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.
The Increased Role of Data in Sales and Marketing
The importance of data has evolved dramatically over the last several years. Access to data used to be a nice-to-have limited to executives and finance teams. Now, you have to have access to data just to compete.
Sales and marketing teams need to understand exactly how different offers and messages are performing so they can make the necessary adjustments to drive even greater success.
Over the last several years, the use data has gone through an evolution in the distribution industry.
First it was incredibly difficult to get to the data. Distributors were going beginning to get the most out of their ERP systems and track important data, but unfortunately you had to be a programmer to get the data out. For the most part, distribution teams were limited to the reports that came with their ERP systems and if you wanted to see something else you had to hire your own coder or pay for special services from your software provider.
Next, distributors began building some internal resources through their IT teams and hiring data analysts to get to their data. You now had access to all the data in your systems, but it required a lot of heavy lifting from IT any time you wanted to examine or analyze something new. This kind of access to data was time-consuming and expensive.
Then BI tools became more prevalent making it easier for the IT talent and data analysts to do their jobs. But BI was still difficult to use for the average distribution sales and marketing employee.
As BI tools improved, analysis become easier to do for each user. This reduced the amount of time IT teams and data analysts need to spend creating custom reports and tools for employees. Now, any user can get to the information that they need. But at SMP, we didn’t think just accessing information was enough.
The biggest gain for distribution is what SMP has provided, which is actionable analytics. Actionable analytics means not reporting for the sake of reporting or just seeing the information, but actually taking action based on that information.
Maybe you want to be able to instantly create a marketing list and then execute a marketing campaign based on the data. That is a multi-step process if you are using other BI tools. Those tools might let you look at your data, but they cannot create campaigns, lists and activities right from the same data visualization. SMP can. You move effortlessly from thought, to analysis to execution all within a single platform.
With other systems, you might get a static report such as which branches are up or down in sales volume, but then what? With SMP you’ll get not only access to that data, but all the customers that fit within that branch, the contacts of those customers so you can assign follow up activities instantly to the reps assigned to those accounts and marketing can provide some air cover to the same accounts. And this happens all in SMP’s platform instantly.
We’re also starting to see more and more sales and marketing teams demand their own self-serve analytics to drive better decisions. It’s not enough to rely on canned reports, smarter teams need more flexible data analysis tools which allow them to create unique and sometimes unconventional insights for better differentiation.
These visualizations allow your sales and marketing people to create flexible, interactive data visualizations and explore data in ways that make sense to them.
Sales and marketing teams with these capabilities will get the deals off the street much faster than laggard distributors. Our own focus group studies and experience with many distribution companies has proven this out over and over again.