For years technology has been a necessary evil for tracking, communicating, and enabling managers to get the key information they need to manage CPG field teams. However, if you ask most field level reps, how much more they sell because of the technology … the unfortunate answer is very little. In many cases, reps will tell you how the technology slows them down or start talking about all the features they “wish” they had.

With advances in artificial intelligence (AI), image recognition, and machine learning some leaders are beginning to recognize tech as a potential area of strategic advantage and re-assessing their technology stacks. While these areas of technology are exciting and do have some great potential in applications, we have seen three additional capabilities that give field team managers a strong competitive edge. In many instances, we have seen these three advancements deliver a time savings of more than 20% to field teams, and grow brand sales in stores visited vs stores not visited by more than 40%! That’s like having an extra team member for every five people on your team. And it can also nearly double the sales lift impact your current team is having.

These proficiencies are not inherent in all CRM, field tracking and retail execution systems so finding the solution that can effortlessly integrate these capabilities into your team’s daily business process is essential.

Here is what to look for:

Field and Report Automation

Many systems have lots of features and functions. All of which can add more time and complexity to a user’s daily workflow. We have found one of the most powerful features of a platform is what it can do without users, particularly around store level automation and reporting.

AI and image recognition can fit into this bucket, but other areas including automated reporting emailed directly to field reps and management (customized by role), along with automated segmenting and prioritization can deliver a great time savings across sales organizations which typically spend several hours each week on admin overhead and non-selling activity.

Automating many of the typical business process tasks offers a huge advantage. It’s basically like instantly growing your team as you are giving time back to your current team so they can focus more on revenue generating tasks. SFA (Sales Force Automation) is nothing new, but the problem is that most CRMs that are not designed specifically for CPG do not have automation capabilities that the typical CPG sales team requires. This makes it very important to evaluate the automation capabilities specific to CPG headquarter and retail workflows.

Store Level Data to Inform and Sell

Image recognition and machine learning are limited by the data that can be captured, and then what can be done with that data once it is processed.

Giving reps the right tools to leverage data to help them find opportunity and close more business is essential. Data is most valuable to your reps when it helps provide information that helps them sell. That often gets lost in the equation when new data or fancy new business intelligence tools are thrown into the mix. Data is only as good as what the team can do with it, which is why context, structure, and presentation are all essential aspects.

If the right data can be delivered at the right time to tell a fact based story in the course of natural conversations with the store manager, distributor, or retail buyer then an almost certain impact of more sales will result. The key is not more data, but having the right data displayed in the right way. The Shelvspace contemporary approach, Predictive Retail Execution has bridged the gap between analytics and execution to enable teams to unlock the true power behind the store level data asset that brands can access.

Data Architecture

Just saying the word “data architecture” sounds like a conversation for the IT team. However, that is the exact problem sales teams are looking to avoid. If your system doesn’t have the right data architecture already built-in (e.g. store to distributor to headquarter mappings; sku authorization; promotional mappings) then prepare for numerous headaches that involve never ending integration and data quality projects with IT resources. With the right integration platform and architecture sales teams can manage their business process and maintain flexibility in workflows and reporting without the need for costly or slow IT intervention.

Finding a solution that definitively checks these three boxes can create immediate results for your team. How well do your team’s current tools stack up?

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