Why Too Many Dealers Fail at CRM

Why Too Many Dealers Fail at CRM
written by Scott Cullen June 1, 2021

It’s a common problem, but there is a fix.

For Dominic Pontrelli, founder of Pontrelli Marketing, many dealers are not using their CRM platform properly, which not surprisingly has a detrimental effect on sales and their overall business. In this interview, he identifies the pitfalls and shares ways that dealers can leverage their CRM program to better align key marketing and sales activities to drive strategic revenue growth and create stronger customer relationships.

CRMCR: What are some of the biggest problems in the way dealers are using their CRM platforms?

Pontrelli: The CRM was not properly introduced to the office equipment dealer channel as it was primarily positioned as a sales activity tool. Secondly, most dealerships are not managing key sales and marketing metrics through the CRM to the levels capable. The CRM is predominantly used for sales, proposal writing, pipeline/forecasting, and sales order processing. There is currently little to no marketing being conducted through the CRM.

CR: Is this the dealer’s fault or is some of the blame with the CRM platform providers, or is it nobody’s fault?

Pontrelli: The CRM providers, in my opinion, never truly exposed or educated the dealer channel on the meaning of CRM tool, which stands for Customer Relationship Management. Case in point, the term ‘data marketing’ was never used within the channel, which is a fundamental component of the CRM. Secondly, the imaging industry business model has not significantly changed over the past 20 years and we have long-term copier sales representatives that have never really needed to depend on the CRM for their continued success over the years.

CR: So how can a dealer use CRM?

Pontrelli: Here are three examples: Firstly, a dealer can better utilize customer data which syncs from their ERP. Customers can use existing customer data, such as lease expiration, which most do, service information, and other types of data that can be fed into their CRM to be able to contact customers accordingly. Secondly, dealers can better coordinate quarterly business reviews/account business reviews by monitoring this activity within the CRM. Lastly, the CRM plays a huge role as it relates to the alignment of sales and marketing tactics. As dealers begin to target specific market segments that might be more advantageous to position value added offerings like managed print services, production, managed IT services, or content management. The CRM platform allows for a true alignment with sales and marketing to identify real opportunities and target specific accounts and markets which are proven to be the highest probability of success.

CR: Is this a challenging thing for dealers to do on their own?

Pontrelli: Yes, as it requires a change in a sales-led culture going back to the previous re-seller business model comment. Behavior change is required. Universally, across most B2B companies, salespeople do not like to enter data into a CRM. I have witnessed this resistance since the early CRM days in 1998, during the times of ‘homegrown’ systems. This reluctance has been a common topic with corporate sales and marketing peer-to-peer groups since the inception of the CRM. So, modifying these behaviors is challenging. Secondly, management needs to allow marketing to assist in the revenue generation process versus its traditional role of coordinating events and providing content.

CR: Are there any other strategies that dealers can implement to experience the best outcome?

Pontrelli: Two major strategies should be implemented within the CRM. The first strategy is to implement, manage and monitor the stated sales strategy. We hear strategies like wider and deeper, capture ‘x’ number of net new / prospect adds per month, ‘x’ number of QBRs, ‘x’ of proposals, or pipeline minimums. The dealer should implement, monitor, and manage its sales strategy within your CRM. Second is creating a marketing strategy to assist in driving targeted revenue growth. Treat marketing as a revenue growth engine. Aligning sales and marketing strategies is where it begins. For the past seven years, we have stated sales and marketing integration occurs within the CRM.

CR: I would imagine instant gratification is unrealistic?

Pontrelli: The average dealer can see an impact within six months. However, it will take about up to 24 months to truly embrace a true customer relationship management tool and establish a productive marketing engine, including the integration of the ERP data, marketing automation, website functionality, and MQL process.

CR: If a dealer wants to take this journey, they can either try to do it themselves or they can call in somebody like you to help them make this happen. How do you assist dealers to more effectively leverage the CRM platform to drive revenues?

Pontrelli: We have a proven process that was developed throughout my 34-year corporate career. We took a proven B2B process and modified it to the independent dealer channel. With 17 years of corporate sales experience, from down the street copier sales to GM of a Global FG500 business unit, we understand the issues of sales as it relates to the CRM. With 17 years of marketing experience, from product manager to marketing SVP of the Americas, we were very much engaged with the CRM from that perspective as well. We have a unique ability to integrate sales and marketing processes within the CRM tool, specific to the independent dealers, with over six years of successfully working with a wide range of dealer sizes. The process and methodology is straight forward, logical, and proven.

CR: Are there enough dealers that understand that they need to improve in this area?

Pontrelli: Absolutely. This topic is truly relevant as dealer owners are beginning to recognize their customer account records are not as accurate and complete as necessary. Sales rep turnover compounds this issue, as a new account owner is assigned to customers who basically starts from scratch. We have worked with many dealers where sales representatives do not have decision maker contact information within up to 50% of the CRM account records. And certainly, the customer does not know their new representative due to turnover. The result is customers are not aware of the value-added messaging. The mechanism to conduct such a function is not being properly utilized. As more dealers reposition its brand messaging from copier dealer to technology/services provider, it is critical for marketing to assist sales by continually touching existing decision makers, influencers, and coaches. We see much more marketing activity within the dealer channel over the past six years. The CRM platform is the most efficient and powerful way to align marketing efforts with sales strategies to grow revenues.