Field sales teams are very expensive. When a salesperson has to travel outside the office to see a customer -- possibly on extended trips to another city, state, or country -- the price tag of a sales call can easily add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Here are some ways sales organizations have responded to this reality.
1) Create (or grow) an inside sales team. As this HBR blog post points out, companies like IBM, SAP, and Astra Zeneca have all invested heavily in growing their inside sales teams. When you consider cost per sale, this makes sense -- inside reps make contact with prospects and customers via phone call or video conferencing and thus eliminating travel expenses altogether.
2) Ramp up marketing assets and optimize online selling channels. Customers today research and buy products online -- this is true even for complex and highly expensive B2B solutions. That means customers are engaging with salespeople at a different point in the sales process; much of what field sales teams used to accomplish (knocking on doors and delivering presentations) have been replaced by online content that can be watched or read online. In other cases, companies are taking cues from customers and waiting to deploy field sales reps until customers indicate that they’re ready for a face-to-face meeting.
3) Find ways to make field sales highly productive. One way, as we mentioned, is to create an inside sales team to augment the more expensive tactics practiced by field sales. Another way, however, is to adopt tools that directly benefit field sales. InfoGrow is a great example. Their CRM Call Planner tool allows reps to “cluster” their meetings by location, on a map within Dynamics CRM, to maximize the return of their time spent on the road (including turn-by-turn directions to prevent getting lost, and street and satellite views to find parking quickly -- if you’ve ever had navigation or parking troubles on the way to a client meeting, you know these are two major productivity losses). If a meeting falls through or the rep has more time than planned, he or she can also use the tool to quickly find other opportunities to cold call nearby.
It’s important for all companies to quantify and measure their productivity levels. (In fact, we’ve helped a few clients create tools to do just that.) Sometimes we assume our sales and marketing teams are productive without any real evidence to back it up. Other times, we know a problem exists because we’re not getting the results we want -- we just don’t know exactly where the problem lies. The great thing about tracking ROI is that you become empowered to take the right steps to put you on the path to success.
Do you have a field sales team? How are you measuring productivity? Share your thoughts in the comments section.