Field sales has always been challenging. Field sales reps are on the road constantly, visiting customers, merchandising products, and managing their work from their vehicles and hotel rooms. They must balance flexibility and productivity, while setting their own schedules each day and staying focused on meeting tough sales goals.
Today, however, many of the biggest headaches that this mobile field force once faced are disappearing with the help of field force automation. They no longer have to carry heavy samples, catalogs, and paper order forms into meetings. And they don’t have to return from a long day on the road to re-enter orders from paper forms into their computers or phones.
So what’s changed? Field sales management software is now enabling sales reps and other members of the mobile field sales to be productive on the go. Sales reps are no longer tethered to a desk or confined to their offices. They can work effectively, remotely. The sales visits of the past were largely transactional, with sales reps working with retailers to write an order down on paper. Today, these sales conversations are becoming increasingly strategic, with sales reps acting as more of a business partner than a salesperson. Let’s take a look at what a store visit looked like before the advent of the field sales software, and what they’re beginning to look like today.
Before: In the days of paper and pen, sales reps on the road would prepare for store visits by gathering their samples, catalogs, brochures, and order forms for the meeting. The sales rep might have a vague idea of what the retailer ordered during the last visit, or have to call the back office to check or confirm numbers, things like customer-specific pricing and inventory levels for each item before leaving for visit.
After: To prepare for a meeting with a mobile sales rep app in hand, sales reps need only grab their mobile. On the device, they have all the information they need stored and accessible offline. Sales reps can quickly swipe through the mobile CRM app to check customer pricing, order history. With just a few minutes on their mobile, they know what products to suggest, what the latest bestsellers are, and what is and isn’t in stock.
Before: After dragging a bag overflowing with product samples into the store, field sales reps would be able to present their lines to the retailer. This process involved price sheets and product catalogs, many of which could be outdated, as new products were added or old products were discontinued. In this scenario, a sales rep might unknowingly sell a product that’s no longer available, requiring the customer service team to call the customer after the meeting and notify them that their order can’t be shipped complete. Sales reps might also have difficulty selling products that don’t have images in the catalog, or be unable to let the customer know whether or not a certain product is in stock. If the company is selling hundreds or thousands of SKUs, this process can be extremely overwhelming.
After: With all information managed from a central management portal, field sales reps are always on the same page as back office. If products are added or removed, those updates automatically sync with sales reps’ devices in the field. To show products, sales reps can work with customers on a mobile, swiping through a digital catalog for a much faster way to browse. High resolution images are available for each product, and they’re easily searchable. Reps can also scan a barcode to pull up a particular product. With the time and efficiency gained in this process, sales reps can take the time to have a real dialog with the customer, educating them about products and how they can increase sell-through.
Before: The process of physically writing an order on pen and paper could take an agonizingly long time. Sales reps have to collect customer contact information, look up pricing, manually apply customer-specific discounts, and write a new line item for every color or size variant. When the order is finally written, the customer might receive a confirmation slip, or no order confirmation at all until the order is entered into the ERP.
After: The order writing process is an ongoing conversation. Products can be added to an order in just a few quick taps, right as the products are being shown to the customer. Customer specific pricing is automatically applied to the order, and the customer’s information is already stored in the database. Variants can also be added quickly and easily. Before the appointment is even over, the customer can receive an order confirmation message with product details and images, so they can see exactly what they ordered.
Before: To submit the order to the back office, sales reps might have to enter the order manually into an ERP on their laptop, put it into an excel spread sheet, or scan and email it. In the back office, that order would then have to be read and manually entered into the system for fulfillment. If a field sales rep doesn’t have time to enter the orders in every night of the week, they may be submitted late, leading to fulfillment delays. Customer follows up on order fulfillment if the order is delayed so sales rep has to coordinate with back office on order status and keep customer informed.
After: After completing and confirming the order, there’s no extra step to submit the order for fulfillment. The order is instantaneously synced with back office systems once connected to the internet. The back office team can then receive it immediately and begin the fulfillment process. Customer gets regular updates of order fulfillment status on his mobile.
It has never been a more exciting time for sales reps on the go. Field force management software are enabling them to work faster and more strategically, replacing the tedium of order taking with more strategic value. If you believe a field sales app would help your team sell more effectively, reach out to us today and schedule a demo of our field force automation software to learn more.