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Reflections on 30 years of sales force optimisation

Tuesday 3 September 2019 Field Force Planning

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Stewart Moody's picture
By Stewart Moody

 

The big three-zero. A birthday milestone that sends shivers down the spines of twenty-somethings around the World. But as a landmark birthday for CACI’s Field Force Planning team it's something that I want to celebrate.

 

Over the coming months I’d like to share with you CACI’s perspective and analysis on four issues in field sales efficiency, and how this will impact you and your business in the 2020’s:

  1. Offsetting the carbon footprint of a rep
  2. The impact of electric vehicles on field sales efficiency
  3. Calculating the true cost of staff turn-over
  4. Measuring the impact of work-life balance to your bottom line

 

But before we look to the future I want to look at the past. It's interesting (and occasionally amusing) to see how changes in culture and technology have shaped the field sales ecosystem in which we work.

 

 

Established in 1989 to solve the traveling salesman problem

I wasn’t at CACI when it all began. I was only 12 years old when, in 1989, a team of operational research experts in the UK got together and formed the Field Force Planning team. My efforts at high school were split between doing well in lessons and laying my hands on a pirate VHS of the first ever episode of the Simpsons. As was the symptom of youth, I failed to notice that the world was changing fast around me; the Berlin Wall was reduced to rubble, and NASA launched Galileo.

 


A significant event in 1989. Hasselhoff single handedly takes down the Berlin Wall (sort of). 

 

That Christmas I was gifted a Nintendo Game Boy (though I really wanted an Atari Lynx), which was the first time a serious piece of mobile technology was put into my hands. Sure, the green and black dot matrix screen was dull, but Tetris was amazing and the freedom from a plug socket it gave was ground breaking. That same year Tim Berners-Lee created the world wide web which opened so many doors for the team at CACI to add efficiency through field sales optimisation.

 

The opportunity was clear. Your predecessors were fed up with drawing lines on laminated wall maps to delineate territory boundaries. At that time, CACI were deploying a territory optimisation tool kit to help them ensure that the team was the right size, with balanced territories. Installations were done from a stack of 10 floppy disks using MS-DOS in a predetermined sequence and the territory optimisation problem was solved forever. Whilst CACI was ahead in the technology game our customers were not; call files were often received by post!

 

 

Fast forward to 1999 and technology is the norm

By the time Bill Gates became the World’s wealthiest man most field sales reps were driving around with the iconic Nokia 3210 cell phone wired into their ear. Europeans were getting to grips with the Euro and I’d long moved on from the Simpsons, and was now mesmerised by the surprise blockbuster of the year - The Matrix.

 


The gaming revolution of 1997. Long before social media became the norm a frantic game of 'Snake' before your next call wasn't uncommon.

 

In 1999 CACI had over 200 desktop systems of our InSite territory optimisation software deployed. We’d not long since released our complimentary JourneyPLAN route optimiser to meet the demand for a solution to the traveling salesman conundrum; reducing driving time and maximising calls per day.

 

I joined CACI in 2001 and in those days most territory reorganisations were ‘textbook’. The preservation of the work-life balance of reps, working time directives, and risk aversion to change were not nearly as high on people’s priority list as they are today.

 

I’d describe the road detail being used in routing tools as skeletal (at best). Most computer processors were unable to handle anything more than highways and trunk roads. The road speeds employed were generally ‘just lower than the speed limit’. Then, as we entered the new millennium technology and caught up to allow us to employ every road into our calculations when planning routes.

 

Beyond letting reps do it themselves, central planning of routes was still the only alternative. Even though email was growing at an exponential rate, it remained common for schedules to be printed and faxed to the field (in fact I still had a customer doing that in 2004).

 

 

The rise of data and diversity from 2009

The same year that the Field Force Planning team turned 20 years old Android went mainstream. This gave customers a real choice in mobile operating system, and that choice of products was mirrored in all aspects of field sales technology. With smartphones and tablets (and still the occasional laptop) in everyone’s hands the dream of live exchange of information between field and back-office was realised. The market was crowded with tools for CRM, retail execution, data products, optimisation tools, and there was an unquenchable thirst to connect them all together using even more tools. Scrutiny on purchasing decisions to ensure the right tools for the job were employed had never been higher.

 

In 2009 CACI combined TomTom travel data with our continually evolving software. We wanted travel times precise to the second to achieve what I overheard someone call “the most beautiful routes”. A few years later we embarked on the project to expand our route optimisation to cover the full spectrum of use cases; static, agile and dynamic (click here to read more about your route planning options).

 

The complexity of territory reorganisations was increasing rapidly too. With the growth in compensation-culture, risk aversion was rising fast. Consequently, large scale territory optimisations were seen as a minefield and I noticed that people wanted, and needed, to be more impartial, more data lead, and more transparent than ever before when making critical decisions on team size and fabric.  

Today every decision needs to be bomb proof, and planning the re-organisation is as important as execution itself.

Guiding a customer through that process of transforming their field sales team deployment remains an area of my job that I still love to this day.

 

 

And the next few years?

Today, field sales is a major cost for companies and there is a lot of scrutiny on how efficiencies can be made. For me, the hot topics for the next few years are summed up here, and I look forward to sharing with you CACI’s perspective and analysis on how these will impact you and your business in the 2020’s:

 

  1. Offsetting the carbon footprint of a rep

  2. The impact of electric vehicles on field sales efficiency

  3. Calculating the true cost of staff turn-over

  4. Measuring the impact of work-life balance to your bottom line

 

If you want to hear more about how CACI's Field Force expertise can help you, get in contact now.

The big three-zero. A birthday milestone for CACI’s Field Force Planning team is something to celebrate. It is interesting (and occasionally amusing) to look back and see how changes in culture and technology have shaped the field sales ecosystem in which we work.

Reflections on 30 years of sales force optimisation