Circle Insights

Principle 7 of Effective Field Force Planning

David Jones

We have reached the end of our effective field force journey having covered a lot of ground. If you have missed any of the previous entries in this series you can find them via the links below:

  • Generalists or specialists
  • Utilisation of field sales teams
  • Fair and balanced territories
  • The link between recruitment and commuting
  • Frequency patterns and travel times
  • Rigid scheduling and driving

And so we move on to our final finding, and this revolves around the ability of a rep to produce an efficient route around the calls on their territory.

Over the last 30 years, the phrase we have heard more than any other is “my reps know their patches best”. A challenge is always welcome, so, time and time again, we have been willing to pit our route optimiser against the route put together manually by a rep. One thing we always had confidence in is the size of the task a rep is being asked to perform. Take a fairly trivial example of asking a rep to take a single day of 10 calls and schedule those calls in the most efficient order – there are more than 3.6 million potential solutions. Expecting a rep to factor in speeds and junction delays on the road network for every street and junction right across their territory, and use this information to get the single best schedule, is hopelessly unrealistic.

A schedule of 10 calls in a single day has more than 3.6 million permutations

Not surprisingly, we have never seen a rep match the optimiser yet. In fact, the data shows that, even if we keep calls on the same day as the rep did and just optimise the daily sequence, the schedules produced by reps mean, on average, 16% more time stuck behind the wheel than is necessary. Allowing calls to be scheduled on a different day takes this excessive driving up even further. All time the sales rep could be spending doing the job they were employed to do: sell!

Optimising the visit sequence of a day reduces drivetime by 16%

As with all of our principles, it is clear that technology can deliver huge savings in travel time and mileage (as well as greenhouse gas emissions). Not only that, it offers the ability to achieve more calls with the same headcount or the same coverage with fewer heads. If you would like to know how to sell more at lower cost, please contact us. CACI would be more than happy to help you identify exactly what efficiency savings can be achieved with your own field sales team and help you determine the best strategy, structure and schedule for your field sales operation.

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David Jones