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How Can Field Sales Managers Retain Talent?

Thursday 6 February 2020 Field Force Planning


Lee Hawkes's picture
By Lee Hawkes

How can field sales managers retain talent?

Our recent blog titled How much does it cost your business to replace a field sales rep highlighted the cost can be as much as €103,655 ($115,000).  Once you’ve found the right person for the job, you will want to maximise your chances of retaining them.

Reps move on for several reasons, but the decisions you make when deciding where to recruit, how you adjust your territories to accommodate that recruit, and your approach to route optimisation will have an impact on staff retention.


The impact of recruiting in the wrong location.

So, you’ve finally found the perfect field sales rep who has all the credentials you want but they live off patch. What would you do?  Employ them? Or take a step back and consider the potential impact on their longevity, other reps, and ultimately the success of your business?

I often hear people say ‘I want the best person with the best skill set for the job’ which is of course critical to success, but recruiting a good candidate in the best location can be more effective than recruiting the best candidate in a poor location, especially if you want to retain talent. 

If you decide to recruit off patch your new rep will have to spend more time driving on to their territory every day which, whilst tolerable at first, will quickly become frustrating and stressful. They might say “it’ll be fine, I’ll handle it”, but in our experience, it seldom is. Depending on your approach to commuting (let’s not open the can of worms right now on whether the drive to first visit, and home from last visit should be viewed as falling inside or outside working hours), this could mean they have little choice than to work longer hours than their peers. Call rates will inevitably suffer resulting in lost opportunities and lower sales, not to mention morale.

Over time, poorly sited recruits will cumulatively give you a headache. When several people live in the wrong place you can’t change the territories to suit the needs of the business. You are locked in a situation where you want to make change to be more efficient, but your hands are tied and you find yourself giving people too much, or too little work because there’s no other way of cutting it. It doesn’t need to be that way. Recruiting in the ideal location, or close to that ideal location can lead to sales reps having to commute 43% less than if you recruit them in the wrong location.


Do you really need an extra head?

Reassessing whether you have a drive time efficient, balanced territory structure could mean you don’t have to recruit at all. The next time you have a vacancy, it’s worth considering if recruiting a replacement is necessary. It often isn’t!  Instead, take the time to review your customer base and team workloads, and crucially include a robust measure of the time reps spend behind the wheel, which is often described as the hidden workload of a sales rep. This will confirm the size of the field sales team needed before you assume you need to recruit again. Efficiency often means being able to cover more work with the same headcount and makes recruitment unnecessary.

Optimising an ideal territory scenario that is driven by where your customers are located, rather than where your staff live, can be hugely insightful and bring to light a much more cost-effective field deployment that highlights the true gaps in your field sales network.


What’s the impact of an imbalanced territory structure?

When we run data on current team deployments through our application, InSite FieldForce, we see that the average territory workload imbalance is 18%. This is the equivalent to a rep trying to fit 6 days’ worth of work into 5, which leads to the new rep having to work longer hours to achieve the KPI’s set, confounded by frustrated customers who haven’t received a visit due to the territory previously being vacant. 

The biggest cause of stress at work, according to this LinkedIn survey is workload and a poor work-life balance which is a concern for more and more companies. Territory and route optimisation will help ensure corporate goals of hitting a certain number of visits per day, and personal goals of leaving and getting home at a reasonable hour, can both be achieved.  CACI has investigated the effects of work-life balance and how it can affect a field sales team. If you’d like more information, click here to download our white paper.

What you need is for all your reps to be working the same hours and living on patch. Our experience tells us that that this goal is rarely achieved without leveraging an optimisation tool coupled with a solid process of change management.


Optimised call schedules will help a new field sales rep hit the ground running.

Giving a new rep an optimised call schedule for the next call cycle will help them hit the ground running and helps ensure that your route to market strategy is delivered, and the rep maximises every opportunity.

Imagine you’re a new rep and you have been given the task of building a journey plan for the next call cycle. You must consider visit locations, call frequency, drive time, decision maker availability, and a whole lot more.  Even an experienced field sales rep will never be able to achieve an optimal sequence of calls on their own – despite their insistence that they ‘know their patch’ - and their priority should always be selling. You need to ensure your reps are driving less and selling more. CACI’s route optimisation software CallSmart can reduce driving time by as much as 22% in a fraction of the time it takes a rep to do manually.


If you want to hear more about how CACI's field force optimisation software & expertise can help your company retain field sales talent, get in touch now.

Field Sales Reps move on for several reasons, but the decisions you make when deciding where to recruit, how you adjust your territories to accommodate that recruit, and your approach to route optimisation will have an impact on staff retention.

How Can Field Sales Managers Retain Talent?