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Gaining Control of Your
Sales & Marketing Channels

The Importance of Using CRM in Independent Distribution

Take a moment to consider your current sales process. When a lead comes to you, what are you doing with it? Are you following up on that lead yourself or are you passing it along to someone on your team? If you do follow up yourself, how are you keeping track of that lead? If you’ve passed that lead along, are you holding your salesperson accountable for following up in a timely manner until the business is closed? Are you doing this for every potential opportunity and determining the level of attention each lead gets based on a scale of value and possible revenue? Most importantly, are you doing any or all of this manually?

What is a CRM?

More often than not, especially in our industry, many of the processes alluded to above are done manually using spreadsheets, notebooks and calendar alerts. While effective to a certain extent, relying on manually operated tools, whether digital or not, will only get business owners, sales leaders, marketing experts and the like so far. In order to set your business up for healthy, manageable growth, it is best practice to invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology.

CRM is a technology used for the purpose of managing all company relationships and interactions with existing and potential customers. CRM technology is sourced, and typically hosted, through an outside provider who will work with their client to create and set up workflows and processes that align with the client’s current business model. From personal experience, the onboarding process for a CRM, including discovery, training and launch, will typically take anywhere from 2-4 months.

How it Works

Think of a CRM as a catch-all sales and marketing funnel. At its core, a typical CRM will usually function in the following way. (Keep in mind that CRMs are completely customized and can be tailored to your specific business. However, at their core, this is typically how they function). First, a lead finds its way to you or your sales team; this could be through in-person interaction, marketing efforts, referrals and so on. Once the lead is delivered, that lead is then assigned to a member of the sales team and given a level of priority. This priority scale is usually determined by the team and ranked on a level of potential revenue generation, likelihood to close business and how close they are to performing the action you would like them to take, i.e., place an order with you. Once that customer is assigned a category, they are placed into the salesperson’s pipeline and an automated chain of communication begins. This communication, determined by a follow-up schedule you are comfortable with, will send customized, automated communications based on the action the potential customer takes. For example, if customer A is entered into my pipeline as a grade 4 customer, on a scale of 1-5, and they open my initial welcome email within two days, but do not respond, a specific communication is sent. Similarly, if they open my email and do respond within two days, a different communication is sent. The same process follows all the way through the pipeline, which you will have mapped out with your CRM provider, accounting for every single possible action the customer could take and then responding to them accordingly.

This pipeline method follows suit well beyond the scope of closing business. Using a CRM will also give you the ability to send out action and sales-based email communications on a regular schedule based on your customer’s sales history as well as the actions taken on your website and email communications.

Why Automation is More Conducive for Success

As previously mentioned, trying to manually maintain a healthy sales pipeline and marketing follow-up system can only be done, with a marginal level of effectiveness, for so long. Our daily lives, both personal and professional, require a tremendous amount of our time, energy and drive in order to achieve success. By implementing a CRM, you are automating the marketing and sales actions you would have already taken, thus freeing up your time while also increasing the chance of closing business.

How to Source a CRM

Before deciding on a specific CRM, be sure to do thorough research, reach out to fellow IMARK members and consult with the IMARK Plumbing marketing team. Also consider contacting approved IMARK member service provider Sales Management Plus (SMP). SMP provides CRM and analytics for distributors. With SMP, IMARK members can effectively and proactively manage their sales and marketing efforts, including Gainshare Plans. Contact Chris Tucker at 949-274-8478 or

While every CRM offers a similar set of tools, certain software is geared for specific industries. In addition to researching the tech, take the time to really map out your currency sales pipeline and consider all possible scenarios that could take place while going through the process. This will only help when beginning the discovery phase of your CRM experience.