Making CRM Work


Failed Customer Relationship Management implementations are commonplace in the building materials industry. These failed CRM attempts are a waste of resources and a cause of extended frustration. We must deal with how our industry has approached CRM to change the negative trend.

In the last 5+ years I’ve met with over 200 companies about CRM. These companies typically fall into the following categories:


The most common problem I encounter is a company with a failed CRM initiative. Regardless of why someone decided your company needed CRM, or who selected the software, or even who implemented it – CRM initiatives usually fail because the company started in the wrong place.

CRM is only one part of a broader solution known as Sales Force Automation.

Key Concept: SFA or CRM?

SFA is often confused with CRM. While the two are inextricably linked, it is important to understand the differences to help save yourself from a failed implementation or to help know where to restart a stalled project.

  • SFA is using a software system to help standardize your sales processes for improved efficiency and effectiveness.
  • CRM is tracking companies and people.

Confusion comes from the popularity of the term CRM (driven by the continued success of SalesForce) and abundant applications dedicated to CRM. A familiar term with a crowded market causes decision makers to gravitate toward CRM as the solution for their company.

This is a mistake.

Generally, CRM is not where you should begin. At least not for a building materials company.

Automating Building Materials Sales Teams

Since we are a relationship industry your sales staff don’t struggle to identify the big players or your target customers. They know who their contacts are and who makes decisions. There is little need to create email campaigns or track special events in a complicated software system. Yet, all of these activities are handled in a CRM system.

That’s why I believe CRM initiatives have failed.

Your sales people typically struggle with other issues:

  • Tracking new work
  • Accurate product lists and prices for quoting
  • Easy quote creation and tracking
  • Automatic backlogs
  • Always updated forecasts
  • Sharing information with the office while staying out of the office
  • Simple reports
  • Knowing how much has been poured, placed, or delivered

Where To Start

Begin with evaluating your sales process. Actually – processes. There are many related processes enabling your sales staff to provide a good product and service to your customers. All of these processes must be connected in a seamless manner if you want to automate your sales team.

Why automate?

  • Achieve more with less
  • Standardize how your company approaches your customer segments (commercial, residential, DOT, et cetera)
  • Give operations insight into sales activities
  • Improve the reporting that drives decision making
  • Keep your sales team in front of your customers


  1. Automate for the majority, not for the exceptions. If you can automate 80%+ you’ve done an incredible job. Focusing on the exceptions will add unwieldily complexity to your process. Few people will be able to manage it and doing so will frighten your sales staff.
  2. System integration is key to a successful SFA implementation. This is usually the most difficult part.
  3. Create a team with one person representing each group.
  4. Keep it simple. If it’s too heavy-handed or complicated your sales staff will revolt.
  5. Be committed. This takes time.

Next Steps

I’ll be creating a series of posts dealing with sales automation for the materials industry: ready mix, aggregates, asphalt, and other associated products typically sold alongside the core offerings. I will offer generic examples of my real experiences. This will be the hub for all of the sales automation posts.

What This Is and Is Not

I can’t teach you how to sell. There are over 65,000 books in Amazon on how to sell. 

This series of posts is about automating and improving your internal sales process, and related processes, in order to provide a better customer experience with your existing staff.

Future Topics

Legend below list

  • Customers & Prospects
    • Tracking
    • Converting
    • Recovering lost accounts
  • Quotes
    • Generic
    • Specified
    • Mixing lines of business
    • Re-quotes
  • Approvals
    • Deviating from list price
    • Customer pricing
    • Area pricing
    • Job valuation
  • Events
    • Sales calls
    • Job site visits
    • Bid reminders
    • Assigning other departments to follow up (QC, ops)
  • Customer activity
    • Orders
    • Projects
    • DSO
    • Job site performance
    • Demands
  • Reports & Dashboards
  • Territory management
    • Line of business
    • Market segment
    • Georgraphy
    • Customer size
    • Frequency of activity
  • Taxes
  • Bid sources
  • Take-offs
  • Managing sales performance
    • Goals
    • Incentives
    • Tracking
    • Correcting
  • Integration
    • Systems
    • Departments


Planned items are in Gray

Work in Process items are in Orange

Completed items are in Blue



I work in the mobile applications group of a software company. However, I’ll keeping these posts as generic as possible. Whether or not you contact me, my employer, or use our sales automation tool, I’m providing these posts as guides to help you improve your sales organization. Obviously I would like you as a customer, but as a 20-year veteran of this industry, I want to help our industry grow financially healthier and attract the next generation of talent. This is my small effort in trying to help our industry achieve positive lasting growth.

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