Historically, wholesale operators have not invested a lot of resources in technological innovations. At the same time, traditional CRM solutions have not responded to their needs. With the evolution of wholesale-oriented CRM and the embracing of new solutions by wholesalers and distributors, that reality is rapidly changing.
Why CRM and wholesalers didn't mix
Generic CRM systems provide tools which log and manage the prospecting and qualification process. This leads to an optimally managed sales pipeline.
Sales reps in the field, however, require special information and processes in addition to the standard marketing features offered by generic CRM systems. They need to educate existing customers (retailers) on new products, present these products in the most compelling manner, and help maintain optimal stocking levels of best-selling products. For this, ideally, they need a smart e-catalog ordering application that is integrated with their ERP and provides critical real-time sell-through and inventory information.
Wholesalers should also have a display management solution that allows their sales reps to take pictures and file them automatically when they visit retail outlets. No generic CRM provides this type of information or capabilities.
Needed: a customer-centric focus
Traditional CRM solutions have centered more on the ‘M’ than the ‘C’ in CRM. As the interface between the wholesaler and retailer, sales reps are primordial to the wholesaler’s success. Yet, CRM models have typically been geared more towards management than to the customer-facing road warriors and the retailers they serve.
Driving this point home, a report by Forrester called Beyond CRM: Manage Customer Experiences talks about the importance of “understanding customers' behaviors and needs, focusing on data rather than systems, and building a customer-centric culture.”
How CRM has evolved to respond to meet the needs of the sales rep
The good news is that there are finally mobile CRM solutions that serve the unique requirements of sales reps as well as management. These apps empower sales reps with valuable insight into the performance and needs of their customers, the retailers, helping to serve them better. Furthermore, information can be made available to the entire sales team, enabling the sales reps to collaborate and share pertinent data.
Some solutions have capabilities such as:
- Syncing with calendar, emails, contacts and tasks, allowing reps to easily schedule and manage calls, meetings and correspondence
- Assigning and managing action items, tracking and reporting visits and scheduling reminders (one-time and recurring)
- Generating customized reports and dashboards displaying the performance of products, customers and sales reps, bringing important sales information and trends to the forefront
- Display management of products in stores, with picture-taking enabling wholesalers to check on and document customers’ compliance with display requirements and contractual terms regarding fixtures, signs and placement of items and to stay informed about competitors’ displays
- GPS integration allowing reps to plan the most logical route for the day and see the maximum number of clients
- Offline mode, enabling sales reps can access critical data when Internet access is limited or unavailable
- Ability to view pertinent information about a customer, such as debt and sales history
- Attaching documents, photos and videos to an account
With features such as these, sales reps have a solution geared specifically towards them and their customers. It also effectively serves management by keeping sales managers updated about the activities of their sales reps.
Reaping the benefits
For wholesalers who leverage the opportunities offered by the latest CRM solutions, the benefits can be substantial. WRNTY’s SupeRep™, for example, is an all-in-one solution for sales reps that also incorporates digital catalog and sales ordering and can be integrated with any ERP to seamlessly connect the sales process and back office.
Jonathan Lewis, Managing Director of General Optical, sums up his experience with the new CRM paradigm for wholesalers: “We now have a truly collaborative platform that is easy to use and has made our reps much more organized and productive. Our sales team has a more customer-centric structure; this has shown immediate ROI due to the increase in sales and productivity and reduction in administrative tasks.” To read the complete success story, click here.