4 Ways Automation Can Help Your B2B Outside Sales Reps
What if your reps could focus 95% of their time on actually selling? And what if when they were in front of a client they were armed with ammunition to cross sell or add more SKUs to their typical order? As a sales manager I’ve always wanted my reps to focus on selling, not on admin tasks, and to have meaningful client information that would help them plan their routes or sales calls.
Planning laziness. One of my first methods to solve this years ago was simple: we would query our database, where our sales orders where stored, every Friday and predict based on past behavior who was likely to order and what. My reps loved it because it saved them so much planning time and they would use the list to come up with their route for the following week.
The drag of reporting. When I was a rep I hated reporting. So when we set out to build an iPad APP for them we decided to do away with sales activity reporting. After all, the APP knows what has been presented to who and when, so why waste time repeating the same information again.
Third, one of my frustrations leading my team was that no matter how much time we spent devising the perfect message, the message was never consistent on the road. We would prepare “how to sell X product in 30 seconds guides” for each new product, but our salespeople wouldn’t follow them. And when it came to collateral we would have old versions still circulating around past their lifetime. Instead of the new ones with new and improved messages. Current pricing wasn’t an issue because we used our own online based ERP from the get go (2006), so pricing was always current. But I can see how that could be an issue for others. The iPad came to our rescue again here.
Lastly, my other frustration has always been that I’ve always hired very smart reps. And my very smart reps frequently in their zeal to close sales would decide to give customers some extra discount, cash or in-kind. Moreover, often, the back office would fail to catch it. So we built a system that would “catch” the exceptions and request approval from the sales manager before the order could be processed.
Being a tech enthusiast myself we’ve continued to buy or build automation software that made our reps more effective in these 4 areas: Planning or Prepping, Reporting, Protecting the message, and Automating approvals.
Prepping: Giving them the right information at the right time, to know how to cross sell and up sell the client they are just going to see. The keyword here is business intelligence or customer analytics, but be careful some solutions out there are cumbersome to use on the road. For my reps I like to give them just the information they need. Too much and they won’t even look at it.
Reporting: Taking away the end of day/week menial task of reporting what’s been done. If you use an iPad while on sales calls this is very easy to do. And I have a few ideas in the works for how to make it even better.
Protecting the Message: We’ve used keynote, pdfs and now our own software to do this. The solutions are many out there.
Look for software that works for your company in these 4 areas. If you just want to focus on a couple of them I would concentrate on finding a solution for Prepping/Planning and Protecting your message. Those would be my priority. Good luck.