The Salesman and The Pandemic - How to prioritize customers during a pandemic

The Salesman and The Pandemic

By Jan Beco, Senior Director | Head of SAP Cloud Platform Addons

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent waves of shutdown have thrown a monkey wrench into the global economy and into the traditional ways of doing business.

The changes are visible with the new workforce divisions; with essential and nonessential workers, full-time and part-time, and those who can work remote and those which cannot operate outside of a specific location. Outside sales reps operate at the border edge between these classifications – sometimes working, sometimes not. In this era of uncertainty, it’s quite easy for sales reps and companies alike to get into a lethargic state where they perform at a limited capacity of their usual job functions.

Are your reps driving relationships or cars?
While this tendency is understandable, it has an array of risks for both the individual sales rep and the company. Outside sales reps are typically the ones best positioned to develop relationships with customers, fine-tune promotions, smooth out supply and quality issues, and supplement marketing efforts.  In short, they are the company’s external eyes, ears, and mouth. 

Cutting out these activities is especially costly in terms of a company’s mid and long-term development. Sales reps still could be active with customers – even if it’s not being done face to face with the help of that company car. They are – more than ever – in need of new type of route planning support to make these relationships happen.

It’s not about the vehicle
Tour planning for sales reps is much more than a geographic navigator. Trip recommendations and planning really start with identifying the particular customers to visit. In terms of technical issues, tour planning should have a much closer connection to CRM customer and account data than to the traditional traffic and road condition information.  Even if the pandemic means there is no direct physical interaction with the customer, the contact work must still be done by phone or email – and that requires deciding which customers should be contacted and the work priorities. Maybe it’s time to come up with another name for route planning such as account assessment or customer prioritization – a term that reduces the emphasis on geographic mapping.

Mining SAP for guidance
Whatever it is called, whether it is tour planning or target assessment, it means taking a closer look at that data in SAP to guide the specific actions by sales reps. The good news is that there is an almost unlimited assortment of data points within SAP that can be used to help sales rep establish the priorities for their daily activities. Here are four basic areas where this data can be utilized:

  • Separate the prime accounts from the chaff – Sort accounts by revenue, time since last sales rep visit.
  • Support individual marketing campaigns – Distinguish accounts by their activities with specific products and marketing campaigns.
  • Get seasonally smart – Distinguish seasonal influences – ice cream versus chocolate – on individual account sales and choice of product.
  • Put company KPIs to work – SAP data can help identify and sort through accounts. This can help sales reps prioritize activities if their KPIs call for a focus on new account development, revenue maximizing, or collecting on account receivables.

These four areas are just a start. The precise criteria selection and the weighting of each should vary according to the needs of the company. The overall rule is that no one size fits all. 

In these times of pandemic, sales reps need help responding to changing conditions. An effective tour planning tool such as maiTour does more than mapping out effective routes, it also mines SAP data and help sales reps identify prime customers by their selected preferences before they start their working day or pick up the phone.

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