The Distribution Blog

The Role of AI in Distribution CRM

February 23, 2023

Table of Contents

Is your CRM investment worth it? Are CRMs the right tool for your business?

Traditional CRMs often leave distributors frustrated.

That’s because distributors require CRMs that offer more than just basic features. If your CRM wasn’t purpose-built for distributors, it’s probably underperforming for your business.

With the power of AI, CRMs become a powerhouse tool for distributors to build strong customer relationships and level up every area of business, including sales, ecommerce, and customer service.

What is CRM?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool to maintain and improve customer relationships. CRMs store customer information and allow businesses to track customer relationships and interactions at every step of the customer journey from a single screen.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad term that describes technology that enables a machine to think and learn like a human. AI has been around for decades, but it’s now disrupting businesses and making them more effective and efficient. AI is transformative for distributors, from automating manual processes to understanding customer behavior.

How Do They Work Together?

CRM uses AI to take advantage of your deep data pool. It automatically suggests substitutions for out-of-stock items, generates sales opportunities, and uses insight into customers’ buying and browsing behavior to inform recommendations. These insights enable your sales team to nurture customer relationships and drive revenue. As a result, using artificial intelligence brings benefits, such as increased efficiency, happier users, increased sales, and improved customer experiences.

Proton – Distributor CRM

How Does an AI-Powered Distributor CRM Work?

Legacy CRMs aren’t designed with distributors in mind. An AI-powered CRM, like Proton, connects with all your systems of record to create a single-screen system of action on desktop and mobile devices. An AI-powered CRM for distribution companies breaks down data silos in your business by pulling all your sales, customer, and product data into a centralized cloud database. No stone goes unturned.

AI then analyzes your data. Deeply. For instance, Proton’s award-winning neural network AI analyzes millions of data points to surface unrivaled sales insights for your teams. As a result, AI can accurately predict how, when, and what each customer will buy.

With complete visibility into customers and their needs, an AI-powered distribution CRM tool ensures you never miss a sales opportunity again. Your reps will have timely directions for targeting the right customers, with the right message, at the right time.

Benefits of an AI-Powered Distribution CRM Software

When selecting a CRM, distributors should opt for a platform tailored to their business and one that unlocks impactful benefits, such as:

Smarter Selling, Higher Revenue

AI-generated sales plays give your customer service and sales teams a road map for how to spend their day so that your business can take advantage of every sales opportunity. Use AI to guide reps to the right customer, at the right time, with the right message.

AI-powered CRM solution, like Proton, will bring power to your teams. The CRM allows you to win more business from existing accounts by highlighting categories where buyers are underspending and products they should be buying from you. In addition, Proton highlights accounts that are due to reorder specific products, enabling your sales team to take proactive steps and keep your customers fully stocked.

Proton also automatically sorts accounts by revenue potential and churn risk, so you can quickly see the accounts that need your attention most.

Increased Sales Rep Efficiency

AI eliminates the guesswork for your sales reps by analyzing complex customer data and providing accurate predictions about future customer behavior. In addition, AI-powered CRMs help identify untapped sales opportunities and allow your sales teams to see what your customers need.

These rich insights help reps prioritize who to call and what to sell – eliminating impersonal selling when a rep just blankets the customer with recommendations that aren’t relevant. AI reduces the need for research and allows your reps to spend more time selling, building pipelines and hitting quotas.

Faster Ramp Time for New Reps

With a significant percentage of highly experienced sales reps set to retire in the next few years, distributors need a way to fill the knowledge void quickly. With AI-powered distribution CRM, sales reps have all the customer information they need from a single dashboard, can easily find product information due to AI-powered semantic search to provide consultative service, and have suggestions for add-on and cross-sell products personalized for each customer. When distribution CRM and AI meet, years of industry knowledge are no longer a prerequisite for success.

One of our customers had no concerns recruiting a cowboy boots salesperson without any prior industry experience for their electrical distribution sales team. The rep made an immediate impact thanks to Proton’s AI-generated recommendations.

Enhanced Competitiveness

AI-powered CRM systems can use customer data to personalize marketing messages and recommendations, helping businesses better target their messaging and improve customer engagement.

Amazon’s recommendation engine drives more than a third of the company’s sales. More than 80% of what Netflix users watch is recommended by Netflix's personalization algorithm. When you consider those facts, it's easy to see how you might gain a competitive advantage by providing your customers with a personalized experience. When customers can easily find what they’re looking for – and complementary products they didn’t know they needed – you improve the customer experience and grow revenue. Customers who have a good experience with your company tend to spend more and stay loyal.

Distribution CRM Results

Distributors shouldn’t settle for out-of-the-box CRMs. With AI-powered CRMs like Proton, distributors can use customer data to improve their customer service while boosting sales teams’ efficiency and driving sales growth.

One shining example of this is a $390M/year industrial distributor that achieved remarkable results by upgrading to an AI-powered CRM, resulting in an impressive revenue growth of over 8% per year, per sales rep. The company now considers Proton to be "the heart and soul of [their] client engagement," showcasing the immense value that AI-powered CRMs can bring to distributors.

AI-powered CRMs offer robust benefits to distributors that help increase revenue, efficiency, and competitiveness in the market. If you already have a CRM platform, Proton offers Recommendation APIs you can plug into your existing solution. If you’re interested in supercharging your CRM with AI tech, request a demo today.

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