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CRM Systems – Fall 2011

A CRM system is only as good as its data. What features help you best use your data, and how do you ensure integrity?
                                                      – Pat Plamp, Vice President, Equipment Sales, Cardinal Carryor (Louisville, KY)
                                                      – Shari Altergott, Corporate Marketing Manager, Associated (Addison, IL)

Chuck Frank: We use CRM for sales forecasting, which is ultimately revenue forecasting. It is critical for us to have accurate data, so we spend a fair amount of time making sure the data are accurate and up to date. This provides an ongoing opportunity to work with the sales team to make sure their forecasts are accurate. We use the data in our one-on-one pipeline meetings with the sales team to make sure they are on track to meet their quotas.

CRM is also used to track all of our active jobs/contracts. We regard all email and correspondence to each job. It triggers when to send client invoices based on our forecasted completion/milestone dates. We use CRM to track all of our customers and business partners. It tracks what account manager is assigned to each account and, in some cases, is used to track individual contacts. While we are not perfect, we work together as a team to maintain the database and keep the information as accurate as possible.

asked and answered

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Richard Donnelly: The integrity of a CRM system is the responsibility of the sales managers. They have to hold the sales reps accountable for the data they are inputting. If the sales reps realize the benefit of the system versus a system that is monitoring their performance, they will want to keep their data as accurate as possible. For example, machine quoting and ordering are part of our CRM system. This saves the sales reps time in quoting the equipment to the customer and placing an order to our machine coordinators who order the equipment from the suppliers. We recently upgraded our CRM system to give dashboards to our sales managers. These dashboards give the sales managers the tools needed to review the performance of the sales reps and how they are managing their territories. The Par dashboard reports how the sales reps are covering their accounts that are due and the ones that are overdue. The Forecast dashboard builds a sales pipeline of opened and closed quotes that can be sorted by sales group or by sales rep. The Activity Summary dashboard shows the call activity of a sales group or sales rep. If the information or data are incorrect, it will be very apparent, and the sales manager can research why. It could be a system problem or how the sales reps are inputting their data. This ensures us that the data are as accurate as possible.

Bill Ryan: The data itself are never going to be 100 percent accurate (other than the financial data we convert over from our ERP), because everything moves and changes almost constantly. I would venture to say that something close to ten percent of our information (contacts, jobs, buying influences) changes monthly, so we try to build continuous and constant updating into our processes. This means that virtually everyone who touches the customer record needs to understand the importance of verification and correction almost every time they are in contact with any customer.

One element of success—probably the key element—in building a solid working CRM platform is the appointment of someone as “the owner” of the database, a champion if you will. Salespeople and service coordinators are all charged with updating the records as they find them and helping the customer understand why we need this info, but someone in marketing “owns and operates” the CRM itself.

The owner of the CRM advises the voice of the business (based upon their goals and the objectives and plans) as to whom they should be calling on, when they should be calling on them and even, in some cases, what they should be talking to them about. The business then executes on these directives. Based upon the input the business provides inside the CRM, the owner then advises the business how they did, including call completions, quote rates, closure ratios, lost orders and why, and statistical operating information like market coverage and share.


  • Chuck Frank, President
  • Richard Donnelly, President-Elect
  • Bill Ryan, Director
  • Duncan Murphy, Advisory Board
  • Jack Phelan, Advisory Board

Duncan Murphy: One of the features we are trying better to use isn’t necessarily a feature, and it sure isn’t anything ground breaking, but rather a fundamental aspect of CRM. Proper segmentation of clients and prospects ensure that your marketing efforts are not falling on deaf ears. No one wants to target buyers of 12,000-pound lift trucks only to find that half of their targets only need casters! SIC codes, previous purchases, geographic considerations, basic demographics, date of last purchase, among others, all help segment your customer/prospect lists and allow you to target whom you need to.

Keeping a CRM database, or any database for that matter, clean is a constant battle. If you limit who puts in information (the gatekeeper method), you really limit how a CRM should be used. However, if you let everyone input data, you risk “dirty” data creeping into the system. Developing standards, then training excessively on what you expect to see in terms of data entry, is one of the best ways to go about maintaining data integrity. Using required fields where necessary is also key to getting the information you need. Unfortunately, bad data will still creep in, and there is no substitute for periodically reviewing and scrubbing your data.

Jack Phelan: One of my favorite features on our CRM system is the ability to do workflows. For example, when a salesperson adds information about a company that is not already in our system, a task is automatically generated for an administrator to verify the information. Let’s say the salesperson enters “Coke” as the company name, because that is what is on the business card. The administrator will contact the company to get the legal name of the company so that all future paperwork between our companies is accurate. In this case, that should have been “Coke Small Town Distributor LLC.” The next step of the workflow would go to our accounting department so they could link their database with the CRM database for this account.

If you have a question for the Winter 2012 issue, please contact Rebecca Hein at MHEDA by phone at 847-680-3500, by fax at 847-362-6989 or by e-mail at rhein@mheda.org. Distributors who submit questions and the responding Board members have agreed to have their names published. If you would like to ask the Board a question and have the participating directors respond directly and confidentially to you, please indicate your preference for privacy when you submit your question.


Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association