Delivering for Best-in-Class Wholesaler-Distributors
August 18, 2016  |  ByMark Dancer, NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence Fellow
NAW-Why CRM Is Fast Becoming a Standard Business Practice and Essential Tool

In my research for my book, Getting the Most Out of CRM, I found that the majority (61%) of wholesaler-distributors surveyed already use CRM in implementations that range from basic to advanced.

If you’re looking for perspectives to get to a “go” decision for adopting CRM or expanding its use at your company, here are five strategic findings that may help you:

  1. Distribution leaders are targeting increased sales productivity as a strategic priority for improving profitability.
  2. Adoption of CRM is supported by many practical benefits that are relevant to distributor sales models.
  3. CRM enables practical strategies for improving sales effectiveness such as developing value-selling skills, and better sales coaching and performance management.
  4. Major questions of nonusers go to benefits for their specific needs, concerns about implementation, and uncertainty about return-on-investment.
  5. CRM is becoming a standard practice and essential tool.

I have found that distributors are adopting CRM not for its own sake, but because today’s competitive markets and difficult economy demand that every aspect of the business, including sales, operate as productively and efficiently as possible. Every missed opportunity hurts the bottom line. Every less-than-delighted customer opens the door for competition. Modern warehouse operations and logistics services can ensure that the right product is available at the right time in the right place, but profits slip away if the sales organization doesn’t execute. While every other function optimizes business results through clearly defined processes, actionable data, and proactive managers, sales has stood apart. Executives and sales leaders have allowed, and often encouraged, salespeople to discover their own best practices without customer data and productivity tools.

The result is sales results that are good enough by historical standards and sales management practices that are not prepared to jump to the next level of competitiveness.

Today’s CRM software, enabled by mobile devices, fills a gap by putting customer information at the fingertips of salespeople, as they prepare for, interact with, and follow up after customer conversations, whether in the field, on the phone, or through online communications. Moreover, CRM jumpstarts effective sales management by focusing sales conversations on the current status of actual opportunities, supported by customer data, at a point where a new approach or better execution can make a difference, rather than after-the-fact performance reviews. Successful wholesaler-distributors are finding that improved sales discipline and sales management complement the skills of top performers and provide guidance for developing salespeople.

Among wholesaler-distributors that are not currently using CRM, 42% have actively shopped for CRM and 22% are in the process of implementing their first CRM solution. Other wholesaler-distributors are well along the adoption curve. If not actively shopping, almost all distributors are aware of CRM and have a working knowledge of CRM’s features and benefits. Less than 2% were not aware of CRM.

One-third of distributors that have actively shopped have decided, at least for now, not to make a purchase and here’s why:

  • Some are waiting for their management team to get onboard.
  • Others are building a business case or waiting for improved business conditions and cash flow.
  • For still others, it’s a matter of culture or a worry that salespeople will resist, arguing for autonomy or that CRM is a waste of time and effort.
  • Others are looking for reinforcement in the advice of executives that they respect and look to for validation or encouragement.

Of the many wholesaler-distributors that have shopped but not yet made a purchase, only a very small number indicated that they will never adopt CRM. As more than one wholesaler-distributor stated, “It’s not a question of whether we will adopt CRM, but when.”

Many executives argue that CRM is becoming the new normal because there is a fundamental need for improving sales productivity and viable software solutions have emerged.

Where are you with regard to adopting CRM?

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.

Have you downloaded the Pocket Guide about this important study yet?
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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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