CRM has had a bad rap in distribution, but Mark Dancer of Channelvation says the tide is starting to turn. The cost to adopt customer relationship management tools and the technology that makes it easier to use are both contributing to more distributors considering or already using CRM for managing sales pipelines, automating sales and marketing processes, lead management and sharing information internally.
I spoke with Dancer on the topic of customer relationship management tools for the latest episode of Executive Briefing, available at www.mdm.com/executivebriefing. Dancer is publishing a book on CRM this summer with the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.
Dancer said distributors commonly make two mistakes when approaching CRM for their businesses.
The first is doing too much, too quickly.
“It’s really easy to get caught up in a lot of excitement about a lot of the features and benefits,” Dancer said, “and look at it as almost a smorgasbord of solutions you can use and try to do everything all at once.”
A better approach, Dancer said, is to pick just a couple of functions or to choose one territory or a couple of salespeople. In starting small, you can build credibility and generate early successes. “Those early successes can then be used to go to the rest of the sales force and show them how CRM is not just hype, it’s actually something that can help them.”
The second most common mistake distributors make is having an obsessive focus on return on investment, or the ROI. Distributors are practical, Dancer said, and it is good to look at ROI. But the cost to adopt CRM is much lower than it used to be thanks to emerging cloud-based services that don’t require investment in traditional software or maintenance. And the benefits reaped from using CRM are not always tangible. “They should think about it in terms of outcomes that they achieved that they would not have achieved without CRM, as well as things they are doing today that they can stop,” Dancer said.
CRM may enable better win rates, better allocation of effort toward sales opportunities, higher customer retention, moving new products through the sales process faster and other benefits that are harder to put a dollar figure on.
Hear more about Dancer’s advice for using CRM tools, as well as how distributors use CRM today, lessons learned from other distributors who use CRM and tips for selecting a CRM vendor in the latest Executive Briefing, available on-demand or to download and watch on your computer.
Hear more about common mistakes and lessons learned in the clip below.