Digitizing your Field Sales Process in the COVID-19 Age

COVID-19 turned one year a few weeks ago and while things on ground seem to be more controlled with the measures we adapted, the impact is still felt from all business fronts. The Kenyan economy has suffered dire consequences with a GDP growth drop from 5.4% in 2019 to -0.1% in 2020. As much as there is a global economic recovery prediction of 7.6% this year, we cannot be too sure it will come to and should therefore be prepared if it does not. Realistically regardless of the outcome, we should be prepared to deal with the effects for a long while to come.

Every industry has been hit by the pandemic. I do hope that each has however taken time to re-strategize and make it work for them as we await the silver lining. While the impact may not be as severe for some industries, the ones considered to be not essential have found themselves in a very compromising position with some resorting to downsizing workforce and some even to the extreme of temporarily closing down.

On the other hand the essentials services primarily the FMCG sector, saw a significant amount of growth particularly with the ones who chose to embrace technology growing exponentially. In fact technology, to be more specific digitization, has been the saving grace for most if not all industries during this time.

Focusing on this sector, a huge percentage of companies in FMCG rely on field sales force to drive its operations. This percentage found and still finds it hard to maneuver with the COVID restriction guidelines put in place. But not the ones who adapted and effectively chose to digitize by using a Sales Force Automation Solution. Before we get into the why, let’s look at the day-to-day challenges that are faced by them but are further heightened by the pandemic.

1. Non-effective management of field operations: Abiding by guidelines but still ensuring field force is effective is hard. While some have a plan on how to handle operations going forward, others are yet to re-strategize and get their teams back out in the field. Questions like, which markets to focus on, what products to push more, how to distribute safety gear supply, in the case of an infected sales rep linger what next, lingers at the back of their mind.

2. Order process automation. With a manual approach to order booking to fulfillment, how do you ensure the order booking process remains effective and efficient despite a decrease in field movement. If there is no visibility of the process issues like missing orders, clerical errors, longer delivery time may arise and affect customer experience and reliability of your order process.

3. Sales process efficiency. Fine, you have a plan in place when it comes to your field team but have you equipped them well enough to deliver on their targets. Do they still have to go through the same tiresome manual and time-consuming process? The curfew in place already limits the amount of time they spend in the field hence affecting productivity. You do not want them further wasting their time on paperwork when they could be making products move.

3. Market information Gap. Certain restrictions on customer and market visits leaves a gap on market information such as competitor activity, feedback on products and pricing adjustments. We are all aware that the existence of an industry is on a customer-satisfying basis and not just a goods producing one hence importance of this data for key strategic decision making.

4. Re-strategizing. How do we measure the impact of the pandemic and plan accordingly? In this moment, the data collected from impact allows you to measure and divert attention to the major pain areas. Data like product category performance, route performance, region performance will give you an idea of what to do and what not to do. What happens when you don’t have this data?

While a sales automation tool may not reverse the already done damage it will empower you to better handle the situation. Even more, it is a long-term solution to ever growing problems. By adapting one, you can significantly optimize operational efficiency and team performance while providing efficiency.

How? By:

-Effectively communicating with your team. An SFA solution should allow you to communicate with your team through updates, push notifications as well as informative blogs/articles. It should also have the option of letting your sales rep update you on their status in the field at any time. If your rep is not okay while at work, being able to be aware and attend to them is crucial. Swift communication precedents swift response.

– Photo capturing: Your sales automation app can be used to capture images that can be used for verification process. Aside from eliminating paperwork, you stand to reduce the risk of having to deal with paper that can be a mode of surface transfer of the virus. It also saves on time and corroborates the information your sales rep presents to you.

– Capturing of market information. An SFA app should have the functionality to collect feedback, conduct customized surveys and conduct promotions. A customized survey for your different customer categories can help you build a stronger relationship with them. They are your eyes and ears on ground in your absence. With the pandemic, product demand may shift and they are the best people to keep you in the know.

-Leveraging analytics: What is a good solution without a comprehensive dashboard that enables you to access all kinds of reports to measure progress and performance? Set, adjust and track sales performance with ease. Have an overview of sales progress and strategize accordingly.

Digitization is a game-changing transformation that has become paramount to every company looking to increase sales and profitability while staying ahead of their competition during these times.

Sales automation has definitely been hastened by the COVID pandemic and a year into what is now the new norm, it is good to prepare for longer term impacts.

By choosing Solutech SAT, you get to benefit from all the aforementioned and even more pros of digitizing your field sales process.


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