Right now, more than half of all sales reps in the US engage in outside sales, according to research from the sales and marketing platform, 99firms. This type of work requires reps to travel to meet with prospects, forge strong customer relationships and close deals in person.
Face-to-face field sales can build the relationship between seller and customer, encourage repeat business and establish brand loyalty. However, there are also a few challenges these sales reps must deal with. One leading obstacle: route planning with a focus on efficiency.
Consumer-level GPS mapping apps don't have all the features traveling sales teams need. More than a simple GPS routing tool, outside sales teams need a specialized route planning software. One that can help them overcome the unique challenges they face in their everyday work through dynamic route optimization.
What is route optimization?
Route optimization involves planning the order and routes of sales calls in the most efficient way. For this, you need a specialized route optimization software.
Most consumer apps let you input a start and finish location, but adding more stops is tedious. A route optimization solution like eSpatial's all-in-one mapping software lets users add all their stops at once and produces an optimized route.
Sales reps don't even have to worry about fiddling with the order of their stops. The route planner can automatically put up to 100 stops in the best order to create efficient routes. Ultimately, this leads to lower travel time and fuel costs.
When you're on the road, things don't always go according to plan. If a meeting runs long, sales reps can use a dynamic routing to easily adjust the rest of the route plan and schedule.
Professional route planning software can also help sales reps make the most of their time. If an appointment cancels, they can look on the map for other nearby customers and add them to the route.
And, unlike many consumer-level navigation apps, you can share multiple routes created through a best-in-class route optimization solution. Users can send their route to team members, either publicly through a link or privately within a specific group.
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What else does route optimization offer?
There are a few more key differences between a route optimization solution like eSpatial’s mapping software, and other map applications intended for the consumer driver:
Automatic route planning
Route optimization is based on intelligent route planning. Specialized software can automatically optimize route plans. And this isn't just from point A to point B — the route is optimized across every stop along the way.
Users can optimize a one-way route or round trip. This ensures they save time and money while keeping to their sales meeting schedule. Best of all, this eliminates the need for the driver to manually plot and plan their routes. One organization was able to reduce its trip planning time by 75% thanks to eSpatial's route optimization.
Display destinations with CRM data
Unlike other navigation or map apps, eSpatial mapping software works with your CRM. This helps unify customer data across your tools so sales reps always have access to correct, up-to-date information. Your sales people will also have all the information they need for appointments at their fingertips. Stops will display any data you choose to enter, like customer names or order history. While it may seem like a small difference, prepared sales reps are better able to address the unique needs of each customer.
Plot out sales territories
When looking for the right route optimization software, you should consider complementary features. Combining route optimization with mapping lets sales managers create balanced geographic sales territories.
When you plan territories with geography in mind, it's easier to create efficient sales routes later. Creating manageable territories helps sales team leaders balance workloads and improve customer service.
Visualize data to support decision-making
Visualizing sales data is a huge benefit. It allows decision-makers to better understand the market, including competition and opportunities. For example, with sales territories mapped out, managers can easily see coverage gaps. This can lead to lost opportunities, while overlapping coverage can be costly.
Why sales teams need route optimization - Top 5 challenges
Professional route optimization software can solve some common pain points. If you or your sales reps have faced these problems, it’s time to consider a new solution:
Lots of effort, not much reward
Sometimes sales reps fall into a rut. They start following the same route over and over, without much analysis. This is often called the “milk run.”
Both new and experienced sales reps can fall into this trap. For a new rep, it can come down to not knowing where else to go. If they’re not familiar with the area or are new to sales, it can be hard to vary their route. They may not know who they should target for best results or how to find more leads.In the case of the seasoned salesperson, it can be a matter of habit. In any role, it’s easy to find a comfortable pattern that you keep repeating. But a sales rep seeing the same clients on the same schedule every month isn’t maximizing results.
Mapping software with and advanced route optimization feature can help. For a new sales rep, it puts all the information in front of them. That alone can take some of the complication out of learning a new territory. But it also allows a manager to work closely with a new rep. While they’re learning the ropes, a sales manager can help the new rep prioritize targets. Whether that’s meeting more often with high-value customers or targeting a certain industry to sell a new product, this can help align the sales rep with business goals.
For the more experienced sales person, a mapped out territory can help them see things in a new light. Filtering by important factors, like potential sales, can reveal a disconnect between effort and results. For example, a low-value client may have made it into the milk run. If the sales rep is visiting them frequently, that client may actually be costing the business money.
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Time and scheduling pressure
Sales reps have to keep a watchful eye on their schedule. Particularly on days with a lot of planned in-person meetings. One long meeting can throw off the whole day's schedule, forcing the salesperson to push or cancel other appointments. When this happens, being able to adjust routes in real-time is a major advantage. Sales reps need route optimization that lets them input multiple stops and change things on the fly.
Increasing customer satisfaction
When traveling sales reps need to make lots of stops in a day, it can be difficult to prep for each meeting. One customer may need contract clarification, while another may be looking for a new product demo. But when sales reps show up under-prepared or foggy from the drive, it can impact their ability to perform.
A solution that can optimize their driving routes to avoid inefficiency and display details from your own CRM data can be a game changer here. You can include any relevant information from your CRM, like name and purchase history. With these features, sales reps can reduce their driving time and use these valuable minutes to prepare.
Too much time spent on manual planning
Route optimization can be time consuming and clunky when done by hand. Although it's important for traveling sales reps, it takes time away from meetings with clients. Simply put, there's a better way. Intelligent route planning software can take the manual, heavy lifting out of the equation for sales reps. With automatically optimized routes, they can spend more time on activity that drives revenue.
Lack of visibility for sales team managers and supporting office staff
When there’s a disconnect between field sales and office staff, you have a problem. To solve this, administrators, supervisors and support staff should have access to route plans. A solution like eSpatial makes it simple and intuitive to share this information between team members.
With this information in hand, sales managers can make effective decisions about sales territory management. And, if a red-hot sales lead need immediate attention, office staff can quickly and easily contact the closest sales rep. This not only supports decision-making and planning for office admins, but improves efficiency for sales staff and top-notch service for clients.
Imbalances in workforce resource management
Improved visibility also helps sales managers balance resources and workloads for sales reps. When the workload isn't even, you'll run into several problems. Some sales reps might not have enough opportunity to meet their quotas. This affects their earnings, can lead to pressure from managers and ultimately cause stress. On the other hand, too much work can cause burnout for the sales rep and lost opportunity for the company.
Mapping sales data lets managers create balanced sales territories. That way, sales reps have opportunity without being overwhelmed. And, when paired with route optimization, this helps ensure sales reps are spending more time with customers and less time on the road. In turn, customers and leads receive the right amount of attention.
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Route optimization for sales - 4 potential wins
Besides addressing the above pain points, there are a few more benefits to putting this kind of intelligent solution in place:
Efficiency, without the manual legwork: Route optimization for traveling sales reps through eSpatial is quick, streamlined and automatic. This means sales reps and office staff don't have to manually plot routes. Or worse, rely on a consumer GPS app for each leg of their trip.
Kristen Eldridge, Motiva Operations Support Analyst and eSpatial user, noted that this has saved her as much as 25 minutes per lead. Since she evaluates and plots routes for up to 30 leads a day, the time savings add up fast.
"eSpatial saves me so much time," Eldridge said. "I use it to investigate and target high potential leads, then plan routes for the salespeople on the ground. I used to do this with Google Maps, and it was tedious. With eSpatial, it takes only five minutes each."
Fuel cost savings and sustainability: Intelligent route optimization can also reduce driving time and fuel costs. When you think about how much you spend on fuel and vehicle maintenance for each sales rep, the saving quickly add up. Efficient driving routes can also help to lower your carbon footprint — an increasing concern for businesses.
Improved resource management and customer service: With more efficient driving routes for sales reps and visual data for team supervisors, resource planning and workforce management becomes an easier task. Sales reps receive equal workloads to prevent overloading or burnout. Using the most efficient driving routes also helps reps meet with more clients in a day, which improves results."Since we can plan optimized routes for the salespeople on the ground, they can get more done and make more sales," Eldridge said.
Users can even use eSpatial's filtering features to help prioritize accounts. Color coding helps managers and sales reps see which accounts along their route are the highest value, and which leads are the most recent. Prioritizing accordingly can help boost efficiency — not to mention sales.
"We have a complete, up-to-date view of our clients, staff, and resources," said Andres Delacruz, NorthStar Deputy Director of Business Continuity and an eSpatial user. "This enables us to mobilize our staff and resources to the best location to support our clients and quickly react to incidents. eSpatial is an absolute game changer, helping us make better decisions."
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Agile planning, on the go: One of the biggest wins for sales teams when it comes to route optimization is the ability to adjust their schedules in real-time. eSpatial enables users to plot multiple stops and include start and ending times for each meeting. Should a meeting run long or short, the sales rep can adjust the rest of the route to match. This feature helps put an end to scheduling problems and missed appointments, and can even enable sales reps to squeeze in an extra stop when they have the time.
Key route optimization features for field sales
Right now, there are more than a few route optimization options available for traveling sales teams, but these solutions are not one in the same.
In order to overcome the key challenges and reap the benefits discussed above, sales teams need a route optimization solution with specific features, including:
- Automatic route optimization: The ultimate route optimization solution will provide the best route automatically and eliminate guesswork.
- Mobile app: An ideal solution is seamlessly mobile accessible, enabling traveling sales staff to use route optimization just as they would a traditional navigation app.
- Multi-stop planning: Don 't just plot one or two stops – include every destination along the way. eSpatial lets users add up to 100 stops to the route. That way, sales reps can plan their whole day, week or even month, depending on their workload.
- CRM integration: Advanced integration helps ensure the business has unified systems for its sales team. With a solution like eSpatial, destinations include CRM information, not just a generic street address.
- Shareable routes: Keep everyone on the same page with shareable itineraries and driving routes. Sales reps can share one-on-one with a co-worker, in a private group, or make their route publicly accessible. Best of all, this feature ensures that routes can be easily opened on a mobile device, and even transferred over to leading GPS apps for familiar turn-by-turn directions.
These are must-have features, but the best route mapping software will also have advanced capabilities. Data styling tools and interactive map features let businesses dive deep and do more with their sales data.
To find out more about the difference route optimization can make, talk to a mapping expert about your mapping software needs today.