Manage a feet-on-street sales force

By Pranbihanga Borpuzari

Today, the challenges of reaching out to prospective customers are quite testing. Gone are the days when one could reach out to customers through a mere advertisement on TV, in newspapers or magazines. Marketing is more about being relevant and making an impact at the point of sale. The costs of reaching out to such customers have been spiraling and a company’s considerable cost is towards promoting and marketing its brands.

In the backdrop of such a scenario, many now rely heavily on a feet-on-street (FoS) force.

An FoS force is one that goes to individual stores to place products and to negotiate for better display presence. While most tend to do this in-house, an increasing trend is to outsource such activities to cut costs.

However, it is difficult to keep an outsourced team motivated and it is best to do it within the organization. It is important that once this decision is taken, it is properly executed and efficiently managed.

Hiring the right people
This will include hiring the right manager to lead the team as well as team members who have the knack of convincing people. As FoS generally has a lot of traveling built into its work model, it is important that energetic and young people make up the team. The hiring strategy should lay out the attributes that should be present in a candidate and the experience and skills required to be successful. Phone and face-to-face interviews are critical.

Avoid rulemaking
Sales people generally like their freedom. While it is difficult to track their movement, it is also not desirable.

An update on where their day was spent would not be the right way to go but what results they have managed to achieve would be more apt. Don’t have hard and fast rules for them to follow because they will simply focus their creativity on finding ways to overcome your rules.

The leader should be a coach
Sales is not easy and in a tough environment where many companies have an FoS team, targets are generally hard to meet and results may not be always visible. High performers should be encouraged to share their experiences and find out ways to a problem if they were in the leader’s shoes. Let them own the solution to whatever obstacle is at hand. This gets the team motivated and also involved in decision-making and problem-solving. Recognition is also very important. A job well done should be appreciated, as money isn’t often the main driver.

Metrics management
The work involved is measurable and quantifiable if the correct method is laid out. The manager of an FoS team should focus on tracking and managing these metrics.

It is important that the manager gets daily or weekly updates on the workings of the team and keeps a close watch on actual sales against forecasted sales. Any change in strategy should be promptly dealt with.

A team member makes 200-250 site visits every month and it would be impossible to manage such large volumes without consistent metrics management.

It is also important that the team knows the yardstick that they are going to be measured against so that they can motivate themselves to reach targets.

Easy access to lists and pertinent market data
The company should define its targets and communicate it to the team. It is no use making the team go on a wild goose chase, visiting every outlet if it does not suit the cause. The company should spend time and effort in building a database so that sales reps have relevant information about the account.

Too often, inside sales reps have to spend time researching accounts and finding names of prospects to visit. The more data that is specified as a requirement by you and accessible through your CRM, the better.

This could include not only company names and key contacts with e-mail addresses and phone numbers, but also market intelligence and personal reference in formation to accelerate introductions.

Embrace technology
Technology has come into the space in a big way. Recently, Reliance General Insurance India Co. Ltd. (RGICL) tied up with GoDB Tech development for a mobile insurance point-of-sale (M-POS) application.

The M-POS application has currently been rolled out on Android devices and is powered by the GoDB Mobility platform, which is deployed on the existing PC-based offline POS systems at RGICL centers across the country.

The platform equips RGICL insurance agents with a mobile insurance point-of-sale (for selling policies directly at the customer’s doorstep).

The model can scale to accommodate multiple products and increase insurance penetration in areas where it may not be financially feasible to build brick and mortar presence.