A sophisticated app-based Sales Force Automation solution for field team is probably the most common initiative any brand is taking these days to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of its retail field force. Be it a global FMCG major or a fruit juice start-up, it has become almost like a mandate that all retail execution activities (such as order taking, fulfilment, retailer stock taking, visibility, merchandising, competition activities etc.) should be tracked by enabling the sales executives or merchandisers with an SFA mobile app.
What’s relatively new though is providing a similar solution to their supervisors or team leads (or for that matter any one up in the sales or marketing hierarchy) which will seamlessly work with the field team’s SFA app. Eventually, the way forward is to opt for one single solution which will have different mobile interfaces for different stakeholders. The one for the supervisors can be called anything such as Supervisor’s app or Manager’s app depending on the need of the company.
However, before you start looking for such a solution, you must be very clear about the benefits of such an application for relatively senior people in your sales hierarchy. Here we have listed down five most important value additions:
- Tracking market visit of supervisors: The importance of regular market visit by supervisors or other seniors are known to all and all the companies would like to ensure that these market visits are being done actually as per predefined beat plan or PJP. Discipline in terms of number of visits, beat adherence etc. can only be established if there is a proper SFA solution in place.
- Random outlet audits: When the supervisors do market visits, it’s not just about relationship building. They are also supposed to check many other important parameters such as brand visibility, share of shelf, payment status, retailer feedback etc. and report their findings along with evidences. If they can be enabled with a cutting edge mobile app, it becomes very easy for them to report such data in a convenient way instead of noting it down on a piece of paper of saving the photos in mobile galleries.
- Tracking associate / joint call: It’s a mandate in many large MNCs that seniors must accompany the field sales team on certain days during the sales call other than doing regular market visits. Benefits of the same is immense and doesn’t need to be elaborated. However, there is no mechanism to track the actual occurrence until the managers are using an app-based solution to report such associate or join calls with the team.
- Easily accessing employee performance: For a supervisor to take operational (or at times tactical) decisions, it’s very important for him to have quick, easy and regular access of performance related data of the field force. For example, if a supervisor can see the number of outlets visited, total orders placed, MTD target vs achievement in a crisp report in the mobile app, he can take some immediate action as and when required.
- Easy communication with the team: There can’t be anything better if the supervisors can start communicating with their teams on a real time basis from the same SFA solution. It will not only cut down on the lead time of sharing important information and resolving team’s queries, but will also help in getting rid of multiple other communication channels such as SMS, WhatsApp etc.
Now that we know benefits and importance of an app-based SFA solution for managers or supervisors, the question comes how do you select the right one? Based on our experience of serving multiple clients with similar needs across the globe, we have some basic list of functionalities which you much check for availability in your shortlisted solutions:
- Beat Planning for Team Leads: When you want your supervisors to do a market visit, either you are already preparing a beat plan for them or will do that very soon. So, you check that the solution you are going to use comes with Beat / PJP planning feature not just for the field force, but for anyone else higher up in the hierarchy.
- Customizable activity creation: A manager is not supposed to do the same activities that his team members are doing when he is visiting any outlet. Actually, what he should check and report varies significantly across roles, seniority, market, outlet type, seasonality and many other factors. Hence, the solution must have a flexible backend to customize the activity / task list basis all such variations instead of having few fixed set of workflows.
- Functionality to report Joint Calls: As we discussed earlier, joint call or associate call is a very important part of the sales process in many companies. A stand-alone module to report several details of any such call (such as who was accompanied with, time duration of joint call, findings and proofs) is utmost important to check the occurrence and effectiveness of such calls.
- Powerful Mobile Analytics: Why accessing employee performance data on the mobile app is important we have already discussed. It is also important that such data gets represented in a crisp and intuitive way so that the managers don’t find it difficult or irritating to check those reports or dashboards. Also, the mobile solution must be integrated with a powerful BI engine so that customized requirements from different stakeholders can be catered to without much of a challenge.
- Push Notifications & Chats: In order to communicate effectively with individuals or with the entire team, the managers must have an option to send notifications to their team members and also to chat with them as and when required to get quick updates or to resolve their queries. These features help in improving the team productivity to a great extent in the long run.