There is a growing buzz about Agile Field Sales; the ability to manage the efforts of an outside sales team with real time visibility, minimal data and reporting overhead and a high degree of communication in order to maximize the value of every activity. Agile organizations can respond to competitive threats, adapt to changing customer demands and execute more transactions than traditional 'Automated' Sales Forces; but how do you create agility in your field force? These are the keys to being nimble, responsive and ultimately more competitive in the field:
No More Reports!
The same holds true for reports created by 'Sales Ops' that are distributed to the field…they are a waste of paper, pixels and time. Reps should have access to the pieces of data that are relevant to the task they are conducting at the moment, and no more. When a rep opens a spreadsheet or report and scans for relevant information, they are typically looking at something that is already out of date, and probably thick with distracting, superfluous data.
The most agile sales organizations access and generate only bits of relevant information, and they do this within the execution of valuable sales tasks.
The typical SmartPhone that a rep carries with them has more power than a laptop computer had just a few years ago. They have gigabytes of storage, broadband connectivity, multiple processors, high definition displays, GPS and much more… This is a tremendous resource that all too often goes untapped by Outside Sales organizations that think of them a simple communication device for phone calls and email. The most agile reps use their SmartPhones to document everything they do, and wield them more nimbly than pen and paper. Field sales solutions give reps access to the data they need through a simple and very well organized SmartPhone interface, so they have it accessible instantly and all the time.
This instant access and the incredibly familiar nature with which people interact with their phones, means that reps are very open to using these devices as their activity diaries, record keepers and real-time reporting tools. The connectivity to these devices establishes a means for the information generated 'in the moment' to illuminate details of field activities to management as they are happening. It costs the rep absolutely nothing to keep management informed about exactly what is happening in the field at all times.
The incredible power and capabilities that every rep carries in his or her pocket present the greatest opportunity for enabling agility by establishing two-way access to the most relevant bits of data, and creating an 'always on' communication channel.
Accountability is a fundamental part of a successful sales team (See my post 'Accountability is a 2-Way Street in Sales'). Without it, there is no real urgency to respond to change rapidly and pro-actively. Reps that know their management will hold them accountable for making the prescribed number of client visits are much more likely to make those visits (and subsequently make their numbers) than those who feel they can get away with cutting corners. The manager that knows exactly what her reps are doing at any time is much more likely to provide relevant direction and coaching, and subsequently makeher numbers as well. Accountability can be built into the culture of a sales organization by making metrics visible across the team, and having frequent, informal and unexpected communication across the team. Direct coaching when expectations are not being met, and explicit policies around abuse of the flexibilities afforded to outside reps are key to driving accountability.
Success in sales comes from solid planning, and disciplined execution of the sales plan. The benefits of an agile sales organization come from being able to quickly adapt to competitive, customer and market condition changes; and to implement adjustments to the plan with crisp execution. This agile ability comes from practiced accountability and the resulting organizational discipline.
Agility in a sales organization is the culmination of culture, processes and tools that drive out wasteful activities and meaningless data, while maximizing visibility, accountability and communication.
Frank Brogie is the Product Marketing Manager at Repsly. When he’s not thinking about how to position and sell Repsly’s products, Frank loves to explore Boston by bike and hunt for vintage cars through a camera lens. On weekends you can count on Frank to organize a pickup basketball game or play disc golf. An avid podcast listener, Frank recommends Philosophize This, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab.