A Logistics Tool for Improving Sales Force Productivity: The Sales Atlas

A Logistics Tool for Improving Sales Force Productivity: The Sales Atlas

We have often said the best way to measure sales-force productivity is by increased sales calls. In short, a professional sales force that makes more sales calls will always be more productive (and successful) than one making fewer calls.

A number of years ago, we completed an assignment with a client where we redesigned multiple sales territories for a team of sales representatives that managed up to 150 current or prospective accounts each. The objective of our work was to assure that required sales calls could be made on all key current and prospective accounts, and that sales-force travel time to and between sales calls was minimized. As a result of territory redesign and alignment, this regional seller and distributor of printer supplies and equipment easily realized a 15% increase in productivity—i.e.: 15% more sales calls from the same eight sales representatives.

One of the planned outcomes of the project was to provide a sales plan for each sales representative that outlined a suggested sales-call schedule on a week-by-week basis. This plan scheduled and prioritized sales calls by potential, need and geography to maximize the efforts of the sales force. However as we all know, any action plan will require adjustment “on the first day of battle” based upon customer need and unforeseen events.

With this reality in mind, we worked with the client and sales force to provide an additional tool to help the sales force work around those inevitable sales-plan adjustments and emergencies—and still achieve their call plan objectives. We called the tool the Wilkening & Company Sales Atlas.

The Sales Atlas was sent to each sales representative at the beginning of each week. It displayed an updated list of all territory customers and prospects (or locations) where a sales call is required and planned. For each account or prospect, the following information was shown:

  1. Contact information (names, address, zip code…);
  2. Year-to-date sales and annual sales potential or goal;
  3. Annual sales calls required and planned; and
  4. Most recent (and total annual) sales call(s) completed, to date.

Accounts were then identified by location and grouped in general proximity of one another. This was done by applying geographical information system (GIS) tools to the account database. Account clusters were generally created using:

  • City or town;
  • Zip code; and/or
  • Distance and direction from a specific location (like the branch office in Garden Grove, CA).

Of course depending on the overall geographic location—e.g.: West Los Angeles or Western Idaho, the rules for grouping accounts will differ.

With this weekly report in hand, the sales force was able to better use its time. Two real examples follow.

  • Let’s say a sale rep planned to call on a single priority account first thing next Monday. The Sales Atlas was then used to help the rep fill out the remainder of their daily sales calls by displaying other accounts in need of a sales call that were in close proximity to their priority account.
  • When an account emergency arose (that required on-site attention) and the sales rep found themself 50 miles from the office with 4 hours left-in-the-day the Sales Atlas would help the rep find other nearby accounts where a sales call was needed or possible.

As you can see, the trick here is not for the sales rep to have an available list of customers, everyone has one of those these days. The trick is to know how those customers geographically cluster together. That information can help the sales force add that one extra call per day.

The above examples are two ways that a Sales Atlas has been used. But, there are dozens of ways for it to be a useful tool for the sales force. You are only limited by your imagination.

If you want to help your sales force make more sales calls by substituting customer time for windshield time, Wilkening & Company can help you create your own Sales Atlas. And you will quickly begin counting the increases in sales calls—and ultimately sales.

Wilkening & Company has helped dozens of clients improve their sales-force effectiveness and productivity and is a pioneer in applying geographic information systems (GIS) to the challenges of sales force logistics. For more information regarding Sales Atlas and other tools, write (bob@wilkeningco.com) or call at (847 823-5090.

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