1) Manage customer contact information.

Perhaps the most basic of benefits, CRM helps salespeople create and maintain a database of customer information from basic information about names and positions, to personal information about business goals, professional affiliations and family members. Some solutions will integrate with business social media sites and prepopulate data. More actionable solutions may show formal and dotted-line reporting relationships, a valuable feature when selling strategies that require multiple points of contact and a salesperson’s ability to create deep and wide relationships through personal networking skills.

2) Manage sales pipeline or territory results.

CRM has the potential to transform a salesperson from order-taker to opportunity manager by reflecting each distributor’s process for developing opportunities or optimizing a territory and tracking progress across a phased approach. By matching the sales process embedded within CRM, sales leaders can ensure that all necessary steps are followed, achieving the incremental outcomes that lead to ultimate success. Salespeople benefit from an easy-to-use, low-maintenance tool to plan their daily, monthly and quarterly activities.

3) Provide access to customer data for salespeople.

More than one wholesaler-distributor admitted that salespeople often “wing it” when the time comes to visit a customer, answer a customer question or solve a customer problem. A more generous description of this reality is to believe that salespeople act on experience and judgment gained over many years. This perspective comes up short relative to today’s customer expectations, which are increasingly about wanting proof. CRM helps salespeople succeed by placing information, including purchases, deliveries, rebates and trouble tickets at their fingertips for better call planning, problem resolution and follow-up.

4) Provide data for coaching by sales managers.

From a best-practice perspective, sales managers should spend at least 50 percent of their time coaching salespeople. Without CRM, coaching discussions are often data-free and are more about storytelling than developing constructive solutions to address specific competitive situations or development needs for a salesperson. CRM dramatically improves coaching by focusing the conversations on facts, which results in superior plans. As coaching helps guide sales behaviors, salespeople realize more and more success, strengthening the coaching process.

5) Improve handling of leads and prospects.

Developing new accounts and finding new sales opportunities are time-consuming and frequently low-yield processes. When sales results are going well, lead generating and prospecting are neglected, resulting in a complete lack of momentum when new business efforts have greater urgency. CRM upgrades lead handling by integrating multiple sources of leads (for example, trade shows, advertising, inbound inquiries or referrals) with the appropriate salesperson’s daily dashboard. Moreover, CRM enables tracking of the end-to-end lead handling and follow-up process, which demonstrates the value of action on prospects for salespeople and provides sales managers with a tool for fostering accountability.


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