This article orginally appeared on the OpenView blog.
Research shows that a face-to-face request is 34 times more effective than one made via email. Field sales representatives understand the value of in-person interactions, as they spend most of their workdays on the road meeting with clients and prospects.
These outside sales reps have honed a different skill set than their inside sales counterparts, playing a more consultative role in the buying process and performing hands-on tasks to drive deals forward.
Field sales managers are responsible for keeping their reps’ productivity and morale as high as possible. Here we’ll discuss three strategies for making field sales teams successful and helping reps reach their fullest potential.
Empower Reps With Data
Sales managers can think of data as ammunition in their battle to win a deal. Field sales reps need several data points that they can access on the fly to help them do their jobs more effectively.
In order to best prepare for a meeting, reps need to know how a prospect has already engaged with their company to assess where they are in the buying process. Though the types of data field sales reps utilize are generally prospect-centric, it also pays to have data points about the company and its products readily available.
The following are examples of useful data points for field sales teams to take advantage of throughout the sales cycle:
- Pieces of marketing content the prospect has interacted with
- The average number of touchpoints required and average length of the sales cycle for closing deals
- The prospect’s product usage during the trial period (if applicable)
- Information about the latest company and product updates
- Data on product usage as reported by other customers
- Buyer personas and other marketing collateral
- History of interactions thus far with the prospect
Even if they’re privy to all the best data sources, reps can’t harness their benefits if they’re not easily accessible.
Use Mobile-First Tools
You wouldn’t bring a baseball bat to a tennis match. Similarly, field sales reps wouldn’t use tools designed for people who work in an office full-time as part of their daily workflow. Instead, mobile-optimized tools enable reps to work more efficiently by having a responsive user interface and streamlined data management schema that makes accessing key information painless.
Almost all salespeople use a CRM, but field sales teams, in particular, should be using one that’s designed with mobility in mind. A rep should be able to instantly pull up key client details and documents from their smartphone without the hassle of needing to use their laptop. They should also be able to record new information received during a meeting into their CRM while they’re on the go, cutting down on their time spent doing administrative data entry tasks at the end of their day.
Moreover, field sales teams should choose tools with offline capabilities so that spotty wifi doesn’t prevent reps from getting work done. Finally, the importance of GPS for outside sales cannot be overstated. It’s essential for helping reps with route planning, identifying opportunities in the nearby area, and devising better sales territories.
Mobile tools are also great for bringing an otherwise dispersed team together.
Though the nature of outside sales is very social, field sales reps still run the risk of becoming isolated from their peers. This can be discouraging for salespeople who are inherently competitive or who want to feel like they are part of a team.
Besides feelings of loneliness, a lack of collaboration can hurt performance in field sales teams as well. Research shows that 53% of salespeople rely on their peers for tips on how to improve at their job. Hence it’s critical for managers to create channels of communication for their reps.
Instant messaging is a simple way to keep field sales reps connected, as it’s less clunky than email. Managers can also use it as a means of coaching reps who get less facetime with their supervisors than inside sales reps might.
Managers can implement sales competitions to keep reps working towards a common goal and give them the opportunity to earn bragging rights amongst the team. If the budget allows, these competitions can also include a compensation incentive. In addition, leaderboards (ideally in a digital format) are a great way to support healthy competition and connectedness.
It’s also up to managers to schedule regular check-ins with reps to address any issues they might be experiencing in the field. In the same vain, managers can organize team-building events to foster a sense of community within the outside sales force.
Outside sales teams have the luxury of meeting prospects in-person and better understanding the complexities of a deal. However, the nature of their work poses some unique challenges, namely dissociation from HQ and from their team members.
Empowering reps with data in the field enables them to make the most out of every meeting. Using tools that are mobile-friendly make their workflows more efficient and allow them to spend more time selling and building relationships. Creating a community within a field sales force encourages peer-to-peer coaching and competition.
If managers are cognizant of the hurdles and opportunities their field sales force faces, they’ll be well-positioned to drive the team towards success.
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.