Nilesh Patel, is the CEO, for LeadSquared, a market leader in SaaS automation with services across high-velocity sales execution, field force and marketing automation not just in India, but across the globe.
Think about this for a minute – How many fundamental services or processes do you know today in the world, which were more efficient five years ago than they are now? The answer is, none. We, humans, are neurologically wired to move on to more efficient systems and processes. As they say, evolution is and always will be inevitable.
If you looked at a field team five years ago and compared it to today, you’d see that today’s field reps plan better, are more prepared, and achieve higher productivity. How did that happen? Automation.
Not to mention, the biggest impact of technology has been the redundancy of field teams themselves. We are digitally connected more than ever before, and most logistical tasks can be carried out using software solutions. Especially with the remote work culture growing in popularity, how long has it been since you physically signed a document? As a result, a lot of companies are transitioning to inside sales/support teams.
But are field force operations dying? No. Most high-involvement purchase decisions (like insurance) require human contact, for which, a face-to-face meeting is still the best way to go. And as we come up with innovative solutions like quick commerce, for example, field teams are the best way to raise awareness and onboard vendors. This is even more important for developing countries, with less literacy and a lagging adoption curve.
This is where automation comes in. It equips sales-led organizations with the tools to have better end-to-end field operations. It impacts every function – teams, managers, logistics, sales workflow, partner management, and the bottom line.
Let me explain.
Among all sales teams (inside sales, pre-sales, call center, sales development), the field force is the hardest to control – because of its remote nature. Ideally, managers would like to know where their reps are, who they are meeting, what happened in the meeting, and what the status of the lead is, and if possible, on a real-time basis.
In short, visibility has been automation’s biggest impact. Mobile CRMs connect on-site and off-site teams by establishing a real-time communication channel. Managers can use geo-tracking features to oversee employee location and movement.
To understand better, let’s look at a few examples. Say, you are an Edtech company with home demos as an important part of its sales strategy. With a mobile CRM, an average day in the life of a sales representative would look like this:
- Start day, check-in on the Mobile CRM application.
- Receive a system-generated route plan.
- Reach prospect’s home. Update “reached” on the application.
- Provide the demo.
- Note lead response, list potential opportunities, and update lead stage with a single click.
- Move to the next demo according to the route plan.
- Receive real-time notification: “Lead generated near your location”.
- Repeat process.
- Check out.
An integrated process like this allows managers to intervene at critical sales junctures and help reps close deals faster. Businesses can truly centralize their entire workflow on one system.
Let’s take the case of one of India’s biggest technology success stories, United Payments Interface, or UPI. UPI is an immediate system of accepting digital payments that helps transfer funds between bank accounts through a simple mobile platform. If you live in India, you are most likely well familiar with UPI transactions.
To make this possible, fintech players had to educate and onboard millions of local kirana stores, necessitating a huge field force undertaking. They needed to educate and onboard as many business owners as they could, quicker than the competition.
Here’s how field force automation played a critical role in the success of UPI.
An important part of the vendor onboarding process is KYC verification. This would typically require sales reps to physically collect documents from every vendor and send them to the verification team. Subsequently, the verification team would have to verify and send the documents back to the vendor. If an application was rejected, the process was repeated over again.
Today, Field Automation solutions have dramatically shortened this onboarding cycle. The rep could take pictures of the documents and upload them onto the app, instantly sending them to the back-end verification team. The back-end team would then verify and approve the documents. The process was shortened from about two weeks to fifteen minutes. Sales reps can also verify merchant numbers instantly with OTP.
These were two examples of Automation enhancing Field Force operations. From a broader perspective, Field Force Automation has increased efficiency in various industries like insurance, banking, pharmaceuticals, education, real estate, manufacturing, and retail.
An important aspect to note is that Field Force Automation will not only help businesses sell faster but also take steps towards managing and organizing data centrally.
New-age industries like Edtech have been quicker in adopting centralized data management solutions and are higher up in the experience curve than, say, legacy industries like manufacturing.
Field Sales Automation can act as a gateway and help these industries take the next step towards the automation curve.