CRM for Distributors Buyer's Guide

Elevate Your Sales Game and Close More Deals

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is essential in today’s distribution sales landscape — but most solutions on the market weren’t designed for the distribution business model. There’s a growing demand for distribution CRM software that integrates with ERP systems without extensive customization.

Two people evaluating a CRM for distributors


As distributors adapt to changing dynamics, distribution CRM software has evolved to become much more than a tool for logging activity and tracking sales performance.

In this CRM for distributors buyer’s guide, we’ll discuss the key benefits of CRM software, the most important factors distributors should consider when evaluating solutions, how to improve user adoption, and how to maximize the impact of your CRM with battle-tested sales workflows.

As distributors adapt to changing dynamics, distribution CRM software has evolved to become much more than a tool for logging activity and tracking sales performance. A robust, user-friendly CRM platform enables businesses to document and analyze interactions across both digital and traditional channels, offering valuable insights for strategic decision-making and customer engagement. This approach empowers sales teams to be more efficient and focused, aligning their efforts with customer expectations and emerging market trends.

In this CRM for distributors buyer’s guide, we’ll discuss the key benefits of CRM software, the most important factors distributors should consider when evaluating solutions, how to improve user adoption, and how to maximize the impact of your CRM with battle-tested sales workflows.

Benefits of CRM Software for Distributors

When CRM software works well, it has significant impact across your organization and a ripple effect that extends to your customers and vendors.

A Forrester Research study found CRMs boosted team productivity by 35% and increased customer retention by more than 25% on average.

How ERP, CRM, and Business Intelligence Work Together

A flywheel of CRM for distributors

While most companies rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to manage critical functions, these are primarily designed for internal operations.

They are ideal for managing finance, HR, inventory, purchasing and other processes, but they aren’t built to support sales, marketing and customer support — especially in a complex distribution business model. Many ERP systems include basic CRM functions like contact management and email services, but they lack the depth and sophistication of dedicated CRM solutions. They may not enable remote access for a sales team on the road or connect to other departments, leaving your company with a limited view of the customer journey.

They also are not designed to be business intelligence solutions. While ERP systems gather a wealth of data, most distributors need additional BI tools to consolidate information into reports and actionable insights. They may even need to hire a data analyst or a consultant to prepare a report each time they need to analyze product trends, evaluate pricing, or forecast sales for the upcoming quarter.

In a sales landscape marked by growing consolidation of distribution giants and increasingly competitive pricing, the integration between an ERP, CRM, and business intelligence is critical. Modern CRM solutions equipped with BI capabilities enable distributors to forecast product and category demand more accurately. This precise forecasting is crucial for effective communication and collaboration with suppliers. It allows distributors to set realistic expectations and helps suppliers understand anticipated demand patterns.

Without a deeply integrated CRM and BI solution, distributors risk basing their forecasts on outdated or incomplete data, such as the previous year’s sales figures. This approach fails to account for variables such as the shifting nature of customer demand or any active deals in the pipeline. An integrated system ensures that forecasting is not only based on historical data but also incorporates real-time insights from ongoing customer interactions and market trends.

The Importance of Distribution CRM Software

The unfortunate reality is that as mission-critical as a CRM is for distributors, research from consulting groups over the past two decades shows between 30-70% of all CRM implementations fail.

There are many factors contributing to CRM failures, but some of the most common culprits are higher than expected costs, low user adoption, and lack of integration with existing systems.

In an industry where ERP systems are central to business operations, the importance of integration can’t be overstated.

Distribution CRM software has evolved considerably beyond ERP add-on tools, but most modern solutions are designed to meet the needs of a range of industries. They weren’t designed for distribution sales operations, and they don’t integrate with ERP systems without extensive customization.

This makes them extremely expensive and time-consuming to implement — a cost most companies don’t anticipate until it’s too late. In addition to the upfront costs, which can be tens of thousands of dollars, these custom integrations can add months to the original implementation timeline. There’s also no guarantee this patchwork of custom integration will work as intended.

Distributors also need to invest time into training their teams to use solutions that can be overly complex, navigating through many features and functions they don’t need. They’ll spend considerable time building workflows that work for their business model, which all adds to the time it takes to see the return on their investment in the software.

The frustration of using a solution that wasn’t built for them may be enough to push sales reps back to old familiar tools and bad habits. Traditional CRM solutions often has limitations on the number of users who can access it, so companies restrict it to their outside sales team.

Evaluating CRM Software

With the impact of CRM software extending across your organization and affecting both sales and long-term business growth, it’s a choice that deserves careful consideration.


Callico Distributors moves from reactive reporting to data-driven decision making with White Cup CRM and BI

Callico Distributors is a family-owned, third-generation wholesale distribution company providing janitorial, food service, office supply and packaging supplies to resellers throughout New England. With a large number of products and significant warehouse space, Callico helps other distributors serve an array of customers without high shipping and storage costs.

Contemplating a CRM for distributors

Before implementing White Cup CRM and BI, the company had to hire data analysts to produce meaningful reports from its ERP system, which was expensive and time-consuming.

“We didn’t have any insight into purchasing behavior, and we couldn’t report on accounts receivable or accounts payable. We didn’t have any executive reports. We were just blind in a lot of ways.”

Cole Callahan photo
Cole Callahan
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Callico Distributors, Inc

Since implementing White Cup BI, the company has increased profitability using data to make more strategic, growth-driven decisions. It also uses White Cup CRM to set smarter sales forecasts, improve customer engagement and monitor sales performance.

How To Increase CRM User Adoption

Distribution CRM software benefits your entire organization by improving visibility into opportunities and streamlining processes. Helping everyone understand what’s in it for them and involving key people across your company in the decision will help them overcome any objections.

Distribution CRM Workflows That Drive Sales 

The best CRM solutions empower your entire team to work together to increase customer engagement and attract new opportunities. Here are some specific examples of workflows to help your team maximize the ROI of your CRM.

Lead nurturing workflows

While much of your team’s focus is on selling more to existing customers, your team may also receive prospects from several sources, including trade shows, website inquiries, and digital advertising. A lead nurturing workflow is a series of emails welcoming the prospect and sharing more information about what you offer with the ultimate goal of driving them to become a customer. With a CRM that includes marketing automation, you can quickly build a series of emails using templates and schedule them to send when a contact meets certain criteria, such as requesting information or being added to a list from a trade show.

Workflows for CRM for Distributors

Workflows for open deals 

Failing to follow up on an open deal is the fastest way to lose that sale, but it happens more often than you’d think.
<h4>Research from Zendesk <strong>shows 80% of sales require five follow-ups to be successful, yet almost half of all salespeople never follow up after an initial outreach.</strong></h4>
Your team can create workflows to send automated reminders to take action on open deals, including trigger notifications for a rep to follow up with customers by email after a meeting and automated emails to customers with quotes awaiting signatures.

Workflows for customers with declining sales

Workflows to customers with declining sales

With business intelligence built into your CRM, you can see which customers are becoming less engaged and send specific outreach to entice them. Create a list of customers with declining sales, select an email template, and send the email within minutes.

Cart abandonement workflows

Cart abandonment workflows

If your website allows customers to buy online, you might be surprised to learn that only three out of 10 people who attempt a purchase actually make it to checkout, according to website tracking software Hotjar. With an integration between your CRM and eCommerce platform, you can quickly identify those potential buyers. Your team can send automated abandoned cart emails and personally follow up with others based on attempted purchases or orders. These emails are overwhelmingly successful, with average open rates of about 40% and click-through rates at more than 23%.
<h4><strong>Only three out of 10 people who attempt a purchase actually make it to checkout.</strong></h4>

Customer review workflows

Customer review workflows

You know your customers love you, but other prospects may not. Quality customer reviews boost your credibility. Consider creating workflows to send emails to new customers asking them to write a review.

Sales performance reports

Most sales teams have a regular cadence of reports they’re required to submit on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. Sales leaders often review these reports with individual team members during performance reviews. Compiling them is often a tedious process, requiring support from the IT team and proficiency using Excel or similar programs. A CRM with built-in business intelligence eliminates the need to create many of these reports by displaying critical information in dashboards. You can also schedule these reports to be sent to specific recipients on a regular basis so you’re not scrambling at the end of the month.

Dashboards for CRM for Distributors

Set the Foundation for the Future of Distribution Sales

The right CRM software isn’t just a tool. It’s a strategic investment in your customers and your company’s future success. It empowers your whole team with actionable insights, fosters collaboration and aligns your sales and marketing strategies with market demands. When your team can see the full picture of every account and contact, from the products they considered on your website to their purchasing history from the past year, you can take a more consultative approach to selling.

Schedule a Free CRM Consultation

As you consider your options, it’s helpful to have a conversation with a CRM provider to see how the software can support your company’s goals. Schedule a consultation with our team to discover:

  • How to ensure your CRM includes all the right data from your ERP system and eCommerce platform
  • What business intelligence you can see within the software
  • What workflows you can create to streamline sales and other processes
  • How each team member will use the software to identify priorities and take action
  • What systems you may be able to replace with White Cup CRM + BI
  • What pre-built integrations and templates are available to help you get started sooner
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