Local lockdowns and social distancing requirements brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have had a big impact on field sales teams.
Meetings that once took place in person have shifted to phone and video conferencing. And while technology has been an essential crutch during these unprecedented times, it’s no substitute for real-life, face-to-face conversations.
The rapport you can build when you meet someone in person and the visual cues you pick up on during face-to-face meetings are hugely important factors when developing sales opportunities and closing deals.
According to figures from InsideSales.com, pre-Covid more than two thirds of large organizations relied on field sales reps for the majority of their new business revenue. A separate report from sales resource Reply found that SaaS solutions sold in person had the lowest churn rates among different sales channels.
As the restrictions ease and more in-person meetings start up again, the challenge for sales managers will be doing more with less. The drive to find efficiencies in the sales process and make the best possible use of all sales resources will be more intense than ever.
A good example for field sales teams is how they plan their routes. When out visiting clients or prospects the software you use to get from A to B to C and back again can make an enormous difference to your time management, environmental footprint and meeting prep.
Why field sales reps need route planning with multiple stops
When your sales reps hit the road in their assigned sales territories, it’s important that they can plan out and use the most efficient route possible. The best way to do this is through a multi-stop route planner that goes beyond the features and capabilities of a consumer-level navigation app.
There are several key benefits using a route planning solution of this caliber. This is particularly true when it comes to platforms that enable sales reps to plot out their entire, multiple-stop route for the day, as opposed to just navigating from point A to point B, one leg at a time:
- More efficient use of time: A lack of preparation and route planning might provide more flexibility for sales reps, but it can also result in less efficient use of their time. Things like traffic and delays can prevent sales reps from making all of their planned appointments. On the other hand, a multi-stop route planner ensures that your field sales reps make the effective and productive use of their available time each day.
- Attending more meetings in a day: An industry-leading route planning solution ensures that your reps take the quickest and most direct route to and from each stop on their list. This helps cut down on unnecessary stops and other delays, which creates more time for additional meetings each day. This is a huge benefit, especially for sales people with high-touch clients that appreciate frequent, face-to-face contact. It also enables field sales members to better prioritize their meetings and ensure they see the clients that need their immediate attention.
- Arrive prepared, on time and on schedule: Arriving to a sales meeting even just a few moments late can give the wrong impression to your clients. And it can be tricky for your field sales team to juggle multiple appointments in a single day, particularly when one runs over schedule. A solution like eSpatial plots out the fastest route with multiple stops, and can automatically adjust the route if one appointment along the way runs over its allotted time. This keeps your sales reps on time and on schedule, and reps can even share their routes with office staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
- Reduce fuel costs and unnecessary vehicle wear and tear: Planning out the fastest route with multiple stops also means using the most efficient driving map, reducing unnecessary miles on the vehicle. This also helps decrease fuel consumption, keeping costs down.
- Include additional time between meetings: Sales reps can leverage a multi-stop route planner to map out their client visits, as well as any preparation or post-meeting time between appointments. In this way, sales reps can follow up on meetings as needed, or use this extra space in their schedules to get themselves ready for their next client visit.
Can Google Maps optimize multiple stops?
While a consumer-aimed navigation app like Google Maps does come with certain helpful features, these simply weren’t created with the specific needs of field sales reps in mind.
Although some navigation apps allow users to include more than one stop, the resulting route certainly isn’t optimized for the delivery route or overall efficiency. A solution like eSpatial, on the other hand, supports intelligent route optimization. And best of all, this optimized route planning is done according to the most efficient route across all of the multiple stops, and not just between two points of the journey.
Attempting to achieve the same results in a consumer-level navigation app is tedious, to say the least. A platform like Google Maps can plot out stops, sure. But it doesn’t provide the level of efficiency and route optimization that your field sales reps require. In fact, using a general navigation app will likely result in unnecessary miles and more time on the road – as opposed to more time with clients.
What’s more, a multi-stop route planner like eSpatial comes with other key capabilities that simply aren’t available through other mapping solutions:
- CRM integration: No need to switch back and forth between your mapping software and your customer relationship management platform. eSpatial ensures that your sales reps can access client information for each stop on their route — including the names and addresses of the businesses they’re visiting — directly from the route planner. This boosts efficiency even further, and saves precious time on the road.
- Route sharing: In addition to being able to pull CRM data, an optimized, multi-stop route planner allows your sales reps to easily share their routes with office staff or the main scheduling administrator. While Google Maps might allow users to “drop a pin,” it doesn’t provide a complete picture in a shareable way.
- Historical mapping: A purpose-built route planner not only shows where field reps are going, but where they’ve been — you can save route maps of a particular day or an entire week of travel.
Best route planning software with multiple stops: What to look for
If your field sales team is ready to elevate its optimized, multiple stop route planning beyond consumer-focused apps, you’ll need to find the right software with key features. These capabilities build on those available through other navigation programs, and were created especially for traveling sales agents.
The route planner you choose must be able to effectively target and address your sales team’s key pain points, including struggles like:
- Long driving times and traveling more miles than needed. This also results in unnecessary wear and tear on sales reps’ vehicles, and higher fuel costs.
- Missing appointments and juggling difficult schedules. Traveling sales team members must be able to adjust their routes on the fly, according to their real-time schedules. This means changing their route accordingly, should a meeting run long or something come up while they’re on the road.
- Lack of visibility and imbalanced workloads. Field sales is a demanding job, so it’s important that managers balance work among their reps equally. Team members that have to travel farther than others, or fit more appointments into their day, can burn out quickly. A route optimization software can help address this while providing sales team managers with the data, insights and visibility they need to support the team.
More than that, though, you need a software solution that can easily plan the most optimized, fastest route with multiple stops, and includes key features like:
- Access to customer details from the platform. Your route planner should do more than just display the destination address — it should also be able to pull in customer details directly from your own CRM platform.
- Ability to edit and re-optimize routes from the road. Your field sales reps simply can’t predict when a meeting might be cancelled on short-notice, or a client visit will run over its scheduled time. This means they need to be able to adjust their routes in real time, directly from the route planning software.
- Integrate with other navigation systems. While a consumer-level navigation app can’t provide the most optimized routes, your drivers may still want to use familiar apps for their driving directions. A solution like eSpatial’s Route Planner can integrate with other navigation programs, and provide step-by-step directions based on the optimized route.
- Maintain your schedule with start and stop times. Multi-stop route planners really do provide the complete picture — from CRM customer details and optimized driving directions, down to smaller details like the beginning and ending times for each stop. This helps keep sales reps on schedule, and if something comes up along the way, they can always adjust the route on the go.
An optimized route planner that provides the fastest route with multiple stops can make all the difference for your field sales team. Check out our website to learn more, and connect with us at eSpatial today.