Business Insights 27 Mar 19 Paramdeep Singh

Thanks to my job, I get to travel the length and breadth of this great country – India.

Metros – Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai. Even smaller cities such as Nagpur, Surat, Jaipur, Cochin, Coimbatore. And then a number of tier 2 and 3 towns. In these cross-country travels, I learn tremendously in my meetings with companies of all sizes – small to big to mega – operating across sectors and not just FMCG.

Being consumer focused businesses, almost all of them grow every year; year after year. Thanks to our country that is more of a continent with 1.3 billion consumers. Growth is thus, default. All this growth makes me happy. You may think because it also drives growth for FieldAssist. True to some extent, for sure. But below this veneer of happiness, there is also a slight tinge of frustration. Are you wondering why?

Because I can see that there is more that can be done. Sales force productivity can be put on steroids and we could grow much faster. The FMCG industry at best grows at rates around the early teens. Most of the companies I meet (both customers and prospects) are doing the right things with business strategy. But, as a technology driven sales force automation solution provider, I see glaring gaps in adopting and following a technology driven strategy. For these growing companies; technology and strategy are still two separate functions. There is increased appreciation of the interplay of these two functions, but somehow the urgency and long-term thinking seems missing. If only I could showcase to our customers how a technology driven strategy delivers and bolsters sales force productivity, enabling them to grow faster. This thought keeps crossing my mind when I get some downtime i.e. when I am on those frequent flights. I have gathered my thoughts around how a tech enabled business strategy could help some of these consumer facing companies grow better.

The Store

The last mile to the consumer starts and ends with the store. The store is so critical that it can determine ‘success’ or ‘failure’. Which is why it is not about the store, but the ‘right’ store. Here, it is vital to discuss the following two points.

The Right Store

When we set up the FieldAssist sales force automation software for our customers, each of their outlets are rostered into the SFA app. It is an intense one-time process. But once it is set up, it becomes easy to monitor the store performance almost on a real-time basis. It is child’s play to identify which stores are lagging and which ones are leading. On an aggregate basis, the store performance compares well with industry figures.

Nielsen research corroborates that 60% of FMCG sales can be influenced at the store level. That is really significant. 80% of sales is contributed by 30% of stores. No 80 – 20 rule here, but 30% is still significant.Thus, the right store becomes vital since each store involves additional cost.

Quoting Vijay Udasi,the Sales Effectiveness Practice lead at Nielsen India,

“Among various levers at your disposal to drive strong in-market performance, reaching the right store is on top of the heap. I would go as far as to say that reaching the right stores is half your job done. Needless to say, reaching these right stores directly, and with adequate servicing levels will go a long way in driving sales, growth and incremental share.”

Thus, ‘right’ store is a critical component to a successful sales distribution strategy. Most companies have an arbitrary, subjective and ‘hunch’ driven approach to the choice of a ‘right’ store. Leveraging technology in the form of sales force automation gives brands an opportunity to drive data-backed decisions, thus backing strategy with technology.

The Store Game Plan

The ‘Right’ store is necessary but not sufficient. That is where a store level game plan becomes key. A FMCG consumer buys a product in just a few seconds.The buying decision is ad hoc and made instantaneously at the point of sale (POS). (Wish I could get FieldAssist prospects to buy like that). So FMCG brands have to find proven ways to influence buyer’s behavior positively.

The store game plan can ensure the perfect experience for the consumer, which eventually will precipitate the buying decision. Everything matters. Availability, visibility, offers and servicing. Using sales force automation, it is logistically possible to ensure that your brand scores on each of these factors.

The Sales Team

Robots have made inroads into the warehouse. Robots may take over delivery as well thanks to all the progress on driverless vehicles. Field sales will be an extremely tough problem to automate completely. I will be all ears if you can pitch that possibility to me.

Today, the sales team has a very important role to play. Sales force automation technology is all geared up to enable them. But not everything in this area can be impacted by the SFA app. Let us look into it.

Servicing

Servicing is a low hanging fruit because the standards are low. The need for servicing at an absolute level and at a relative level with respect to competition, cannot be downplayed.The Nielsen study mentions that when the servicing levels were higher than competition, the share of the brands was 20% more.

Quality servicing is best achieved by taking a ‘culture’ approach to it. This is a change management task, best delivered by a project owner. SFA technology, if creatively employed, could contribute in initiating and reinforcing a culture of service.

Training

Technology will get better, but still won’t be able to address all challenges. That is why continuous training of the sales team is important. It should include:

  • Business Strategy covering costs, margins and profits
  • Importance of “The Store” in overall growth
  • Technology

Conclusion

To grow at above market rates and to differentiate from competition, it is paramount that brands increasingly lever technology for execution of business strategy. The store and the sales team will always remain vital to such a strategy. Thanks to an ever evolving technology, a tech driven strategy will keep throwing new ideas for improvement and growth. Ideas that could help brands meet challenges raised by the consumer and the market. Do you like my idea?

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Paramdeep Singh

Param is the CEO at FieldAssist. He brings over 12 years of extensive entrepreneurial experience. He is extremely passionate for the FMCG Industry with a focus on technological innovation to drive consumer business outfits, skilfully integrating traditional retail channels with technology solutions that is transforming the face of Sales Force Automation industry in India. He is well known and recognised for leveraged collaborative and distinctive leadership skills.

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