Covid-19 pandemics is definitely one of the biggest crises that humanity has faced in decades. It has impacted almost all the human being on the earth, either directly or indirectly. The massiveness of the economic impact of this pandemic is visible in the negative GDP growth of all the major economies and increase in unemployment rate of the developing countries. There is hardly any industry which has not faced the heat, and, in all likelihood, the struggle is going to continue for some more time. While it may not be true for all sectors, but for some, technology can play an important role to minimize the impact to some extent.
If we specifically talk about the companies which deploy a large field force to manage its retail operations, they are facing many challenges some of which can be taken care by effective and innovative use of Sales Force Automation solution. But before we get into that, let us first identify some of the most common and critical concerns faced by these companies during this pandemic:
- When to scale up the field operations: That’s a big question to answer for many companies. Some has started operation in a phased manner immediately after the lockdown norms were eased and some are yet to start it even after 3 months since the un-lockdown process started. Which markets the team should start visit, what would the frequency, what if my employees get infected while on duty? There is plethora of such questions which is leading to indecisiveness.
- Challenges in order booking and fulfillment: A major concern is how to automate the order booking process when field executives are not visiting the dealers / retailers. If the entire process becomes manual and dependent on telephonic conversations, there will be multiple challenges in terms of no visibility of the order being places, potential missed orders, efficiency of the distributors to fulfil the orders etc.
- How is the current market pulse: Market visit at different seniority level is an important activity to gauge the market pulse for consumer goods industry. With zero or limited market visits, a large chunk of information, such as market pricing, competition activity, retailer feedback etc. which is critical for key strategic and tactical decisions remains unavailable to the top management.
- Measuring pandemic impact: Covid-19 has hit us all badly, but how bad it is? Off course, a monthly P&L is good enough to check revenue and profit numbers, but how does a company measures actual reduction in productivity of the field team or which geography / channel / product category is worst impacted and needs special attention.
While a cutting-edge Field Force Automation cannot provide the relief in reversing the dipping sales, but what it can do is enable you to handle the pandemic situation much better by providing solution to many of these critical challenges. Let’s talk a few of them in this article:
- Ensure well being of your field team: If you are using a flexible and advanced SFA solution, you can actually capture the Aarogya Setu status of your employees as declared by them. They can submit their status daily when they mark their attendance and you may ask them to submit screenshot of the Aarogya Setu app for occasional verification. If you want to automate the process further, open API released by Govt. of India to fetch Aarogya Setu status from a device can also be used. Further, you can circulate Dos and Don’ts with your sales team to make them aware of SOPs they should follow when they are doing market visits.
- Stay in touch with your field team – virtually: You can connect with your field team using virtual online meeting apps such as Teams, Zoom etc. But it would require your huge field force to be trained in a new app and also, significant license fee for a new application. Instead of that, you can use your SFA solution to communicate frequently with your field team by sending notifications, sharing with them important documents, arranging online trainings and conducting online quizzes.
- Order capture by telephone: You can use Telephonic Order Capture module of your SFA app to automate the compete order placement and fulfilment process even if your sales executive is not visiting the outlet physically. He can submit the order in Telephonic Order Capture module which will then directly trigger an email (or a WhatsApp message with order summary) to the distributor ensuring quick fulfilment.
- Easily capture all market information: Your SFA app should have functionality to configure customized survey questionnaire which would be visible in the mobile app of your field team to capture important market information such as pricing, competition activity, new launches, product stock, retailer feedback etc. These surveys should be customized for different levels of your sales hierarchy to capture different types of data and to build a strong retailer engagement in this difficult time.
- Unleash full power of analytics: If your SFA solution comes with an integrated cutting-edge data analytics platform, then a lot of your problem is solved. You make use of that platform to get all kinds of reports / dashboards that you want to see to measure the impact of the pandemic. For example, your definition of field force productivity may have changed now and getting that ready in your SFA portal should be really quick with in-built powerful analytics capability. The same hold true for many other operational and sales KPIs that we would like to track during this pandemic.