So many times a CRM is used as a management tool for reporting. Clients forget – or simply cannot get their heads around the need – to make it a productivity tool.

If you’re in the building materials business, with all its gloriously fragmented channels to market, the complexity of product lines, and the myriad choices that your customers have, useful data on sales is one of the most powerful tools you have. As a sales rep, you need solid and sound data, distilled for your needs, presented at your fingertips.

So while we’ve long past being surprised when we encounter a client who doesn’t acknowledge that integration of sales data into their CRM should be virtually priority number one, we’re still disappointed when we see it.




Let’s imagine the top-of-mind questions that a CRM could answer for a sales rep:

How am I doing? Sales reps are incentivized by commissions. It stinks to have to wait till the end of the month (or quarter), after the fact, to get emailed a static report of sales results for a territory. Summary sales performance on the login home page is eye candy for a sales rep.

How are my accounts performing? Clicking into a customer account, a rep should be able to see up-to-date sales data. Year-to-date, year-on-year, quarter-on-quarter performance; by-product-category sales and trends;

What’s on order? It’s very helpful to know what orders have been placed in recent days, shipped or not. What’s trending? What’s backlogged? Did a key order get entered?

How can I answer my customer, right now? It sure is frustrating for a sales rep to get asked for shipment status, and have to refer the customer to customer service or be forced to ask them himself. A sales rep should be able to get to shipment status themselves, right now.

How should I spend my time? Top buying accounts should be the most important, based on either sales volumes or forecast. And should, therefore, get the most of attention, so reps can plan weekly visits, with monthly visits on other accounts.

Where are the emergencies? Customers who have stopped buying slowed buying, or dropped one product line represent attrition risk. Bubbling those accounts to the top of a list to push the to front-of-mind for a rep empowers them to take proactive action.

Where are my best opportunities? Highlighting new-product opportunities within priority accounts helps a rep build share of wallet. So building out a “white space” report under each account that flags product category priorities based on the characteristics of the account

Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t make them go find the data themselves! Business Intelligence tools are amazing, but cutting data is for analytical minds, and that’s a skill that many high-EQ relationship experts resident in your sales teams do not have. So giving them analytical tools that allow them to do the cuts themselves will often be unused. Instead, know what signals they need to see.