CRM Adoption: The Time is Now for Distributors 

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It refers to the strategies your salespeople—and all customer-facing staff—use to manage customer relationships. 

CRM technologies exist to help the people on your team do their jobs more easily and efficiently. They can make better decisions around how to invest their time, which improves effectiveness companywide—and (most importantly) improves the customer experience. 

The time to adopt a CRM has not passed – it’s never too late to join the “I want to be successful” bandwagon.  

Every distributor needs to deploy a strong CRM or compete (and potentially fail) against others who already have.  

How Does CRM Work? 

CRMs provide five key uses to distributors. These core processes link inside with outside sales reps along with specialists and support. 

  1. Territory intelligence: See which customers and prospects offer the highest potential to grow at the lowest cost as they keep changing. 
  1. Call management: Analyze where it’s best to invest sales calls and adjust in real-time. 
  1. Opportunity pipeline: Pay attention to major transaction opportunities to increase the close rate. 
  1. Performance measurement: Your sales team can identify if the defined activities they’re doing are generating the right results. 
  1. Coaching to adjust or improve performance: The money ball is the long-term impact of a monthly coaching discussion, even if it’s just 15 minutes. 

Salespeople should be on their CRM at least 20-30 times per day, checking, updating and gathering information about their customers, but most aren’t.  

When all five of these core CRM processes are put into action, the field sales role becomes a market-making function and their market-serving responsibilities are transferred to lower-cost staff and digitized solutions. 

Reps that have access to continually relevant and timely information can make solid decisions around how to best spend their days. Additional resources can be electronically gathered and pulled quickly, so they can close deals. Every customer-facing rep also gains the visibility into what others are doing with their customers and suppliers.  

The Path to a Successful CRM Adoption 

As magical as this software sounds, the adoption process needs to be a multi-year approach driven by the desire to improve sales effectiveness. It’s critical that your salespeople be involved in the implementation plan and a process laid out for the input of information. 

I’ve heard many great distributor adoption stories—and just as many disappointments. The winners looked at adoption as a process redesign and a change-management activity. It wasn’t just a new tech addition to their workforce.  

Those frustrated with the systems traditionally viewed the whole affair as merely picking the right software package then enforcing the use of it. The latter are scenarios of surplus functionality and insufficient training, post-rollout modifications and process design.  

Understand that a CRM implementation—done right and done well—is complex, time-consuming and costly. It’ll require widespread input from every function and every department in the company. It also demands an updated Go-To-Market business model. 

Planning with a CRM consultant is beneficial and the payoff is that your teams will continuously improve the customer-facing, selling effort and customer experience.  

Read more about trends in CRM adoption, as well as how to avoid “pilot purgatory” in my recent report, published by Distribution Strategy Group. Download it free here: The State of CRM in Distribution: Making the Software Work for You