Before we get deeper into route optimization, it's important to cover the fundamentals of effective planning, as this lays the foundation for any successful routing strategy. Developing a repeatable process for route planning is a great place to start as it can help you better identify opportunities for improvement to maximize results. That's why we created the ROUTE framework.
The ROUTE framework
The first step is to identify and review your business objectives. Ask yourself questions like:
- Are you looking to add more sales calls to increase revenue?
- Do you want to target areas with the highest percentage of priority clients?
- Will you need to target a new customer segment to uncover fresh opportunities?
Answering these questions will help you develop a route planning strategy that aligns with your organization's overarching objectives and delivers the results you want to see.
Once you've outlined your business goals, it's time to consider the potential challenges or constraints you may face during the execution of your plan. For instance, if customer availability windows don't line up with your scheduled visits, your reps will miss out on opportunities and waste valuable selling time. You should also factor in things like breaks and office time to ensure that when your reps are in the field, they're focused on your customers.
Urgent and important
Pareto's Law, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that around 80% of your revenue comes from just 20% of your customers. Using this logic, it makes sense to focus on the 20% of high-value accounts and opportunities when planning your routes.
Some questions you might want to consider as you prioritize your calls include:
- Which accounts are the "sweet spot" or ideal clients?
- How engaged is the customer with your organization?
- Are they loyal to suppliers, or do they take a short-term perspective?
- How do your clients perceive your organization and the value it delivers?
- Do you share similar values? Are they a good fit for your customer base?
Along with prioritizing accounts, urgency and importance are valuable for your internal team. Your organization should foster healthy competition among reps and motivate them to achieve at work. Not only will this improve productivity, but it also means your team is ready to take advantage of a new opportunity the moment it arises.
Traffic and cancellations
As you plan your routes and schedules, another obstacle you'll have to look out for will be the unexpected yet daily disruptions of field sales operations. From heavy traffic to canceled appointments, you'll want to build contingencies for all manner of delays. Always have a backup plan or list of prospects and customers your reps can call if they have an unscheduled opening.
Execute and fine-tune
Once you've finalized visit schedules and route plans, it's time to put them into action. Have your reps follow the plan and make note of any adjustments along the way. After they're done, review performance and fine-tune the process based on what you've learned.
As you repeat this ROUTE framework, you'll begin to see how you can better plan and prepare each route to maximize efficiency and productivity.
2. The fundamentals of sales route planning