“I spend a fortune on field sales and I know half of my money is wasted – I just don’t know which half! Not only is half the money wasted, I’m not visiting hundreds of stores where I have genuine lost sales problems.”

Sound familiar? It’s an all-too-common problem, and all too often something that is recognised by sales managers, but just accepted as “too hard” and not anything anyone thinks about trying to address. But actually, like many problems, the solution lies amongst the data you already have, you just don’t realise it. And the reward, increased ROI, which will be from both increased revenue and decreased waste.

Without overcomplicating it by looking in too much detail, we can say that the aim is to be sending the field sales team to the stores where they can have the most impact, but also monitoring and measuring what has been done to validate and continuously improve, tune the process. How do you know which stores would benefit most from a visit this week? Look at the data. How do you know the ROI for visits that were made to stores last week? Look at the data.

Analysing daily sales data for individual SKUs in individual stores, plotting those across the stores for each retailer, you can categorise each store as to whether it is typically a high-volume store or lower volume store. As the ROI for a field sales call is linked to how much potential benefit (value) any intervention could have, and the potential incremental sales from a smaller store will be lower, making the maximum ROI from a field sales call lower. It goes to say therefore, that identifying stores that should typically have a higher sales volume, but where sales data shows this is not consistently being achieved, makes them a good candidate for prioritising a field sales visit.

So now you have a field sales visit scheduled, you can use more data to make that visit as efficient and effective as possible. By providing the field sales team with up to date data on sales and stock holdings per product for the stores they are visiting, enables them to arrive with knowledge of what the situation is, what the stock holding is supposed to be. And by up-to-date, that doesn’t mean a picture of what sales and stock holding was 3 weeks ago, it means in the days over the past week prior to the visit. Having this data at hand when in the store also helps in the situation where in larger stores it can sometimes be challenging to get access to IT systems to check what is recorded as being the in-store stock, checking for ghost-stock.

Now the field sales team have made visits, and recorded interventions in some stores where stock issues or display issues, the important next step is measure sales in the days after the field sales intervention to validate the benefit of the call. This is a crucial input to accurately measuring the overall ROI of the field sales team, and key also to feeding back into the process of field sales planning. It’s all well and good to have data and being using it, but you also need to be checking that it is actually having the desired effect, that you are using it in the right way.

As with any data set, it is possible to create advanced analysis techniques, modelling and even AI learning to try and super-optimize this process, but it doesn’t have to be complicated and onerous. Automating collection of the data and creating re-useable reports that are showing relatively straight forward views of sales and stock holding data is a low-cost investment. Creating the reports in the right way that they are automated is crucial to ensuring that the process doesn’t require a lot of manual effort to operate, and also ensures accuracy and enables the field sales team to be working with the most up-to-date data.

At Enoua, we have helped clients make use of retailer sales and stock data available from SKUtrak DataShare, integrating that into the field sales planning and operations, more accurately measuring and ultimately increasing ROI of the field sales team.

If you want to know which half of your field sales budget is wasted, start looking at the data.

If you need help with that, contact Enoua.