Field Sales and Marketing organizations can gain clear and unmistakable benefits from implementing field automation solutions. This is an undeniable fact: Filling paper forms, emailing spreadsheets and visit reports, re-keying data and taking a random approach to visiting customers are all practices that drain efficiency out of field teams, and they can all be addressed with simple Field Automation solutions.
There are several strategies for lowering risk when selecting a solution for your field sales, merchandising or marketing team, starting with making sure that the solution you select is the right size for your organization and the problem you are trying to solve. It is easy to get caught up in the glitter of every feature a solution has to offer, but you must realize that simplicity equals both lower cost and lower risk of failure. Create a list of the major issues you are trying to solve, and rank them in priority. If you can find a solution that solves the top 3 issues (i.e.; Tracking Reps, Documenting Retail Compliance and Capturing Signatures with Orders), you can ignore the ones that solve dozens of your lower ranking requirements like specific field types, or the configurability of the user interface. These may give you a longer checklist of features, but you need to be careful that you are not adding configuration, training and adoption issues that can far outweigh the incremental benefits that these minor features provide.
In addition to complexity, you can significantly lower your risk of selecting a poor fitting field sales or marketing solution if you have the opportunity to try it first. Many of the most competent solutions offer free trials to give you the opportunity to try the solution out before you actually invest real dollars in it.
The pricing model for field solutions is another area where you can manage the risk of over-spending. If you have the option to pay monthly, and only for the users that are actively using the system, you will be able to run an extended pilot to iron out work-flow issues, or optimize the configuration of the solution for your business before you have to 'turn on' the whole team.
Another key factor that drives the risk profile of a management solution for your field sales, marketing or merchandising team is the IT infrastructure required to operate it. The new generation of cloud based solutions completely eliminate the need for anything more than a web connected PC. These systems do not require any complex server implementations, or the budgets that go along with acquiring, implementing and managing this hardware. Server hardware isn't the only consideration. If your chosen solution can leverage field rep's existing consumer grade smartphones or tablets, you can completely eliminate the risks associated with implementing solution specific hardware.
The final 'risk hurdle' that is particularly prevalent with field sales, retail merchandising and field marketing solutions is overcoming the adoption curve. All of these solutions require remote workers to not only understand, but to appreciate and embrace the field solutions that you implement. This requires training and ongoing communication with your reps. Many studies have proven that simple, straight-forward mobile solutions achieve much higher adoption, and therefore generate much more value, than their complex counterparts.
In summary, you can greatly reduce the risks associated with implementing field automation if the solution you chose is:
- Simple, addressing your top requirements very well without clouding value with too many features,
- Cloud based, and uses your rep's existing Smartphones so you don't need IT infrastructure or support,
- Intuitive and easy to use, increasing the adoption curve of field reps, and speeding the time to value for the organization.
Mat Brogie is part of the founding team, and CEO of Repsly, the world's leading solution for high performance retail execution teams. Mat has spent the past 15 years of his career focused on bringing technology enabled business solutions to the consumer goods industry, having implemented solutions for tens of thousands of field reps at companies such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Pepperidge Farm and hundreds of others.