Top Signs Field Sales Operations Process is Broken

Field Sales Process

When sales slumps, pointing fingers at the sales team is a common practice. Working with hundreds of sales professionals has made us learn one thing—if your sales have tanked, most times the problem may not be in your team or resources or product but in the process.

The problem worsens when you don’t know what part of the field sales operations process is killing the sales.

A number of elements like people (sales leaders, sales representatives, sales consultants, or sales trainers), operations, and market environment combine to form a sales process, which makes it hard to find where the process is broken—what is exactly not working.

If a certain step or component of your sales process is not working as it should be, you get some symptoms, such as you won’t have key information about your clients and your business at your fingertips.

It is possible that even after successfully closing a deal you have little clue what led you to it. In the worst case scenarios, your potential sales leads are feeling frustrated in the sales cycle and choosing to opt-out.

However, there are early signs too that tell loud and clear that the field sales process is broken, which if mended properly, could drive efficiency and revenue growth. Those signs are:

1. Ambiguity in sales productivity

How do you measure sales productivity?

Sales management expert and co-founder of Vantage Point Performance, Jason Jordan, has shared this quick formula to measure sales productivity.

(Sales Effectiveness X Sales Efficiency) = Sales Productivity, where;

Sales effectiveness is defined by the ability of the sales person to perform tasks correctly and sales efficiency refers to ability of sales person to perform the tasks quickly within a given time frame.

In order to apply this formula, you need to have exact figures either individually or of the entire team. For example: You are a field sales manager and your team of 5 field sales representatives spread out on different territories.

Here is what your revenue report would look like for any given quarter.

Sales rep Revenue output Leads
Tim $11,000 15
Jack $9,000 19
Mark $7,000 21
Joe $11,000 23
Sean $6,000 12

Do you have such data at your fingertips?

Having such data is essential to measure the productivity of each member of your team. As you can see that both Tim and Joe have delivered the same revenue output, but the revenue they have generated out of the number of leads is not the same.

This difference in figures could have many possible reasons, which you would not know until you have complete visibility into your sales process.

If you have such visibility, you can analyze individual and team performance and take relevant measures to increase the field sales productivity. But there is a catch! Do you have the data in real-time?

Taking corrective measures after the event cannot compensate for the previous losses. If you can view the sales activity of your remote sales force in real time and evaluate the time spent in business and non-business activities, you would be able to take instant measures to improve productivity.

2. Territory and route planning

Territory mapping is your game plan. It is a tedious process and requires a great deal of strategy and leg-work. If you properly categorize the territory and assign the right size to the right territory representative of the outside sales team, half the match is already won.

For any sales rep, it is not an unlikely experience to find another member of the team on their back at the client’s location. In some cases, low potential territories are assigned to highly-trained sales reps or vice versa. These are some clear signs of a broken field sales process.

By using advanced territory mapping and categorization tools powered with route optimization systems, sales leaders can ensure that the right sales rep is at the right place at the right team.

Team Location

With the help of such tools, you get instant visibility into territories assigned to individual sales reps. You can monitor and track the movement of the remote sales team in real-time, determine the best and most cost-effective routes, and increase response time to last minute changes in schedule.

3. Customer-sales team connect

According to IMRG Stats, selling to an existing customer has a higher success rate, up to 60-70%, as compared to selling to a new customer, which is 5-20%.
The problem with selling to existing customers is that they can see you are pitching through the lines, “we also have…” or “you might be interested in our new…”

No one likes to be sold; everyone likes to buy

To really see success with such pitching, you need to master the art of upselling and cross selling. Rather than directly pitching them the product, focus on “customer delight”, which you can achieve by providing value added solutions for an existing set of products or services.

You cannot do this on just one fine day. Convincing a client that you care and your product has value is a gradual process and requires persistence, patience, and a lot of planning.

And to let that happen, you need to build and maintain the relation with them by:

  • Keeping customers engaged: Get into engagement marketing. With the rise of the Internet and social media, understanding user behaviour has become easier.

    You can create engaging content and break into their social circles in a way that does not make advertising look like interruption rather entertainment.

  • Establish personal connection: Wish your customers on their birthdays. Send personalized messages during festivals. Ask them about feedback of previous purchases.

    Having such communication with customers has two benefits; one that you make your presence felt and the other is you let them know that you care—that they are not on their own after the payment has been made.

  • Reward, discount, and offers: Reward you loyal customers, cherish your relationship with them by giving discounts, and make interesting offers to attract their attention.

    Inform them how they can enhance their product (upselling) and create a combination of products or services (cross selling) to get better results.

If such elements are missing into your sales strategy and operations, you would not be able to utilize the tremendous upselling and cross selling opportunities.

In order to bring these elements into your field sales process, you need a system that keep all your customer information in one place and allow you to sort and filter customers by territory, purchases, and transaction details, so that you can identify the preferences of each customer, categorize them, and create independent upselling and cross selling strategies for each category

4. Margin and payment cycle

As an outside sales manager, how closely are you involved in the pricing and payment cycle? It is not an uncommon practice among sales persons to give an overwhelming discount to win a customer.

Assuming that you have 5 reps in your team, each of them has given heavy discounts to at least two customers; how badly do you think it affects your margin?

Instead of slashing prices that could hurt your profitability, it is essential that you stand by premium pricing and yet win the customer. The problem is many field sales reps think that the buying decision of customers is largely based on cost, which is correct to some extent but does not hold true throughout.

In fact, when your rep lowers the prices, customers may think that the product is not worth the original price. The best way to address the situation is that you set a standard price for every product and allow your reps to provide value added solutions, as discounts.

Similarly, you can streamline your payment processes to ensure that invoice is generated quickly so that payment processes can be initiated as fast as possible.

A powerful and intuitive payment processing dashboard that provides real time reporting of every transaction, manages payment and refunds, and configures scheduled and recurring payments.

The dashboard can help you analyze the payment cycle that may vary customer to customer and look into the commitments made by the sales reps to each customer.

5. Culture

Poor attitude (as opposed to lack of skill) of your field sales representatives can have a devastating effect on your business. In a crowded marketplace, if your customers find your sales rep laid back, less interested or unprofessional in any way, they have many options to turn to.

There could be many reasons for poor attitude, such as:

  • Lack of motivated sales environment and sales leadership
  • Politics or bad behaviour of team member
  • Poor reward or reimbursement process

To create a healthy workplace environment and positive attitude among sales persons, you have to model a behaviour that you want your employees to adopt. But the bigger problem is how would you know that your organization has workplace issues?

Possibly these four signs would tell you.

  1. Your funnel has a great number of opportunities but a very poor conversion rate.
  2. Members of sales and marketing teams point fingers at each other for poor lead and conversion.
  3. Your sales reps are unable to define key KPIs and you lack the method to measure or track existing KPIs for each rep.
  4. And, something as simple as, not having a process to collect feedback from your prospects and customers.

You should have a robust feedback system in place for employees as well as clients. In case of clients, a feedback link could be shared with them where they can reveal their experience after interacting with your sales reps.

On the basis of the feedback you can determine the behaviour of your remote sales force with each client and take necessary measures to resolve behavioural issues and improve customer experience.

Internally, you can hold coaching sessions to establish communication standards, define KPIs, and create a transparent process between sales and marketing teams.

6. Sales metrics

According to the State of Sales report by Salesforce, 57% of sales reps are not meeting their quota, and while almost all sales leaders analyse some really interesting metrics, most fail to dive deeper into the data.

Although not being able to achieve the quota is a consequence, questions that may help in identifying why that happens can be:

  • How many hours did the field rep spend in commute and the total distance traveled?
  • Average how many fresh prospect meetings and existing customer meetings the rep has conducted?
  • Historically, what’s the opportunity to win data for each rep and what are the reasons for lower numbers for some of them?

Most field sales operations, even the modern ones, tend to miss a lot of similar questions and metrics resulting in profit and opportunity leakages.

And most of the time, the solution is to have the complete visibility of information and activity instead of relying on instincts. If you are planning to invest in tools to get visibility into your sales process, make sure to get one which enables you to interpret the data which is relevant to you.

Sales Dashboard

Use integrated tools that let you deep dive into your sales process and measure the revenue output on a number of factors such as new customers, existing customers, upselling and cross-selling opportunities, time spent on follow-ups, face-to-face meetings by each rep on each client, and so on. Once you get these facts, you can determine what is killing your sales and take corrective actions.

Closing note

While the operational processes remain the same, sales processes have incorporated a range of new methods, and it’s important that sales leaders, with the right tools, are able to utilize the visibility of information to mend broken field sales processes. It will not only drive higher profitability and revenue but also facilitate improved customer experience.

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