Using Sales Force Automation Software Effectively

Having deployed a Sales Force Automation software is a job half done. The other half is to get people to use it.

In most of the cases, there is an initial resistance from the sales team. They are used to their old ways of using pen and paper. The MIS team does all the number crunching work. The data is erroneous but there is no way to find out.

There are a few points that the Sales Heads can keep in mind while persuading their team to use the Sales Force Automation software:-

1) Stop taking reports in excel! Take reports only from the sales force automation software.

2) Ask the team to claim their expenses in the SFA software.

3) Let the team view their reports on the move right from a mobile app. So, they know where they are heading during the course of the month.

4) Have an internal person well trained for hand holding the team in case of training issues.

5) During the Weekly sales call or the monthly sales call, ignore any data except the one from the Sales Automation software.

6) Stop giving route plans / PJP on paper. Instead ask the team to login to their mobile apps.

Once all the communication start happening through the sales force automation software, the team will realise it’s benefits and adhere to it’s usage.

GPS Tracking of Employees

Mobile phones pose a difficult situation for Sales Managers. Though it has become very easy for the sales team to communicate, at the same time, the sales team may not report correctly.

This reduces performance and overall cost of sales increases. For example, a sales person who completed his meeting at 2 pm may actually report at 5 pm. Since the reporting is primary over a phone call, sales managers have found it very difficult to ascertain the timings and performance of a sales person.

Thus the sales managers have to resort to being target focussed only. For a new sales person, there is a certain ramp up period of initial few months. In certain industries where sales cycle are of a few months’, it takes time for a new person to land a customer. Having a target focussed manager breathing down your neck actually may not help. At the same time, the sales manager should have faith in his new team. The problem is acute in field sales where a lot of sales people tend to plan their visits as per their personal convenience.

Some sales managers require that their team report immediately after the customer visit has been completed. But it becomes difficult for sales persons to open their laptops on the road side or locate a coffee shop to do so.

There are a few things that a sales manager can ask his new recruit to do to ascertain if he has actually visited the customer:-

1. Ask the sales person to get the customer on a phone call and take feedback.

2. Ask the sales person to call from the customer’s landline number.

3. Ask the sales person to send his location via WhatsApp or other similar apps.

4. Use a Mobile SFA software to track his location implicitly as well as gather visit details on the move.

Mobile SFA apps can help sales person to report immediately without any inconvenience.  Further, a location tracking Mobile SFA can also help a sales manger ascertain that a new recruit had been actually visiting customer. Sales Manager can also visualise and guide their sales team to other opportunities in that particular area.

Any decent mobile SFA will give a visual feedback of the route or customer visits that the sales person has made. This can be used to plan customer visits nearby and boost productivity. Companies have reported upto 60% performance improvements after using mobile SFA software.

Android Apps for Tracking Salesmen

It has been observed that there is a certain level of mistrust between a company’s management and it’s sales team. This is more prominent in smaller sized companies where the owner himself is heading most of the business operations.

For smaller business owners GPS in a mobile phone is something which they love to use extensively.

Getting real time location of your field sales can give a feeling of assurance rather then wondering if it’s a problem with the sales team or something else.

For industries like FMCG, where the salesmen has to cover at least 40 outlets in a day, the knowledge that a salesman has visited the outlets is very substantial. A retailer has only a small budget which he can use to buy products. Any FMCG salesman who doesn’t visit an outlet will lose the market to a rival company. Retailers in general like to stock only those items whose supplies are regular.

With time these companies can evaluate the outlets based on their orders. But before this evaluation takes place, it’s important to know if the salesmen are actually visiting the outlets or not. Otherwise, the evaluation will be error prone.

A mobile SFA app running on a cheap Android phone/tablet can easily determine the location of the sales person as well as the route he had taken. Such apps should have a mechanism of automatically switching on the location tracking either on a particular time of the day or based on the sales person’s attendance.

Also the mobile sfa app should not drain out the battery quickly. In a real life environment, the location of a person would not change for 10-15 mins. So any location tracking information finer than this would not serve a purpose. In turn it will drain the salesperson’s phone’s battery.

What companies should look for in a Mobile Sales Force Automation Software

For customers it becomes very confusing when it comes to purchasing a mobile Sales Force Automation solution.

There are so many providers, offering very basic features to ones with advance features. It’s easy to compare them from a cost and features perspective. But looking deep inside there are few other points that need to be kept in mind.

Five points that IT Managers, Sales heads should look at while finalising on the mobile Sales Force Automation software.

1. Does the mobile sales force automation software need your present and future requirements?

Many times companies are not able to vision the need beyond a certain point. So, you can say that you need location tracking or order management only. But do you think you will need other advanced features like Expense Management (TA/DA), deviations etc in the near future? If the solution has newer advance features built in, you may not buy them right away, but when you need them you can simply ask for an upgrade.

2. How does the mobile sales force automation provider support remote field users?

For a customer with pan India work force, it will be difficult for a solution provider to support users from different places. Does the provider has mechanism or technology to resolve and fix issues of field workers remotely? Initially the sales people show resistance to any mobile SFA. Can the solution provider show you (with proof) that it’s a problem with the sales person itself rather than the solution?

3. Is the solution provider ready to customise the mobile SFA software?

Say, you are a growing company and adding sales people every few months. Or you are targeting different markets or channels. After some time, you may need that your mobile SFA software either integrates with your ERP or there might be some changes that you want to get it fully assimilated into your company/channel. The solution provider should be willing to customise it for you. Of course, they will charge you for it.

If it’s a SaaS (cloud based) provider, check if they have an on-premise model as well. Because, any on-premise software can be customised to your exact needs.

4. Is the technology robust?

Field sales people need to be spending time on sales and not on worrying about the device’s battery been drained out.

A good Mobile SFA should work on 2G network. It should not consume battery even if the location tracking is on.

It’s advisable to get 15 – 30 minutes of location updates rather that every second. This makes sure that the battery runs for the whole day and you always know where the person is.

The solution should be able to download large data even on 2G networks. Some companies have 50k different products or variants. Some want to show detailed order history. All this require huge amount of data to be downloaded over the phone. 3G networks are not available across the country. So, the mobile SFA solution should work in a 2G and offline environment.

5. Is the technology secure?

Mobile can be lost or stolen. Sales people will have the app always logged in. Can the mobile SFA solution log out a salesman remotely? Is the data on the mobile device secure? Does the solution support limiting the access to particular SIM or device?

Ideally the data on the mobile device should be encrypted by the mobile SFA. So, even if the device falls into wrong hands, your data will be secure from prying eyes. Any sales coordinator or authorised person should be able to log out and deny access to any sales person remotely.

Why FMCG companies need Mobile Sales Force Automation

Ten reasons why FMCG companies need Mobile Sales Force Solutions more than ever:-

1. Reduce reliance on distributors

Traditionally FMCG companies have relied heavily on distributors for pushing up sales and pushing new products into the market. The approach was to pile up inventories at distributors and stockists and the sales will take care of themselves. This doesn’t work any more! Distributors have become wary of such tactics. With the competition heating up in the Indian market, distributors too have options of changing companies.

2. Improve Sales Team performance

Field sales staff need to have data on their tips to communicate with the market. Readily available data like prices, schemes, contact details of retailers etc can help them utilise their time so they can focus on their code activity i.e selling. Head Office can push new products catalogues to sales rep even before the products are launched. This enables them to gather market feedback even before the first prototype is ready.

3. Real Time data

Mobile Sales Force Automation solutions can help FMCG companies in gathering real time data. So, when Sales heads want to push a new product or scheme into the market, they can get the feedback within a couple of days rather than a month.

4. Secondary Sales data

Secondary sales data is needed by FMCG companies to forecast demand. In the current scenario, a distributor places order to a company after the receives the secondary orders. With a mobile SFA, the company can get to know the market demand before the distributor/stockists places primary order.

5. Cross sell and up sell

The company can use the secondary data collected to cross sell or up sell products to retailers. This is very valuable in a competitive market.

6. Expand to newer markets

Expanding to newer markets becomes a breeze. The company head quarters can now track and manage the sales person without an additional over head of managerial layers. This is significant for smaller companies who want to control their cost of sales.

7. Connect to retailers

Companies can connect to the retailers directly. Until now, it was almost impossible for the company to have up to date contact details of the retailers. Now a salesman can punch in all the details of the retailers into the mobile SFA app.

8. Track merchandising activities

Merchandising activities can be tracked and manage by taking photographs from the Mobile SFA app. Merchandising becomes very important in modern trade where the company needs to make sure that the right product facings as well as stock is available. This is needed to stand out form competition.

9. Track stock at distributor/stockists/retailers

Sales Rep can punch in stock details held at the distributor/stockist or retailer level. This can help companies to decide on their material planning objectives and help maintain optimum inventories.

10. Micro market analytics

Companies can gather micro market information correctly and swiftly. Earlier, the company had to compile paper based DSR (Daily Sales Report) from all their salesmen and then compile them to gather an idea about demand. But other metrics like the best performing product or retailer in a micro market was next to impossible. The data collected from mobile SFA can be utilised to gather such analytics.