What is CRM for wholesale distribution and why is it important?

5 min read - February 26, 2024


If you’re a wholesale distributor, you know how challenging it can be to manage your relationships with customers. For sales, it involves keeping track of leads, accounts and contacts, opportunities, inventory, pricing, discounts, orders, and more. You also need effective communications and alignment across your sales, service, and marketing teams. And you need to do all this while staying ahead of the competition and meeting the changing demands of your customers.

That’s where CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software comes in. CRM is a tool that helps you streamline your business processes, improve your customer service, and increase your sales. CRM (in the form of contact management) got its start in the 1980’s with a one-size-fits-all approach to centralizing customer information for sales, service, and marketing. Today, CRM still exists as a horizontal solution, but industry-specific options now exist – including for wholesale distribution.

For that reason, not all CRM software is created equal. As a whole distributor, you need a CRM solution that is designed specifically around your unique needs. Let’s explore what that means.

ERP integration

First and foremost, your wholesale distribution system needs to integrate with your ERP system. This is a critical consideration as it allows for real-time information to be shared between systems. This is especially important for your salespeople: as they are working with your customers, they can view current product information, pricing, and inventory as they create quotes, opportunities, and orders. There are many types of ERP systems available today making this an essential detail to check to ensure the best possible experience for your sales team.

Out-of-box capabilities

Wholesale distribution is a complex and competitive business, requiring a robust and reliable CRM system. You want a CRM system built for distributors by distributors that offers the following:

– Lead and account management: the most important yet minimal amount of information is tracked for leads as marketing and sales develops them into a customer. When ready, leads are converted to accounts and multiple contacts within the account can be included. All interactions – calls, meetings, notes, quotes, opportunities, service tickets, and more – are tracked to provide you with insights into your customers’ behavior, preferences, and trends. Actionable analytics take the guesswork out of what should happen next, while also helping to predict future opportunities.

– Quoting, ordering, pipeline, and forecasting: the ability to build quotes backed by real-time pricing and part, equipment, and/or service availability. Quotes can be created on-the-spot and in-the-moment using a mobile device or computer. Additional details (such as prior purchase frequency or other products to offer) are available using reports and analytics. Any available literature can also be shared with the customer during the quoting process. Quotes (as opportunities) provide an always-current view of the sales pipeline. When the customer is ready, quotes are easily converted to orders. Analytics use prior sales performance to help build forecasts. More broadly, this disciplined approach helps you build and maintain a sales culture that drives results.

– Service: provides a comprehensive view of customer information, history, preferences, and interactions and takes a collaborative approach to addressing problems. Customer service can provide personalized assistance and resolve issues more quickly by seeing what products, equipment, and services customers have ordered as well as review any prior requests or tickets. This informed service helps increase customer loyalty and retention.

– Marketing: delivering targeted marketing campaigns based on customer segments, behaviors, and interests. Campaign results can be monitored in real-time and fine tuned as needed. This helps generate more leads, nurture prospects, increase conversions, and grow orders.

Terminology and language

Your salespeople, marketers, and customer service agents do their job best when they speak the language of your customer. Shouldn’t your CRM system do the same? It must reflect your business domain, using terms such as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, suppliers, vendors, products, SKUs, and units of measure. The information it collects and manages (leads, accounts, opportunities, etc.), the reports it runs, and the analysis it performs should all match the language of wholesale distribution.

Knowledgeable service and support

What the CRM system provides and the terms and language it uses are important, but that only goes so far if it isn’t backed by great service. And great service is more than just responding to technical issues quickly. No, you need expert assistance who truly understands the challenges in wholesale distribution, creates a relationship with you, and builds trust through offering ideas and solutions that fit your needs.

More than nice-to-have

CRM for wholesale distribution is not just a nice-to-have; it is a must-have solution that can help distributors grow their business and stay ahead of the competition. By equipping your employees with it, you can:

– Increase your sales by finding new prospects, nurturing existing customers, upselling and cross-selling more products, closing more deals faster, and increasing repeat purchases

– Improve your customer service by providing faster responses, resolving issues quickly, delivering on promises, and offering personalized recommendations

– Reduce your costs by eliminating manual tasks, errors, duplication of work, and inefficiencies while increasing collaboration

– Gain a competitive edge by understanding your customers better, anticipating their needs, and offering them value-added solutions

If you’re looking for a CRM solution that can help you achieve these benefits and more, request a demo or contact us today.