Distribution sales teams often ask us, “when is the best time to implement CRM?” That implies that there is a wrong time to implement CRM; however, is there ever a wrong time to grow sales in your company? The truth is that when business is down that is exactly the time you need to do something different to empower your team to grow sales and take the time to retool your sales practices. And when business is up, you need a tool to help support your growth so that the wheels don’t come off the bus.
Helping Your Organization Embrace CRM Best Practices
One of the biggest challenges distribution businesses face in implementing a new CRM application is getting their reps to embrace it and use it wholeheartedly. Most of the distribution companies we talk to who have tried to implement a mainstream CRM application tell us that their reps just don’t use it enough. We think this is because the mainstream CRM applications are not designed for distribution sales and marketing. Specifically, mainstream CRM applications do not understand what it takes to align a distribution sales rep’s needs with the needs of a wholesale distribution company. Distribution sales reps are more likely to embrace a CRM system designed for distribution because it not only aligns with the organizational goals of increasing sales and centralizing information, but also with the sales reps’ goals of increasing the size of their commission checks.
There are usually two approaches in implementing CRM systems. The first approach is common to most CRM applications and is something we call a “top-down” approach. This is where the owners and executives of the company tell the sales reps that using CRM is part of their job description. Company management needs to have visibility into sales activities, which companies are called on, what conversations are had, what is coming next and the state of the opportunities in the pipeline. It’s important to centralize this information across the organization because it is the company’s intellectual property. While this is a necessary approach—there’s certainly nothing wrong with increasing visibility across centralized sales and marketing data—it doesn’t motivate your sales team to embrace CRM best practices. The reps don’t feel empowered by the system to close more sales, they simply feel that the tool is used to monitor their behaviors. This approach is typically all stick and no carrot, and so the sales team only does the minimum they need to get by.
At SMP, we add a second approach to implementing a distribution CRM system that we call the “bottom-up” approach. We think this is unique to SMP because it requires years of distribution sales experience and tight integrations to distribution software systems. SMP helps your sales reps connect the dots between the value of CRM in your organization and the value of CRM in meeting their personal goals. Our CRM system is married to your ERP system so that it in addition to tracking and centralizing sales information, it also provides valuable information to the sales team that shows them how to make more money. Further, that information is available instantly at their fingertips on their mobile devices and laptops.
With SMP, your reps embrace CRM. We coach them on best practices using the system information to discover where they should spend their time, where to locate low-hanging fruit and maximizing the value in each of their accounts. It even helps tie product and past sales information together so that each of the sales discussions is better targeted to the needs of each client. The bottom line for the rep is that they love to use SMP because it puts more money in their pockets.