Thirty-seven percent of the American workforce now say they have worked remotely, representing a fourfold increase since 1995, according to a recent Gallup poll. For workers in many industries, working remotely is a novel concept. But for traveling sales representatives, working away from the office has long been a way of life. In 2014, there were 1,800,900 wholesale and manufacturing representatives in the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Many of these representatives cover large territories, potentially encompassing several states, that require them to travel for days or weeks at a time. For their employers, the challenge of how best to manage remote sales personnel is presented. Here are some strategies employers can implement in order to maximize their traveling sales representatives’ productivity.
Seventy-four percent of all sales representatives are failing, according to a survey carried out by Objective Management Group. One underlying cause is the fact that most representatives have no previous sales education or formal training. Many believe they can go into sales and simply “wing it,” the survey says. Similarly, sales representative provider RepHunter says that product knowledge is the biggest factor in whether or not a representative succeeds and recommends comprehensive training in products and services.
RepHunter also suggests that during a representative’s first few months of travel, a sales partner should be available to travel with them and make initial sales presentations. This provisional period will give new representatives an opportunity to become familiar with the types of questions that customers ask in addition to the specifics of their product or service’s sales cycle.
Another recommendation made by RepHunter is to provide sales representatives with a list of existing users of their services within a territory as a way of building a customer base, familiarizing themselves with product lines and identifying new sales opportunities. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to supply the representative with the information they need through a mobile customer relationship management (CRM) app. CRM tools provide representatives with easy remote access to customer contact information along with data about every previous interaction with customers. This information enables representatives to easily see where customers are in the sales cycle, identify opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling, spot opportunities to introduce customers to new products and services, and track invoices. To keep valuable CRM data from getting lost, it’s advisable to protect customer data by scheduling periodic backups using an online backup service.
In addition to customer data, traveling representatives also need their home offices to provide them with other vital information on an ongoing basis. This includes copies of quotations, price lists, information about pending orders, updates on order status, copies of invoices, shipping notification updates, copies of literature that customers receive with products and commission schedules.
To do their jobs effectively, representatives also need to be supplied with up-to-date marketing materials. These include samples, brochures and catalogs. Delivering some of these materials online can be an efficient way to provide them to traveling representatives.