For many distributors, using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution in unison with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system requires maintaining two databases and a lot of toggling back and forth between programs. To eliminate this inefficiency, Activant has added a CRM solution to its Prophet 21 ERP offering. With the CRM fully integrated, sales reps use only one database and one screen.

Activant takes a three-prong approach to CRM: The first is sales force automation where a distributor's sales representatives have the lead generation tools to manage their pipelines and up-sell to customers. Distributors can track leads and sales progress by defining opportunities and reporting on their sales reps' pipelines.

The second part is contact management. This goes beyond maintaining customer addresses and phone numbers to actually tracking customers' buying habits to enable you to anticipate their needs.

Finally, CRM includes marketing capabilities. These tools allow users to fax and e-mail from the solution, produce lead generation call lists and, most importantly, manage call center activity, enabling distributors to increase their customer base at a minimal cost.

In a separate announcement, Activant released a new version of its Web-based storefront. B2B Seller version 5.6, a Web-based storefront solution integrated with Activant's ERP systems, allows distributors to configure Web-specific discounts for their customers.

“With the ability to configure Web-specific discounts and many other new features, this release will continue to help distributors advance their businesses via the Internet and allow our customers to continue to meet the e-commerce challenges,” said Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager of Activant.

B2B Seller 5.6 has been tested and is compatible with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Version 8 and with SQL 2008.