Inventory & Accounting ERP Software Blog

Analyzing the Pain Points Behind Your Software Search

You might have heard the phrase, “the problem the prospect brings you is never the real problem”, and it’s no surprise – this phrase was coined by Sandler Training, one of the most popular sales training methodologies in use by high-tech companies around the world. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the teachings of Sandler, this phrase is important as a salesperson and customer when searching for new enterprise software.  The philosophy encourages salespeople to dig a bit deeper when evaluating a company’s pain points and reasons for shopping to uncover more details about the search, however, as a business starting the software search, there are benefits to reflecting on the above as well. By spending the time determining a detailed list of reasons for your software search before you speak with vendors, you will be able to prioritize what matters most in deciding on a solution to help narrow down options. Below are a couple of pain points we often uncover during the sales process to help get you thinking.

Pain Point #1: Our existing software is outdated.

Although legacy software itself can be an issue in terms of system aesthetics, the real issues with an outdated solution go much farther than that. Legacy software implies a system built on old, outdated technology which itself leads to various other problems. Working with outdated technology (such as Windows XP) means your software is no longer compatible with modern solutions. This makes it impossible to update hardware, it restricts your company’s ability to integrate with other applications (such as eCommerce platforms) and it makes training new employees more difficult. What happens if you need to replace a computer? Or if one of your suppliers requires EDI? Legacy software restricts your ability to perform your day-to-day tasks and grow the business.  

Pain Point #2: Our existing software is no longer supported.

When your software is no longer supported, this leads to a myriad of other issues. Not only will you not be able to fix any issues or bugs in the software, but software that is no longer supported means it is also no longer getting updates. As a result, your business will miss out on any new features or technology advances. Trying to use software that is no longer supported can result in creating manual processes and workarounds when you do run into a bug issue –  exactly the types of processes that software is designed to eliminate. Software that is no longer supported also puts your business at risk of losing sensitive business data, not to mention the risk of the system crashing. If your software goes down without support during normal business hours, it can leave your employees stuck – or worse – it can leave your customers and suppliers in the dark.

Pain Point #3: Our system does not have any inventory management functionality.

Many introductory software systems do not include functionality for inventory management. Even if they do, it is for very small businesses with a low volume of SKUs and transactions. However, that’s the point. Introductory software is designed to be the first solution in use to get your business up and running. Then, once your business grows and order volume increases, you can begin to look at more advanced inventory management and accounting software. Without the right inventory management features, your business is stuck managing manual processes, entering data across multiple, standalone solutions and creating workarounds to manage orders. Lack of proper inventory management features can lead a business to hire additional staff just to keep track of inventory and organize the warehouse – a much more expensive solution than implementing the right software when you factor in salary costs, benefits, training and employee satisfaction. A lack of sophisticated inventory management software leaves your business at risk of selling product you don’t have, losing money associated with the holding costs of stocking products that you can’t sell, a high number of RMAs due to shipping errors and ultimately, unhappy customers.

Paint Point #4: Our software does not have good, customizable reporting features.

Reporting functionality is more than just making stakeholders and management happy. It’s getting an understanding of business health, threats and opportunities in real-time. Although most businesses can benefit from standard reports in terms of profit and loss statements, top-selling products etc. every business will have unique needs when it comes to reporting. Getting access to information in real-time allows your business to quickly and easily make decisions about purchasing, sales, pricing and more. Without the ability to get insight into the operations of your business, you could be leaving money on the table. Are you purchasing and holding inventory that is costing you money? Are your salespeople meeting their quotas? Which products do not have high enough margins to make it worth your while?

Pain Point #5: Our software is not integrated with our website.

Even if your business is set-up to sell online and you have a high-performing website, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Without proper integration to back-end inventory and accounting systems, time and resources are wasted manually entering data, checking for inventory and updating multiple, standalone systems. Complete, 2-way integration means information flows bi-directionally, and you only ever need to update and manage one database of information. Inventory and pricing are accurate across all sales channels and orders are managed from a single solution to help optimize the picking, packing and shipping process.

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Join Blue Link at HDA’s Traceability Seminar and Get Your Pharmaceutical Regulations Questions Answered!

Blue Link will be sponsoring and exhibiting at The Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA’s) 2018 Traceability Seminar for the second time on October 17th to the 19th in Washington, DC. For those of you who are unfamiliar with HDA, it is a national organization representing primary pharmaceutical distributors with a goal to “create and exchange industry knowledge and best practices to enhance the value of the healthcare supply chain”. The HDA are the go-to industry resource to learn about pharmaceutical regulations and to keep up-to-date with changing industry compliance.

This year’s show will educate attendees about pharmaceutical regulations in terms of helping the entire supply chain achieve full implementation of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). For many in the pharmaceutical business, whether you’re a manufacturer, distributor or even compliance personnel, there are numerous lingering questions regarding the requirements of the approaching 2023 DSCSA deadline – the show will share available resources, tools, and guidance on a range of DSCSA related topics such as:

Serialization and traceability requirements of each individual product unit to further preserve the safety and security of the healthcare supply chain
Discussions on data storage requirements and methods for traceability purposes
An update on the progress of the industry on meeting the DSCSA deadline including any updates and timeline changes
Implementation of GS1 Standards to enable products to efficiently and accurately move through the supply chain
Discussions on verification methods to ensure illegitimate product do not get into the supply chain to comply with the 2019 saleable returns requirement

The seminar will also feature a DSCSA update from Ilisa B. G. Bernstein, JD, PharmD, Deputy Director, Office of Compliance, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Get your questions answered face-to-face!

There will be a new addition to the seminar agenda this year – attendees will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in an interactive workshop session on the last day of the show. As an attendee, you will be able to discuss your unique DSCSA and other pharmaceutical regulations related challenges with others and work through some of the hurdles and plans for implementation for your business under the guidance of industry experts.

 

 

 

 

Visit Blue Link at Table #23 to learn about all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP

Blue Link’s all-in-one Pharmaceutical ERP software caters to both medical and pharmaceutical distributors/wholesalers requiring advanced inventory management and traceability functionality. We are in the process of testing our Serialization functionality which will be available to Blue Link customers in November 2018. We take pride in our product and continuously improve industry specific functionality for our customers as changes occur in the industry.

Blue Link’s current functionality includes:

Sophisticated product tracking to meet industry standards/regulations
DEA and State License Expiry Date Management
Transaction History Management
Automatic printing and emailing of T3 reports
Secure B2B Online Ordering Portal for convenient online ordering (including Schedule II)
Integrated CSOS and ERP functionality sold as one system (the first of its kind!)
Suspicious Order Monitoring
License management
Lot number and serial number integration
Integration with 3rd party applications such as Trxade
Business process functionality such as inventory management, warehouse management and, robust accounting features and more

If you have a question for us ahead of time or would like to schedule a date/time to speak with us at the show, please email our Pharmaceutical ERP Software expert:

 

Michael Benedick 
Pharma ERP Expert -Here to Help!
1-877-258-5465 x234
learnmore@bluelinkerp.com

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Warehouse Organization Tips for Small Businesses

As a wholesale distribution business, inventory management is the backbone of your company. To be successful, you need to maintain inventory levels to meet demand, you need to be able to find, pick, pack and ship the right product to the right customer, and you need to provide excellent customer service and fast shipping times. However, inventory management is only one piece of the puzzle. A properly organized warehouse equipped with the right tools is the first step to efficient inventory management. This is especially important in today’s market when dealing with competitors like Amazon which have the resources to efficiently manage multiple, large distribution hubs with robotic technology, WMS systems and a plethora of staff. However, even with limited resources, small businesses can still optimize their warehouse space to provide the same efficiencies as larger businesses to get product out the door quickly and efficiently. In fact, small businesses are frequently able to modify processes to increase efficiencies a lot quicker than larger organizations. Below we have included some tips for warehouse organization for your small business.

Software. First and foremost, without the right inventory management software, your warehouse will never be as efficient as it could. Inventory management software will help automate the receipt, picking, packing and shipping of orders and allow your business to easily keep track of inventory in real-time. This eliminates the need for manual inventory checks when trying to find product for an order. With inventory and accounting ERP software, not only is inventory information available in real-time, but your company can also manage all accounting, sales, invoicing, purchasing and customer service processes as well. Inventory availability is visible while creating a sales order so that you never sell product you don’t have. If product is out of stock, the system will show you if it’s currently on back-order and if not, allow you to create a purchase order directly from the sales order.

Organization. A lot can be gained from proper warehouse organization. Whether you operate a small or large warehouse, easy access to products is key to picking more quickly and efficiently and getting orders out the door to customers faster.  Some tips for better warehouse organization include:

Store fast-selling, high-volume items closest to packing stations and organize items front to back based on sales volume and frequency.
Ensure the warehouse is clean and organized so that product is easy to find and always in the right spot.
Consider color-coding aisles and racks to easily find product and make sure to label all bin and shelf locations for better inventory management. Going one step farther, when dealing with multiple, similar products or products that come in different sizes, consider also implementing color schemes to help differentiate items.
Implement proper processes for the receipt and put-away of inventory items. Employees should be able to check your inventory management system for a real-time update on inventory availability – without having to waste time wandering the warehouse looking for product.

Picking. Each warehouse will have a different picking method depending on the size of the warehouse, the number of employees and the types of products being sold.  To help with warehouse organization, your business needs to find the right picking style. This decision will help dictate warehouse layout including bin and shelf locations and aisle set-up. The most common picking styles include:

Individual/discrete picking where one employee picks an entire order, one line at a time, before moving onto the next order.
Consolidated/batch picking where an employee picks the same SKU for multiple orders. Consolidated or batch picking can further be broken down into zone and wave picking.

Barcode Scanning. The use of barcode scanning technology can also aid in the picking, packing and shipping process. With wireless barcode scanning, warehouse staff scan items at the source during the pick process to quickly identify any pick errors and to verify the product on the order while picking and packing items into boxes. Mobile picking also helps to reduce travel time in the warehouse by directing employees to pick based on the most efficient path according to bin and shelf locations. Lastly, wireless picking enables the use of electronic pick slips which reduces paper consumption and the element of human error associated with manual, handwritten pick tickets. Even if you do not have mobile picking, barcode scanning in the form of verification scanning set-up at packing stations helps to double check against the order and reduce any packing errors.

Packing. Verification barcode scanning aids in the packing process and reduces the risk of sending customers the wrong product. Inventory management software with shipping functionality allows warehouse staff to pack-to-container to accurately track specific product. Integration with shipping carriers reduces the need to manually re-enter customer and tracking information and provides tools to rate shop to find the best shipping price.

Even if you don’t have a lot of resources, your small warehouse can still compete against larger distribution companies with the right systems and processes in place. A well-organized warehouse space with the right back-end inventory management and accounting software reduces the need to hire additional staff when order volume increases. Maintaining and managing one software solution is much cheaper than paying more salaries and having to manage employee training, benefits, etc.

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The Importance of Evaluating the People Behind ERP Software [Meet the Blue Link Team]

Investing in new ERP software and the plethora of make-it or break-it decisions that come with the search process is a huge undertaking for any wholesale distribution business, regardless of size or budget. With so much time and resources dedicated to the project, you want to ensure that the ERP software vendor you choose will be with your business for the long haul and not just a temporary fix that you’ll just have to replace in a couple of years. So, how can you tell if a vendor can handle the hurdles that come with time such as company growth,  organizational structure/employee changes and any changes in your industry?

Think of it this way. When you invest in a new software solution, you’re not just investing in the software itself…you’re investing in the people behind the software as well. The type of people they are and the synergy between them and your business will determine how long the software will last and how fast your company is able to grow. Are they innovative individuals motivated to continuously improve their product or do they want a quick sale? Are they willing to learn about your unique software needs or more interested in meeting a quota? While the software functionality itself should take top priority in the search, it’s also important to make note of the people you speak with at the company and how they interact with you and your team to determine a true fit.

Do they understand your growth?

During your ERP software search, many vendors will tell you that their systems are “scalable.” Most of the time, what they mean by this is that they provide upgrades every once in a while and are constantly improving their software, which is great. However, the best vendors will not only offer scalable software they will also take the time to really learn about your business and your pace of growth to offer guidance for how you can get the most out of the system for years to come.

Dedicated consultants in the organization will work with you long after the implementation of the system to determine if you and your team are utilizing all the available functionality to its full potential and doing so to facilitate and accommodate the growth of your business. Frequently these individuals will provide insight and advice on implementing advanced features such as eCommerce integration or integration with popular marketplaces like Amazon or eBay that will keep you ahead of the competition.

The ongoing,  bi-directional relationship you have with the consultants of your software vendor is extremely important and you should work together to set growth goals for your business and how the software can help achieve them.  The consultant’s attitude and willingness to help will make all the difference in creating a beneficial long-lasting partnership.

What are customers saying?

It may seem obvious but during the later stages of  ERP software vendor’s sales process, ask to speak with other customers that are in your industry or similar to your organizational structure. Speaking with a vendor’s clients and reading company reviews can be very telling. It gives you an idea of not only what to expect from the implementation process and the type of results that are achieved with the software, it also provides great insight into what the people behind the software are like – if they are easy to work with, do they provide valuable advice, are they accessible, do they genuinely care about your business and your success etc.

Customer Service and Tech Support 

Providing good customer service long after the sale is made is one of the most important things a software vendor can do to set themselves apart from the competition. Are there any follow-up check-ins after the sale? How long does it take for someone to get back to you on an issue? How efficiently are issues resolved and are you provided with enough information? Are the people you speak with pleasant or do they rush to get rid of you?
“I love working with the clients – that’s my favorite part. When I call the customers, I have not only a business relationship, but we take the time to ask each other how our weekends were, how we are, what’s new. So that’s important, not only on a business level but even just building that relationship with the customer and knowing that you’re not just an employee at Blue Link, you’re also someone that they can turn to for anything that they might need.”

– Joanne Fazari, Customer Service Manager
At Blue Link, we’re dedicated to improve business processes for our valued clients and pride ourselves in our comprehensive list of ERP Software Services that ensure our clients, and those of our channel partners, maximize the benefits delivered by the solutions we offer. We’re fortunate enough to have a tightly-knit team who all share in this vision and are passionate about helping our customers get the most value out of our software.

Hear from them yourself! Click below to learn more about some of Blue Link’s team and watch our new employee spotlight videos!

 

 

 

 

 

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How the Right Software Tools Can Make or Break Your Black Friday Success

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, retailers are starting to gear up for the impending influx of instore and online shoppers. Preparation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is well underway as businesses look to beat the competition with better deals that last even longer. As the November 23rd date approaches, marketing departments are busy creating ads instore and online and ramping up their social media presence to further spread the word of upcoming deals. Warehouse staff are preparing by reorganizing high selling items to optimize the picking, packing and shipping process, developers have started to implement code to ensure websites will be able to handle an increase in site traffic and retailers are beginning to hire and train extra staff to work with customers instore. However, to thrive (and survive) during these upcoming shopping holidays, businesses need to ensure they have the right back-end systems in place – the right ERP for managing inventory and accounting, the right point-of-sale (POS) system for managing retail counter sales, and the right eCommerce platform for online purchases.

ERP

The right ERP system is the backbone of your business. All information is managed and stored from within a single database allowing the flow of information across all business departments. Unlike accounting software, ERP accommodates other business processes such as inventory and warehouse management, CRM, eCommerce, POS, barcode scanning and more. With ERP, businesses do not need to manually enter information across multiple disconnected solutions – a method that is time-consuming and prone to human error. Information automatically updates across departments. Sales orders easily become invoices and purchase orders, and picking slips are generated and sent to the warehouse. Purchasing decisions are made using live data from within the system based on inventory levels, orders from all sales channels accumulate for picking, packing and shipping, and barcode scanning improves the receipt of inventory and the shipping process.

POS

Point-of-sale software allows a retail store to create a transaction with the customer paying on site. Customers have the option of paying by gift card, on account, in multiple currencies, with split payments and more. When selling product through multiple sales channels (such as retail, eCommerce and wholesale) it is important that information syncs in real-time. What happens if you sell out of a product instore and decide to order 100 more – without realizing that the warehouse just received a shipment of the same product? This is where ERP software with POS functionality comes into play. In this situation, since all information is maintained in a single database when you run out of the item in the store, the system will show what (if any) is available in the warehouse or is already on backorder. This is just one example of how ERP can help manage processes across multiple sales channels and business departments.

eCommerce

As eCommerce sales continue to grow during shopping holidays, it is important that you have the right platform and solutions in place to handle the entire order process. A robust and atheistically pleasing front-end store is important to convert visitors into customers, however, what happens after the customer places an order online? How does the warehouse staff become aware that an order is ready for picking, packing and shipping? What happens if that product is out of stock? Once again, this is where ERP software comes into play. Integration between your ERP and eCommerce store will enable the transfer of information bi-directionally so that data flows in an efficient and automated way. When an order is processed online, it automatically is pulled into your ERP, inventory levels update, and the order is sent to the warehouse. Once that order is shipped, confirmation and tracking information then flows back online for the customer to see.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not just about maintaining fully stocked shelves, and which company provides the best deals – it’s also about optimizing back-end process to efficiently fulfil orders.

 

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7 Repetitive Tasks Your Competitors are Automating with Business Management Software

We all have some tasks in our workday that we dread doing. Most of the time, these to-dos are often repetitive, mundane and simply boring work that we can’t help but procrastinate on or rush through simply to get it off our plate. This costs your wholesale distribution business money – the time and effort employees spend on these tasks hinders your bottom line.

So what are your successful competitors doing to counteract these snooze-inducing repetitive tasks that take away from meaningful work, and how do they keep employees engaged in their work and reduce turnover rates? The answer? Automation. Thanks to today’s advancements in technology, many wholesale distribution businesses have adopted business management software to automate a number of these tasks and free up time for employees to focus on things that really matter in the business.

It seems like a very simple concept, yet many businesses have no idea which tasks to automate or how to begin the process of automating, let alone deciding which software is right to do so. Below are some processes we’ve seen customers save hours and even days by automating with business management software. Consider the following as best practices for your business.

Integrate Your Sales Channels

We speak with many prospects that come to Blue Link when they have had enough of manually re-keying information into multiple systems and spreadsheets. A key reason for this repetitive work is that the various sales channels of the business are all disconnected. Businesses that have multiple sales channels such as eCommerce, online marketplaces such as Amazon, tradeshows, POS systems, phone, email etc, have to dedicate a number of resources to managing sales orders that come in through these various platforms to ensure all orders are being fulfilled.

Implementing the right business management software acts as a central hub, storing all sales information in one system. This means that regardless of the channel a sale comes in through, it is accounted for in the system so employees have information that is always accurate and in real-time.

Not only is data centralized, but employees no longer have to manually update things like inventory counts once a sale is made. Let’s say you have 100 shirts and someone orders 50 shirts from your eCommerce site. No manual intervention is required to update the inventory count for that particular item online or in your business management system – integration between both applications means inventory is updated automatically.

Landed Costs 

Another time-consuming repetitive task is the need to track landed costs – we speak with many businesses that do not have software that calculates true inventory cost meaning fees such as duties, freight, and shipping costs associated with a product. They have to manually enter these fees into all their purchase orders. We can agree that this is definitely not a good use of your limited resources.

Some business management software such as Blue Link will have functionality to automate landed costs which allow our customers to make informed purchasing and pricing decisions. They can also track the true inventory costs and associate different percentages based on things like the weight of a product.

Document Management

When you think of the repetitive tasks that you do on a daily basis, chances are most of them include some sort of document management whether it’s manually transferring data from documents or retrieving information from documents. These tasks often take up the most time out of your day which is why electronically managing documents is one of the best competitive advantages you can have.

Blue Link business management software customers have the option to include the electronic data management component, DocuWare into the system. Docuware allows users to instantly access files from anywhere on their computer or mobile device. They can index important data in seconds and quickly look up any documents using search functions in the application. No more manually keying in data. This is also beneficial for your sales team who need quick access to various documents when they’re speaking with customers or even suppliers.

Inventory Reordering

If you just rolled your eyes at the thought of this task – you’re not alone. It goes without saying that it is quite difficult to manage the reordering of product, especially when dealing with large quantities of inventory movement. Tracking the movement of product and having access to historical sales information on specific products is crucial to making smart reordering decisions. Manually tracking this information and getting reordering “just right” is challenging for any type of business. This is why many wholesale distribution businesses have automated the reorder process with technology such as business management software.

For example, users can generate reorder reports in Blue Link where historical sales data pulled from the system within a given timeframe indicates the number of units presently on-hand for multiple items, the product on backorder, the product on purchase over and average product sold within a given timeframe that you choose. You can set criteria/values in these live linked reports to alert you when stock is getting low and needs to be reordered and the quantity that needs to be reordered. Then, with the push of a button, you can send the reorder information back into Blue Link to generate purchase orders for those specific items.

Verification Scanning 

Your warehouse workers who are responsible for the picking, packing and shipping of orders most likely have the largest number of repetitive tasks on a day-to-day basis. While not all repetitive tasks can be eliminated due to the nature of the role, you can make processes a little easier with the right business management software.

For example, once a worker has picked an order, they can use verification scanning to pack the items. What this means is that they will be able to cross check the items against the pick slip/ sales order numbers stored in the system to identify any issues.

Customer Information

If you are a growing business, I’m sure you’ve heard employee grievances about re-keying customer information, especially if your business deals with credit card payments. Imagine only having to key in credit card information and customer information once. When a repeat customer makes an order, employees no longer have to ask for their information such as shipping address, credit card number, phone numbers, emails (the list goes on) each time if it is already entered into the business management software.

Reporting & Analytics

Depending on the business management software vendor you choose, you will be able to leverage data already entered into the system in order to automatically generate reports. These reports can be updated within a period of time using the live linked data from the system to gain real-time insight into business health.

For instance, let’s say your sales department manually tracks top products sold by the number of units purchased. This can take hours and hours of manual data entry, whereas with the right business management software, once a product is purchased, that sales data lives within the system. Salespeople can then quickly query all products sold within a given timeframe to gain instant insight into higher performing as well as low performing products. They can also automate the distribution of these reports to the appropriate stakeholders.

Click the image below to contact us to learn more about how automation can help your business.

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As B2B eCommerce Sales Outpace B2C, Customer Values are Changing

It’s impossible to read the news today without learning about changing trends in the world of eCommerce. Amazon is constantly making headlines with its increasing market share and new product offerings, Shopify is gaining the attention of businesses from around the world as it starts to expand on an international scale and Adobe recently added to its conglomerates with the acquisition of Magento. However, it is within the less discussed world of B2B eCommerce and not B2C where the real opportunity lies with worldwide B2B eCommerce sales outpacing B2C by more than threefold in 2017. Add to this the fact that most B2B eCommerce orders have a higher than average dollar value, include fewer “one-item” orders which simplify the picking, packing and shipping process, have lower B2B shopping cart abandonment and higher conversion rates, and you have the perfect recipe for market expansion.

B2B Strategy

A B2B strategy has historically been quite different from that of B2C – and rightfully so. There are many differences between B2B and B2C customer expectations, product offerings, sales experiences and general interactions. B2B purchases are frequently made using objective criteria such as price, warranties and service levels, and the expectation is that B2B vendors automatically design products to meet specifications, comply with regulations, follow ethical practices and compete on pricing. In a recent study by Harvard Business Review, however, research shows that more and more business decisions are based on subjective criteria and that there is actually little difference between B2B and B2C decision making. The study, which outlines the B2B elements of value, and how to measure and deliver what business customers want1, makes the case that traditionally most business decisions were based on rational and quantifiable criteria, but meeting these criteria today is just the cost of entry. Instead, B2B offerings are starting to become more and more commoditized and as a result, customers are making decisions based on subjective and sometimes quite personal feelings – typically more common among B2C purchases. Common examples of subjective criteria include the ability for a product to enhance the buyer’s reputation and reduce anxiety. Understanding the full range of rational and emotional factors that make up the B2B customer experience and the roles these factors have on decision making is imperative to succeed in the market.  Businesses need to tailor their value proposition to meet this new way of thinking in order to build customer loyalty and increase sales.

Elements of B2B Value

The study on B2B elements of value aims to help businesses better understand this changing B2B customer landscape. Through the study, HBR categorized elements of value that influence business buying decisions, starting with the more traditional objective elements and then moving on to the more subjective elements. The categories outline how people in corporate roles make purchasing decisions and what motivates them to purchase and use business products and services. These categories are as follows:

Table Stakes: Table stakes are the bare essentials when it comes to meeting purchasing criteria. These values can be summarized as the ability for a product or service to meet business specifications at an acceptable price, while in compliance with regulations and ethical standards.
Functional Value: Functional value elements are where most B2B vendors and buyers focus attention. These include features that address a buyer’s product performance needs such as cost reduction and scalability.
Ease of Doing Business: Elements that increase the ease of doing business include the ability for a product or service to save a company money, reduce the effort of employees, simplify processes and increase organization. These elements are also more traditional in nature and have typically been included in the value proposition of many businesses. However, it is at this point that we start to see some subjective criteria – such as the perceived responsiveness and expertise of the B2B vendor.

Objective values tend to be easier to measure and are more straightforward to compete on, but these no longer have the biggest influence on customer decision making. As technology continues to improve product design, businesses now need to focus attention on more subjective customer considerations and meeting personal customer expectations. The more subjective categories include:

Individual Value: For employees involved in making purchasing decisions, it is imperative that the supplier provides value to the buyer in terms of their personal priorities or career-related priorities. Buyers who spend large amounts of money and make decisions that affect the company and its employees and revenues, need to feel confident in their decision making without fear of failure. In this regard, the HBR study identified that buyers are looking for a vendor who can increase their marketability or network expansion, provide reputational assurance and offer products that are appealing in design and aesthetics. These elements of value are extremely important as they address highly emotional concerns and most decisions are emotional, not logical.
Inspirational Value: Inspirational values include the ability for a product/service to help a firm anticipate changes in the market, provide hope for the future of the company and its employees or enhance a company’s social responsibility.

B2B Adoption of B2C Features and Differences

Understanding each value element and determining which ones are most important to your customers will help with the design and implementation of a successful B2B eCommerce strategy. Smart B2B companies are already taking advantage of traditional B2C eCommerce features in order to address more subjective purchasing habits such as:

Using high-quality images and videos
Robust onsite search functionality
Adding social proof in the form of reviews, ratings and testimonials
Offering personalized product recommendations
Providing dynamic pricing based on customer information, available promotions, and volume discounts
Flexible shipping options including in-store pickup, real-time product and stock availability
Mobile optimization and
Easy access to a knowledgeable customer service team

Some of these B2C features are actually even more important for B2B customers – for example, site search – as B2B customers need the ability to search by very specific product specifications such as part numbers, manufacturer, product type or item details.

Another option is for B2B companies to take a hybrid approach, where the eCommerce homepage is designed following B2C best practises and then site visitors can log in to a gated B2B back-end site. This makes it easier to capture new leads and rank for SEO, while still providing customers with a personalized, secure experience once logged in. Even with all the similarities between the B2B and B2C shopping experience, there are still significant differences. B2B customers need to be able to easily set up an account to purchase product, which typically involves interaction with a customer service rep to negotiate pricing and terms. Therefore, B2B websites need to make it easy for new customers to sign up for an account. B2B customers also have different pricing. A dynamic website needs to include customer specific pricing as well as functionality for managing volume discounts, promotions and specials in real-time.

B2B eCommerce empowers the customer to take ownership of the purchasing process. Buyers want the option to self-educate as opposed to listening to a salesperson. Product recommendations, similar items, inventory specifications and demonstrations all help make the sales process as efficient as possible. Done properly, B2B eCommerce also has many benefits to the supplier as well, and not just the customer. These benefits include:

The customer is less likely to complain and make mistakes when they are responsible for ordering product themselves, which in turn, helps to reduce the number of RMAs.
Your business is able to operate 24/7 without the need to hire additional staff.
It is often easier to communicate a product’s benefits online with the help of visual aids, specifications and demo videos, as opposed to trying to provide information over the phone.

To succeed in B2B eCommerce, companies need to shift their mindset to follow the best practices of B2C companies and start to learn about which personalized, subjective buying criteria matter most to their customers.

1 Information in this article is based off research from the Harvard Business Review Feature: The B2B Elements of Value. Almquist, Eric, et al. “The B2B Elements of Value”. Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, 1 Mar. 2018, hbr.org/2018/03/the-b2b-elements-of-value.

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Do you Really Need that Report? 5 Questions to ask Yourself Before Creating a Report with Wholesale Software

Running and maintaining periodic reports for your wholesale distribution business is pivotal in making strategic decisions on various aspects of your organization. Looking at the right data helps businesses determine things like the quantity of product to reorder, when to place items on sale/discount or eliminate, and even helps in creating specialized campaigns that target various levels of customers based on order amounts. All these activities contribute to the end goal which is to ultimately improve the bottom line. However, many employees waste countless hours drilling into data that is meaningless in understanding business operations.

Identifying what information to report on for your businesses is like sifting through dirt to collect a few gems. It is not necessary to report on everything under the sun and can even be counterproductive to do so. Reporting for employees can certainly seem daunting, even when using sophisticated technology such as wholesale software to automatically generate information, in real-time, on any area of the business.

To make sure you are getting the reports you need, in a format that is easy to understand, here are some time-saving questions to ask yourself before you run your next report or request a custom report form your wholesale software vendor.

1) What is the Main Purpose of the Report?

Before you even consider creating a report, organize your thoughts on why you want that specific data. The data in the report should be purpose-driven. Ask yourself, what will this information help you accomplish or how will it contribute to the objectives of the company? The below are a few common business reports that Blue Link’s wholesale software offers to our customers to get you thinking about what type of information/objectives you should be looking at.

Top Inventory Sales by Unit – Creating this type of report offers insight into the best selling products in your inventory and allows you to make a strategic decision on pricing and order quantity to keep this item in stock.
Inventory Slow-Moving Items – With this information, it’s easier to determine promotional activities such as discounts/sales that will help move those items faster through your inventory or help determine if you want to stop selling that item altogether.
Sale by Date – This type of information will help you determine the progress of sales throughout the years or given time period. You can also identify when in the year sales are at the highest (if there are clear patterns) and plan targeted campaigns to leverage high peaks or improve low producing months such as offering special discounts to new buyers.
Exception Reports – These are reports created to alert individuals to something that has gone wrong. For example, a price and margin exception report will alert the appropriate person which sales orders for the day have a gross margin that is below the acceptable threshold.

2) Who are the Primary Users of the Report? 

Once you identify the objective of the report, it’s also important to identify the users of the report. How many people can leverage this data? Think outside of the box to make the most of the data and don’t limit the information to just yourself. You may find that sharing such data with the applicable people will aid in improved productivity in various roles.

However, if there are multiple users for this report, it’s important to include all of them in the planning process to make sure the whole team is on the same page.

3) How Frequently Will Users View the Report?

Another question to ask yourself is the number of times that users will view the report. Is this a daily, monthly, quarterly report? For example, a report like a daily average sales report will show the average daily sales in units over different periods of time (last month, last quarter, last year  etc.)  However, it doesn’t mean that users need to view this data every day depending on the unique needs of your business.

4) What will the Report Layout Look Like?

It’s also important to think of the details such as the report title and column header names.  Thinking this information through ahead of time will help you identify if there is additional data you want to include in the report. Identify what do you want the report to look like. You may decide to have different formatting per column depending on the information. For example, you may want to bold the total amounts for specific columns for easier reading.

Details such as sort order, sub-headers/subtotals, selection criteria such as the date, through date, customer, product class etc. are also important to identify before creating the report in order to ensure that you have all the necessary data to reach your end goal.

5) What is the Correct Reporting Tool?

Depending on the nature of the report, a specific reporting tool may be better to use over others. At Blue Link, we support a variety of reporting tools such as SQL-Server Reporting Services, Crystal Reports, Excel, ARM, Spreadsheet Server and Power BI which all serve specific reporting needs.  Blue Link customers can generate any report/chart in any format using information from within Blue Link itself or other applications.

Automating Reporting with Blue Link Wholesale Software

While reporting is always a good idea, it’s important to do it in an efficient manner so you’re not spending hours or even days on collecting data. Automation is key to not waste time with manual data entry which is prone to human error. Automation is also important if you need to share the report with other members of your team. Blue Link allows users to schedule reports to send to the appropriate people via email. Other benefits include:

Completely customizable report creation.
Ability to leverage data already entered into Blue Link in order to generate a report, render it a PDF, create an email, put your message in the email and send it to all appropriate stakeholders – automatically.
Ability to write back to your wholesale software, add a new record to your notes or simply update a field, changing a status.
Ability to create a report based on data within the system that updates on an automatic basis for real-time insight into business health.
Fax message/report to your customers through your email automatically.
Live link Blue Link data to Excel to easily create reports and pivot tables with the ability to automatically refresh data every time a user accesses the report.

Blue Link also provides dashboard views that quickly provide powerful insight into business health including summaries of complicated data translated into digestible views. It allows the user to create a visual display of organizational KPIs, metrics, and data that are pulled live from the system with the benefit of owners and employees being able to analyze the information in mere seconds. Users can also drill down into the data used in the reports that are displayed in the dashboard for a more granular, investigative view.

 

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The Role of High Emotional Intelligence in Software Implementations

Psychologists have long been preaching the importance of high emotional intelligence in great leaders. These soft traits are frequently overlooked compared to the more traditional traits associated with quality leaders – such as intelligence, toughness, determination and vision. However, some researchers such as David McClelland, argue that emotional intelligence is more important than analytical skills and that not only are they an indication of great leaders, but they are also linked to strong company performance. Great leadership plays a role in all departments of a business and can significantly impact the success of large business projects, such as the implementation of new wholesale inventory software. The right wholesale inventory software will be able to manage processes across all business departments – from inventory, accounting and warehouse operations to purchasing, sales and customer service. However, this means that the implementation process takes time and requires dedicated human resources. It is not something that will happen overnight, nor should it. Finding and implementing wholesale inventory software will be one of the biggest decisions your company makes in any given year – and is comparable to any major business purchase such as acquiring additional warehouse space or equipment. To ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible, it is best practice to assign someone within the business as the Project Manager to oversee the implementation of the new system and to drive change management within the organization. When choosing the right person for the job, consider someone who not only understands business processes across all departments but also exhibits the following traits of high emotional intelligence.

Self-Aware

Many people claim to be self-aware, but, few actually are. To be truly self-aware, one must neither be overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful – which can prove beneficial when implementing organization-wide change and in trying to get employees to adopt new wholesale inventory software. Implementing new software requires a review of processes and systems across all business departments, to spot inefficiencies and find new opportunities. There is no point denying that any big organizational change will have its fair share of ups and downs – people are resistant to change, evaluating processes takes time and energy, and requires that employees learn new skills and processes, all while still keeping on top of their day-to-day tasks. Project Managers who are self-aware will be honest with themselves and with others and they will be able to recognize how their feelings affect them, other people and their job performance. This means they are able to control their emotions during times of high stress to help put other people at ease. When employees inevitably become frustrated or stressed during the implementation, self-aware leaders can recognize where these feelings are coming from to work with employees to move forward through the transition.  It is important for Project Managers to explain the benefits of the implementation and to acknowledge the roadblocks that will be encountered along the way.

Self-Regulation

Those with high emotional intelligence will be able to self-regulate – in other words, they are able to channel their emotional impulses in useful ways and are not prisoners of their feelings. This is beneficial when dealing with employees who are resistant to change – instead of becoming frustrated with a lack of co-operation during the implementation, Project Managers who can self-regulate will schedule a time to discuss the situation with the team, reiterating the benefits of the change. They will show patience with helping employees change habits and learn new skills. They will even go one step further and try to identify the underlying reasons for issues and employee resistance – looking internally to spot root causes. People who can self-regulate and are therefore in control of their emotions are seen as reasonable and as a result are able to create an environment of fairness and trust. This, in turn, leads to trust among employees that the new system will provide benefits for everyone and the company as a whole and significantly reduces any negative politics and infighting. In general, people who have mastered their emotions are able to roll with changes better and more quickly.

Motivation

People with a high degree of motivation are driven to achieve results above their own and everyone else’s expectations. They are intrinsically determined to achieve for the sake of achievement itself – as opposed to for some external reward such as an increase in salary. This translates into a love of learning, unstoppable energy to improve processes and an eagerness to find new approaches to become more efficient at work. When presented with a new challenge – such as implementing wholesale inventory software – they are driven to do whatever it takes to make the transition as smooth as possible and to design processes that allow employees to reap the full benefits of a new system. This positive attitude and energy helps to motivate other employees and increases the success of the project.

Empathy

Those Project Managers with a high degree of empathy thoughtfully consider the employee’s feelings when making decisions. This is not to say that they don’t also factor in other considerations, but they are upfront about their decision-making process and work to keep everyone informed and treated fairly. When employees feel comfortable being upfront about their concerns and frustrations, it leads to better collaboration among team members. This helps to ensure any issues are addressed as soon as possible to reduce the chances of delaying the learning and implementation process.

Social Skills

Having good social skills means more than being friendly and able to hold a conversation – it is friendliness with a purpose, allowing you to move people in the direction you desire. When looking to implement organization-wide change, it refers to the ability to get employees to adapt to change, modify existing processes, and be open to learning a new solution. People with strong social skills are expert persuaders – a key component to getting employees on board with change. If employees believe in the positive benefits of new wholesale inventory software, they are more likely to be active in its implementation and success.

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Managing Costing Methods with Blue Link Distribution Accounting Software [FIFO and Average Cost]

Any wholesale distribution business that buys and sells inventory knows the importance of assigning the right dollar value to the inventory items – especially in an industry where large quantities of product are sold at a time. Inventory costing methods can vary from business to business depending on the unique needs of the company. In general, there are four main inventory costing methods, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. They are specific identification, first-in, first-out (FIFO), last-in, first-out (LIFO), and weighted-average cost.  In this post, we’re going to be focusing on the two most commonly used and accepted inventory costing methods, FIFO and Average Cost.

FIFO and Average Cost inventory valuation methods offer businesses flexibility in their financial reporting, however, there are a few things to consider when choosing the method to adopt. One thing to consider is cash flow implications. Businesses need to evaluate what their cash flow will look like in the coming years and also consider the actual flow of inventory before choosing a costing method. This is especially important if the inventory does flow in a specific manner (such as FIFO method for non-durable goods like dairy products or fruits and vegetables). More on this below.

FIFO Costing

As the name suggests, the FIFO costing method is set up so that the oldest items in your inventory are sold first and corresponds to the actual physical flow of goods in your warehouse. This is particularly useful for companies who want to avoid large losses due to spoilage – for example, distributors selling dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, should use the FIFO method so that items are sold according to the earliest expiration date.

FIFO methods of accounting are also preferred by many wholesale distribution businesses because it provides a more accurate picture of the cost of an item based on its timeline, meaning the price paid at the time of purchase. This can be an advantageous costing method for wholesale distributors as it takes into consideration any cost differences in periodic inventory purchases which will maximize the net income.

Let’s say, for example, wholesale distributor, “ABC” bought 100 shirts over two different time periods.

ABC bought 100 t-shirts for $20 each on August 1.

ABC bought 100 of the same t-shirts for $30 each on August 20.

They sold 50 t-shirts on August 25th.

With the FIFO method, those 50 shirts sold by ABC, would come from the first batch of t-shirts that are valued at $20 each. The remaining 50 t-shirts from that same batch (also valued at $20 each) and 100 t-shirts at $30 each get recorded on the balance sheet as remaining inventory. The FIFO method accounts for the price differences in batch 1 and batch 2.

However, there are drawbacks to the FIFO method. There is a heavier tax burden if the method is used in periods of inflation as older items in inventory do not account for any market increases.

Weighted-Average Costing Method 

Under the average cost method, businesses are able to set a standard cost for items in inventory, regardless of what the amount paid when the actual item is purchased. The clear benefit of the weighted-average method is that it is very simple to manage as it does not track when the item was sold like FIFO. Instead, it only considers the amount of inventory in total dollar value and the quantity in stock for each inventory item. This method is good for wholesale distribution companies that want to standardize pricing across inventory batches.

Let’s take a look at the t-shirt example again…

ABC bought 100 t-shirts for $20 each on August 1.

ABC bought 100 of the same t-shirt for $30 each on August 20.

They sold 50 t-shirts on August 25th.

The average costing method looks at the value of the inventory in total – each t-shirt would be calculated as a total of the overall value.

So, the $5,000 paid by ABC for all the t-shirt inventory (100 x 20) + (100 x 30) = $5,000 would then be divided by the total number of t-shirts in stock to calculate the average cost of the t-shirt. In this case, the average cost would be $25 per shirt.

So when they sell 50 t-shirts they would price it based on the average price of $25. The remaining t-shirts would all also be valued at the average price of $25.

While this is a fairly simple calculation to maintain, one of the disadvantages of this method is that the average cost does not match or account for any inventory flow. If inventory prices vary widely depending on how much was paid per each round of purchases, the average cost may not recover the costs of the more expensive items that were purchased. The ideal situation, in this case, would be for company ABC to make up the loss when the t-shirts from the less expensive batch get sold.

Don’t Forget Landed Costs

When recording the cost of inventory, it is important to also include any indirect costs or “non-vendor costs” associated with the purchase of that product to gain an accurate cost of goods. These indirect costs account for the movement of inventory and include fees such as:

Brokerage
Freight
Custom and duties
Insurance
Storage
Shipping charges
Packaging

Automate FIFO, Average Cost, Landed Costs with Blue Link Distribution Accounting Software 

Blue Link distribution accounting software uses Average Cost and FIFO costing methods to accurately manage product costs. No matter which costing method and strategy you choose, Blue Link tracks all costing data behind the scenes so you can change your preferred method if your business processes change in the future. You can also add landed costs to supplier costs which includes the freight, storage, shipping etc.,fees that you pay per item, to get an accurate price per item.

 

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