Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
June 22, 2016  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-3 Success Factors Helpful in Building Your List of CRM Vendor-Selection Criteria

When I interviewed wholesaler-distributors for my book, Getting the Most Out of CRM, most executives described selection processes that are practical, flexible, and not overly burdened with formal requirements or procedures. That’s not to say that these approaches were necessarily swift, however. Some were, but almost all wholesaler-distributors emphasized that making the best possible choice is more important than speed.

Frequently, wholesaler-distributors mentioned that their selection process was on hold until more inputs were gathered from other wholesaler-distributors, the management or sales teams got onboard, or new vendors with the right feel were added to the list for consideration.

One of the distributors we interviewed termed his desired CRM vendors as having a lightweight offering, meaning that a full suite of CRM features was not necessary and that ease of integration and implementation was a top priority. The selection process used by this distributor was also simple, straightforward, and lightweight as follows:

Evaluation Criteria

  • Easy to use; runs fast
  • Cloud-based
  • Works with Google apps (calendar, e-mail, etc.)
  • Low cost, scalable
  • Good at contact management
  • Sales pipeline with good graphics
  • Professional and reliable

Vendor-Selection Process

  • Find recommendations and complete online search to identify vendors.
  • Use demo versions, loaded with real data.
  • Ask salespeople and others to conduct trials.
  • Write down benefits and estimated costs.
  • Make a decision and start using it.

Comparing this approach to interviews I had with many wholesaler-distributors, three success factors jump out:

1. Pick the right leader. Asking the right person to lead your selection efforts is vital. Successful selection leaders share common characteristics, including familiarity with the sales process and salespeople, an ability to understand technology to the point where they can guide integration and customization needs, and a passion for improving sales effectiveness. Most often, these individuals were not executives or salespeople, but rather in the middle levels of management as directors or managers in the sales or marketing organization.

2. Go light on steps, deep on knowledge. The lightweight selection process described above does not imply a shallow depth of knowledge about the distributor’s needs or vendor’s offerings. Further, it’s important to think strategically and tactically. Selecting the right selection leader helps, as does vetting vendors up, down, and across a wholesaler-distributor’s management and sales organizations.

3. Conduct trial after trial. Downloading free demos, populated with the wholesaler-distributor’s data, is an essential step and should be repeated across several high-probability vendors. Next, ask a small number of salespeople to try out the tool. A return trip to another distributor can help, and one wholesaler-distributor recommended ride-alongs with salespeople. Lightweight selection processes are short on criteria and process steps, so repeated trials are essential for uncovering advantages and disadvantages of a vendor’s offering and zeroing in on how your organization will use CRM.

Adapted from Getting the Most Out of CRM: Best Practices for Wholesaler-Distributors

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Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow

Mark Dancer founded the Network for Business Innovation to drive awareness, advocacy and excellence for B2B innovation, and to enable an exchange of ideas between leaders on business transformation, technology adoption, social impact and community engagement. For more than 30 years, Mark has worked with leading companies to achieve go-to-market excellence across a wide range of industries in developed and emerging markets.

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