Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
August 11, 2016  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-What Is Client Relationship Management or Customer Relationship Management (CRM)?

CRM can mean many things to wholesaler-distributors. It’s a software and sales automation tool, of course, but CRM can also be viewed as a strategy or process, depending on the business experience, technology affinity, and sales orientation of the wholesaler-distributors we encountered. 

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Here are definitions for seven terms you should understand if you are considering CRM:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Software used to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support for customers and prospects. High-performing CRM solutions are designed to execute each company’s unique sales model and sales process, and to enable sales coaching and performance management. CRM encourages close collaboration between sales and marketing teams, and cross-channel coordination. Increasingly, CRM is viewed as an essential business platform for collecting, organizing, and accessing all customer information.

Sales Model

The overall strategy approach for selling and supporting customers, building on well-defined sales roles including “hunters” for new business development and “farmers” for account management and retention. The sales model defines how field, inside, and online channels are deployed and how sales, marketing, customer service, and operations work together.

Sales Process

The critical activities, from lead generation through ongoing support, that are essential for meeting customer buying needs and sourcing preferences. High-impact sales processes coordinate the efforts of sales, customer service, marketing, operations, and other customer-facing roles to achieve financial, sales, marketing, and customer service metrics for efficiency and effectiveness.


The culture, process, and business practice of working with salespeople to reinforce high-impact behaviors, develop competencies, solve problems, and overcome barriers, and maintain a high level of motivation and satisfaction. Coaching is a primary responsibility of first-line sales managers.


The primary or initial screen used by a salesperson (and other customer-facing roles) to gain a snapshot view of goals, progress, issues, opportunities, and rewards. As a best practice, dashboards allow one-click access to detailed reports and are customizable by each user. Dashboards allow access to other business systems, allowing a user to stay within CRM for all responsibilities and day-to-day activities.


The ability to create on-demand reports or quickly find important facts and data through easy user interfaces within CRM. Queries enable on-the-spot problem solving, fact-based coaching, and executive access to customer data for real-time decision making without required ad hoc efforts by sales managers, salespeople, marketers, and customer service teams.


The qualitative and quantitative measures that track execution of a sales process, productivity, and ongoing, continuous performance improvement. Metrics start with the customer’s own measures of business success, particularly those that can be influenced by sales and customer service resources. Metrics include inputs and outcomes, helping to direct effort allocation and judging success against goals.

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

The full study delivers sage advice from CRM-experienced distributors, and it will help you avoid common mistakes, minimize frustration, and achieve the full potential of CRM for your business.

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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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