Sales efficiency | 4 MIN READ

Business efficiency – time for a makeover?

 Oct 28, 2020

Selling more, and selling more effectively is the primary aim of any sales organisation. Here’s how leveraging in three ways will help your sales operatives deliver their targets…

Advice about how to improve business efficiency is in abundant supply… ranging from benevolent team steering, to time management tools to deploy via CRM, horizontalization within the organization, or segmenting the workforce. None of this is particularly useful if your strategy is built on sand… Why not re-boot on a solid basis, equipped with the tools to understand your business better, to define realistic objectives, and simplify the daily lives of your staff?

Tear yourself away from those Excel spreadsheets, and take the plunge to get mapping!

It goes without saying that as a sales manager you are expert at wielding and manipulating your spreadsheet application. However, as skilful as you may be in this, the lines and columns of figures will always speak less eloquently than a graphic representation, and notably a cartographic representation. Before setting those targets for your sales force, spatialize your market and business analyses. This will be the most effective way to objectify the gap between what you hold dear as strategic ambitions for your team, and what you can actually achieve. Keep in your mind that, even when the goods or services you sell are ‘intangibles’, your activity must necessarily have a territorial dimension: your customers, whether individuals or companies, are physically located somewhere. So are the individuals making up your team. And that’s something that is not going to change!

When you project your data and key indicators onto a map and cross these data with external facts and figures, you can obtain clear answers to the questions you need to be asking when building an effective business strategy:

  • Where are our customers? Our priority targets? Our competitors?
  • Where are results lower than the identified potential?
  • Where have we lost ground in relation to our competitors?
  • What are the external factors at work? Weather, new developments or building work? Competitor location, sociological and population trends, a health crisis... to cite a few examples of issues that can explain performance or under-performance…
  • Is there any correlation between the number of visits or customer contacts and the TO generated by each customer?
  • Have we the resources to achieve what we want or are expecting to achieve?

Visualising the answers to these questions on a map and using pertinent dashboards that speak volumes, not only can we save time (lots of it!) but we also eliminate a certain number of received ideas, or even calculation errors that can skew reasoning and in turn our decisions. Through mapping, we give ourselves the means to design a sales strategy based on facts, not just on intuition.

Optimize your sectorization, balance your sales portfolios

Like any other sales manager, your job is to translate objectives for your company into operational objectives for your teams and each of their members. To realise these objectives you have to be realistic – that is, in tune with the real production capacity of your sales force. Not only does this mean dividing up your territory into coherent and pertinent sectors in relation to your activity, but also assigning balanced portfolios in terms of revenue potential to each sales executive, taking into account work load and travelling time, the experience of each staff member, HR obligations, account histories, local specificities and constraints…

Of course you can spend your time resolving this complex equation in your preferred spreadsheet, but you’ll arrive at the optimum solution much more quickly if you use the right tool, specifically designed for multi-criterion optimization, with options to vary parameters, mull them over, visualise a given hypothesis so it can be discussed with your teams. As one of our customers reflected a few years ago:
"Once we had set up our mapping system, we noticed huge disparities in terms of potential as well as in geographic terms. Mapping the data really showed us that there were significant holes in our thinking. Starting from sector revenue potential, the number of customers, and where sales staff lived or were based, we were rapidly able to move on from these fundamentals to arrive at a completely different vision – one we could not have imagined before we started."

The fact is, it’s a lot easier to see what’s what on a map, rather than in a table of data: for example, that this customer here should be assigned this salesman rather than another for reasons of proximity: that the west part of sector A should be affiliated to sector C that is contiguous, but that has too few customers, or that a geographic area where you were counting on developing several important prospects is not actually covered at all.

If you want your teams to carry on attaining their targets, it’s vital you reassess andadjust your sectorization and portfolios regularly in the light of results obtained, the make-up of your teams, evolution of the customer base, and new objectives. When there’s a major shift of some kind - market repositioning, change in distribution model or turnover, merger-acquisition - the best solution is often to start afresh, and turn the page… This drive will be even more productive if you bring your teams together to share knowledge of the terrain and to redefine portfolios so they are well-accepted because they are equitable.

Simplify the daily lives of your staff

Sales personnel on the ground spend a significant amount of their time organising their agenda and accounting for how they have spent their day. The result? They are constantly short on time to do what is most important of all, and truly brings in results: building relationships with clients, listening to their needs and their projects. Here is how you can help them take charge of their time without losing sight of their objectives:

  • Automate scheduling and appointment making – so each staff member can manage their own agenda, or so agendas are managed by a dedicated cell or at the level of a call centre, any timeslot offered to the customer at an instant in time ‘t’ is compatible with appointments already taken, notably taking into account travel times and expected durations of each visit. This is what a scheduling tool such as Opti-Time does automatically, suggesting the nearest and most logical slot taking into account what has already been fixed in the agenda.
    If you set for your sales people visit frequency targets, these ‘mandatory’ visits can be pre-planned and smoothed over several months, always taking into account working hours, distances between appointment locations and any peak hours for the business activity. There will Inevitably be alterations along the way, visits sometimes have to be postponed or rescheduled, but each sales person will have a framework at their disposal that helps them see the larger picture, so they can anticipate and plan their visits without forgetting a single customer or prospect. Automated confirmations and reminders for every appointment are an additional time saver.
  • Generate optimized visit plans – if appointment making is optimized upstream, it is that much easier to generate visit plans that will themselves be optimized, and so trusted and respected with confidence. To maximize useful time for your sales staff, the planning for a day that is relatively slack can be completed with visits to customers located in the vicinity, or, as this article hopefully explains, as a function of strategic priorities that your sales personnel might not always have at the top of their list...

Don’t suppose for a minute that access to these advanced functionalities means your staff have to use extra tools: all these geographic optimization functionalities are integrated in the CRM they use already!

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