A realistic sales forecast can help you plan resources, and spot problems, while you still have time to do something about them. Making sales forecasting into an exact science is always going to be a challenge. There are so many variables to achieving a forecast that is reliable, reasoned and realistic.

Do you struggle to be objective when forecasting sales opportunities? Strong relationships, warm referrals, gut feeling, competitive advantages can all give you that warm fuzzy feeling about a deal, yet how often does something go wrong?

The timeline slips, your influencer leaves, the budget gets reallocated, the business gets acquired, or just too busy. Alongside this, you’re relying on your sales team to be objective, not optimistic, about the steps taken to qualify the deal.

How does Flowlens support more reliable sales forecasting?

Alongside our user-friendly lead management, task, email and interaction tracking and quotation tools, Flowlens Sales Forecast reporting help you understand the decisions your sales team make about the deals they expect to win.


Define and quantify your sales cycle

Flowlens helps you define what your sales process looks like, step by step, and what makes a substantive change from one state to another. If you haven’t analysed the journey of successful sales, and the ones that go wrong, how can you make reliable predictions about future deals?

For example, here’s our sales cycle, comprising of 5 main stages. For us, first step is to qualify the need exists, and the company has a firm timeline, budget and authority to proceed. Next we use online demos and workshops with influencers and decision makers to validate how Flowlens will do the jobs they need done.

After validating the need and requirement, and reviewing the costs associated with the solution we move to proposal stage, however we don’t register a substantial step forward until we know we’ve been short-listed. A verbal or email confirmation marks the next stage, however the deal isn’t 100% until the contract is signed.

At each stage we assign a percentage value, allowing us to quantify the value of the pipeline based on probabilities, not gut feeling.


Visualise your sales forecast

Working all these calculations out and displaying them over time is something Flowlens does for you. So you can see how your forecast is shaping up over time, and across the stages of the sales cycle.


Driving better sales qualification

Flowlens gives you the tools to capture lead qualification information as the deal progresses.

Create simple forms that capture essential information as you move along the cycle. This tool will keep your sales team’s focus on answering the right questions consistently and ensuring they have clear answers. If there’s no clear answer, there’s no basis for moving an opportunity along the pipeline.


Track accuracy of deal stages, values and forecast close dates

Flowlens sales lead activity log tracks the changes you make to the sales stages, values and forecast date. How often has a ‘hot’ deal slipped from month to month? Help your team make more accurate predictions by testing previous decisions and learning against the latest hot prospect.

In summary, Flowlens provides user-friendly tools to support day-to-day sales activity and help your sales team work more efficiently. The tools help you manage more effectively, challenging qualification assumptions, and supporting an accurate forecast model that works for your business.


Next steps
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For OEMs and companies who assemble or refurbish products, Flowlens is designed to help you:

  • Plan your production jobs
  • Understand material and component needs
  • Avoid making the wrong thing
  • Understand profitability of the job
  • Create an asset serial number for ongoing after-sales service and traceability
  • Create a sales forecast 

Why Flowlens ERP works for Equipment Manufacture

Flowlens is a fully integrated business management solution for small OEMs and Assemble to Order / Build to Order companies. Flowlens runs in the cloud, negating the need for expensive servers and support.

Most ERP systems are too expensive for small companies. Our affordable subscription service means you can access a higher level of management control and reporting, across pre-sales, sales, production and after sales helping your business grow, profitably.

Flowlens minimises the duplication of effort and manual tasks common in most small manufacturers. Flowlens centralises all important customer, product and supplier information (in sync with whatever financial package you use). Flowlens shares common data across various functions of sales, stock, manufacturing, invoicing and after-sales.

Small businesses don’t have the people and time to devote to implement large software systems. Flowlens is modular, you can adopt it gradually, minimising downtime and cost and helping manage change internally. Flowlens is user-friendly and easy for your team to learn. We provide cost effective remote or on site training.

Your existing customer and parts data can be migrated to Flowlens, and we’ll guide you on this as part of our implementation and training services.

Flowlens works alongside your existing accounting package. We integrate with Sage, Quickbooks Online, Kashflow and Xero.

How Flowlens helps you plan production and meet customer expectations

Flowlens integrated features work together to make your day-to-day job easier, removing manual and repetitive tasks, and sharing information throughout the process.

To achieve the end result, the following elements work together:

Define Your Parts & Products

Flowlens lets you define your raw materials, standard components, sub-assemblies and products. Our product configurator tools lets you define the options, upgrades (and price uplifts) for your product. This puts you in control of what your Sales team can sell, and ensures they do so at the right price to get you the right profit.

Generate Job Cards and Material Demand

Flowlens Job Cards control material needs for each job, allowing you to plan stock availability based on required materials, start dates and due dates. Flowlens can automatically generate job card material lists based on the configuration of products sold. Upon completion of the job card, Flowlens will automatically back-flush the bill of materials, adjusting stock levels accordingly.

Labour Costing

Many small businesses we help are focused solely on managing stock yet many of them have direct labour costs that are equal if not more than the cost of materials yet manage labour costs subjectively. Flowlens provides a simple all in one system to track all direct labour costs objectively by project so that you can start managing your labour costs for in the same way you do the products you purchase.

Control Stock Levels and Purchasing

Flowlens tracks stocks levels for your parts, Purchase Orders and Goods Received to ensure you know exactly what you have on hand, what is on order and what is available for production. Flowlens stock management tools help you efficiently control stock value accuracy, manage stock takes and adjustments.

Automated Sales Quotation Builder

Your Sales team benefit from a user-friendly Quotation Builder. Select the Product(s) your customer is interested in, and work through the options and upgrades to arrive at a finished price and automatically generated Quotation. When the Customer places their order, the saved configuration will automatically carry through to the Job Card for material planning, and to make sure that your customers get what they wanted.

MRP Report

The Flowlens MRP shows all active job cards, material requirements and due dates. Stock can be kitted/reserved via Job Cards, to ensure it is available to production.

Integrated After Sales Support

How much do you invest securing new customers? Flowlens provides the simple all in one tools to help ensure your team give them the customer service they need, to keep them as a long term customer, and to ensure you are maximising your profitability. Flowlens Service Management software helps you monitor customer responsiveness, fault-cause-action diagnosis, and control after sales job quotations and costs.  

Chat to a Flowlens rep or, learn more about Flowlens’ user friendly business tools, or Request a Demo.

We’ll be exhibiting at the LAMMA agricultural machinery show, alongside many of the specialist manufacturers and dealers serving this thriving sector.

LAMMA takes place at the East of England Showground, January 17th and 18th.

If you’re involved in making or supplying farm machinery, selling parts and/or service, why not visit us at Stand 204, Hall 2, for a chat about how Flowlens software can take the manual effort out of your sales, supply chain, stock and production processes.

For more info and tickets, visit the show website.

We built Flowlens in response to SME customers who needed an easy to use, ERP-CRM toolkit to help them grow.

Our customers may be small, but they think big. They make, refurbish, supply and service all kinds of tangible assets. From industrial plant & machinery, to ATVs, to street furniture, to intricate aerospace components, and even buildings.

We are proud of the range of industries and applications our product supports. But what’s the one thing they all have in common?

They all want to GROW!

They want to grow their turnover. They want to grow their profitability. They want to enhance their customer service.

Our customers inspire us with their vision and determination to bring their product to market. They energise us with their passion for their businesses, their products, and their customers. We provide the tools that reduce wasteful manual effort and nurture customers for long term gain.

Our customers have integrated business processes, but the old tools were disjointed, manual and inefficient.

Building a sales pipeline and converting orders. Managing production, stock and operations. Delivering timely and effective customer care. These are too often disjointed, duplicated and inefficient processes. Flowlens unites these business critical functions in one system, removing waste to create an platform for business growth.

Our customers don’t accept the inefficiencies of outdated processes and ‘silo’ thinking.

Our customers don’t accept the inefficiencies of outdated processes and ‘silo’ thinking. They demand tools that nurture leads, convert sales, deliver on promises and develop relationships. They demand reliable business performance information. They demand simplicity, because complexity slows them down.

Our customers may be SMEs, but their vision and capability is huge, and Flowlens provides the tools to achieve that vision.

If you share that drive, determination and vision, we’d be delighted to have you on board. Please shoot me a message at rich@flowlens.com or book a demo.

You might think a new CRM or ERP is the answer to your prayers for greater efficiency, profitability and customer satisfaction. And it probably is. For most SMEs, software is a natural place to go when faced with mounting paper work and duplicating effort.

As a leader in your business, how can you ensure the success of this investment in time and software?

Firstly, ask yourself a few questions…

  • Does your SME have the capacity to adopt a new system while keeping the wheels turning?
  • Have you considered the habits that will need to change to adopt new software into the business?
  • Are your people ready for this change?

Are you prepared to lead from the top and demonstrate how new software will support the business strategy and achievement of its vision?

Start with the goal in mind

What goal will unite your team on the need for change?

Ask your team to identify the activities that slow them down the most. Ask customers what frustrates them the most. Share the pain points that unite you, your team and your customers and you’ve got your shared vision.

This vision provides the catalyst for change, and team buy-in for adopting software to make things better. But remember, adopting CRM or ERP is a both a strategic and cultural decision. And culture drives from the top.

How can you adopt software and lead by example?

As the leader of a business or team, you’ve many priorities. Start small, and focus on managing your own activity. Understand how the software can make your life easier:

  • drive your own sales activity by planning actions with new and existing customers, to generate new sales leads, quotations and orders.
  • streamline your sales process by demonstrating better activity planning, automated quotation creation and order processing.
  • standardise and accelerate your sales pipeline using common terminology, tools and forecasting.

Variations in business processes slow you down and cause confusion for customers. Software is not a sticking plaster, but it does offer a way to standardise processes in your small business, and reduce manual effort.

Show how the tools make your life easier and unlock opportunities, and others will follow.

We’ll be exhibiting at SubCon/Advanced Manufacturing, 6-8th June at the NEC, visit us at Stand B47 where we’ll be demonstrating the latest version of our powerful, user-friendly Product Configuration and Quotation tool, which links BOM data directly to stock and production job cards.

Visit the website to register: http://www.subconshow.co.uk/

How to eat the software elephant in your business.

Considering a new software solution for your business? Across our team, we’ve worked on countless software implementations across SME and large companies. In every case the more you prepare, the better the outcome. Prepare and plan your procurement and project implementation with these lessons in mind.


Keep your team on board

Cultivate your peopleDifferent people and different departments will have a different outlook on changing systems in your business. You might be ready to drive change and achieve efficiencies, but is the business behind you?

Without team buy-in, short term patience and long term adoption will suffer. The change must be something that is worthwhile in the day to day work that each person carries out.

Some people may not understand how software can enhance their own effectiveness and help the company achieve its goals, but they will be aware of how their own work could be made more efficient. Most people will happily engage in a project that will give them more time for value-added activity, and reduce repetitive chores.

With most people working within a defined function, it can be difficult for them to understand the impact their work as on others. They may even begrudge change that doesn’t impact them, but has huge benefits for customers and profitability.

Get feedback and ideas from across the team and you’ll see greater buy-in.


Keep it simple

reduced-complexityMost of us drive cars that are sold in various standard configurations. This standardisation makes it easier for the manufacturer to make, so it costs you less. It’s also cheaper to maintain, as your service mechanic will be familiar with the car.

We accept this simplicity in buying cars, so why not our business systems?

When considering software, we’re tempted to ask for special customisation and changes that suit particular processes that have grown up with the business? These changes cost money to define, build and maintain, and they also impact standard parts of the software, potentially preventing access to improvements the developer is making.

Consider examining your processes to reduce complexity and variability. Then figure out how the streamlined versions could be supported by existing software workflows.

This will have two benefits:

1. The software can be delivered faster ‘out of the box’, so you get a return quicker.
2. Enjoy your faster, leaner processes! (And hassle free updates to your software in the future.)


Keep it bite-sized

Measure small stepsCan you eat an elephant in one bite? I thought not, then why would you try implement a new software system in one go?

It’s hard enough to make a change in business whilst keeping customers happy, and orders fulfilled.

Where are the most obvious weaknesses or inefficiencies in your business? Can you implement change here first, and reduce the risk, and free up time to tackle further challenges?

Often companies do not have strong purchasing and stock management processes. This function is relatively easy to bring into a new system, iron out the kinks in parts/materials coding, supplier lists, purchasing practices and goods received.

Another area is sales order processing. Getting orders out faster, means faster time to cash, but in many businesses this involves excessive paperwork. Making it easier for your sales team to secure orders, and you’ve got a clear success story to engage the rest of the business.


Keep your accounting package

You’ve probably invested heavily in your current accounting software and infrastructure, yet most software vendors have their own version built into their product.

Automate repetitive tasksWhether it’s a better option or not, you’ve no choice but to force upheaval on the Finance team as well as your Sales and Ops.

Modern cloud solutions are ready and able to integrate with existing software, whether it’s for accounting, marketing or any other purpose.

So now you can keep what is working, and tackle the core challenges that are really holding you back.


Keep your data clean

Single version of the truthYour data is the lifeblood of the business. Readiness for a new software system relies on having good data to start. Look at your business KPIs and understand what data is essential to you. Most companies are spending time and money recording data that is no longer relevant or useful. Many also maintain multiple versions of the same data in different business silos.

When you think about your processes, how much legacy data collection and duplication can you remove?

Clean, consistent and relevant parts, customer, products and asset data will make your investment in software more powerful.


Keep the customer in mind

What will make your customer happy? Probably clear communication, fast delivery, fair pricing and a quality product.

Are your current processes optimised around your customer goals?

sales-quotation-builderFor example, think about capturing customer requirements in the sales process. Waste and cost often creep in because inaccurate requirements have made it all the way through to production. Worst case, you don’t find out until the wrong configuration has been delivered!

Help your Sales and Operations teams to define available products, options and upgrades. Quote only what you can deliver. Process orders based on an agreed bill of materials. Build only what has been signed off by the customer.


In Summary

Start small, solve critical problems and bottlenecks: typically sales order processing, stock management and purchasing involve lots of manual effort. Address these inefficiencies and create time to address wider issues.

Focus on the targetDon’t throw everything out and start again. Modern software can and should talk to each other. Make your existing investments work alongside new functionality.

Standard work makes money – how can you take variability out of your business and actually serve your customers better?

Keep your team on board, focus on the vision and how you will get there together.

Download our free eBook “6 Steps to Smarter Business Operations” to get more practical guidance or book a demo of Flowlens.

We’ll be exhibiting at the LAMMA agricultural machinery show, alongside many of the specialist manufacturers and dealers serving this thriving sector.

LAMMA takes place at the East of England Showground, January 16th & 17th.

If you’re involved in making or supplying farm machinery, why not visit us at Stand 218, Hall 2, for a chat about how Flowlens software can take the manual effort out of your sales, supply chain, stock and production processes.

For more info and tickets, visit the show website.

Modern, cloud software can unleash your business potential and long term growth.

For build-to-order manufacturers who are competing for market share, there are many demands on budget. Some will have made investments in legacy systems, while some will have no ERP system at all and rely on spreadsheets.

Long term gains are clear:

  • Standardised processes allow the business to run faster
  • Reduced friction: process orders faster
  • Shared data reduces manual effort and confusion
  • Cloud availability aligns with modern working practices
  • Reduced costs impact profitability

Our experience shows that make-to-order companies recognise the benefits of investing in technology that supports and streamlines business processes. The most significant challenge for ERP software is to support effective collaborate across departments, processes and teams, while integrating with existing system that support the business. Effective communication across departments reduces waste, and therefore provides significant cost-savings through enhanced operational efficiency.

In the age of big data, reporting and analytics are another significant challenge for SMEs. It’s essential that data is shared across the organisation and various platforms so relevant reports and analytics can be extracted to inform better business decisions. ERP can address these issues, but many firms struggle if their data is spread across various systems and spreadsheets.

Companies that have updated to joined-up, cloud ERP have been able to reduce costs, and ensure accurate information sharing across the business. This enables sales, operations and after-sales to function efficiently and respond better to customer needs, providing a competitive edge. The benefits for SME’s are clear but what do these firms needs from an ERP software solution?

Our customer research suggests it needs to offer:

  • A single and centralised view of the customer through a single contact database.
  • Workflows to standardise the flow of information efficiently.
  • Real-time reporting to react to new opportunities or recurring issues.
  • Integration with existing applications such as Finance, RFID and CAD systems.
  • Experienced assistance to define processes and manage implementation in the business

By choosing a partner that listens and understands the business and processes you can achieve significant return on investment. While projects such as ERP have a reputation for being protracted and costly, this is now becoming a thing of the past. With the right methodology and support in place, these risk are minimised while maximising the return on investment.

Flowlens provides a common sense and tailored CRM, MRP and ERP platform for build-to-order companies, that supports the customer lifecycle. We create long-term partnerships by listening and understanding your business problems and configure the platform to ensure effective change and return on investment. Customers such as Survitec Group have seen real-world return on investment such as a 40% reduction in manual administrative effort.

Request a demo today