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Customer Order Management: Challenges and Optimization


Strategies for optimizing the Sales Workflow of Small Businesses

‍‍Interested in learning more about Sales Order Processing? Are you a Wholesaler or Distributor? Then this article is for you. We’ll review some of the core principles of sales processing; how to identify costly gaps in sales workflows; and share industry best practices. Our aim is to help you simplify, speed up, and streamline how you manage inventory and sales orders within your small business.

Sales Order Process Topics

Why optimizing your Sales Order Workflow is vital for your business

As a small business owner, you’re on the go seven days a week. Keeping on top of all your responsibilities isn’t easy. Is it any wonder that Sales Order Workflows don’t always get the attention they deserve or work as smoothly as they should. Your busy schedule is just one of the reasons you should consider reviewing and optimizing your Sales Order Process.

How to tell if it’s time to rethink your Sales Order Process

‍‍Are you drowning in a sea of sales order paperwork? Have you ever unexpectedly run out of stock?  Have you ever shipped an order to the wrong address? Chances are these business mishaps were due to lack of automation and integration within your Sales Order Process.

In the past, the process of creating and managing estimates, sales orders, shipping orders, and invoices involved many hands, mountains of paperwork and was fraught with human error.

What do you mean by a Sales Order Workflow?

The steps businesses follow to complete a sales order are known as a sales order workflow or process.

Today, with the right solution, the entire process can be fast, easy-to-use and accurate thanks to the automation and integration of all your sales and inventory data.

5 reasons for optimizing your Sales Order Process

why optimizing your sales order processing

Continue reading about Sales Order Workflow and why optimizing it is good for business.

The key role Sales Orders Play within your Sales Workflow

When selling goods or products, a company needs more than just estimates and invoices to smoothly operate their business. Sales have a direct impact on inventory. The link between your customers and your inventory is the Sales Order.

The Sales Workflow

Sequence of sales documents and the impact on inventory

Estimate and inventory

An Estimate or a Quote provides important information about a potential order, such as Quantity, Price, Delivery Information and Estimate Terms (e.g., “offer valid until” a specified date). An Estimate is submitted to the customer for approval but has no impact on the inventory.

Sales order and inventory

A Sales Order is the backbone of your Sales WorkFlow

▪ It creates a binding contract including all agreed terms between you and your customers
▪ It allows you to reserve Stock for your client
▪ It allows the seamless tracking of your products throughout the sales process up to the delivery
▪ It creates one file with one Sales Number and the entire sales history
▪ It acts as a guide for your purchase forecasting and replenishment

With just one click, you can generate a shipping Order, Picking List and an Invoice.

A Shipping Order is a document created from the Sales Order which specifies what products are to be delivered or transferred and their destination.


An invoice is a request for full or partial payment which is due/payable based upon the specified number of days outlined in the Sales Order. Invoices can be generated directly from an estimate (for Services Rendered or from a Quick Sale) as a receipt of payment.

3 Common gaps within Sales Order Workflow

Gaps within the Sales Order Process are bad for business. Gaps in your workflow can disrupt the day-to-day operations of your business and negatively impact your bottom line.

A badly implemented workflow can lead to depleted stock, negatively impact cash flow and even lead to conflicts between you and your customers. Three of the most common gaps in Sales Order Management are: human error, a lack of automation and relying on basic spreadsheets instead of sophisticated Inventory and Order Management solutions. All of these scenarios can result in lost sales and customers.

Gap #1 | Human errors

‍‍Manual entry of sales order information can lead to costly mistakes. Two common causes of sales order mistakes are typing errors and verbal miscommunications between staff and customers. These human errors may take the form of inputting wrong quantities, wrong product codes, wrong prices, and/or wrong billing or shipping addresses.

Counting stock the old-fashioned way with a clipboard and paper (or a spreadsheet) is slow and cumbersome and also increases the risk of human error within your business.

What are Price Rules?

Price Rules refer to when adjustments are made to pricing under specific conditions. Common pricing variances, include:

  • Sales volume and frequency
  • Standard and premium versions of the same product
  • Introductory offers and promotions
  • Sales events (e.g., Black Friday)
  • End of Season Clearance

‍Human error is especially problematic for companies using advanced price strategies. It’s easy for staff to make mistakes when the same product has a different price depending on the category or season. Prices will also vary depending on whether a business is operating in a B2B or B2C or both environments.

‍In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of new distribution channels (online, email, phone, B2B, stores). Omni-channel sales represent a huge opportunity for small businesses, but they also make fulfilling orders more challenging. Managing multiple sales channels which are live 24/7, delivering on time and to the right destination around the world is a complex process and prone to human error without automation and integration within the Sales Order Workflow.

‍As you can see, there are a number of ways human error within the Sales Order process disrupts and slows down the Order to Cash process and negatively impacts the bottom line of businesses.

Gap #2 | Time-consuming repetitive tasks

A surprising number of SMEs still manually enter sales orders and inventory data and by doing so waste time and effort. For just one order, staff have to enter the same product information, customer information, and billing information over and over. First for estimate, then the sales order, then shipping order, and finally the invoice.

This lack of automation wastes precious time, duplicates effort and reduces productivity. Manual entry can furthermore lead to confusion and lost sales. Without real-time, automated inventory and order records, businesses are operating in the dark and cannot be sure that they have sufficient stock to fulfill any given order.

Gap #3 | Relying on paper

Gap #3 | Relying on paper or spreadsheets for your workflow are a false economy

We all know that setting up a business is expensive. The costs add up quickly.  Wishing to save money may explain why many small businesses still employ an old-fashioned Inventory and Order management model instead of automating the order and inventory process. Relying on paper clipboards, spreadsheets and Word Processors to manage your sales orders and inventory is a false economy. As we’ve learned above, Sales Order Process isn’t a place where you can afford to be cutting corners and entering data manually.

There are smarter, more reliable and more efficient way to manage sales orders and your inventory. Today’s successful businesses depend on specialized, affordable software and technology to streamline and simplify the complex processes that are required to fulfill just one sales order.

4 Sales Order Workflow Best Practices

How switching to software can transform your business

Increasingly, small businesses are relying on smart, affordable, cloud-based Inventory and Order Management software to optimize their operations. By automating and integrating all orders and inventory, companies can ensure all of their departments (purchasing, sales, shipping, billing and accounting) have instant, real-time access to the same accurate, up-to-date sales order information.

Sales Workflow Best Practices

Best Practice #1 | Minimize human error with automation

‍‍The good news is that with the right Inventory and Order Management software, you can minimize costly sales errors and shipping errors by automating the generation of sales order records.

Gone are the days of manually fumbling through Price Lists or absentmindedly forgetting to apply special discounts and price rules manually. Today’s software protects you against human error by automatically adjusting pricing on sales order records to match the price rules you have set for sales events such as Black Friday or end of season sales. Automating these price differences helps reduce human error and is essential for keeping your most valuable customers happy.

Automation helps reduce human error and prevents:

  • Pricing errors
  • Inventory miscounts
  • Running out of stock
  • Incorrect SKUs
  • Incorrect addresses
  • Undelivered orders

‍Software can also be leveraged to reduce the risk of human error when it comes to tracking stock levels. Inventory Management software updates your inventory records in real-time after a sale or a shipment. No business wants to miss out on a sale because they ran out of stock.

‍Finally, rather than having your staff manually enter product codes for your inventory and potentially make an error, solutions exist which enable you to create barcodes with detailed product information (such as sizes, colours, model number) which your staff can easily scan.

‍Best Practice #2 | Maximize productivity and profitability with automation

Automation is one of the simplest ways to maximize the productivity of your company. When you employ Inventory and Order Management software, you can automate the creation of your sales order documents. Once you’ve created the original estimate, you can instantly create sales orders, shipping orders and invoices thereby speeding up your order to cash process.

Automation speeds up the Order to Cash Process

The faster you process orders and shipments, the faster you get paid. Automation is key to a healthy cashflow.

With a click of the mouse, all of the details of the sales order and customer information are automatically filled into the next sales order document. Once a shipment goes out, the software will automatically update your inventory records and flag when your stock levels are running low. Imagine all the time and effort you will save!

‍Another way to maximize the productivity of your company is by automating how you count and track your stock levels. Inventory Management software minimizes the need to recount stock manually because the tracking of incoming, sold and shipped stock is all automatically updated.

‍Did you know you can also automate adjustments in pricing? Small businesses require flexible, accurate pricing to accommodate: Customized pricing based on the volume and frequency of sales. Discount pricing for sales events such as Black Friday and End of Season sales

‍Today’s Inventory and Order software enables you to track in real-time key performance indicators (KPIs), such as: best sellers, profit, margins, cost of goods sold, return on sales ratio.

customer satisfaction

‍Best Practice #3 | Improve customer relations with automation and integration

There’s a simple way to enhance customer and internal relations. Ensure your entire staff is using the same Inventory and Order Management software. Doing so will ensure your team is working with the same real-time sales and inventory data which is key to running a seamless operation.
When all your staff base their decisions on the same, up-to-date stock and sales data, you are less likely to be caught off guard and to run out of stock. Your teams will thank you for it and so will your customers. There is nothing worse for a customer than to place an order only to discover their supplier has run out.

Ensuring all teams base their decisions on the same integrated, real-time data is good for customers and for your business.

5 ways Inventory and Order Management software can enhance the customer experience

Customer History

1. Instant access to up-to-date Customer History information

When a client contacts your sales, billing or shipping departments, it is vital that your staff have instant access to the same real-time Customer History information. It lets your customers know you understand their situation and care about their business.

Stock icon

2. Reserve stock for your customers

Real-time tracking of inventory and sales enables you to reserve stock for customers and protects against overselling. Being able to reserve stock is especially important for small businesses that have a multichannel sales structure.

Product return icon

3. Simplified product return process

When customers return a product because it is defective, completing all the paperwork can be time-consuming and complex for multiple teams within your business. Having the right software, simplifies the return process because your sales order or invoice records are instantly updated and credit note or refunds can be easily issued.

Backorder icon

4. Speed up and simplify the backorder process

When a customer purchases an item that is not currently in stock, the Sales Order and Inventory Management software instantly creates a purchase order from the sales order and thus remind you to top of up your stock… and speed-up the back order process.

Reducing the number of backorder days improves the quality of a customer service and the effectiveness of its sales and inventory workflow.

Partial shipment

5. Simplified management of partial shipments (remaining orders)

Managing partial shipments isn’t easy without the right software.  Imagine how thrilled a customer, with limited warehouse space, will be when they learn you can reserve stock for them and ship stock in instalments on demand. Many customers also prefer receiving partial shipments to waiting a long time for an entire shipment while you replenish your stock.

Best Practice #4: Streamline your workflow with cloud-based solutions

Whether you are operating in a single or an omni-channel sales environment, cloud-based Inventory and Order Management software is a smart choice for your business.  If you are still tracking inventory and fulfilling orders using a spreadsheet on your laptop, you should seriously consider switching to a cloud-based inventory and order solution to streamline your operations.

Benefits of cloud-based management of the Sales Order Process

  • Streamlines your operations by ensuring all your departments, warehouses and staff have the same real-time access to stock levels and sales orders 24/7, wherever they are located
  • Protects your sales and inventory records in the event of fire or theft. Much more secure than a spreadsheet on your computer
  • Simplifies and speeds up order to cash process within both single-channel or complex omni-channel environment

Simplifying, speeding up and streamlining your Sales Order Workflow is that easy

In summary, one of the simplest and smartest ways to increase the productivity and profitability of your business is to switch from spreadsheets to innovative, affordable, easy-to-use software to automate and integrate your Sales Order Process. It will free up your time, reduce human error and help streamline your operations. We hope you have found this article from Erplain both informative and helpful.

FAQ on Customer Orders

How to manage customer orders? 

To effectively manage customer orders, adopt a rigorous execution process that includes creating accurate quotes, tracking orders, and meticulously preparing shipments. Ensure that each step, from sale to delivery, is monitored within your order management system to guarantee an optimal customer experience and enhance customer loyalty. Using an order management software can simplify this process by automating the creation of purchase orders, invoicing, and shipping while providing real-time visibility on stock status.

What is order processing? 

Order processing involves several key steps within your business, from receiving the customer order to its shipment and invoicing. This process includes verifying product availability, preparing items for shipment, and issuing necessary documents such as invoices and delivery notes. Effective management of this process is essential to minimize errors, speed up delivery, and improve customer satisfaction.

What is the customer order process? 

The customer order process is a sequence of actions taken to manage customer requests from initiation to final delivery. It begins with creating a quote, followed by order confirmation, stock reservation, preparation for shipment, and ends with the delivery of products. This process is crucial for maintaining good customer relationships and ensuring efficient sales and inventory management within your business.

How to ensure customer order tracking? 

Ensuring customer order tracking requires an organized system where each order is recorded, tracked, and updated at each stage of the sales process. Businesses often use integrated management systems that allow real-time tracking of orders from the issuance of the initial quote to final delivery. This not only ensures customer satisfaction by meeting delivery deadlines but also enables efficient inventory and sales forecasting management.

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