Providing a more flexible approach to field sales

For a number of years now, field sales has been facing challenges to innovate and change the traditional stereotypes of the industry. This has included enhancing the data and insights offered, creating new ways of working and developing products that offer more than ever before.

The current pandemic has brought this under the spotlight even more. It’s therefore vital to find the right approach, with the flexibility to adjust to the challenges being faced by brands in an ever changing environment. Now more than ever we are asking ourselves ‘how do we drive value for clients?’

Field sales in yesteryear

You don’t have to go back that many years to see field sales teams visiting fixed call files. Decisions were based on the rep’s experience and limited data. Ad-hoc tactical teams were deployed to increase the number of stores that could be visited in a short period of time, for example at a new product launch or high-profile promotion. We have seen these separate approaches change with time.

The advancements in technology over recent years have meant that the information available to field sales representatives in store is something that was inconceivable 15 years ago. This is not just for contractual teams, like those in Shopsmart, but for tactical agencies like flexforce as well.

Tactical field teams were historically considered an add-on resource, used to ensure compliance and coverage across a wide area in a short period of time. Whilst this is a key advantage of tactical offerings, such as Flexforce, there is now the ability to offer so much more – especially when working in tandem with contractual teams.

Bringing together contractual and tactical field sales in unison
When considering the right field sales strategy, brands have to consider many elements – with the overriding one being economics. Can we demonstrate that a specific approach provides value, a good return on investment and the flexibility required to win big?

Especially at a time like now where the economy is in recession, pressures on logistics from Brexit and the unpredictability of the short term in general, finding balance in a strategy is even more important.

By working closely together, Shopsmart and Flexforce can bring together the benefits of contractual teams and flexible tactical services into one unified strategy. Two different services, brought together in one winning strategy.

The combination of a full time contractual team and an integrated Hybrid tactical resource, ensures key stores are visited regularly, with strategic decisions based on insight, whilst allowing the flexibility to upscale in locations as required.

This surge capacity is already built into the plan, with one central team looking after both – that means that you don’t have to engage multiple suppliers, rebrief aims and targets or have disparate reporting. You already have your tactical resource engaged and on the same page.

Why is a hybrid approach beneficial?

This approach might not work for all brands but those looking for an effective way to maintain a strategic contractual team whilst allowing for seasonal or ad-hoc uplift through tactical, this unified strategy can be hugely beneficial.

The clear benefit is the cost efficiency that a flexible approach brings . You can invest a large amount of money into a national, strategic field sales team, but it might not be the right choice for your brand.

Having the flexibility on the size of the team, with a core working full time, allows you to maintain consistency where it is needed, whilst placing greater focus on the projects that matter to your brand. At times of economic uncertainty, it is this ability to flex your approach in store that will decide the winners and losers in retail.

Karen Battrick, Shopsmart’s General Manager explained, “It is clear that we need to be flexible in our approach to deliver an effective field sales solution, focused on a client’s specific challenge.”

“We have always worked closely with Flexforce, so to be able to offer an alternative solution that combines our data, insight and people means that we are able to continuously adapt to the changes in retail.”

It’s these changes in retail that are driving the evolution of field sales. Manufacturers are pressed on margin, retailers are pressed on space, shoppers are looking for more choice. This all leads to the need to be flexible.

“Brands and manufacturers have faced a level of uncertainty with elements outside of their control, so protecting their position in store – as well as looking for opportunities for growth is fundamental” said Tina Prodger, Managing Director at Flexforce.

“With budget constraints for many, this is where our hybrid approach supports the commercial viability of field sales, grounded in developing sales performance through relationships.”

Find out more

Retail is in another period of change. Shopper behaviours are changing, expectations are shifting and brands have to keep up. Flexibility is going to become increasingly important in all aspects of retail and field sales is no different.

The relationship between contractual teams at Shopsmart and tactical teams at Flexforce is one of the key reasons we keep winning instore. You can find out more about how this approach can help your brand by contacting us today. Simply fill out our contact form or call one of the team on 01293 297901.