Field controls - Sales Management

Identifying key result areas and setting performance standards

Once overall company plans, forecasts or targets,and objectives have been established and communicated, these need to be broken down to territory and customer forecasts,objectives, strategies and tactics. Then measurement and achievement bases can be agreed for each salesperson, with standards of performance set and agreed for each key result area, where objective measures can be made interns of quantity, quality, cost or time.

The main key result areas where sales managers should set standards of performance and make control measurements are:

  • standard daily call rate (i.e. minimum acceptable)
  • average daily call rate (measured over along er period, such as a month)
  • minimum order size (volume/value)
  • average order size (volume/value)
  • total daily, weekly, monthly sales achievements (against targets, forecasts)
  • calls on new prospects
  • conversion ratio of calls to orders
  • distribution by product
  • product display achievements (quality observed from field audit checks; quantity possibly measured through daily report recordings)
  • achievement of scheduled call coverage
  • pre-call objective setting.

Sales-manager-key-task-diary-planner

By monitoring each of the objective criteria for each member of the sales team a good measure of interpersonal differences in productivity can be made. The manager’s personal judgment can be used where there are particular differences in the potential or trade channel structure of territories .A standard of performance can be expressed as an absolute number, such as ’to achieve 10 calls per day and 100 per cent scheduled call coverage over a journey cycle’,or in ratio terms, such as ’to convert 40 percent of calls made to active customers’.

If standards of performance are to have credibility with the sales team responsible for achieving them, they must have a basis in historical performance and achievement. They must be seen as realistic and achievable by all,and only work as motivators within the team where they are subject to measurement and regular feedback. It would be of little benefit setting a standard for, say, new customer prospecting, if there is no measure of new calls made and the outcomes of those calls.

Sources of control data and performance information

Sources of information that the sales manager or head office sales department can use for analysis should include the daily activity report and the customer order form. If well designed and properly used in sales management these two documents contain a wealth of information for analysis as measures of activity and effectiveness. In addition, any of the standard forms and control documents used by the sales force provide sources of control data to the field sales manager. Some of their control uses are illustrated in the following table.

Supplementary analysis

  • Supplementary analysis of daily activity reports and customer order forms can also focus attention on:
    • product-by-product analysis to show gains and losses in distribution by customer, territory, area, etc. (often using self-reporting by salespersons);
    • to identify and highlight new distribution achievements;
    • to measure achievements against established standards of performance;
    • to conduct analysis of special recordings or data of short term interest;
    • profit performance by area/territory/salesperson.
  • When working with salespersons in the field the sales manager should take the opportunity to check that all customer call records maintained by the salesperson are up to date, and that they are used by the salesperson during the selling day for call planning and management purposes.

Managers often find it useful to check the call records for accounts that have not been active in recent sales periods. Also,surveys of call records can often highlight weaknesses in product distribution or usage, and if stock levels are entered it may be possible to spot where sales are below potential from recorded stock level son entry to calls.

  • Managers can look to see if calls being missed follow a pattern, such as the more remote customers, or where buyers reconsidered less cooperative.
  • Salespersons should be encouraged to logon the daily activity reports their daily and cumulative sales against targets, to create self-awareness of achievement against territory targets.
  • Managers must closely monitor salespersons who have authority to vary terms and prices, to ensure that best prices are being achieved, and that profitability is not being eroded unnecessarily.

commission salesperson normally will be more motivated by his or her personal earnings than improving company profitability. Where data is monitored using computers,the sales manager should develop exception printouts to monitor:

  • that all scheduled calls per cycle are being made
  • which scheduled visits did/did not produce orders
  • which customers have ceased to be active(i.e. customers who have not ordered within the journey cycle)
  • where customer orders deviate significantly from customer targets
  • customer payments, i.e. overdue payments, monitored by territory
  • new customers opened in the latest sales period
  • orders taken but not delivered within the sales period (watching for production and stock management problems).

Sales performance league tables

One of the most commonly used tools for providing performance feedback against key result areas is the sales territory league table.

An example of this is illustrated in Table.

Where practical, this might be prepared by data logged on to computer performance or databases, but in many companies the sales performance league table is found to use summary data from several different data recording sources,and may need to be prepared manually as summary. Analysis should be used to highlight any variations in patterns between territories.

By providing feedback in a league table that covers a range of key result areas it provides an opportunity for different salespersons to lead in the various measurement categories, and it is rare for one salesperson to lead in all categories. A league table makes individual performance public, and provides source of motivation.

Another example of how performance data might be presented at the sales territory level is shown in Table, which can also be totaled to give similar charts by sales area(groups of territories) or nationally for the company. This example looks at performance for individual products against a range of performance measurement criteria.

Monitoring performance against territory sales target

If the sales manager wants a closer monitoring of territory performance against targets,the control form illustrated in Table can be developed for each territory. This will:

  • show a running territory performance against target
  • help to plan the following month’s targets (adjusted to take account of the latest market situation)
  • show up interpersonal (inter-territory) anomalies
  • flag danger signs of serious shortfalls (indicating training needs, corrective action Marketing / promotional, market trends)
  • provide a basis for re -allocating target shortfalls over the balance of a month or even to other (better performing) territories.

A summary sheet, accumulating the sale sand performance against target for each sales area grouping of salespersons, can also be prepared along the same lines. All this control data can be produced manually or using computers, with automatic updates as new data arrives daily. Experienced sales managers know that it is critical to monitor target achievement daily in most industries, as shortfalls are very hard to rectify the further you go through any sales period.

Example-of-a-territory-league-table-comparing-performanceExample-of-a-territory-league-table-comparing-performance

In the example of Table, the territory target has been divided equally across each selling day. While that is a common practice where companies operate in repeat consumable product categories, it is not normally appropriate in many industrial or business to-business patterns. In such situations, daily target monitoring system may be less meaningful, and perhaps monitoring is on weekly basis. In our example, we show that by 14 July the territory salesperson is 118 cases behind target, about a half-day’s selling time.

If the territory forecasting was accurate,the territory salesperson would have some catching up to do, and the sales manager would need to be working with the salesperson to seek ways of correcting the deficit.

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