Business Lessons 19 Jan 21 Divir Tiwari, Cofounder & Business Head

Well, let's imagine you are in the business of supplying fresh fruit juices. They're pretty perishable things, and I don't know if you've ever experienced having a bottle of juice that's stale and adulterated when you bought it at a grocery store. It's not an experience you want to repeat for your customer. The tricky part is how you get this juice right from the farms to the retail outlets in less than 15 days, perfectly packed, looking, and smelling nice. That process has a lot of background to it, a whole setup to grow & procure the fruits, manufacture the bottles, run appealing campaigns, and above all, having the right sales team and a scalable distribution network. And if one thing breaks down from manufacturing to grocery store, the whole thing turns into an enormous, foul-smelling mixture of slime.

That's what we call real stress, my friend, a nightmare for anybody owning the sales and growth of a brand in a consumer business.

Like the above example, every business thrives on expanding the market share and bringing success from sales campaigns. Business growth is always reinforced with the correct process to manage sales, and large organizations invest a massive budget in hiring the right professional to spearhead their sales targets. The responsibilities of a sales head for an entire country come with immense accountability.

In this blog, I am going to go over a few indicators that can cause unnecessary stress to sales heads and further explain how it can be mitigated with the right strategy and technology in hand:

You see, your team is demotivated

Demotivation is like flowing water; you don't know where you are and where you want to go. When you see your teams lost, dull, and not working towards their goals. That's an alarming situation. Either you have burned them too much or haven't set realistic goals, or there is something that your sales guys need?

Bringing motivation to your sales teams is like allowing a child to choose what they have for dinner after they spent the day helping clean the house. That's a positive reinforcement we have to do over and over again.

Trust me, taking up an FMCG salesman job is not the first job choice of anyone; it's not easy to chase down the streets to cover 40 outlets in a day, its sheer hard work. It would be best if you showed your teams that carrot to keep them going and motivated. But, that carrot cannot always be monetary. Research suggests that significant drivers of employee motivation could be

  •       Belongingness
  •       Public recognition and social gratification
  •       Contests that boost peer to peer competition

Once I visited one of the largest Apparel and Fashion company in India, to my surprise, they had this excellent policy where the top sales contributor is always invited to have an exclusive dinner with the Chairman at Hotel Taj. Now, that's a feeling of achievement and a recognition that a person will remember for the rest of his life. He becomes a superstar for his team and his family. With such initiatives, I am sure more and more salespeople in the company will be motivated to perform better.

In another company I saw, the management providing food items like Rice, Sugar, Oil, etc., to the top sales contributor. I think these are smart tactics to keep your sales team intact to their deliverables.

If you don't know from where to begin, start exploring a few sales force automation and gamification tools available in the market, you can show your teams their performance in real-time, reward them by giving public recognition and keep them engaged throughout by giving them a true and real gamification experience right in their hands

Data, data everywhere and not a clue on how to act

Standard sales-driven organization uses at least 30+ sales reports, collected from multiple data points, excel sheets, MIS systems, BI tools to give a single picture of what's happening at the ground level wrt to the team and product performance. Now, getting these reports is the first challenge and even if you get it, do these reports talk to each other. Knowing and having data is one thing, but acting on it is another. Remember, your data hides more than it reveals, make it more actionable.

To give you an example, 60% of the sales call happens in the first half of the day; now, if you have real-time data, you will know who is making the productive calls and who is struggling. Based on the real-time snapshot, you can actually guide your salesperson on his lagers and suggest him to do joint calls with his manager to have better productivity. You can't just rely on excel sheets; be proactive, a report created at noon becomes obsolete by 2 pm. You must have data in hand.

Have sales automation tools that can help leaders like you review things and have the power of quick decision making. These tools can provide real-time data and personalized dashboards across market intelligence, team performance, and product visibility to make informed decisions.

You talk to your teams, but they don’t with each other 

When it comes to sales, communication between the teams and maintaining a good relationship with internal and external stakeholders is fundamental.  Suppose your marketing team launched a companywide campaign at the time of Newyear, picking your top SKUs to be sold wrt to demographics, customer preferences, etc. As a sales head, you have a full-proof sales plan for your teams, but if one team doesn't know what's happening with the other, they cannot learn from others' strengths and weaknesses and act accordingly.

Create a cadence of responsibility where your middle management is always active and ready to act; no strategy is a good strategy without effective communication. To explain with the above example, sales managers can identify and evaluate effective POS materials used by the sales team to communicate product information to the consumers at the point of sale and communicate the same to the marketing teams on what will work for particular locations and consumer segments.

For effective communication between teams, adopt collaborative tools that can help you communicate and over-communicate between teams. Let there be open sessions, real-time team performance visibility, and transparent data for marketing schemes, training, reviews, etc.

It’s a will gap or skill gap in your Sales team

You want to have an outstanding and passionate team to drive sales just like fire in the woods but what you want and what you get isn't always the same. There will be people in your team who lack the right skills or need to reinforce certain traits. You cannot have one size fits all treatment for everybody. And, naturally, you cannot be in charge of everything for your team. A dedicated human resources team, regional managers, or even the company board may take responsibility for hiring and training your teams. However, if the talent acquisition does not match the required targets, you will be held accountable.

Your team managers should identify where the person is lacking by looking at real-time performance and designing training accordingly. E.g., As soon as a person starts his day in his field app, he can be prompted with a video on "Golden steps to do productive calls," similarly, if a person needs training on soft skills, he can be given a tutorial on how to greet and maintain relationships with multiple retailers. These small steps can help them learn with fun and real-time while being on the job rather than sitting in training rooms and taking notes.

It's always advisable to make him undergo practical training on sales strategies, business values, workplace ethics, and leadership management. You can find so many online tools to impart multiple training pieces like soft skills, effective negotiation, etc., where you can track your teams' progress in real-time. It's always better to invest in the talent you have rather than running behind acquiring a new one all the time.

Replenish, Replenish, Replenish

Suppose you launched a product that’s OTC (Over the counter) in nature, and you have targeted Pharmacy outlets for the same. Your launch was a hit, you sold a lot of units but after a point of time, you are not able to sell more. The reason could be the availability of your products on other than Pharmacy outlets. You should have diverted your efforts to mom and pop shops, modern trade outlets too. Remember, rotation of the inventory is a key to survival.

Evolving customer demands, scarcity of raw materials, change in the land, labour or capital, uncertainty in government policy, and trade regulations could be some of the factors that can hinder your entire supply chain. Keep an eye on the availability of your stock, where it is in the supply chain and how fast you can avail and rotate your inventory.

It is always good to have an Omnichannel approach to manage and track your supply chain. With omnichannel integration your sales platforms, distribution management systems, retail systems, you can reduce the risks that previously arose with multi-channel business operations by getting everything under one roof.

In the end, I would say, on a good day, sales is the most fantastic job in the world. On a bad day, it can be genuinely terrifying. It's always good to be proactive, ponder over what can turn into a disaster for you and your brand, and have the right tools and platforms by your side. Country heads are in charge of sales across various regions round the clock. You are the captain of the ship, and the teams always need a captain like Jack Sparrow to help them grow and sell-through. As an NSM, no matter what the hassle, you must present the best hustle.

Divir Tiwari, Cofounder & Business Head

A technology enthusiast by heart loves to interact and understand problems that could be possibly solved with technology. He has worked at the various facade of organisation building with business development as forte. He is a firm believer of collective organisational growth, product-based solutions and adding value in customer's business.

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