Field Sales Management Strategies

By
Allen Malapit
May 17, 2016

The key to any successful strategy is a well-organized plan for execution. Field sales management in manufacturing and distribution can be challenging, as your team is often spread out in territories away from the central office/warehouse, making communication difficult. A seasoned field sales manager, however, has a rock solid strategy that leads their team to success. Here are some key strategies to consider for productive field sales management:

Self-Reflection

Prior to managing a team of individuals, it's good to recognize your own sales management style and adapt your approach to meet the needs of your reps. This only serves to improve your performance. One clever way to keep yourself in check is to create a development diary and personal action plan to periodically review your goals and progress.

Commitment

This is one of the most important tenets to being a successful field sales manager. It is important to commit to spending regular time in the field with your sales reps. The following are a few ways to demonstrate to them that you're “in this together.”

  • Do not micro-manage when you are in the field. Use the time wisely and coach your reps where needed.
  • Schedule in-field time. Try not to show up unannounced or "surprise" your team. Value their time.
  • Provide detailed feedback on what you saw, what you liked, and any room for improvements.
  • Make time to get to know individual reps, faces, and names. What are their goals? How do they like to be coached?
  • Get to know the talents of every team member and create strategies to maximize their natural abilities.

Develop a Working Plan

Experienced sales managers in manufacturing and distribution are able to analyze data (combined with their knowledge of individual talents) and develop a workable plan. This, in turn, helps them to achieve a continuously successful sales process and a fast paced funnel. Here are a few key objectives when developing a sales process:

  • Work with recruiting to build and retain an effective team through best practice recruitment and teambuilding techniques.
  • Create defined and measurable steps. This will ensure every rep knows the objective of each activity they execute.
  • Collect data and analytics to forecast future sales and use the data to plan future operations.
  • Use change management techniques to help your team adapt quickly to variances in market conditions.

Coaching

Any good field sales manager can dole out advice. An excellent manager can coach throughout the entire sales process. The most important responsibility for a successful manager in any industry is growing and developing their team. The heart of your sales strategy is turning talent into performance, and you do so with outstanding coaching. This approach involves assessing and correcting mechanics in the field as they happen. It is not enough to try and analyze and manage a rep after they have failed to meet their quota. Coaching involves being by your team's side and encouraging direction every step of the way.

Measuring Performance and Results  

Key performance indicators (KPI's) are like the eyes in the back of your head. You can't always catch everything, so sometimes the raw data can tell you where your team shines and what areas could use improvement. Here are a few ways successful sales managers have found to measure performance and results:

  • Create a team performance development plan to maximize potential.
  • Establish KPI's at individual and team levels.
  • Conduct effective performance reviews.
  • Create individual performance improvement plans.
  • Create a set of metrics to measure against activity levels.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement has never failed to motivate and encourage people. Field sales is a competitive industry, and all great sales reps can be aggressive in this aspect; some even consistently vying to compete with their own records. Sales managers can play into this nature and use it to create motivation across the team by setting quotas and offering commission opportunities. A reward system doesn't have to promise huge payouts or prizes.  Simply posting a board listing the top performers has proven to create energy and activity. Overall, a successful field sales manager needs to be constantly aware of themselves and their surroundings. Understanding your sales reps individually, as well as how they function as a team, can help you execute an adjustable plan that keeps everything flowing. Take the time to coach your people, and mentor rather than micro-manage. Gather and use data to measure performance, and reward people for a job well done. Applying these key strategies will ensure open communication, smooth operations, and a surge in sales.