Looking to build an efficient, high-performing field sales team? Read on.
There’s no “right way” to make a sale. Some companies prefer an inside approach, which means their reps make sales from the comfort of a corporate office. Other companies take an outside approach and physically meet with their prospects in the field.
The approach you choose for your organization will likely depend on the kind of products you sell. Brands that sell simple products and/or have short sales cycles usually opt for inside sales, while B2B companies with complex offerings and longer sales cycles tend to have more success with outside sales.
We’re not here to debate approaches—both have merits. But if you’re reading this, it’s because you manage a field sales team and want to do it better.
In this guide, you’ll learn about the top field sales management challenges, as well as strategies that can be used to propel your sales team to new heights.
The Challenges of Managing a Field Sales Team
Building an effective field sales team and ensuring all of your reps are productive isn’t easy. In fact, it can be very difficult. But it’s definitely not impossible. Especially if you know the main challenges you’ll face and how to overcome them.
Reducing administrative workload
The average sales rep only spends 35.2% of their time selling. The rest is spent on administrative tasks that don’t directly contribute to their company’s bottom line. To effectively manage a field sales team, you need to find ways to reduce admin work for your reps so that they can focus on what they were hired to do: sell.
Maintaining rep productivity
Administration tasks aren’t the only thing that slow sales reps down and keep them from closing more deals. Inefficient processes are also to blame. As a field sales manager, part of your job is to develop workflows for your team—workflows they can easily follow to generate pipeline for your organization.
Preventing leads from falling through the cracks
According to Marketo, only about 45% of B2B leads end up buying. This number jumps to 55% or more for B2C leads. If these stats are true, then the problem isn’t the quality of your leads, it’s the fact that your reps aren’t following up with them in an effective way. Sales managers must help their reps develop effective follow-up processes to find success.
Gaining transparency in the field
Managing a field sales team is often harder than managing an inside one. Why? Because half of the time you won’t even know where your reps are and what they’re doing. This lack of transparency can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, there are tools you can use to bring clarity to these situations.
Tracking sales activity and performance
Similar to above, how can field sales managers be sure that their reps are completing necessary tasks on a daily basis? And how can they understand how their reps’ actions translate into pipeline and revenue? Field sales reps are notorious for “forgetting” to fill out spreadsheets or filling them out incorrectly, which makes it nearly impossible to improve sales processes. Again, software can help in this area.
Keeping reps motivated
You can’t succeed in sales if you’re not motivated to do so. Unfortunately, many field sales teams lose their motivation for one reason or another. They get burnt out on travel, hit a slow period, get frustrated with inefficient sales processes, etc. One of your main jobs as a field sales manager is to keep your reps motivated.
Retaining quality reps
Turnover is an expensive problem. Studies show that the average sales rep only lasts 18 months, but it costs anywhere from 150-200% of their salary to replace them. To make matters worse, it takes reps over three months to reach peak productivity once they’ve been hired. If you can’t retain quality reps, your company will hemorrhage money!
13 Ways to Manage a Successful Field Sales Team
The challenges mentioned above are obstacles and speed bumps, not roadblocks. The tips in this section will teach you exactly how to manage field sales teams effectively so that you can overcome these challenges with ease.
Set clear sales goals
Every successful initiative starts with a clear goal. Sales rep management is no different. Ask yourself, “What are we trying to achieve?”
You’ll need to dig past the obvious answer, “make more sales.” Yes, more sales should always be a priority—you manage the sales department after all. But there are different ways to drive revenue.
For example, you could:
- Aim to increase AOV by $XXX
- Look to expand your current territories by X%
- Reduce average close periods from 10 to 7 days
- Increase close rates by X% by streamlining sales processes
Each of these goals will help your company grow revenue. They’re also much more specific than “boost sales numbers.” These are the kinds of goals you should set.
Define repeatable sales processes
If you haven’t created repeatable sales processes for your team you need to do so as soon as possible. Why? Because process is the foundation of success.
When your sales reps know what to do and when to do it in every sales related scenario, they’ll be able to close deals at a much more consistent rate, leading to higher department morale and greater profitability.
Sales processes also help new reps reach peak productivity in less time. This is because they don’t have to define their own routines from trial and error. They simply follow the proven process you’ve already designed.
To manage your field sales team effectively, take the time to define repeatable sales processes.
Automate sales sequences
Once you’ve created repeatable sales processes, you can begin to automate them. This is where things get really interesting because your reps can start making sales on (almost) autopilot.
Imagine how much more your reps will be able to accomplish when they don’t have to type out every single email they send. And think about the extra revenue they’ll generate when follow-up messages are automatically scheduled for them.
SPOTIO’s Autoplays feature is specifically designed for this purpose. Create sales sequences for every lead in your pipeline so that nothing falls through the cracks.
SPOTIO’s Autoplays features helps prevent quality leads from falling through the cracks.
Automate administrative tasks
Sales sequences aren’t the only thing you can automate.
As mentioned earlier, sales reps spend a LOT of time on administration — time you’d rather be spent on revenue generating tasks. With the right software, you can automate a variety of admin tasks.
For example, with SPOTIO, your reps can automatically log every prospect interaction in real time, pass notes from the SPOTIO mobile app to your CRM, and eliminate most of the manual data entry work required of them.
The result: more time selling, and a 46% boost in sales rep productivity.
Map and assign sales territories
Territory management is critical to ensuring all reps have enough prospects to engage and the highest-performing teams are working the highest value contacts and accounts.
SPOTIO’s territory management software will allow you to quickly cut territories based on geographical boundaries or by drawing on a map. You can then assign each territory to the rep most qualified to cover it.
Straightforward technology like this is not only easy to use, but also gives reps clarity into who owns which territory and prevents unwanted overlap.
Also worth noting, territory sales managers can control whether their reps can see other reps’ lead data or not. If you’re worried your reps will fight over leads, simply block them from viewing this level of information.
Finally, SPOTIO’s territory management solution will give you valuable insights into territory performance, allowing you to easily learn which territories perform best and, more importantly, why this is so.
Open communication channels
It doesn’t matter who you’re managing, communication is crucial. This is especially true for field sales teams because your reps spend so much of their time outside the office.
So do your best to keep the lines of communication between you and your reps open at all times. What does this look like in real life?
- Responding to rep questions in a timely manner
- Making sure the information you share is consistent
- Ensuring your reps trust you and feel supported
- Listening to your reps’ concerns and complaints
Sync sales activities to your CRM
All of your team’s field sales activities should automatically sync to your company’s CRM software. This will dramatically cut down on admin work.
When we say all activities, we mean ALL ACTIVITIES—or at least as many of them as possible. This includes the visits they make to potential customers, the calls they have with prospects, and the emails they send to leads.
Once these details are safely tucked away in your CRM, you’ll finally have a complete picture of your team’s performance. Why do some reps outperform others? Is it skill or do some people on your team simply work harder than others?
The SPOTIO platform is specifically designed to log multichannel sale rep activity and sync it to a variety of popular CRMs, including Salesforce and HubSpot.
Reduce windshield time
Your sales reps likely spend a lot of time in their cars and on airplanes. It’s the nature of the beast. But you know what they aren’t doing while they travel from prospect to prospect? Selling!
That’s why it’s imperative that you help your reps reduce windshield time, i.e. the time they spend traveling. Fortunately, this isn’t difficult to do.
Apps like SPOTIO have route planning tools that will automatically find the most efficient sales routes for your reps. It doesn’t matter how many stops they have to make. Our solution will perfectly plan their days with the tap of a button.
More than that, SPOTIO is designed to automatically track sales rep mileage as well and even export mileage data reports for reimbursement.
Create accountability in the field
If you’re going to properly manage a sales team, you have to have data. Specifically, you need to know where your reps go on company time and how they spend these hours. That way you can hold them accountable to their activities and sales targets.
Once again, SPOTIO makes this part of the job a piece of cake. Our app will automatically track your reps’ travel paths and allow you, as well as other management members, to pinpoint the exact location of your reps in real time.
This isn’t just a big brother scenario. Knowing how your reps spend their time will help you understand how to coach them to greater success.
And don’t worry, if you’re uncomfortable tracking your reps’ every movement in the field, the feature is easily turned off inside of our platform.
Use leaderboards to motivate reps
To build a successful field sales team, you have to know how to motivate your reps. What puts a fire in their bellies? Is it the chance to earn more money? Is it bragging rights? Maybe it’s the simple knowledge that they’re doing good work.
We can’t tell you what will motivate your unique team. But we can tell you that most sellers are competitive. You can use this to your company’s advantage.
Using a tool like SPOTIO, create leaderboards, which are digital dashboards that display each rep’s performance data. Then reward the rep who has the highest win rate, or closes the most leads, or completes the most sales activities in a month.
Our leaderboards can be viewed on both desktop computers and mobile devices and are updated in real time so that reps always know where they rank.
If you’re not familiar with the term, cross-training is when new and/or struggling sales reps are paired with top sellers so that they can learn from the “best of the best” about how to do their jobs well. Think of it as a mentorship program.
Just be careful, not every top seller in your company will want to take on a protégé. And we don’t believe they should be forced to do so.
But, if your top sellers are open to the idea, this is a fantastic sales team management strategy that can help you improve your department quickly. We encourage you to investigate the opportunity to see if it will work for your team.
Choose the right compensation plan
Few things encourage sales reps to strive for greatness more than money in their bank accounts. That’s why your department’s compensation plan is so important. Unfortunately, choosing the right plan can be tricky.
There are a TON of different commission structures to choose from—and not all of them will work for your organization. You need to study the different options and choose the plan that works best for your team. Here’s how:
- Know Your Goals: Your goals will help determine which compensation plan you choose. Make sure you know what you want to achieve before you pick a commission structure to ensure the two compliment each other.
- Study Your Industry: What are your competitors paying their sales reps? If you hope to compete on the same level, you need to compensate your reps in a similar manner. This will help prevent turnover.
- Adjust As Needed: Just because you choose a compensation plan doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever. Talk with your team. Are they happy with the plan you’ve chosen? If not, look to make adjustments.
Finally, to manage a field sales team effectively, you need to provide your reps with honest, timely feedback so that they can improve their skill sets.
Now, how you give feedback is completely up to you. You could host weekly one-on-one meetings. Or email your reps a monthly report that details everything they do well and the things they need to work on.
As long as you provide constructive criticism (constructive is the key word here) in a way that works for your team, you should be good to go.
One more thing: feedback should be a two-way street. Give your team the chance to provide you with feedback too. This will empower your reps and make them feel valued by your organization.
You, as a manager, hold the keys to your sales team’s success. Reps might have the talent to close deals, but they need a leader to guide them. That’s where you come in.
By implementing the strategies in this article, you’ll be able to successfully manage a field sales team. It won’t be easy. There are plenty of challenges you’ll need to overcome. But with a little grit and the right tools, you’ll be able to do it.
SPOTIO can help. Our platform specifically designed for field sales teams and has the features you need to manage your team to success. Request a free demo of our solution today to see if it’s right for your organization.