We work with several leading DSD and CPGs companies.  Some have large field teams, others have a handful of reps working in the field.

For some categories like Beverage, success in the streets is almost a right of passage to successfully growing the brand and beating the competition.

From our tested best practices and by observing winning teams, we have observed a few common patterns that we hope can provide you some winning ideas.

Pattern 1, “Size matters”:  There is a sweet spot between 50-75 reps that provide a tipping point to moving the needle on sales and execution rates. We could probably go deeper to look at why; the sheer number of visits, the fact only growth brands can staff to this level, or the impact size can have on retailer and distributor influence. However, there is one important factor we believe this amount is magical sweet spot. Coverage. At 50-75 you have enough store level coverage with key selling accounts where the visit impacts start to matter.

Solution: The biggest limitation to increase coverage is always cost. A creative solution now being used to get the coverage equivalent of 75 reps for the cost of 1 is on-demand networks. In addition to solving the coverage and cost problem, they also can be very fast to implement without adding more work to the management team’s already full plate.

Pattern 2, “Avoid Too Much Overhead and Routine” – Our company provides field tracking solutions which many reps consider overhead. They are partly right, which is why we automate and make every process for field reps as fast and simple as possible . For management, visibility and accountability is important to growing your field teams but we too often see company’s internal process be an excessive burden on the rep.  For some companies, they are spending as much as 1 day a week for their reps on meetings, reports, order forms, recaps etc. To be best in class in the field, it is important to work relentlessly to save the reps as much time as possible so they can put that time back to more visits and selling activity.

In addition to overhead, we will see repeated habits form, where reps get set routes and routines and the work becomes a going through the motions exercise.  It’s critical that constant adjustment at a rep level is done to evaluate what’s the best use of their next hour of time each day. The answer to that changes based on initiatives, and many other store level variables.

Solution: Put your data to use to help reps efficiently plan and focus their time. Instead of asking reps for a bunch of data so you can manage their activity, provide them with data that helps them increase their selling metrics. By doing that and providing a transparent leaderboard with proper metric based incentives, you’ll be impressed with their outcomes.  The teams in the field are more capable to adapt and improve then often are given credit for.

Pattern 3, “Lack of Proper Incentives” – Many people with field teams will track miles, hours in store, visits, or other activity based metrics.  Some of our most successful brands get creative with incentives based on selling or in-store outcome metrics. This not only aligns teams to the activity that drives total sales, it also creates a winning culture of a field team that is focused on winning.

Solution:   Get creative with your incentives and create a culture focused on winning. Programs like fantasy football leaderboards, or top in-store picture competitions can be fun and competitive for the team, but also can be mapped clearly to sales results.   

We hope this gave you a few ideas for ways to build out your field team efforts. For more detailed examples or other best practices from our brand portfolio, don’t hesitate to reach out.

3 Secrets to Growing Effective Field Teams