Ultimate Field Sales Guide: Definition, Challenges & Strategies

Want to Improve Your Team's Sales Performance?

Table of Contents

Are you looking to score a job in field sales? Maybe you’re looking to expand your sales department and hire a few field sales representatives to compliment your inside sales team.

Whatever the case may be, you’ve come to the right place!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about field sales, including what field sales is, why it’s important, the duties field sellers are asked to complete, the challenges they face on a daily basis, and how to build your own field sales strategy.

 

What Is Field Sales?

Field sales, oftentimes referred to as outside sales, is the act of selling products and/or services from outside of a typical office setting. To do this, professional field sales reps travel to prospects and engage with them in a face-to-face manner.

The opposite of field sales is inside sales, where sales reps sell to prospects from a distance. These kinds of reps don’t meet with leads in-person. Instead, they use phone calls, emails, text messages, etc. to connect with prospects.

Both field sales and inside sales have their benefits. We’ll talk about the specific advantages of field sales in the next section.

 

Why is Field Sales Important?

So, why would you want to employ a field sales team? Because there are legitimate advantages to doing so. Here are four of the most important ones:

 

Higher quota attainment

Studies show that the average field sales representative has a close rate of 40%. This is much higher than the 18% close rate attained by most inside sales reps.

Because field reps are able to convert leads into paying customers at a more consistent clip, they hit their quotas more often. In fact, the average field sales rep attains quota 65% of the time compared to just 55% of the time for inside sellers.

 

Stronger customer relationships

Second, field reps are, in general, better at building relationships with leads and customers than their inside sales counterparts. It makes sense when you think about it…

Field reps meet with prospects in person. As such, they’re able to look them in the eyes, shake their hands, and communicate in a more natural way. Face-to-face conversations also minimize misunderstandings, which is another relationship booster.

 

Better for complex sales cycles

Does your company sell complex products? Are they expensive, often requiring multiple decision-makers to greenlight before you get a signed contract in hand?

If so, you should definitely consider building a field sales force.

Field sales allows reps to meet with prospects in-person as we’ve already discussed. This enables them to build stronger, more trusting relationships, which is mandatory when pitching high-priced goods and/or services.

You wouldn’t buy a $10,000+ product from some random stranger who calls you on the phone, would you? Of course not! But you might from the flesh and blood human sitting in front of you—especially if you’ve just been talking for 30 minutes and enjoy their personality.

It’s also much easier to demonstrate complex products in person than it is via video-conferencing technology like Zoom and Google Meet.

 

Valuable source of customer insights

Last, but certainly not least, field sales allows sellers to glean incredible amounts of customer data. What does your target market struggle with? What do your current customers like and dislike about your products? What new features do they want?

The answers to these questions are usually much easier for field sales reps to attain because they’re able to spend more time with customers and get to know them.

 

Field Sales Roles And Responsibilities

Now that we’ve covered what field sales is and why it’s important, let’s talk about what field sales representatives actually do on a day to day basis.

Your job description as a field seller will vary depending on the industry you work in and the company you work for. Still, there are common duties that just about every field rep must complete. Let’s take a look at what they are:

 

Perform daily sales activities

If you’re familiar with sales at all, you know that field sales reps have to identify leads, get in contact with them, and attempt to sell products and/or services. We’ll talk about all of these things in the following sections.

But first, let’s discuss the other things sales reps do on the regular—the less flashy stuff, such as planning routes and updating CRM software.

  • Planning Routes: As mentioned previously, field reps spend a significant portion of their on-the-clock hours traveling from prospect to prospect. This allows them to build stronger relationships and close bigger deals more often. But every minute a rep spends in the car is a minute they can’t spend closing deals. That’s why field reps need to minimize windshield time, which they can do by planning efficient routes between prospects. Software like SPOTIO makes this super easy to do. Simply plug in the addresses you need to travel to and SPOTIO will tell you how to get there without wasting time.

 

  • Updating CRMs: CRM software, which is short for customer relationship management software, allows reps to easily store and recall important customer and prospect information. What was that lead’s name and what’s the best way to contact them? Your CRM will tell you—as long as you update it with these details. The best field reps spend time every day updating their CRMs with new information so that it’s there when they need it.

 

  • Scheduling Follow-Ups: Field reps are asked to find prospects, nurture leads, and close deals. To do all this, they have to plan routes, update CRMs, overcome objections, learn about their company’s newest products… It’s a lot! The only way to get it all done is to use technology. Tools like SPOTIO will let you schedule calls and visit reminders, automate emails and text messages to send at specific times, and more. That way nothing falls through the cracks and you can consistently meet quota.

For more information on daily sales activities, read our full article on the topic.

 

Identify prospects

How do sales reps know who to make sales pitches to? It’s simple: they take time to identify potential customers and then approach them with an offer.

So, if you’re interested in becoming a field sales representative, you’ll need to learn how to identify prospects for your company. There are multiple ways to do this. For example, you can use websites like LinkedIn to source leads. Or you can use SPOTIO Lead Machine.

 

SPOTIO’s Lead Machine enables outside sales reps to filter prospects using 200+ different data attributes.

Image: SPOTIO’s Lead Machine enables reps to filter prospects using 200+ different data points.

Lead Machine is great because it provides 200+ different data points to help users find red-hot leads in the specific territories they’ve already been assigned to work.

 

Qualify leads

Have you found a few prospects to contact? Great, now you need to qualify them.

Here’s the truth: just because someone can buy your company’s product or service doesn’t mean they will. They might be strapped for cash. They might already use one of your competitor’s products. Maybe they’re just too busy to listen to your sales pitch right now.

You don’t want to waste your valuable time on these kinds of prospects, which is why you should qualify leads before you devote hours to them.

You can qualify your leads by doing online research, having a quick conversation with them, or asking a junior rep in your company to investigate them for you. However you do it, you need to learn if they want what you sell and if they have the money to pay for it.

 

Engage with leads

Once you’ve found and qualified a lead, you need to engage them. You can do this by calling them on the phone, shooting them a quick email, or visiting their place of business.

At this point, your only goal is to build a relationship with the lead. Don’t try to pitch your company’s products or services yet—especially if you sell expensive stuff. That will probably backfire because you haven’t earned the lead’s trust.

Instead, try to book a future appointment with the lead. That way you can sit down with them, show them the ins and outs of your offerings, and, hopefully, start talking about a deal.

 

Set appointments

To succeed as a field sales representative, you have to make appointments with potential buyers. If you don’t, you’ll have a really hard time closing deals.

Fortunately, if you’ve done a good job identifying prospects, qualifying leads, and engaging with these people, setting appointments should be a walk in the park.

Appointments made with SPOTIO are easily transferred from one rep to another.

This is especially true if you use a tool like SPOTIO, which will sync with your Google or Outlook Calendar and will allow you to easily take notes before, during, and after your meetings. With SPOTIO, all of your prospect data is in one place!

 

Prepare and deliver sales presentations

Now that you have an appointment in the books, you can begin preparing your sales presentation. Make sure you personalize it to the specific lead you plan to meet with!

For example, let’s pretend you sell cutting-edge accounting software. The lead you’re meeting with next week once complained that their current accounting software is difficult to use. As such, the lead’s team wastes hours a week fiddling around with the program.

Make sure to address this during your sales presentation. Show the lead how easy your company’s software is to use and how it will boost his team’s productivity.

When the day arrives, travel to the lead’s place of business, at the appointed time, and deliver your personalized sales presentation in a respectful and professional manner.

 

Build client relationships

You just closed your first deal as a field sales representative—congratulations! But your work isn’t done yet. Now you need to develop a real relationship with this person. That way they continue to buy from you. This is especially important for subscription-based businesses.

But other kinds of companies can benefit from client relationships, too. Once you’ve built them, upsells and cross sells will become much easier and more frequent.

 

Solar Sales Guide

 

Challenges for Field Sales Reps

As we’ve just seen, field sales representatives do a lot. So it’s only natural that they run into certain challenges from time to time. Here are four common ones:

 

Wasting time on admin tasks

Field sales representatives are hired to close deals for their companies. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other things they have to do, too. Administrative tasks such as updating CRM software are necessary, but they take time away from a seller’s true purpose.

 

Image: SPOTIO enables reps to automatically log prospect interactions and transfer the data to your CRM.

 

One of the best ways to overcome this challenge is to invest in SPOTIO, which automatically tracks sales activities for users, automates many of their messages with prospects, and otherwise eliminates the busy work that reps have to do.

 

Finding qualified leads

It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, you have to have access to qualified leads to close deals at a consistent clip. The bad news is. Finding qualified leads is tough.

Fortunately, there are plenty of software tools that can help.

As mentioned earlier, SPOTIO’s Lead Machine is a powerful prospecting solution you can use to find potential buyers. All you have to do is tell Lead Machine where your territory is, then narrow down leads using 200+ filters.

 

Handling sales objections

What do you do when you know that a prospect will benefit from your company’s products and/or services, but, after giving them your pitch, they say, “No thanks.”

You have two options: you can cut bait. Maybe they weren’t that great of a prospect after all and you should focus on other leads. Or, you can dig deeper and try to understand why this lead is rejecting your offer. What objections do they have?

Option one is easier. But option two will help you learn more about your target audience and close more deals. Overcome this challenge, you’ll be more successful.

 

Optimizing travel time

Finally, we have the dreaded windshield time, i.e. the time that field sales reps spend driving from one prospect to the next. It’s completely necessary. But time behind the wheel is time reps aren’t closing deals, which can be really frustrating.

Once again, SPOTIO can help reps overcome this issue. No, our platform won’t help you teleport from lead to lead. But it will use technology to help you plan the most efficient route between them.

With SPOTIO, you’ll be able to hit all of your leads in the most logical order, saving you time and gas money in the process.

 

Challenges For Field Sales Managers

Field sales reps aren’t the only ones who have to overcome challenges to succeed. The folks that manage them have struggles, too. Here are six of the most common challenges for field sales managers that you should be aware of:

 

Mapping and assigning territories

Territory mapping and assignment is essential to success in field sales.

Make your territories too big and your reps won’t be able to adequately cover them. Make them too small and your reps won’t have enough leads to fill their time. Oh, and make sure your territories don’t overlap or your reps will end up fighting over prospects.

 

Sales territory mapping in SPOTIO

Image: SPOTIO helps reps and managers geographically represent CRM data on maps.

 

Does this challenge make your head spin? Try SPOTIO’s Sales Territory Mapping feature. With it, you can cut territories using geographic boundaries or by drawing on a digital map. This kind of precision will ensure your reps never double up and bump into each other.

 

Tracking sales activities

As a field sales manager, you need to know how your reps spend their time in the field. It’s not that you don’t trust them to do their work. It’s that you need to understand what sales activities are successful and which aren’t. That way you can plan more effective sales strategies in the future.

SPOTIO offers a rep location tracking feature, which will give you real-time data on where your reps are and where they’ve been. (Note: this feature can be turned off.)

SPOTIO also automatically captures sales activities for reps, which means management professionals can easily see what their reps have and haven’t done. They can then use this information to inform their sales plans.

 

Maintaining rep productivity

Every department wants to be more productive and field sales is no exception. In fact, one of the biggest challenges sales managers face is making sure their reps maintain peak productivity levels as often as possible.

This is easier to do with tools like SPOTIO. For example, you can use SPOTIO to track your reps movements and activities, as we mentioned in the section above. You can then analyze this information to look for areas of improvement.

 

Track sales rep location

Image: SPOTIO GPS rep tracking feature enables managers to track rep location.

 

Maybe the location data shows your reps crisscrossing their territories as they travel from lead to lead. You can suggest they use SPOTIO’s Route Planning software to make sure they hit each lead in the most logical order.

 

Preventing leads from falling through the cracks

Is your field sales team underperforming? It might be because your reps aren’t following up with prospects as consistently as they should be.

This is an important challenge to overcome!

Fortunately, the solution is simple: help your reps develop effective follow-up processes. We suggest using SPOTIO’s Autoplays feature for this.

 

Automating sales sequences

 

With Autoplays, field sales reps can create customized sequences of events, then automate them. For instance, once a rep secures a new lead, they can create an Autoplay that looks something like this:

  • Day 1: Call Prospect
  • Day 2: Email Prospect
  • Day 3: Visit Prospect
  • Day 5: Email Prospect
  • Day 7: Call Prospect

Once a sequence is created, Autoplays will do one of two things:

Either remind your reps to engage their leads in the specific way the sequence tells them to. Or, if your reps have created email and text message templates, automate the sending of emails and/or text messages to the lead at the predetermined time.

 

Tracking rep performance

Are your reps underperforming? You won’t know until you track their performance.

SPOTIO makes it easy to track rep performance. With our platform, managers can see which tasks their reps are performing and the result of each. This will help you determine if reps are underperforming due to a lack of effort or training.

 

Reducing turnover

The last challenge that field sales managers face is the threat of turnover. If you’ve ever hired a promising sales rep, only to have them bail on you three months later, you know this is true.

Employee turnover is an expensive problem. According to PeopleKeep, it can cost a company up to 213% of a departing team member’s annual salary to replace them.

Now, sales is known for high-turnover rates. It’s a demanding job that requires a thick skin. Not everybody can hack it. Still, as a field sales manager, your job is to keep your team on your team. The best way to do this is to create an environment they enjoy being a part of.

 

Building a Successful Field Sales Strategy

Whew, we’ve covered a lot so far. But we aren’t done yet! Let’s talk about how you can build a successful field sales strategy for your company. This is where the rubber meets the road. Let’s make sure you’re ready to ride…

 

Set attainable goals

First things first, define what you’re trying to achieve via field sales. Do you want to move more products? Improve your department’s close rate? Something else?

Every goal you set for your field sales team should be SMART:

  • Specific: Your goals should be clear and completely unambiguous. For example, say, “We’ll boost sales by 20%” instead of “We’ll boost sales.”
  • Measurable: You should know exactly how you’ll measure your goals when you set them. “We’ll boost sales by 20%” is measurable. “We’ll make our customers happier” is not, because you can’t accurately gauge happiness.
  • Attainable: Your goals should challenge your field sales representatives without pushing them too hard, as this will result in low morale.
  • Relevant: Every goal you set should tie back to company objectives. Wanting to “increase upsell opportunities by 15%” is great, but only if these upsell opportunities will help your company achieve its biggest aims.
  • Time-Related: Finally, your goals should have set deadlines. “We’ll boost sales by 20% by the end of the fiscal year.” If your goals aren’t time-related, your reps might slack off because there’s no urgency.

 

Define your sales process

Have you chosen a few SMART goals? Now it’s time to define your sales process. That way you can actually, you know, meet your objectives.

Here’s the truth: when your field sales reps know what to do in each and every scenario, they’ll become much more efficient and effective. Your job, when building a field sales strategy, is to equip your reps for every situation they’ll be in.

So think about your prospects and what it takes to make a sale. Then build a field sales strategy that will help your reps turn strangers into paying customers.

 

Create a sales compensation plan

There are a lot of ways to compensate your field sales representatives for their efforts. We cover the 10 most popular comp plans in this article.

The right compensation plan for your field sales force will:

  • Motivate Your Reps: Are your reps inspired to make more sales? If the answer is “no,” you should consider choosing a new comp plan.
  • Boost Rep Performance: Motivated reps are more productive than unmotivated ones. And productive reps generally outperform their unproductive counterparts. Make sure your comp plan motivates reps to perform their best at all times.
  • Decrease Rep Turnover: The right comp plan will also help you attract top sellers to your field sales team and keep them employed by your company.

Improve your entire sales department with a quality field sales representative salary and commission structure for your team.

 

Set and track activity-based KPIs

Field sales is all about action. The most successful field reps are always doing something to close deals and move their careers forward. Help your team out by setting and tracking activity-based KPIs, such as visiting prospects, making calls, and sending emails.

The more of these actions your reps take, the more success they’ll have. And the more success your reps have, the more money your department will generate.

 

Track field sales activities in SPOTIO

Image: Managers can track sales activity metrics across reps and territories in SPOTIO.

 

As a sales manager, you can track field sales activities with SPOTIO. With our tool, you’ll be able to tell how many prospects your reps contact on a daily basis, the communication channels they use, and the success rate they have with each one.

You can then use this information to adjust your field sales strategy when necessary.

 

Prospect with ICP data

If you’re not familiar with the term, ICP stands for ideal customer profile. Your company’s ICPs are the people most likely to buy your products and/or services. These are the folks your field sales reps should spend the most time on!

Your field sales strategy should include detailed ICP data. That way your reps can use it when they prospect. This will prevent them from wasting valuable hours on prospects that will never make a purchase.

When you know your ICPs, you can use SPOTIO’s sales intelligence tool to find ready-to-buy prospects who fit your company’s exact parameters.

 

Automate tedious admin tasks

In decades past, field sales teams had to manually log prospect interactions, transfer notes to CRM databases, and perform other tedious administrative tasks.

No longer! Tools like SPOTIO allow field sellers to automate many of the “shoot me now” activities that every salesperson hates. This means field reps can focus more of their time on revenue-generating tasks that help them hot and exceed quota.

 

Assign sales territories strategically

We’ve already discussed how SPOTIO helps field sales managers cut territories. But your field sales strategy needs to cover how territories are assigned, too.

 

Territory management

 

In general, we recommend assigning the most valuable territories to your top performing reps. This will ensure your department, as a whole, closes more of the highest-value deals in its collective pipeline.

 

Automate sales sequences

You’re building a field sales team. But that doesn’t mean your reps can’t utilize inside sales strategies. If your field reps aren’t using phone calls, emails, and text messages to contact leads, something has gone very wrong with your strategy.

The best thing about emails and text messages is that they can be automated. Imagine how many more sales your department will make when your reps don’t have to manually type out every email and text they send. WAY MORE!

When creating your field sales strategy, build sales sequences that include every communication channel your reps use. Then look to automate your sequences with a tool like SPOTIO’s Autoplays, which will simplify the entire process.

Once your department is set up with Autoplays, your field sales representatives will be able to close more deals in less time, leading to greater success.

 

Use a consultative selling approach

According to Zendesk: “Consultative sales is a specific sales approach where reps act more like advisers than salespeople and recommend solutions to potential customers based on their needs and problems.”

Consultative selling helps field reps build trust with their prospects, which, ultimately, allows them to close more deals. This is why we suggest this strategy.

To adopt a consultative selling approach, simply teach your reps to:

  • Actively listen to their prospects’ needs
  • Asked questions about their prospects’ challenges and pain points
  • Focus on finding solutions for prospects rather than repping products
  • Offer insight to prospects without expecting anything in return

If your field reps can learn to do these things, their sales numbers will improve.

 

Map efficient sales routes

Yes, we’ve already talked about route planning. But it’s so important we need to mention it again in the context of building your field sales strategy.

Windshield time is the Achilles heel of field sales teams. Productivity levels and sales numbers go down when reps spend more time in the car. To minimize this issue, plan your reps’ sales routes in the most efficient way possible.

SPOTIO’s route planning software makes this tedious task a breeze.

 

Create a healthy level of competition

Salespeople thrive on competition. The trick is building a competitive work environment for your reps that also fosters teamwork and camaraderie.

 

Create sales leaderboards in SPOTIO

 

You can do this with SPOTIO Leaderboards, AKA a digital scoreboard of sorts that displays important metrics such as knocks made, meetings booked, and revenue generated for every field sales representative on your team.

Leaderboards allows reps to see how their efforts stack up against their peers. It can also be used by management professionals to create fun competitions that motivate field sales reps to perform their best at all times.

 

Align the sales and marketing teams

Sales and marketing aren’t enemies! These two departments should always work together to help propel their company to new heights.

So, when creating your field sales strategy, look for ways to align your organization’s sales and marketing teams. You can do this by increasing communication.

For example, when marketing knows what kind of prospects sales needs, they can pursue more of these leads. And when both departments communicate on goals, they can help each other achieve them rather than fighting against one another.

 

Track performance metrics

How are your field reps doing? Are they meeting quota? If so, what’s the secret to their success? If not, why are they underperforming? You need to be able to answer these questions! Once again, SPOTIO can help.

Our platform will enable you to track field sales activities for each rep, as we discussed earlier, and the result of each activity they perform.

SPOTIO My Reports

Want to know which team member has the best close rate? Interested in learning which communication channels work best for your reps? Maybe you just want to make sure that your reps’ pipelines are full. SPOTIO’s new My Reports feature allows reps and managers to quickly and easily build custom reports so that you are only looking at the metrics that matter most to your business.

The information inside SPOTIO will help you adjust your field sales strategy when required, and forecast future results more accurately.

 

Invest in continual training

Lastly, make sure your field sales strategy prioritizes training.

Field sales training can come in the form of annual conferences, employee events, internal cross-training, job shadowing, department mentorship programs, etc.

We won’t tell you how to train your team because every team is different and should be trained in a different way. What we will say is this: the best field sales departments are always looking for ways to improve their reps’ skill sets.

 

Boost Field Sales Productivity and Performance

Field sales is an exciting opportunity! Companies that employ these kinds of sellers will be able to sell complex and expensive products more consistently. They’ll also benefit from the stronger client relationships and detailed data these reps dig up.

Field sales representatives have it good, too, as many field sellers make a very healthy living for themselves and their families.

If you’re looking to build a field sales team for your organization, or want to start your career as a field sales rep, you should definitely invest in SPOTIO. Our platform is the ultimate tool for field sales and has been proven to boost revenue by 23%!

Contact our team today for a free demo of our software. See you on the inside!