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Digitalization Complements Distribution Sales Representatives For Better Relationship Management

In distribution, customer relationships are paramount. Most distributors work intimately with a handful of businesses and must carefully endeavor to maintain those partnerships; according to a 2021 study published in Processes, high-quality distribution relationships facilitate trust and boost customer satisfaction, which, in turn, boost the likelihood of future collaboration.

Given that relationships fundamentally require people, it is easy to get misled and believe that human representatives alone should manage all of customer relations. However, as Gerent’s Director of Distribution, Nicholas Holbik-Siu, explained in a recent white paper, “that’s just not true. Good opportunity pipeline management requires human empathy, sure, but humans shouldn’t be responsible for coordinating the entire relationship themselves — it’s too much to handle.”

Distribution sales representatives are frequently inundated by communications from prospective clients. With so many leads to manage, they may struggle to provide timely service, and potential customers can slip through the cracks. Digitalizing relationship management is vital in these cases — not to wholly remove humans from the work, but to help them perform their best.

Issues Arising From Completely Manual Relationship Management

As discussed in the aforementioned white paper, it is not uncommon for some distributors to delegate relationship management entirely to sales representatives. Holbik-Siu notes, “There’s this perception that distributors will somehow dilute the relationship between a customer and their sales contact by bringing in technology.”

However, without technological automation, manual tasks overburden employees’ workloads. Even the most talented sales reps can only handle so much information at a time — so when work becomes overwhelming, mistakes and issues will inevitably arise.

  • Limited Visibility: Without digital organization, it can be difficult for distribution employees to keep track of their leads and see the entire picture. As Holbik-Siu explains, “you might believe that you have 20% market share for the type of businesses you serve, but you could potentially only be aware of 50%. But because you don’t have visibility, you don’t know that you’re only seeing half of the market’s opportunities — there’s a whole other 50% you aren’t even aware of.” 
  • Poor Customer Service: Nowadays, customers expect timely service catered to their needs. If sales representatives become swamped by incoming communications, they may struggle to provide quick responses, let alone personalized service. Given the sheer volume of messages that reps tackle daily, sales reps who handle communications manually are bound to miss at least a couple — and thus curtail potentially lucrative conversations.
  • Missed Sales: Customers seldom commit to a single distributor, often considering other options and requiring extra convincing. In fact, Fundera found that customers require at least five follow-ups to complete a sale. However, sales reps are so frequently bogged down that they can rarely do more than one follow up, with 44% giving up after a single “no.” Consequently, reps abandon many leads, resulting in fewer profits.

Thus, when manually triaging communications becomes overbearing, digitalization can reduce the load and free sales reps to work on the tasks that truly require a human touch.

Digital Relationship Management Does Not Replace But Complements Sales Representatives

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools help companies efficiently manage every aspect of their customer relationships, from client information to interactions. They are not meant to make human sales representatives obsolete; instead, they’re designed to complement workers and help them deliver their best work.

With a CRM, distributors can reduce employee burnout, increase efficiency, and rectify the previously mentioned issues of manual management. A few other enablements include: 

  • Gaining Greater Visibility: By using a CRM, distributors can predict future customer demand, manage projects step-by-step, and keep track of all business opportunities from new leads and prospects to current clients.
  • Providing Stellar Customer Service: A CRM makes important customer information easily accessible to customer service representatives and their clients. With the data, human representatives and AI assistants can provide more personalized service.
  • Eliminating Missed Opportunities With Automation: A CRM’s automated workflows reduce sales reps’ manual burden and help them keep track of every potential client. As a result, sales reps are freed to pursue promising prospects, and no lead goes unnoticed.

When it comes to managing customer relationships, digitalization is not a bane but a boon that supports employees and improves business outcomes. To learn more about how digitalized relationship management can enhance your company, read our white paper, ”Distributors Build More Efficient, Empathetic Opportunity Pipelines with Digital Relationship Management”. 

If you’d prefer to speak directly with a CRM expert, you can also contact Gerent for a consultation!

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