Not all wholesale sales operations run the same way. Some companies count on trade shows or events to generate a major amount of their yearly sales. Some accounts quickly convert to eCommerce self-service, ordering mostly through your B2B portal. With many accounts, reps lend a hand stocking shelves and inventorying on visits, playing a highly service-based consulting role. Other reps walk through the catalog, introduce what’s new and create the order in the presence of the customer. In the musical instruments industry, manufacturers often have both inside reps and outside reps.

Handshake recently talked with Derek Badala, Director of Worldwide Sales for Armadillo Enterprises, which manufactures and sells DDRUM, Dean Guitars, and Luna Guitars—across the U.S. and internationally—about how his inside reps have gotten back to creating proposals to drive more business and as a pre-cursor to an eventual order, while his outside reps use a hybrid strategy of proposals and more traditional mobile order writing.

A company that manages tens of thousands of SKUs, Armadillo reps, both inside and outside, tend to whittle down proposals and pro forma sales orders based on a smaller set of products that they know from past experience with their dealers that they’re more likely to buy. From there, dealers hand pick their eventual order list from a set of heavily curated products.

Using Sales Proposal Software (i.e. Sales Order Management) to Generate More Orders

Technology Enables the Important Visuals That Make Orders and Proposals Powerful

Badala says Armadillo is “looking at all technology as a means to become better at what we do,” noting that the company even incorporated CNC tools on its manufacturing floor.  With the goal of showing dealers that his company can make personalized dealer recommendations quickly and efficiently based on analysis and product knowledge, whether on a trade show floor, in their offices, or from Armadillo’s offices, the company chose to move the catalog online to the web and iPads through an interactive sales order system.

“We use desktop PCs to create proposals and iPads for travel to be with customers. Our proposals from inside reps must be in PDFs for dealer readability.  The ability to click on a thumbnail and see a larger image is critical. We close a lot more deals thanks to more imagery.”

Armadillo has returned to a very traditional sales model when it comes to dealers, which involves some handholding. Whether in person or from Armadillo’s in-house sales team, they are using digital catalog technology and an order app to quickly help dealers see and select items for their next order. If an in-house rep is working with the dealer, he or she will use their order management software to pre-create an proposal in an interactive PDF format. This is then sent to the dealer so they can view and expand images in a curated catalog and decide which of the items they would like to move forward with. Armadillo reps take this feedback to write the actual order that is then processed and fulfilled.

If an outside sales rep is visiting with the dealer, the rep will either come prepared with a pro forma order proposal he or she has created ahead of time that he or she can collaboratively modify with the dealer, or alternatively will write an order from scratch with the dealer on an iPad for approval.

Many instrument manufacturers, Badala pointed out, don’t write proposals anymore, they just take orders from the dealers. Sometimes this use of a proposal strategy means that Armadillo  can give personalized service to their dealers while being able to bypass the in-house visit, saving both the dealer and Armadillo’s time. The personal touch that curated proposals bring to the table makes a big difference. Dealers count on the advice of Armadillo’s sales people and want to be assured that new inventory is going to turn over quickly. Dealers often don’t have time to search through an entire online catalog, nor do they have the market knowledge of trends and taste that the reps have. Badala looks at it as building trust for the next proposal—and it’s working. “The proposals with recommendations have been fruitful and we’ve closed more than in the past,” he said.

Important Business Intelligence Fuels Proposal and Order Creation

Armadillo’s proposal and order creation relies on their order management system reporting that includes product inventory and customer histories, allowing sales team members to analyze a dealer’s business to:

  • See what they bought and what has sold;
  • Learn cycle times for products;
  • Check product inventory;
  • Discover that they should reorder;
  • See what top sellers they don’t carry that they should try; and
  • Walk through the product mix, make color and finish recommendations, and select quantities of each product to create a PDF proposal or an order.

More is Better. Faster is Better.

Badala isn’t shy about explaining how the company is using technology to collaborate with customers to close more business. “The more proposals we can get out there, the more orders we get and this is the fastest, most efficient way to communicate that recommended order to the dealer.” The orders performed onsite with an outside sales rep and the proposals sent from in-house sales reps can both be immediately approved for processing right in the order app.

Using automation allows Armadillo’s reps to cut a back-and-forth negotiation that might stretch for weeks or even months down to a day. The dealer views a proposal that is fully interactive, with lots of expandable images, swiping and scrolling. Badala notes that many members of his internal sales team uses their order management system’s web GUI to create orders, without needing to gather digital assets cutting the creation time down to minutes. “If we did those manually, they’d take an hour each, easily.” Click here to learn more about Handshake’s interactive quotes feature that many brands use to create proposals.

The time savings from creating proposals faster with highly accurate information, not having to travel, and cutting down the negotiation period gives Armadillo inside reps the ability to get more proposals out, and with each proposal featuring a big collection of curated, expandable images right there in the interactive PDF, more of these deals are closing.

Thanks, Derek and Armadillo, for sharing how you use your sales automation software to create proposals and write more orders!