2020 gave the biggest boost to online selling, and brands across industries have embraced various omnichannel selling models to keep up with customer expectations. But for a retail or consumer goods company, a large chunk of revenue predominantly comes from goods that are sold at retail stores spread across multiple locations, catering directly to the end customer.
And, sales in these retail outlets depend on a number of different factors — changing customer demands, market trends, inventory availability at the right time, and efficient distribution of merchandise by the company.
What is Sales Territory Planning and Why is it Important?
Distribution of goods to retail stores is typically a long-term process and is carried out by the brand’s sales representatives. Based on market demands, consumer product preferences, seasonal shifts in sales, and required stock levels, sales executives visit retail shops in person and distribute goods at regular frequencies. This whole process of secondary distribution is commonly known as ‘sales beat’ or ‘Permanent Journey Planning (PJP)’.
Logistics managers often assign specific territories / service areas to every sales executive. The salespersons are responsible to service all the retail stores that fall under their territory. Territory allotment is done to ensure that every retail store is serviced regularly, and to avoid overlapping of distribution to the same outlet by multiple sales reps.
Territory-based beat planning also ensures greater productivity of sales reps and allows the company’s management to monitor service levels at each store effectively, and evaluate the performance of every executive on duty.
While manual planning of sales beats might be a feasible option for a small-scale business, it tends to become inefficient as a business expands, and when there are more than just a handful of stores to be serviced at regular intervals. A growing business might seek a standard, more sophisticated way of planning sales beats, as it is such an important step in the consumer goods supply chain.
A number of territory planning software are available in the market that can help you carry out Permanent Journey Planning (PJP) smartly, and accurately. But as a decision-maker, there are some important factors to consider while purchasing software for your growing business.
Check out these eight important questions to ask your sales territory planning vendor when you set out to optimize your beat planning and what should you consider when creating sales territories.
8 Questions to Ask Your Territory Planning Vendor
- What are the costs involved?
First things first, how much does the territory planner cost, and what is the payment structure like? Is it a per-user payment model or a complete buy-in software? Depending on the size of your operations and investment budgets, you can select a solution that best suits your business requirements. For growing businesses, SaaS-based solutions are most recommended as they work on a pay-as-you-go model and do not come with heavy set-up costs.
- Is the solution Cloud-based and accessible remotely?
In a fast-paced business environment, being able to access and run applications remotely and securely is essential, pretty much like online shopping is these days. A cloud-based territory planning software is quick and easy to implement, more secure compared to on-premise software, and will eliminate the responsibility of monitoring, maintaining, and upgrading your systems from time to time as the software is managed end-to-end by your vendor.
- Is the solution capable of planning delivery routes dynamically?
Delivery route planning is a must-have feature in a territory planning software. But your software should be capable of planning routes smartly, considering real-world constraints like traffic congestions, road blockages, weather conditions, and on-demand service requests. You need a territory planner that can take into account these factors, plan routes dynamically, re-route in real-time and update delivery schedules seamlessly to ensure smooth on-ground operations for your delivery staff.
- How does the territory planner allocate duties to riders/sales reps?
Allocating distribution duties is a key part of sales territory planning. Your software should be able to assign rider duties intelligently, considering not just distribution frequency schedules and inventory requirements at retail stores, but it should also be able to assign territories and retail locations to your sales reps based on their work preferences — workload balance, preferred work timings and servicing locations, individual skill-sets, the business relationship they may have with retail shopkeepers over time, and so on. This is to ensure that all sales reps are given a fair amount of duties, and their morale at work is not impacted. Also, find a solution that plans sales beats and dispatches on a single platform, rather than juggling between disparate data systems to ensure seamless planning of day-to-day logistics operations.
- Is real-time visibility of on-ground activities available?
Lack of visibility, especially in the secondary mile is a common problem faced by consumer goods and retail supply chains. Foggy visibility leads to inefficiencies on the ground — delayed deliveries, unnecessary idle times, lack of sales productivity, and low serviceability ratios. In order to make distribution operations successful in each territory, real-time and clear visibility is a must. Go for software that offers a dashboard view of your logistics operations as and when they’re happening, so that your management can monitor deliveries effectively while improving the overall productivity and serviceability of your business.
- Does the solution support sales performance evaluation?
Selling is a tough job, and oftentimes, the efforts of sales executives go unnoticed due to a lack of real world data, which makes it difficult for the management to reward good salespersons and take corrective measures for those who are not performing well. It is therefore important to check with your vendor if the territory planner can provide work reports across territories — number of stores serviced in a day, time spent on the road, fuel consumed per vehicle, productivity metrics, retail store feedback, etc. for evaluation of work performance on clear and fair grounds.
- Is the software scalable?
Scalability is highly imperative when you’re going digital, especially for sales beat planning as it can directly impact your revenues. When partnering with your territory planning vendor, ensure that the software supports not just your current business requirements, but can come in handy in the long run, when your business grows, or the market evolves and your requirements change with time.
- Does it offer insights and reports based on business data?
Data is the most crucial asset for making well-informed business decisions. A territory planning software should be able to leverage real-time and historical data to offer actionable insights for improved decision-making. Invest in a software that is capable of capturing business data and generating reports based on important metrics — territory costs, fuel consumption, serviceability ratios, seasonal demands, popular product categories for different territories, inventory replenishment timelines, and so on. Reports and granular analytical insights can help your decision-makers plan distribution operations more effectively, thereby improving supply chain performance significantly.
Consider these eight important factors when selecting a territory planning solution to optimize and automate your supply chain. Investing in technology of any kind comes with several ifs and buts, but if you understand your business requirements well, and look for suitable features in a software, it can do wonders for your business.
Locus’s unique approach to sales territory planning involves using aggregated metrics from running PJP and PDP simulations to offer optimal territory plans for your supply chain. Get in touch with our experts for a quick tour of our solution, FieldIQ.