Digital Commerce for Manufacturers and Distributors

In this week’s The Faces of Business Episode, our guest speaker was Lori McDonald. Lori is the President and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions. Before this, she worked at NASA for 5 years. Lori helps businesses build digital commerce systems that help businesses sell more online and help make happy customers.

Digital commerce for manufacturers is a recently introduced concept. Since then, we have seen this as a useful concept.

In this The Faces of Business episode, our guest speaker was Lori McDonald. Lori is the President and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions. Before this, she worked at NASA for 5 years. Lori helps businesses build digital commerce systems that help businesses sell more online and help make happy customers.

The conversation of this episode started with Lori sharing how she started her business. She said that her husband worked at Rockwell when she worked at NASA. So with her husband’s experience in Rockwell and her experience in NASA they started this company.

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Moving on, Lori talked about her experience at NASA. She said that she worked in the Instrumentation and communications team. After this, she related her experience at NASA to the working of her company.

Lori said that what she learned in the simulations at NASA is what she applies to her company today. After this, Damon started a conversation on digital commerce for manufacturers with Lori. He asked Lori that after the pandemic what has affected terms of digital commerce for manufacturers.

To this, she said that for businesses who went digital ahead of the pandemic, they saw a quick uptake in their business and online sales. Moreover, Lori said that some businesses also saw a generational gap before the pandemic.

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She said that the new generation is more prone to taking online orders and therefore such companies had a raise in sales during the pandemic. This is how there was an increase in digital commerce for manufacturers.

Moreover, she said that with sites like Amazon, it has become easier for people to sell online as well. Further, into the conversation, Damon asked Lori about the new things that are coming into the market in terms of digital commerce for manufacturers.

Responding to this, Lori said that there are a lot of new technologies coming their way. The most interesting one for manufacturers and distributors is leveraging content and commerce together. Lori explained this concept thoroughly.

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She said that often when you are in manufacturing, you have a lot of content in terms of product catalogs, videos, or things like that about the product. Elaborating on this, she also said that when you have a marketing team that is working on blogs and articles about your products, this is how your customers who are researching these things, can get to your site and actually buy as well.

This is how according to Lori you leverage content and digital commerce for manufacturers.

The conversation ended with Damon thanking Lori for her presence.

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salesperson, customers, people, company, products, sales team, sale, manufacturers, business, online, order, data, distributors, leveraging, digital, point, system, part, easier, technology


Damon Pistulka, Lori Mcdonald


Damon Pistulka  00:05

All right, everyone. Welcome once again to the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And with me today, I have Laurie McDonald from brilliant Business Solutions. brilliance visit. See I tongue tied a little bit, but I think I got it out. Right.


Lori Mcdonald  00:22

You got it. I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Damon.


Damon Pistulka  00:25

I am too I am too. I mean, I am just it is cool to have you on. Because your background what you’re doing now helping people with their, their digital commerce and for manufacturers and really showing them the way to make it easier for their customers. Yes, yeah. So Lori to start with your background, let’s talk a little bit about your college, your degree kind of thing and then work into you know, what, what brought you to where you’re at today?


Lori Mcdonald  00:54

Yeah, so my story I went to Purdue in computer electrical engineering. And what most people remember about me is that I ended up as a flight controller at NASA Johnson Space Center for the space shuttle program, I threw an internship at Purdue, I started working as a co op student at NASA, and then eventually worked there full time. When I graduated from college. I ended up meeting my husband there. He also was an engineering student at Purdue. He also was a flight controller at NASA. And we lived in Houston, Texas for a few years.

My husband actually ended up going to work for Rockwell Automation, out of a field office in Houston, Texas, originally, and then he had a job promotion that brought us to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Rockwell’s headquarters here in Milwaukee, which is where I’m at today. My husband and I both grew up in the Midwest. So this was closer to home. And yeah, and so that was in 1998, we ended up relocating to Milwaukee. And I was trying to throw out what can be as cool as space. And so I ended up deciding to start a web development company because you know, there’s not a space program in Wisconsin, and the and the web’s a pretty amazing place to be the internet in 1998.

It was a lot different than it is now. And it kind of decided based on my technical background, and also my husband’s experience at Rockwell. Dave, my husband, Dave, manage the largest data warehouse at Rockwell Automation. So their point of sale database for all of Rockwell’s distributors. Wow. Yeah. And so we were kind of uniquely equipped to understand the complexities that exist for manufacturers and distributors in with data, you know, and when a lot of organizations get into web development agencies get into web development, they didn’t necessarily have that technical expertise, especially on the b2b side.

Yeah. And so that became our niche at brilliance is focusing on helping manufacturers and distributors implement ecommerce. And my husband left his job at Rockwell 10 years ago. And now he leads our development team and we grow, we made the Inc 5000 list last year. So yeah, this is a lot of fun. I love and this is a really fun business helping manufacturers and distributors who haven’t previously sold online, figure out how that strategy helps them grow their business.


Damon Pistulka  03:07

Yeah, yeah, it is such an interesting, interesting space, too. Because I think that the other thing that’s happening too, is the tools to do this. are getting easier, more affordable and more mainstream.


Lori Mcdonald  03:23

Definitely. Yeah, I mean, when you look at so we’ve been in business for, like, 23 years. Yeah. And, but like, in the beginning, we were everything we were building, you know, from scratch, pretty much nowhere writing code for all of it. And now there’s really great tools that, you know, are many kind of off the shelf tools that you can use that really helps a process and make it easier for development teams, but also, to your point make it less expensive for customers.


Damon Pistulka  03:51

Yeah, yeah. So let’s back up a little bit, because I got to talk about the NASS of like a second. Sure. So, you know, there’s multiple people that are on the flight control team, I’m sure. Yes, yeah. So was there a specific part they made you were you like watching the set of the, you know, conditions that you’re watching? And this is what you’re focused on? How did that work? Yeah, that’s


Lori Mcdonald  04:14

a great question. So I was I was on the inco team, which stands for instrumentation and communications. So we were in charge of the, the, the communication between the space shuttle in the ground and the data. And so my first job when I was on the team was as a data calm, which was in charge of basically there were, you know, data recorders on board the Space Shuttle, that you always had to make sure that one of them was running to record, you know, kind of when you think about like a black box on an airplane, make sure data is being recorded in case there’s an interruption and communication with the ground.

We’ve got the data recorded, we can play back later. So I got to send commands to the spatial though in the info group. We’re the only group that can send commands to the spatial so that’s pretty cool. Yeah, yeah. And then eventually I worked as soon as mentation officer, which is where you watch sensors and data so that if all of a sudden a bunch of sensors start to report low, like it might be, because there’s a circuit failure somewhere, and that data is not giving you good, accurate information. So that was a but to your point, it’s a team.

You know, that was one of the, you know, I was when I started there I was, you know, a sophomore in college, when I said, What, and I mean, I got to work with people that have been there since the Apollo program, you know, just been extremely talented. Everyone I worked with there was, it was so talented, and you really get to know what it’s like to work on a team of really excellent people.

And also like, what it’s like to need to be able to, you know, give an answer quickly, and have to train and prepare to really be, you know, we run a lot of simulations. You know, the fun thing is now looking back, there’s a lot of kind of similarities between what I do today and what I did, then, you know, we still have practice, we practice a launch before we actually take a website live in how we come up with contingency plans for if something goes wrong with a website rollout, but the stakes are much lower. Our clients may not think so. But the stakes are lower with what the work we do today, then with them with a space shuttle flights. But anyway, it’s a lot of fun.


Damon Pistulka  06:17

Yeah, no doubt, no doubt, and I’ve got it, I’ve just got to imagine the amount of data that you want to collect in something like that, and, and then to just the simple fact of how do you communicate at something that’s moving that fat with something that’s moving that fast to your searches? All kinds of challenges when you get down into it? Yeah, well,


Lori Mcdonald  06:37

and, you know, I mean, the technology, you know, wasn’t really high tech, really, I mean, we have that space shuttle, right, you know, all technology. And so really, what’s pretty amazing is did the, you know, the spatial team did really amazing work. And a lot of that was based on systems and processes that were set up and repeated, you know, there was a lot of training that went into preparing to ensure, to your point, like, there’s a limited amount, like, even in terms of like, talking between team members that could happen on the ground, you know,

we were, we had a back office room, that that I was in that supported a front office that you see a front room that you see, like on Apollo 13, you see the front room of people that are sitting out there, but they had a whole back room of operators that were supporting them. So it’s just really interesting to see how all of those systems work together to create, you know, for to support spaceflight. And then just to think, in that in terms of, like, how effective systems really work together?


Damon Pistulka  07:40

Yeah, well, that’s a great experience, too. Because when you’re looking in what you’re working on what you’re doing now, I mean, you might have a website that’s interacting with the RP system that’s connected to the CRM that’s connected to some sort of payment system, or a bank, or whatever it is, you’re running, running things through. So you have a lot of dissimilar systems that you need to make work together.


Lori Mcdonald  08:01

Yeah, exactly. And one of the things I learned that they taught us in simulations, you know, we would have experiences where something would go wrong, you know, you want things to go wrong in the simulation, so they don’t go wrong, you know, or so you know, what to do if something goes wrong in a real flight.

But you know, what, what a lot of our training was around was like, when something goes wrong, like how to think how to troubleshoot, right, how to think through like, is what it looks like, is wrong, actually was wrong? Or could it be something else? Yeah. And I think those kinds of problem solving skills are, you know, to your point, when you’ve got all these interrelated systems speaking to each other, are directly applicable to the work that I and my team do today?


Damon Pistulka  08:39

Yeah, yeah. That’s, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. It’s great. And like you said, that experience carries forward. So yeah, so you decided to start really? And you’re doing that? And did you start out in manufacturing and distribution or building websites?


Lori Mcdonald  08:57

Yeah, we would build websites for whomever would pay us, you know, dentist, office, friends of my parents, whomever, you know, that’s the way most small businesses start. Right? Yeah. And then we realized, you know, my background was in engineering, not in marketing, or advertising or design. And so like, when you think of a website, a lot of companies that are in web development, you know, especially well, in 90 websites looked a lot different than that. Yeah. But a lot of them were more on the marketing side.

Yeah. And so what I realized, really, I written an article on how to accept credit cards online and publish that online and then manufacturer that was in New York and Pennsylvania, they, they found the article, and they, you know, the story they told me was that they found 100 companies, they narrowed it down to three and they picked us. Part of it probably was at the time, I think it was cheaper than a lot of the other options they were looking at. But what but what also but one of the reasons that they picked us was because of our my technical experience technical background.

Because they had, they had some really, and this is true, a lot of the kinds of customers we worked with, you know, their, their VRP was a legacy system, they had inventory on index cards that like, not all their data within their erp. And they, they had this really complex pricing setup, and they wanted to sell products online. And they had these really big corporate accounts that their salespeople took orders for, but they wanted to start selling the smaller accounts, and they thought, you know, the web could help them.

Yeah, and what we realized in our work for that customer, was that they were really an ideal account for us, because it really played to my strengths, technically, and, and our understanding of data and data integrations. And so then, you know, like, in many instances, we realized what worked, and then we looked for more of it and found that we really could build an effective vertical there for us.


Damon Pistulka  10:52

Yeah, that’s awesome. Because it is, I tell you, when you look across the manufacturing base, there’s so many choices in ER, p systems or inventory, or or whatever they’re using, you know, it just there’s so many different choices and little nice ones, even in industries, like a, you know, could be for sheet metal or CNC machining or something like that there’s a real popular industry choice for some reason. And I’ve got to believe that makes it more challenging when you’re trying to connect the web and any digital kind of into inside of a business like that.


Lori Mcdonald  11:29

Yeah, I mean, for many of our now, I mean, we’ve been in this a while. So we will come across, you know, an EMP that we’re integrating with that we’ve done before. But it’s also a lot of companies are on older systems. Yeah, I mean, so I mean, that’s a pretty common thing for us to come across, which means, you know, and depending on how that that system is set up, it may not be the easiest thing to integrate with. So you know, so that’s just a really great experience we’ve had, you know, we’re not really afraid of any of those kinds of situations, because we’ve, we’ve pretty much worked through any of those kinds of challenges. And, in fact, it’s kind of fun now.


Damon Pistulka  12:08

Yeah, good. Yeah. That’s awesome. And, and as you’re in So now, we’re sitting here today, you know, we’re still in the whatever stage of this pandemic, and it really affected manufacturers and distributors, while everyone obviously, but but them being traditional. I’ve got salespeople on the, on the road doing their thing, kind of businesses, what are you seeing that some of the manufacturers and just distribution companies doing differently now to either enable a more digital commerce or make it easier for their people? and those kind of things?


Lori Mcdonald  12:50

Yeah, those are great, great questions. You know, what’s interesting is that for some of our customers who invested in digital ahead of COVID, I mean, you know, certainly in their case, they they kind of know, they saw a real uptick in their, in their digital usage in a during COVID. And that ended up being something that really helped them, like when other forms of communication weren’t working, when you know, when in person interactions were impossible, will just naturally move to digital. But to your point, like, also, you know, what’s been true is that people are looking for ways to leverage digital tools to, to enable customers to self serve, like to enable to reduce the amount of interactions people need to have with a salesperson.

And that was happening before COVID. Like, that’s not just because of the pandemic, it certainly has been accelerated by the pandemic, but some of that is also just generational shifts, people, like younger people are less likely to want to talk to someone. And and also, because we have, you know, great tools like Amazon and things like that we’re all a little bit less inclined to like if we can find some way to get the answer ourself online, we kind of would like to do that.

In general, and versus tight. And so there’s a lot of data out there around how, you know, people in general are going to do a large amount of research before they actually want to speak to a salesperson, whether or not they’re actually going to place an order online, or whether they will actually like place an order with a person. And so a lot of manufacturers are recognizing that that trend is happening. And are and are looking, it depends on what kind of organization they are in terms of how they address it like. So like some if you’re selling large equipment or a very complex purchase that really needs assistance in the process.

It might be that you’re not you don’t plan for people to take to place their order online, but you’re giving them some tools to submit a request for quote online or to gather information online. Or, you know, also for your existing customers, providing them with tools to look up their order history. Previous purchases parts reordering off and off and replacement parts are really interesting area for manufacturers to move into if they haven’t done any digital commerce before, because it’s higher margin.

And, you know, at the end of the day, you know, if we had a have a client of ours who was talking about the fact that there’s a salesperson was saying, you know, I no longer have to spend time on the $50 part order, like I can spend that time on the $50,000, you know, equipment sale I want to make. And so that’s the upside is that you can be allowing your sales team to be more efficient by leveraging these tools. Yeah,


Damon Pistulka  15:43

yeah, that’s for sure. And one of the companies that we work with from time to time Gen alpha with Chris Harrington there, yeah, they’ve got some pretty exciting things for OEMs. You know, if you’re making a snowblower, your snowblower company streets, you for company, you know, lawn tractor company where we have the bigger supply chains and stuff like that. And, and and, yeah, that part ordering, even in the businesses that I used to run, we could, the margins are nice. As a manufacturer, you may have your own products and have a nice margin, but your your after aftermarket sales and service is much higher margin usually.

Yeah, and capturing those and making it simple to not just capturing the margin I’m, I’m about that run and do what I do. But the making it simple for your customers to because a lot of times customers come come back to the manufacturers. And it’s like, Yeah, I don’t see in the book, I don’t know, I don’t see it online, I’m gonna have to call somebody, well, we know how that works anymore.

Half the time, you don’t want to call them or, or if you do, it’s hard to get ahold of people. And certainly, if somebody is doing it out of business hours, it makes it it makes it challenging. Definitely. And just adding the simplicity of, Hey, this is a common part, go to our parts page, you can get it, you know, yeah, there’s just one or two things can make a huge difference in how that customer feels about your company.


Lori Mcdonald  17:10

Yeah, I think about a manufacturer that we worked with that, you know, they had, like one, one person who pretty much was the person that that the sales people, the sales team knew they needed to get ahold of this, this one person to find out if they had availability for certain products, like they, they didn’t have a very good software system internally, to give that information. And so when they so you know, if they had, you know, in their case, contractors were outside trying to sell their products, but contractors might might use a different manufacturers product that they weren’t certain they could get it in in time, right?

They weren’t certain it was available. So if you had to be able to call in and find out if there was availability. And to your point, if a contractor is putting together a quote, and it’s off hours, or the person that you need to talk to is on a lunch break. So you know how much better it is to have inventory information available online, if that’s important to your customers. And in this case, it was. And so you know, in some cases, like in that case, they didn’t actually display the actual number of items in stock because they didn’t want to provide that level of visibility.

But they more gave an indication visually, like graphically of how much they had in stock, so you could know if they were low, or or they had plenty. But But yeah, but and so that’s what makes this business so interesting is that every client we work with, like their how their customers order are a little bit different there. There are many things that are the same, but often, you know, different things that have to be to be adjusted for their customers.


Damon Pistulka  18:45

That that is that is so true because of the different kinds of products and services they do. You just never know. Yep, that’s good. Good. So when you’re when you’re looking at so what are the some of the new things that are coming up? that are that are happening now in in the markets that you’re going? Wow, this is really, really something?


Lori Mcdonald  19:04

Oh, there’s so much really interesting technology. I mean, well, like one thing I would talk about that isn’t really new, but I think a lot of a lot of manufacturers and distributors may not think about it is leveraging content and commerce together. And that’s really so you know, and this is like in a manufacturer you’ve got you’ve got lots of content, usually right you have like product spec sheets, and you might have videos about your products and manuals and catalogs, you have all of this content, and finding a way to enable it to be really and also like ideally, you have a marketing team that’s creating blogs and other marketing content.

If you can find ways to make it really easy online for customers to move between how they’re educating themselves about your content, about your products, moving to actually buying products. You know those examples of like parts ordering, we were talking about If someone is doing research on how to fix, you know some of their equipment, or is doing research on how to use a product of yours, and they can move from that research and education, they’re doing directly into purchasing a product that they can use, that just helps increase your likelihood of making a sale. So and there’s actually some technology that helps make that easier to happen.

There’s machine learning technology that does product recommendations. So that like when you’re on a content page, you can see some recommended products next to that content page. You there’s also now machine learning technology that enables you to see content recommendations, which is, which is kind of a new idea that like you may it for organizations that have a lot of content, you may want to enable them to you want them to stay on your site and to keep reading.

And so you you can make have suggestions of what other content they would be interested in based on the content they’ve already read. And what’s nice about that is a lot of marketing teams have been way more work to do than they have time. So while in theory, they could be putting together these like manual recommendations to have machine learning technology that automates that can be really powerful. Yeah. Yeah.


Damon Pistulka  21:20

Go ahead to just to think of some of the workflows that would have to happen on on recommending that kind of thing that automated technology to do it make it much easier. Yes, definitely, there are a lot there. Because the complexity, as you start going down the rabbit hole on, you know, if they’re looking at this with a meeting, they might want to look at this compared to that, and, and trying to do those things manually would be rugged.


Lori Mcdonald  21:45

Yeah. And you know, the another really interesting thing, like there’s a lot of talk around having a holistic view of your customer, a 360 degree view of your customer. And so there’s technology called the customer data platforms, that enables you to bring all of your data on a Cust on the customer together into one place.

So you know, all of their offline orders, all of their online orders all of their the chat they might have had in your live chat or in your customer service system, having all of that come into one place or their traffic into a retail store if you have one. So all of that information is in a single system. So that your what it really makes really powerful is your marketing team can use that to more effectively understand, identify and message to those customers to help to help with various campaigns they might be running, which is interesting, too.


Damon Pistulka  22:43

That that is cool. That is cool. So what are when you when you look at some of the ways people are making things easier, you’re talking a little bit about finding invoices, and being able to look at order histories and other things. What are some of the things you think are really cool to make it easier for people to do business? with some of the manufacturers you’re working with?


Lori Mcdonald  23:06

Yeah, it’s great, great question. You know, for for in the b2b space, when you think about self service tools, a lot of companies benefit from having the e commerce software that supports having multiple users that can log in from the same account. And so like, traditionally, in consumer facing ecommerce, you think, you know, like, I log in and place an order for me, yeah, but when you think about a business, often what’s really happening is you have multiple people on within the company that are placing an order, and it can be beneficial for them to see the entire company’s orders, not just my orders, but I want to see the order that that you know, Jeff on my team made.

And it may also be that, you know, some people on my team, I don’t want to give the ability to purchase, but they can, they can create the order and then I approve the purchase. And so there’s your like purchasing workflows. That’s functionality that used to be hard to find that an off the shelf products. And the great news is now there are several products on the market that offer those capabilities.

So those are good things to look for. You know, other capabilities, you know, being able to view invoices, view your invoice history, not just for orders you placed online, but for the orders that you know your your company placed with a salesperson, and actually the ability to pay those invoices online, if that’s something that you want to do. Also, you know, the ability to submit a request for quotes to have those quotes responded to by a salesperson, you know, if you if your sales team is able to turn quotes around faster, that just increases your likelihood of getting the business. So So those are a few of the things there’s more but those are a few.


Damon Pistulka  24:55

No, no, that’s I mean because because what I what I see and and i think is really Interesting is the integration of, of a Salesforce and outside Salesforce with digital methods to make it make it more effective. Right? Yeah. And and that’s where I think the lot of manufacturers and distribution companies look at it as an either or. But it’s not really it’s not it’s an instant integration. It’s like making yourselves for smarter, making them, making it easier for them to concentrate on sales. Yeah, rather than paperwork or other things like that. And that’s the exciting part for me.

I mean, I’ve had Andrew Deutsch has come in and talked about AI for, you know, someone like selling for a company like fastenal. And just what AI could do, you know, when you have 100,000 skews that you sell, but I’m talking to this customer today? How does, how can we use AI to make that, that salesperson smarter for that customer by and give them real, real, tangible, important things to talk about, like, Hey, you ordered two drums of this two months ago, and you’ve been ordering two drums every two months? I see you haven’t placed an order? Do you need an order for that?

Because I don’t want you to run out. And that’s the kind of stuff that I think that the the integration of the two things coming together is really cool. I mean, in and you know, even even in the largest companies, I think they still suffer from the fact that we’re still doing business, the way and it’s not just manufacturing in an industrial kind of setting. I mean, this isn’t the medical industry, this isn’t a lot of other places where they’ve got very expensive, very talented salespeople that are still shuffling paper and may be electronic now, but they’re getting an email for an order here and shuffle it somebody else is going there that can be eliminated, or at least streamlined by this process.


Lori Mcdonald  26:54

Definitely. Yeah. And to your point, so many organizations, that there’s some anxiety, whether it’s, whether it’s from leadership, or the sales team, or somewhere, that if we start selling products online, like usually the story goes something like this, like our business is successful, it is because of our sales team. And if we start selling products online, we’re gonna like we’re gonna undercut our sales team, and how can we do that, because they’re, they’re the reason we’re as great as we are like, and but the reality is, to your point demon, like it’s not an either or it’s a it’s an and it’s a win win.

And so, the key is to be able to demonstrate that, you know, we’ve had customers who, when a customer logs into the site, they see a picture of their salesperson on their account page along with their phone number, and they see a list of their, you know, their, their most frequently ordered products. And the really interesting thing that happens is, you know, the customer still can place orders through their salesperson. But also, they also discover products that they might not have known to ask their salesperson about.

Because they’re, you know, they have a site search, and they they may have product recommendations and other content they’re reading, it actually can help grow the size of that account. It can help can depending on how the organization sets up their comp structure can help that salesperson make more money to you. So it really can be a win win.


Damon Pistulka  28:17

Exactly, exactly. I want to take just a moment because Trisha was commented A while back and I miss it because we are going in but thanks Trish, educated customers are the best customers, that’s definitely gonna help to educate them and they make decision from to buy from you with the education. That’s great.


Lori Mcdonald  28:34

Absolutely, yeah, it builds trust education builds trust on, you know, with the customer, that’s a part of a relationship that you’re creating. You know, when you think about, you know, the other fear, I think, that exists with digital with doing business online, is that people perceive if they start to sell products online, you know, there are much bigger players on the market online that they’re competing against, and, you know, the Granger’s or the you know, or the Amazons, how am I going to compete Well, for the, with these really big digital players.

And the really interesting thing is that I think the small and mid market manufacturers and distributors have a really compelling value proposition because they know coming back to that concept of education, they know a lot they have a lot of subject matter expert. Yes. And Amazon doesn’t have subject matter expertise in their in the products they’re selling. They’re just selling products. And in many instances, customers want some education and support and help around the products they’re buying, which is why that education is so important.


Damon Pistulka  29:39

Yeah, yeah. So that’s, that’s cool. Because, you know, and as you look at some of the things that I think is super exciting when you’re looking at manufacturing and distribution are the availability of configurators now, yeah, and some of the other technologies that’s moving in because I we talk about this a lot when we’re when we’re looking at different things. And the configurators make a custom manufacturer is life so much easier that that I I’m just excited every time I see a new application of it.


Lori Mcdonald  30:15

Absolutely. And, you know, think about the time saving said that can provide to internal sales and engineering teams depending on the configurator in the situation. But you know, time that isn’t being spent, figuring out on how to how to set up that quote for a customer because they’re able to self serve is time that you can spend in a more strategic way growing accounts.

So, you know, I haven’t ever seen a situation where, like people are laid off because digital commerce comes in. It’s not like that, because we all finding great salespeople and great customer service people is a really hard thing. Right? It’s more like we can repurpose our people into doing some really higher value add activities for organizations and not be doing the thing, the more menial tasks that that we can be leveraging technology to do for us.


Damon Pistulka  31:05

Yeah, well, and it makes things easier to for people. I mean, because when you when you go back to the situation that you mentioned, where someone goes in and sell something online, but they’ve got to salespeople or salesperson, they’ve got to so person in their area, they can do that salesperson Now what does that salesperson do? Well, they may not have had to go out and get that sale, right? but they certainly can follow up with the customer and make sure that that didn’t work, right? Do you have all the information you need, and give that human touch that makes that that over the top that they couldn’t do before?

Because they’re they were trying to get the next sale? Yeah, these are the kinds of things that I think that we have to refocus our sales people a little bit too and like, hey, you’re you don’t have to do that anymore. Because you got to talk to people you get to, you get to go have lunch with somebody, because hey, they displaced the grace grade order online, and you need to make sure they’re happy with that order. And we need to talk about those kinds of things, rather than the next person that you’re you have to hunt down to find an order is as much


Lori Mcdonald  32:08

yeah, it reminds me one of our clients is a distributor of industrial supplies and they win, you know, so in their case, when orders are placed for their that are existing counts for their sales team, you know, their sales team gets commissioned credit for their accounts. But of course orders come into the website that are new that have never done business with the company before.

And so then what happens is, you know, they divide those up and send them out to sales people, you know, to certain salespeople, and to your point demon, those salespeople are responsible for following up with that customer thanking them for their order, and going through a series of activities that if they do those things, now that customer is tagged as their customer, right their account, yeah. And it enables our salespeople to move from being like salespeople aren’t order takers, salespeople, you know, salespeople are consultants that help customers buy, you know, that can be helping them find other products that might be of interest to them. So yeah,


Damon Pistulka  33:06

yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s an awesome way to say that that’s a that’s a great if people didn’t listen to what you just said about how you can how you can get a you know, combine an e commerce sale with a sales force and still give the salesperson credit for that sale, the next sales coming up, that’s a great way to do it, just have them go out and establish the relationship after the initial sale, make sure that things are going like they need to be so then any new sales, they will get the Commission on that sale. Right. But that’s just that’s so easy and not so easy. I should say. It’s so it makes sense. It makes sense.

Yeah, we we want to take that time and make their make a better customer experience, we know that the experience is the experience level that people are expecting is moving up the service level that they expect is moving up. And using the e commerce portion of this to eliminate the mundane or the things that we can that make it simple.

And can be done simply, yeah, really allows us like you said to do the higher value things and even when you talk about the things like you know talked about this with Chris Harrington from Gen alpha is that if you have customer service people inside your company, that you can give them better information, like on a just like on a part, they’re going to order a part for a machine right?

And you go if the system that you’re using can say yes, you want this bearing, but you then also want this gasket on this side and you need these bolts because these are replacement items when you do this assembly that you just did two things. The customer is not going to get out there and try to do what they do on their Oh, I need these bolts and that gaskets ruined and I’m you know I’m scraping on I got to go back and order that but you Increase your order size. Yep. And you made it much easier for the customer service person, the person taking the order to actually give them high quality suggestions and information. Yeah.


Lori Mcdonald  35:10

Yeah. Well, yeah, a few thoughts based on what you said first, I love Chris Harrington and Gen alpha. So shout out to them. I agree.

Yeah. Listen, they’re a great group. And, and also, to your point and her point, I think there’s a convergence between the digital tools that are being used by end customers, and our internal and the internal teams that manufacturers and distributors, and you know, we have customers where we set up an e commerce site for them. And their internal team uses it instead of their other tools, because it’s easier to look up parts or information or, you know, content. Which makes sense, right? Like, the same kind of things that customers want to do. The internal team needs to do, too. So yeah,


Damon Pistulka  35:51

well, I’ve worked with clients before, too, that they use their internal people use the same way to place orders that the external person would, just because they want to make sure that the experience is good, and what kind of repetition you get, you get the stress tests, you could do a lot of other things on, on changes you make, and you know, I want to change some cart changes or something you can really see, right?

what a difference it makes. Definitely, yeah, yeah, good stuff, because it’s a, it’s just so I mean, the, it’s so exciting, when you look at the possibilities of of bringing some of these tools into the manufacturing and distribution environment that really allow you to give the you know, just get people what they need, and make it easier for everyone to do it. Yeah, definitely. Ha, good stuff. Well, the one thing that I was going to talk about too, so looking towards the future, what is it that you go, Wow, I read about this, and it’s like, that’s gonna be super cool.


Lori Mcdonald  37:02

There are a lot of really exciting things coming in the future. You know, one of so there’s a lot of talk about personalization technology. And we, we already talked a little bit about it, because, you know, content and product recommendations are actually a part of leveraging machine learning technology to predict what people are going to want to look at. But there are some really interesting other ways to use personalization technology where you can be, you know, in some sense, like, you can almost be predicting what people are going to want before they tell you before they can really give you any insight into that.

And you can leverage that in your email communications with customers. To your point, David, those personal personalized recommendations can go to your sales team, so they can call up customers and say, I think you would be interested in this product. So I think that is pretty fascinating to me, is how that will work. I’ve also been really interested in chatbots, which I think, you know, I don’t know, I you know, some of the chat bots that are out there aren’t that great. But I think there’s a lot of work being done on them.

That is really interesting. And I think they’re increasingly getting better. Where if they’re done, right, they can they can work through some questions with people, and then at a certain point, prompt them or move them into a conversation with a real person, but help people get some answers back quickly. So yeah, those are those are a few things that I call out there.


Damon Pistulka  38:29

Because if the chatbot would work better, I think it would be a really nice solution for a lot a lot of simple questions, but there is so many you get in they’re just too clunky. And you’re always hitting to get to talk to somebody live, especially if you got technical questions, but good stuff. Well, Laurie, I’m just so happy to be able to talk with you today because this is this is awesome stuff that you get to work on and of courses, manufacturing and distribution and e commerce is near and dear to my heart.

I just appreciate you taking the time with us today and sharing your sharing your knowledge because it is so much fun to hear what you’re doing and learn more from you. So thank you.


Lori Mcdonald  39:12

Definitely. Thank you. I


Damon Pistulka  39:13

had so much fun. You bet. And I want to say thanks, Trish. Another comment. Thanks so much for it. Yeah, we nurturing those relationships is the way to go. That’s for sure. Well, thank you, everyone. Thank you, Laurie, for being here today. We’re gonna wrap up today for this episode of the phases of business. We will be back here again next week with more interesting people talking about business and life. Thanks so much for being here today, everyone. Thanks

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