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World’s oldest thread supplier rolls out Salesforce globally

Coats is going to use Salesforce’s CRM tool in more than 60 countries

Coats, a 230-year-old supplier of yarn and thread, which sells to the likes of Nike, Adidas and Tesco, is in the process of rolling out Salesforce.com's CRM application to sales representatives in more than 60 countries.

Prior to selecting the popular public cloud tool, Coats was faced with a challenge of getting a single view of its complex sales operations. This challenge was created because Coats has to operate with a dual sales channel.

The first sees Coats sales reps creating yarn and thread specifications with global brands. These specs are then ordered by the brands, via contract manufacturers, which Coats then has to sell into independently of previous discussions with the brands themselves.

Computerworld UK spoke to Hizmy Hassen, global supply chain director at Coats, about the difficulties this complex environment creates.

"We get the specification from the likes of Nike or Adidas, but then we have to close the deal in the contractor markets too. It's a big challenge to bring that selling process together as a single view, where you need to integrate various sales teams - the global sales teams and the various country selling teams," he said.

"Nike, for example, sources from 900 contract manufacturers, across 30 to 40 countries. So, if you want to sell into Nike, they specify to us what kind of thread they want, they then tell their contractors in all those countries, and then we need to make sure we get those sales with the contractors."

He added: "That collaboration, the single version of the truth, the integrated effort, is hugely challenging. Getting that right is a key enabler to helping us better service these big brands."

Coats had been using emails and meetings to try and coordinate all of this information previously, but came to realise that it needed a best of breed CRM application, which led them to selecting Salesforce.

Consulting firm Bluewolf was called in to help in September of last year to help create a global template for Coats to use for its rollout.

Hassen said: "Bluewolf has designed what we call an integrated selling process for opportunity management, price movement, target setting, and how the relationship between global sales and field sales should work."

Coats is extracting data from its SAP ERP system and also had to pull chunks of data from all the sales reps' laptops to put into the Salesforce cloud. However, this wasn't a challenge for Coats or Bluewolf, according to Hassen. The biggest problem was standardising the use of the CRM platform across all global teams. He said that if this isn't carried out correctly, then it will not have the intelligent single view it requires.

"We have 650 users, across over 60 countries, with 42 languages - how do you tackle that complexity and get everyone using the platform in the same way? Tesco is a good example. It sources from 700 contract manufacturers. So if you want to get a single view of Tesco, our sales teams around the world have to service those 700 companies, using the system in exactly the same way," said Hassen.

Bluewolf recommended that the best way to achieve this is through structured training that is layered through various champions.

"There's no shortcut and it involves constant training. We have six regional champions, and then each country within those regions has one or two power users. So we train from the centre, through the regional champions, through the power users, who then communicate to the sales teams," explained Hassen.

"We have a bi-weekly meeting with our power users, so we are constantly feeding through what could be improved - explaining where the data is not as accurate as it should be. They then tell the sales teams how to improve."

Coats only has to go live in Latin America before the rollout is complete, and expects to have all 650 users working with the cloud platform by February. Hassen said that although Salesforce's licenses are expensive, the implementation has been more straight forward than if he had chosen other vendors.

"As annual licenses go, Salesforce is not cheap. If you compare them with Microsoft etc, they are significantly more expensive. But from an implementation point of view, it's probably cheaper," he said.

"The implementation has been very cost effective for us. Once we had the global template from Bluewolf, we were able to deploy into regions very quickly. For example, South East Asia took six weeks. Three weeks to get the data, one week to train the power users, then two weeks to train the sales reps."

Finally, Coats admits that although security with the public cloud was initially a concern, Salesforce convinced them to take the plunge by telling the supplier that it is a 'security company first, and a CRM company second'. However, Hassen does warn that if he ever learns of a data breach, he will terminate the contract.

"I said to them we are putting all this intelligence in your cloud, which is a huge amount of intellectual property that we have acquired over several decades," he said.

"Salesforce is a big company, but if we find out one of their customers has lost some data, I think we would pull the plug immediately. We download all our data from their cloud into an on-premise database on a weekly basis, so that wouldn't be a problem."


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