distributor sales representative adopting crm implementation for distributors

Elevate Distribution Sales with CRM Implementation

Implementing and adopting a CRM for customer relationship management presents a unique set of challenges for distributors. When done right, a CRM will help a sales team crush their quotas, accelerate sales cycles, and collaborate across the company. But in the case of CRM, reality too often looks different than those lofty goals. White Cup Vice President of Business Development Brian Friedle recently sat down with Tom Gale, CEO of MDM – Modern Distribution Management, to discuss some practical insights on the key elements to executing a successful CRM implementation.

Before joining White Cup, Brian was part of the leadership team at an industrial controls and OEM solutions distributor based in Kent, Washington. With over 25 years in the distribution industry, Brian can empathize with distributors’ challenges and the solutions needed to move through them.

CRM Adoption Challenges

CRM is typically tough to adopt. It’s something we’ve all dealt with at one point or another. You’ve heard stories, and you know statistics are very believable. According to CSO Insights, less than 40% of CRM customers have end-user adoption rates above 90%. About half of projects typically fail to get off the ground.

Forrester Research reports that 49% of CRM projects fail

The biggest challenge is getting the staff to use the software. But if CRM implementation is so difficult to adopt, why spend resources and time pushing teams to use it? The simple answer is that the benefits outweigh the challenges. CRM is known to increase sales by up to 29%, improve productivity by up to 34%, and improve customer retention by as much as 27%.

The average ROI for CRM is $8.71 for every $1 spent

White Cup has been selling customer relationship management software solutions for over 20 years, and we just released our newest CRM for distributors. We’ve had many conversations over the decades and have heard the same consistent concerns. It’s painful for owners to justify spending on software programs that may not be valued by their teams or teams that have struggled with previous software solutions that did not deliver. We often hear that “our sales teams are old-fashioned and resist change.” One way to negate this notion of the old-fashioned sales team is for executives to communicate the quantified value of a CRM and that it is in their best interest to adopt tools that will make their job easier.

A recent poll revealed that distributors are all over the board with understanding their need for a CRM, the value to their sales and marketing teams, and how to successfully implement the software. In order to adopt a CRM, we must first understand the value.

Ingredients for a Successful CRM Implementation

  • Pick the right CRM for your organization
  • Address human behavior around change
  • Understand and play your role

What’s the right CRM for me?

The first item on your checklist of customer relationship management criteria should be, is it easy. Complexity can detract from the user experience. In fact, 72% of CRM customers indicated they would trade functionality for ease of use, according to CSO Insights. The balance would be how you get the right features and the right amount of complexity. This requires a hard look at what your company needs and why you are buying or subscribing to a CRM. Consider features appropriate to your company’s size and industry sector early in your CRM selection process, whether it’s filling a need for tracking customer interactions or adopting marketing automation to save time.

Things for Distributors to Consider

distributors to consider for CRM

There is no reason in today’s world to settle for just a generic CRM. Distributors have the option to select a distribution-specific CRM solution. This means it will tie into your distribution ERP, email stack, and other enterprise platforms to easily move in and out of things.  It can even be part of a larger revenue intelligence platform and business intelligence dashboards – giving you good analytics and reporting to have visibility into seeing your customers’ sales. A typical distributor loses about 10 percent of their customers annually because of a lack of attention and not having data at their fingertips with actionable steps to take.

A CRM is also about marketing. The ease of email automation, notifications, and alerts can save your teams a great deal of time. Workflows simplify processes and direct actions that can easily be turned into sales. Communicating these features to your sales teams allows them to be creative with dedicated promotions and customer segmentation.

At White Cup, we have taken it one step further to provide a distributor with all the elements needed for success. Challenges in distribution do not always fall into a specific silo. It takes multiple sales management software tools to accomplish an overall goal. Our Revenue Intelligence platform comprises a CRM, BI (Business Intelligence), and pricing optimization tool that enables distributors with complete customer data visibility to make relevant decisions in the sales cycle. Consider all the possible integrations when choosing a CRM.

When selecting a CRM that’s right for you, consider the whole project from start to finish. Make sure you can spot the value your company needs and ways in which your CRM can help facilitate relevant business processes.

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The Behavior of Change

The Science of Forming New Habits

A study done in 2012 by Phillippa Lally was conducted to see how long it takes people to go from starting a new behavior to doing it automatically.  The average length of time that it takes people to get used to doing a behavior automatically is about 66 days, just over two months. The key is to keep working at it and have some realistic expectations. Everybody will get frustrated if you expect to have a CRM implementation done in two weeks, and it doesn’t take two weeks. It takes two months.

Another challenge is that the average adult attention span is about 20 minutes. What does this mean for training?  Allow your teams to take a bite at a time. Teach it, practice it, and come back for another bite. This is a much more effective way of training during the CRM implementation cycle.

How Will Your Team React?

attitude toward adopting crm

What happens when you roll your new CRM?  Typically, you get about 20% loyal followers and early adopters. Then there’s about 30 % that are very reluctant with the attitude of “ it’ll never work.” You’ve got to overcome that and stay positive. Then there’s that 50% percent of your teams waiting to see. The key is consistency and understanding that it’s part of the process to win people over to your initiative and get them engaged.

Building A Movement

How do you build a movement? It’s not necessarily crucial that early adopters engage but that influencers adapt your movement.  A McKinsey report showed that influencers in your company rarely follow the organization chart. Once you have identified these influential players, build your “team” by making it emotional and personal. Emotions drive decisions. Making more money for the company is not compelling unless you are the CEO. Winning is compelling, achieving a goal is compelling, and being better than those dirty rotten so-and-so’s down the street is compelling! Tell the whys, make it emotional, and tie it into the reality of what’s happening in the company.

Understand and Play Your Role

Management’s innovativeness affects the firm’s perception of CRM systems BUT age, education, and gender do not. Again, we often hear, “my sales team’s old-fashioned; they’re technophobes.” According to a study by Nguyen and Waring, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that management is involved and is supportive of innovation and technology. Executives at every level must play a role and help drive the CRM implementation and adoption through your organization.

Executive Leadership

Executives can demonstrate their supportiveness by staying involved. Continue to engage with your teams by measuring the effectiveness, the usage, and the engagement in the CRM. Use the data in the CRM and BI tool to ask questions about their responsibilities.  Get very granular when you have that weekly review with your sales team.

  • Use the date to ask questions
  • Schedule data reviews
  • Recognize and celebrate success

Force them to answer questions from inside the software. For example, you can ask questions like, “I see customer x increase their sales by 25%. What conversation did you have to inspire that? I want to capture and share it with the rest of the team. Let’s review the customer’s activities and notes and see where that change occurred”. The involvement is very powerful.

In Summary

The way to pick the right CRM is to ensure you understand what value you’re trying to accomplish and that you can articulate it and tie it back into your sales team. If you can articulate that, show it, and put goals around it, you’ll have a better chance of successful CRM implementation and adoption from the start. Understand that change is hard and rolling out a CRM software accordingly can be done in bite-size pieces. Remember, positive and ongoing executive sponsorship is key. Set the tone, and you’ll help everybody understand the real value behind CRM implementation.

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