In this blog Mandie Brighton, a Communications Manager within a client partner business unit, provides a first-hand synopsis of the key role an efficient and expert operations team provides. Her summary helps to explain why outsourcing field sales to the experts will provide the right infrastructure to ensure smooth operational delivery which ultimately drives Field Sales Success!
A crucial part of keeping any major client account running smoothly every week, is having a well-oiled ‘ops team machine’; this core function enables all other aspects of a wider account team to operate, to progress and to succeed in their own objectives – so let’s break down this task and see what exactly goes into a week in the life of a strategic operations team at our field marketing agency.
The start to the week, after that all important Monday morning cuppa, often begins with team meetings to catch up on the week just gone and understand what is coming up next – these also involve the key stakeholders from different parts of the account team, as well as outside business departments and external clients. The outcomes of these meetings determine future planning, share best practice, as well as understanding where the team may need to support each other when workloads spike. Whilst reflecting on the previous work week, there will also be both internal and external client reporting to complete, to review the achievements made by the national field team and evaluate the results against the key objectives and target measures.
Planning and preparation for the week ahead will be next on the agenda; in this industry, a large client account is likely to have a field sales team working across numerous channels, retailers, categories and brands – all of which drive the unique plans and projects tackled by the account team. With this comes a range of differing calendars of activity, from promotional cycles to new product launches, range reviews and seasonal strategies, which combined, determine the priorities and focuses of the sales team. This means that schedules and deadlines are hugely important, as they ensure that all the right plates keep spinning; as the central operations team is often both the start and the end of many processes, it is vital that timings are met in order to keep the field team on the move.
A fundamental aspect of running a successful field team is sending your people into the right stores, at the right frequencies, at the right time and doing the right things – to give them the best opportunity to make the most impact by driving sales and delivering retail excellence, generating the best return on investment. Whilst the data and algorithms used to identify these specifics is key, communicating and coordinating getting ‘the where’ and ‘the when’ right is a big part of the responsibility of an operations team alongside the national field team structure. It is no easy feat creating the most optimised route to achieve this, therefore we use specialist software implemented by a dedicated 'master of journey planning' to manage the continuous scheduling and reviewing of the call files, routes and travel times that are involved in this undertaking. These people know their postcode areas by heart and could get you from Lands End to John O'Groats, minus the map, with no trouble at all! This expertise and relentless focus on data ensures we spend more time in store, focused on the right interventions to maximise our clients budget and overall return.
Once you know where your team is going, they need to have all the right tools at their disposal to do their job most effectively. There will be multiple retailer cycles changing and new promotions going live, which means new briefing materials are required and plans need to be communicated proficiently so that the field team know exactly what they will be walking into in store and how they can best utilise their time. This information is supplied by a variety of sources, which need to be collated, streamlined and shared via the correct channels – keeping on top of this is another string to the bow of an effective central operations team. Along with this, to support the ever-changing needs of stores, a field team needs to be armed with all kinds of point of sale, product protection and now personal protective equipment; so whether it’s the branded FSDU to support an NPD launch, the security options to protect high value items or the face masks to keep employees safe – it is the operations team who work with suppliers to handle the daily dispatch and execute the planning and forecasting of exactly what the teams need to succeed in store.
There are also many more operational responsibilities to be completed; from maintaining the in-store questionnaire, updating the client's SKU portfolio (so many codes!), to the booking of team meetings, conferences and overnights (pre pandemic!). Additionally, a good operations team ensures the smooth management of technical and fleet support, retailer accreditation, quality control and compliance, as well as front line support to a remote field force in terms of their wellbeing, focus and toolkit. With a national sales force working across the country, all individually doing their bit as part of a wider team, an operations team is often regarded as the central support and information hub – so being accessible, having expert knowledge and developing positive working relationships is essential to success.
Whilst all major client accounts have numerous core elements that work together to form a successful account team, from reporting and data insights, to client service, training and development – having a well organised, capable and competent operations team is certainly a huge asset!
Here at Field Sales Solutions, we pride ourselves on ensuring all elements of our field delivery are effectively managed through robust processes and operational excellence. We believe in a true partnership approach and we work with our clients to understand the challenges facing their brands, providing first hand expert insight that enables our clients to outsource the operational delivery to us, the field sales experts, meaning they can remain focused on their brand and the return we deliver.
If you would like to find out more about how you can work with a field marketing team that’s absolutely focused on adding value through best-in-class teams that make driving sales a smooth operation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out how we can make your sales, our business;