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With so many CRM and Sales Force Automation (SFA) software packages available today, it can be a daunting task to figure out which one is right for your distribution business.

Whether you and your company are brand new to CRM or you’re an experienced user who is unsatisfied with your current product, this guide will help you during your selection and review process. It will cover six important areas to consider when looking at CRM providers and supplies questions to ask when interviewing or reviewing different CRM offerings, in order to ensure that you select the right CRM for distributors and the distribution industry.

Today we will review the 1st area to consider when selecting a CRM solution.

Area 1: Outlook Integration

“What’s the importance of a CRM with Microsoft Outlook integration, and how can I asses the level of integration provided?”

The vast majority of distributors utilize Microsoft Outlook for their business needs. Salespeople, marketing staff, business managers, even the President of the company all open their laptops or PCs every day and the first thing they look at is Outlook. In Outlook, they review their emails, tasks, calendar appointments, etc. For most people, Outlook then remains open for the rest of the day, so that they can continue to stay up to date on their emails, tasks, and appointments.

The success of a CRM implementation depends strongly on whether or not your sales team finds that the application is convenient and easy to use. If a sales team finds that the application is cumbersome to use, they will not adopt the CRM and the implementation will fail.

A CRM with Outlook Integration solves many issues in getting salespeople to use the CRM. It gives them one portal for quick access to everything – not several different logins to navigate. While most CRM providers say they integrate with Outlook, it is important that you know what level of integration the CRM provides.

CRM Interview – Ask these questions to determine the depth of Outlook Integration that a CRM solution provides:

  • When I open Outlook, is there a toolbar for the CRM that allows me to access the CRM database and perform all key activities directly from Outlook?  Or do I have to open a separate application to access the CRM?
  • When I am in my email inbox, can I view information about the Contact or Account that sent the email, or perform actions for the Contact or Account, without leaving Outlook?
  • Can I initiate a Task directly from Outlook?
  • Can I set a new Appointment directly from Outlook?
  • Can I open an Account or Contact record directly from Outlook?
  • Can I log an Activity – like a call report or call summary – directly from Outlook?
  • Are my customer emails automatically logged to the proper Account so I always have a history of the email communications to and from any contact within an Account?  Do I have to use the CC: or BCC: fields to log the emails?
  • If I initiate a new Appointment or Task from the CRM, will that Task or Appointment automatically show on my Outlook Calendar or in my Outlook Tasks?

Download the full Guide to Selecting a CRM for your Distribution Business.

Ashley Parinello

Ashley Parinello is the Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at Tour de Force and has been with the organization since 2010. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University.

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By: Ashley Parinello

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