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Principle 3 of Effective Field Force Planning

Thursday 18 March 2021 Field Force Planning

David Jones's picture
By David Jones

Principles of effective field force planning Pt.3 of 7

We're on to our third principle of effective field force planning - the first being generalists or specialists, and the second; utilisation of field sales teams.

Principle 3 is about workload balance – in an ideal world, all your field sales reps would be working the same hours. Our experience, based on analysing thousands of existing territory structures, is that this goal is very, very rarely (if ever) achieved without using sophisticated software.

In fact, the average territory workload imbalance is 18% – in real terms, for those territories that are 18% overworked, this is the equivalent of them trying to squeeze 6 days’ work into 5 days. This can only lead to a potentially nasty cocktail of long hours, frustrated customers and high staff turnover. For those at the other end of the spectrum, at 18% underworked, they will be paid a full wage whilst only being effective for 4 days each week, which obviously means they could be doing more calls and selling more product. Given these outcomes, it is hardly surprising that in a 2018 study by CACI, correcting these imbalances of +/-18% enables 4.5% more calls to be achieved – yes, it’s a huge problem!


So, how do we end up with territory imbalance? Well, the single biggest factor is a lack of appreciation, and measurement, of how much driving a sales rep needs to do in their patch. Companies will often share out calls between territories such that each territory has the same number of visits to do, and believe that this will deliver a balanced workload across their team. Unfortunately, the nature of road networks and geography (in every country around the world) will mean that some territories will have a much higher component of driving within their working day, and vice versa. So what initially appeared balanced is suddenly completely imbalanced!

Trying to understand road networks is not a trivial challenge. A country’s road networks will often contain more than a million separate stretches of road and a similar number of junctions. Roads operate at very different speeds too, and junctions have very different delay times – it’s enough to blow your mind, and certainly too much to think about.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that you can’t expect balanced territories and enjoy the benefits associated with equitable workloads without having the tools in place to understand how much driving every single rep in your team is likely to rack up.

In the next blog we'll look at the next principle of effective field force planning - the link between recruitment and commuting.

Further information

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Creating balanced territories for your sales reps is difficult. How can you make things fairer and therefore retain happy staff and customers? Pt.3 in the seven principles of field force planning series.

Principle 3 of Effective Field Force Planning