order number one, yesterday’s order, is served by the ERP market. It’s a representation of past business. Order two, represented by CRMs, is tomorrow’s order – a prediction of what a customer-specific order will probably look like based on the data you synthesize from your CRM. Order three, represented by SOM, is today’s order – the order you’re writing right now.

3. How will sales order management software impact my business?

The impact of sales order management will of course depend on your current sales process, the adoption of the technology across your sales team, and your level of integration. Regardless, almost all businesses will see major operational and revenue growth impacts after implementation:

  • Increase in orders written. Because order writing is much faster with sales order management software, field reps are able to visit more customers in a day. In a trade show environment, reps can handle a higher volume of customers without losing opportunities based on queueing.
  • Faster order processing and fulfillment. Because sales order management software involves an instantaneous sync of orders from sales reps in the field directly to their office, order confirmation, processing and fulfillment can be immediate. This is a major contrast to previous methods of manual order writing that rely on email, fax, or in person delivery, and are often illegible.
  • Reduction in order processing costs. Whether it’s cutting out the costs and overhead related to manual order writing (catalog and sample production, paper order forms, shipping costs, etc.) or man hours related to order reentry, brands see big operational cost savings after adopting SOM software.
  • Increase in customer retention. Retailers prefer to do business with brands with a faster, more efficient and modern selling process. SOM also arms reps with customer intelligence and reporting that elevates their status in the eyes of the retailer, where they value the rep not just as a vendor, but as a business partner.

If you have more specific questions about sales order management, check out the other posts on the Handshake Blog, where we talk more specifically about the use cases of SOM software, as well technology’s expanding role in the wholesale industry.