The construction products industry, notable for being slow adapters of marketing and sales concepts, is finally catching on to the value of database management. I’ve had numerous LBM dealers in past months tell me about their initiative to utilize one of the CRM platforms on the market. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most tell me buy-in from salespeople falls short of expectations. This is no surprise to me, because dealers frequently and inadvertently use CRM as a weapon instead of a tool.

CRM stands for customer relationship management. This terminology alone is problematic because it fails to address the real value of the asset, which is growing your business by managing prospect relationships.

I prefer the term C/PRM: customer/prospect relationship management. This is not just a subtle difference in terminology, but a major shift in strategic thinking.

The CRM mindset leads managers to seek a short-term return on their investment. Their first instinct is to track sales performance by forcing daily data entry of meeting notes, links to email communication, and sales call reports. It is no wonder that salespeople perceive the tool as “big brother” watching over them.

The C/PRM mindset focuses on communicating as a team to grow sales cooperatively. The emphasis is on discovering new sales opportunities with existing clients in the form of cross-selling opportunities. It adds the element of tracking prospects who have never purchased from your company. It enables your organization to communicate directly to the market instead of waiting for the phone to ring.

C/PRM is progress. Every time you put a new name into your database, you have measurably increased your information power in the market. Every day you fail to capture data about a lead in your market you have stagnated or, worse, fallen behind a competitor.

Properly implemented, C/PRM is a powerful benchmark of marketing success; the more names you have versus your competition, the greater your market power. It’s a lead generator for your entire organization, assuming you use it to track prospect data in addition to customer data.

A successful C/PRM strategy is based on an implementation scheme that gradually escalates the use of the software in a way your salespeople will embrace.

First, demonstrate the value of the tool as a Rolodex. Show salespeople how you are trying to help them gain sales power by having more information than their competition. Then use the information to help your salespeople succeed with targeted marketing email blasts.

Later, add benefits that will help salespeople achieve wealth. The pipeline function must be introduced in a way that helps salespeople reach their goals rather than give managers a way to “check up” on the status of leads.

The last thing you should do is require email, calendar, and call report tracking. Remember that you have a group of salespeople who are busy. Suddenly changing their entire method of doing business might seem convenient to you, but to your salespeople, it’s downright stifling.

C/PRM is nothing more than a glorified corporate Rolodex—with benefits. It is not a sales babysitter nor a substitute for effective sales leadership. If you want to successfully build a C/PRM program, then show your salespeople how they will benefit.