Sometimes less really is more — especially when you’re talking about technology.
Several studies show we spend too much time hunting for information, toggling from screen to screen, and ultimately losing time across platforms and databases.
In wholesale distribution, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of available apps and tools designed to streamline operations and boost efficiency.
But when building the optimal tech stack for your distribution company, less is often more. By selecting fewer tech vendors and building stronger relationships with those chosen partners, you can ensure better adoption, usage, and return on investment (ROI).
In our experience, it’s best to go deep with a single vendor offering multiple solutions to cover a range of needs. This approach simplifies your tech stack and provides a single point of contact, making it easier to build relationships, request features, and receive support.
Here is a software stack that will simplify your approach to the patchwork of tools you currently use in your business by reducing the number of vendors and tech tools you use.
CRM, short for customer relationship management, is key to good customer service. While CRM software has been around for a while, companies like Proton have given it a modern twist with artificial intelligence (AI).
Simply put, a CRM is like your customer’s diary. It tells you everything about your customers — what they’ve bought, who they’ve spoken to, and more. Companies that use CRM effectively can keep all this important customer info, even when their reps move on. A CRM is like a brain that holds all the knowledge about your customers in one easy-to-access place.
But what if we add AI to the mix?
Traditional CRMs store lots of data, but it’s up to the user to decide what to do with it. This is where AI can make a big difference.
An AI-powered CRM like Proton CRM uses AI and machine learning to look at customer data and behavior. This helps manage customer interactions better, improves how we engage with customers, and can even increase sales. With AI, it’s not up to the reps to figure out who to call and what to sell. The AI-powered CRM gives them the answers. It tells your reps who they should call, which customers might be thinking about leaving, and which ones have stopped buying things they used to. It’s like having a team of analysts working for you, but without the extra cost.
This system looks closely at customers’ buying habits. It finds patterns and trends that humans might miss. The AI does the hard work, making sure that products are reordered at the right time.
Proton’s AI-powered CRM is a game-changer. It does away with the need for separate business intelligence and AI software. It’s a 2-in-1 tool for CRM and business intelligence.
Some of Proton CRM’s most-loved features:
- Built for Distributors: Proton is specifically designed for distributors, capable of managing the complexities of selling a large product catalog. It integrates data from various sources including ERP, ecommerce, product information management (PIM) software, document storage, and more.
- 360-Degree View of Customers: Proton provides a comprehensive view of your customers, helping you understand them better. This enhanced understanding can boost sales and improve customer experience, transforming reps into proactive salespeople.
- Sales Plays: Proton’s AI guides your team to focus on accounts that require their attention and identifies areas where customers might be spending less.
- Rich Product Information: Proton stores all product information in the CRM, enabling reps to quickly familiarize themselves with your product catalog. This feature also aids account managers in finding the right products for each customer and suggesting relevant alternatives or add-ons.
- Mobile App: Proton offers a mobile app that puts real-time sales data directly into your reps’ hands, regardless of their location.
- Opportunity Pipeline: Proton lets you track large opportunities from creation to closed won/lost, ensuring no deals are overlooked. Reps can leave call notes for seamless follow-ups. This feature helps reps hit their quota and helps leadership forecast revenue and work with reps to move deals through stages.
- Automated Follow-ups: Proton handles quote follow-ups, enabling sales reps to consistently and effectively engage with each lead.
- Leads Management: Proton provides full visibility into your new business pipeline, complete with timely follow-up reminders and stage-based reporting. This enables reps and managers to work smarter to secure more business. Plus, linking new leads with existing accounts in your ERP ensures your CRM and ERP are always synchronized.
Today, most distributors use enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. ERPs integrate various departments and functions, such as finance, accounting, inventory management, human resources, and supply chain management, into a single system. The goal is to streamline business processes, improve productivity, and reduce costs. Distributors benefit significantly from implementing these systems because they can manage their business operations more efficiently and effectively.
One problem distributors face with an ERP solution is migrating data from the various silos across a distribution company. Investing in an ERP that easily integrates with your CRM, for example, will improve the efficiency of your systems and lessen the volume of software tools necessary to link platforms.
Infor is a highly scalable, efficient solution that combines ERP functionality with ecommerce and a warehouse management solution (WMS). Like Proton, it was purpose-built for distributors, allowing Infor to address the industry’s unique requirements.
Some benefits of Infor include:
- Comprehensive functionality to address distributors’ business processes, including inventory management, financial management, and more.
- Scalable up or down as needed and can accommodate small to large organizations.
- Real-time data allows distributors to make more informed decisions.
- Robust integration capabilities enable distributors to connect systems to optimize processes.
Warehouse Management System (WMS)
A WMS platform manages and optimizes warehouse or distribution center operations. WMS platforms manage and track inventory, reduce labor costs, optimize warehouse space, and improve overall efficiency.
Infor’s WMS offers industry-specific warehouse management functionality distributors need for order consolidation, cross-docking, and other value-added services. Infor’s intelligent software allows distributors to manage orders with wave planning, order streaming, and prioritization. Infor optimizes picking and packing functions, speeds shipping, and increases order accuracy.
Infor uses advanced algorithms to determine the most efficient product placement within the warehouse, reducing travel time for pickers and improving overall warehouse efficiency. The system even has 3D warehouse visualization of the warehouse, enabling distributors to better understand the layout, track product movements, and identify areas for improvement. Another unique feature is Infor’s integration with voice-enabled devices to allow your warehouse workers to perform tasks hands-free, increasing productivity and reducing errors.
Your customers want an Amazon-like shopping experience when shopping online. Every distributor needs ecommerce software because these tools expand your customer base, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction, offering a “rep-free” DIY buying experience.
The right ecommerce solution depends on your size.
- Small distributors: Unilog and Magento, now Adobe Commerce, offer the most feature-rich experience suitable for the smallest distribution companies.
- Unilog integrates with other business applications to give customers real-time access to accurate stock availability and pricing with rich catalog and content management.
- Adobe Commerce is rich in functionality for B2B, features embedded AI, and cross-channel personalization.
- Medium distributors: Like Proton, Optimizely leverages advanced AI algorithms to increase ecommerce sales.
- Optimizely has strong B2B capabilities such as product search and good RFQ workflow.
- Enterprise: Enterprise distributors often opt for a homegrown ecommerce platform, but the reality is that Infor Rhythm eliminates the need for costly software customization.
- With a fully integrated ecommerce system like Infor Rhythm, enterprise-level distributors benefit from Infor’s suite of ERP, WMS, and ecommerce for a four-in-one solution.
There is no question that office productivity tools matter to your business. Distributors, like many other industries, need office productivity software to create and manage documents, data, or finances.
Today, the Microsoft Suite of tools (Outlook, SharePoint, and OneDrive) are most often used in the distribution industry. But watch for Google Suite to make inroads as younger generations bring newer tools to bear on the industry. Microsoft is still a must-have for your software stack, with familiar features that make integrating these tools into your daily workflows easier.
Another benefit is that Microsoft Office tools are designed to work seamlessly together, allowing data to cross these versatile platforms. With the new 365 product line, Microsoft transitioned successfully into a cloud software as a service (SaaS) model, an essential move for these tools’ modern scalability and security.
Pricing Optimization Tool
Pricing optimization software improves margins by automating product pricing across your entire catalog of products. Pricing optimization gives distributors a competitive advantage because these tools enable intelligent on-the-ground decision-making as markets and customer demand shift. This software can even improve customer relationships by offering better pricing packages for repeat business.
Zilliant is an industry leader in pricing optimization. It’s made our preferred software stack list for distributors because this tool helps distributors:
- Respond quickly to real-time market changes.
- Actively manage customer price agreements.
- Streamlines price management processes.
- Grow revenue with targeted sales tactics.
- Use AI automation to improve the bottom line.
Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)
CPQ software often works with CRM, ERP, and other sales and business technology and helps distributors accurately and quickly generate quotes. Without CPQ software, sales teams must manually dig through spreadsheets to find the right prices and options to meet customers’ needs, slowing down the quote process. Distributors can define rules in CPQ software for every potential price/customers/discount configuration. After the CRQ software generates the quote, it sends it automatically for approval.
Epicor CPQ works with any ERP system and can be integrated with distributors’ core business systems. It features an advanced rule engine, dynamic pricing that changes as users change product options, and visual configuration of products in 2D, 3D, or augmented reality.
Infor CPQ can tailor functionality for distributors’ needs, plus provide a unified digital platform solution with ERP, ecommerce, WPS, and CPQ. It offers visual configuration that users can share across sales channels; 2D, 3D, and CAD assemblies; and accuracy in bills of material, shop orders, and order changes.
Route planning tools allow companies to track and manage routes in real-time no matter what team member is on the road from field sales reps to delivery drivers. This software uses algorithms to determine the best way for a user to get from Point 1 to Point 2 using data such as weather conditions, traffic, and more.
Although every distributor doesn’t require a route planning tool in its tech stack, it can help distributors with large field sales teams optimize their travel when in the field for sales calls. When software maximizes sales routes, sales reps can spend more time making sales and building relationships. Badger’s user-friendly interface makes creating new routes, reassigning accounts, and more simpler.
Product Information Management (PIM)
PIM tools give distributors a single place to manage, enrich, and distribute all product information to every sales channel. A PIM eliminates the manual work of updating and copying product information to and from each system every time there is an update.
A PIM is essential for distributors to:
- Deliver an omnichannel experience with accurate and comprehensive product data across every channel.
- Enhance operations by automating product updates.
- Reduce the time-to-market and meet customer expectations.
The Best Software Stack for Your Distribution Company
A patchwork of software platforms doesn’t allow your team to work efficiently because they lose time switching between software and dealing with data inconsistencies. Honing your software stack with the best tools will also save money by simplifying your IT infrastructure.
Distribution is a complex, ever-changing business. Proton is here to help you work smarter. Talk to our experts to discover how the right technologies can improve your business.