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AI for Distributors: Moving Beyond the Hype To Make Artificial Intelligence Actionable

We’ve all been inundated with new stories and chatter about artificial intelligence this past year, and it’s a lot to unpack. In the distribution space, we have AI champions and skeptics, which is to be expected when any new tool or technology makes a splash. The distribution industry has historically lagged in technology adoption, primarily because building or finding solutions that meet distributors’ specific, complex needs can be challenging. 

Distributors don’t need to become experts in machine learning, complex algorithms, or the vast language models that power AI to harness its benefits. Instead, they should seek technology partners who specialize in these areas, capable of developing practical AI-driven applications and workflows. Such collaborations enable distributors to focus on sales and operational growth while leveraging AI in the most practical ways that help them to identify and execute their next best actions effectively.

Let’s look at a few common AI myths in distribution, along with actual use cases that make these advancements actionable and useful for today’s distributors.

Myth 1: AI Will Replace Human Workers

AI customer service software like chatbots have understandably been a cause for concern, bringing to mind a sci-fi-like world where robots are taking over because they can perform tasks faster (and cheaper). 

The reality is that AI is not here to wipe human workers off the face of the earth; instead, this technology can serve as a powerful tool to enhance people’s capabilities and make navigating the workday a little more efficient. Within distribution, AI technologies excel at automating repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time for staff to focus on strategic initiatives and having more meaningful conversations with customers.

Myth 2: All AI Outputs Are Immediate and Always Accurate

Sure, tools like ChatGPT can spit out hundreds of words on any topic you want, but that doesn’t mean the information you receive is accurate, or even relevant. Particularly in the complex world of distribution, it takes industry experts and seasoned workers to understand the nuances in this space. Over time, AI systems evolve and become more adept at delivering even more reliable insights and forecasting.

Myth 3: AI Is an All-in-One Solution

Over the last year, distribution leadership teams in particular have touted the potential of AI operational benefits within their businesses. It’s almost as though some executives view AI as the one solution that will solve any operational challenge with speed, accuracy, and minimal expense.

Enthusiasm is great, but this new technology isn’t a cure-all for the entire business. There are pitfalls of blindly latching on to the new big thing, which is commonly happening around AI. It’s most effective when integrated with other business systems and processes. It’s a tool to enhance, not replace, existing business strategies. It’s built for a purpose, it is not the purpose itself.

Myth 4: Implementing AI Requires Expert Knowledge

Contrary to popular belief, implementing AI doesn’t require hiring a prompt engineer to wrangle vast amounts of generated content this technology can provide. While AI is inherently complex, many user-friendly AI tools and platforms are designed with non-experts in mind. 

Distributors can start with ready-made AI solutions that require minimal setup and serve to automate specific processes. Ideally, you’ll find AI-enhanced CRM tools that don’t just suggest your next step, but direct you toward your next best action.

Myth 5: AI Is Only for Big Companies

AI technology is increasingly accessible and affordable, making it possible for small and medium-sized distributors to embrace and incorporate it into their daily activities. From simplified demand forecasting to customer service enhancements, AI offers a wealth of opportunities for distributors of virtually any size to optimize and automate tasks that otherwise take up precious time.

At White Cup, we understand the pivotal role of practical AI applications in distribution. Our focus lies in guiding distributors of all sizes toward actionable insights and clear next steps, empowering them to make savvy decisions and drive strategic growth. AI can distill vast amounts of data into tasks directly within your CRM, so you know exactly what to do next. 

When resources are limited, this can be incredibly powerful because it empowers smaller teams and equips them with what they need to gain a competitive edge and push beyond the status quo.

Practical Uses of AI for Distributors

The practicality of AI in distribution revolves around solutions that guide distributors toward actionable insights and clear next steps. But what does that mean exactly? Let’s dig into some specific distributor AI strategies that take this monolith of a topic and distill it down into practical action. 

Sell Smarter With Top Related Products

AI-integrated CRM tools streamline sales interactions by suggesting relevant products based on customer history, facilitating upselling and cross-selling opportunities. By quickly providing personalized solutions, sales reps strengthen their relationships, uplevel customer satisfaction, and drive sales success.

Stay On Top Of Customer Purchase Patterns  With Buying Cycle Insights

Intuitive alerts notify sales reps about any deviations in customer purchasing patterns, enabling timely engagement and maximizing sales opportunities. These add an element of personalization and automation to the sales process, empowering reps to focus on selling to people — rather than sifting through data on past purchases or relying on their gut instincts to determine the best time to reach out.

Transform Excess Inventory Into Sales Opportunities With Dying Stock Campaigns

AI analyzes inventory movement, identifying slow-moving stock and automating promotional campaigns that target customers most likely to buy those products. This benefits both your sales teams’ conversations and your marketing teams’ campaigns. By converting potential losses into possible gains, distributors can optimize inventory movement, mitigate losses, and maximize revenue.

Drive Strategic Growth With Predictive AI Forecasting Techniques

Predictive sales forecasting translates historical sales data into actionable forecasts, without requiring teams to spend days and days digging through P&L statements. Knowing what to expect monthly and quarterly helps distribution leaders make informed decisions for business expansion and risk mitigation. Distributors can drive sustainable growth through reliable long-term strategic planning by aligning AI initiatives with strategic objectives.

Get Started by Aligning AI With Your Business Goals 

First, remember that the best way to leverage AI in your business is to zoom in. Identify a specific, real-world problem you’re trying to solve, and explore ways in which AI might support your ability to solve it. Approach it from the lens of a real-world problem you’re trying to solve and see how AI can help guide you toward the answer. Cultivate an AI-ready culture in your business by starting with tools such as easy-entry, low-risk tools for everyday tasks like drafting emails.

You can build a team of early adopters in your distribution business by creating and sharing a library of AI prompts that work well. Ideally, you will then lean on your technology partners to provide AI-powered solutions that make sense for your business and drive results.

Discover Your Next Best Actions With AI 

While other technology providers are chasing AI trends offering complex, over-engineered solutions so they can capitalize on AI hype, White Cup is using AI to help distributors see and take their next best actions. We empower distributors to use AI across their entire organizations to maximize sales, enhance customer relationships, and hit their revenue goals. These tools and insights are available to your whole team so you can work together to win more. Learn more about how White Cup helps distributors discover their next best actions.


Written By

Kristen Thom Profile Image

Kristen Thom

Vice President of Product, White Cup

Kristen Thom is the Director of Product Management at White Cup. She joined White Cup, formerly Compass Sales Solutions, in 2013. With a customer-first commitment, Kristen has held roles across implementation, support, development, and customer success. She has almost 10 years of experience in the office technology space and almost 5 years of experience in the distribution industry. Kristen lives in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two dogs, and extended family.

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