Many building material companies use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to enhance their sales efforts. While the uptake was slow at first (building materials manufacturers tend to be late adopters), it’s now becoming the standard. And for good reason – letting a CRM handle your customer data makes your sales more effective and allows each salesperson to take on more accounts.
As powerful as it is, however, it’s far from a perfect solution.
I used to hear critiques of CRMs from building material salespeople who were hesitant to give up the traditional approach to sales. They’ve been doing okay without it so far, so why try something new?
But now, there’s been a shift. The people complaining to me about CRMs aren’t clinging to their old ways. In fact, they’re already using the software. They know how powerful these tools can be and they’re eager to get the most out of them. It’s just that they don’t always work as smoothly as they should, thanks to the complex nature of building materials sales.
So, I’ve been doing some deep research on this topic, looking for ways to make CRMs work for building materials.
Then, I stumbled on something unexpected. Not a CRM, but a different type of solution that may be even more important to the building materials industry.
It’s called Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software. It doesn’t perform the same tasks as your CRM and it’s not a substitute for it. But it fills an important piece that’s missing from any CRM you might be using.
I want to start by explaining what a PRM is and what it can do for you. Then I’ll go over why it’s a great asset for any building materials sales team.
What Is PRM Software?
While a CRM is designed to manage relationships with customers, a PRM is designed to manage relationships with your distributors, dealers and contractor partners. It allows manufacturers to:
- Gain better insight into these partners, including performance metrics and their loyalty to your brand
- Ensure that you’re delivering the right content to the right type of partner at the right time
- Track partner sales activities
- Provide partners with relevant educational content and resources
4 Reasons Building Materials Manufacturers Need a PRM Earn Channel Partner Preference
CRMs are mainly designed for business to customer (B2C) sales. Building materials manufacturers, however, largely operate in a business to business (B2B) capacity.
Instead of selling directly to the customers who will be using your product, many of your sales are instead through channel partners: distributors, dealers and contractors.
The problem is, you’re not the only belle at the ball. Those distributors, dealers and contractors also offer your competitor’s products. And unless they have some kind of incentive to recommend your building materials over theirs, they might not push customers toward your product.
Getting these channel partners to offer your products is only half the battle. You also want them to actively sell it to their customers. But once the product leaves your warehouse and enters their storerooms, it’s mostly out of your hands.
That’s where a PRM comes in.
Through a PRM, you can create customized pages that your channel partners can access through the system’s partner portal. There, you can offer a personalized experience for each distribution partner to educate them on the unique value of your product and your channel program, along with the benefits of working with your company.
These pages also let you create an onboarding process that is customized to each type of channel partner. That way, you can create a quick and seamless process instead of wasting a dealer’s time with forms that are only relevant to contractors and vice versa.
A well-designed PRM makes it easier for distributors to choose you. It puts you in a good light and makes it more likely that they’ll prioritize or recommend your products.
Gain Inside Information to Help You Close More Sales
I’m not big on guesswork. I prefer making informed decisions. I’ll put the work up front and think things through so I know I’m making the right choice.
That’s why it pains me when I see building materials companies trying to sell with their eyes closed. We have access to an unprecedented amount of data. It’s easier than ever to analyze that information and turn it into useful and actionable insights. Yet still, many sales decisions are based on hunches that are about as reliable as a coin flip.
That’s another reason to use a PRM. It aggregates a vast amount of partner data that will help you make the most effective decisions when dealing with your sales channels.
Once you’re set up, the PRM gives you details like:
- Pipeline value
- Total closed deals
- Average days to close
- Deal win rate
- Active leads
Access to that information will keep you from spending too much energy on underperforming partners. It will also allow you to identify powerful sellers that might otherwise fly under your radar.
Enhanced Partner Loyalty
You might not know it, but there’s a good chance you’re annoying your distributors, dealers and contractors. Not on purpose, of course. But I speak with enough of them to know that many find it frustrating to deal with manufacturers because they can’t get quick access to accurate information when they need it.
If you have a PRM, it’s like a breath of fresh air for your channel partners. Instead of digging through your website, waiting for you to return their calls, or refreshing their inbox to see if you’ve replied to their email, they can simply log into the system and get instant access to the information they need. Whether they need brochures, data sheets, installation instructions, case histories, or anything else, you can upload it to the system’s library so they get it whenever they need it.
It’s the equivalent of answering their call immediately instead of leaving them waiting for a call or email to be returned. That kind of convenience significantly increases their satisfaction with you, enhances their loyalty to your brand and helps you become their preferred manufacturer.
Show Your Channel Partners How They Will Be More Successful with You
Channel partners don’t care about you or your product. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. At the end of the day, they want to be more successful, they want to keep their customers satisfied and they want to grow their profits. They’re interested in your brand, but only insofar as it can help them achieve those goals.
Knowing that is critical to your own success, because it means you can’t just assume your distribution partners will be impressed with your product or like what your brand stands for – you have to actually show them the tangible benefits of working with you.
And yep, you guessed it. That’s yet another thing you can accomplish with a PRM.
Instead of only showing superficial value, like the price of your product, a PRM provides a more comprehensive showcase of the benefit of working with you. It lets you create this big picture through:
- Goal-setting: Create measurable goals around count of approved accounts, number of registered deals, and more.
- Customized partner portal pages: Give partners a personalized experience
- Holding partners accountable for success: Set up training certifications that can be shared with partners and monitored for completion
- Integrations: Empower your team with data from all ends, including their CRMs
- Analytics dashboard: Generate reports and give users insight into channel lifecycles, pipeline growth, partner participation and performance.
- National and Local: A good PRM can connect with the headquarters of an organization as well as on a branch by branch basis.
Your Partner Relationships Are Only as Strong as the Platform That Sustains Them
If you’ve already been using a CRM, I think you can see how a PRM will help you overcome some of the challenges and limitations you face with your current sales software. It’s designed specifically for that unique sales relationship you have with your distribution channel and helps you provide a better experience for the distribution partners you rely on to sell your products.
It’s an incredibly valuable sales tool, but when you’re adopting a PRM, there’s a risk of running into the same problem you can face with a CRM. Not all of them are suited for the unique needs and challenges of selling building products.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend looking into Zift Solutions. After comparing different options, it’s the one I feel most confident about, mainly because they have focused on creating a product that works for building materials companies.
They’ve made their software fully customizable because they recognize that manufacturers need to work with a number of different distribution partners, so you’ll have all the features you need to build stronger relationships with your distributors, dealers and contractors. I also liked how easy they make it to set up your PRM,
Don’t take my word for it, though. Schedule a demo to learn more about PRMs and see whether it’s the solution you need to grow your sales and become more successful.