Tips for Managing a Field Sales Team

If your organization operates or sells nationally then the chances are that you will have a field sales force. A field sales force brings different challenges to the sales manager, as so much of the process has to be done remotely. However, there are some tips, which help to ensure that you will get the best out of your sales force.

Firstly, create a sense of identity. Members of a field sales team can quickly feel isolated. They often spend long hours on the road and staying in hotels. They miss the camaraderie of office life and also the opportunity to swap information and tips with other team members. Therefore a sales manager has to recreate this and there are several ways of doing this. Ensure that you introduce a weekly conference call, which all members dial into. This will not only create a team spirit but will also allow team members to discuss issues that have arisen and the best ways of dealing with things.

Sales teams often learn best from colleagues. By ensuring that they have a regular opportunity to swap information you will help foster best practice. Sales teams are often motivated by hearing the achievements of others, whether this is to stay ahead or catch up. A weekly conference call allows the performance of team members to be discussed across the group in detail and will help create sales ambition in other members of the team.

Whilst a weekly conference call is a great way for ensuring regular contact, nothing beats face to face. Therefore make sure that you introduce regular conferences for all team members approximately every four to six weeks to reinforce the sense of identity. This also helps to ensure that sales targets and objectives can be discussed and agreed. Praise is a great motivator and is more effective if received in a group, so a conference or conference call is a great opportunity to single out and praise top performing sales members.

It is important that all members of the sales team are very clear about their objectives, targets and responsibilities. Therefore make sure that you set clear sales objectives and insist on a weekly sales report so that you can track progress. Most sales teams operate on some form of incentive pay but it is important to establish in advance exactly what the thresholds and resultant bonuses are. If you have a large sales team, particularly a field sales team, ensure that each member is very clear about who is responsible for what. Most will have a geographical area that they are responsible for, but with organisations that operate nationally, establish who is the sales person allocated to that account.

If your product can be discounted then ensure that all members of the sales team are aware of discount levels and how much autonomy they have to give them. Also, if they have to organise any promotional material or products, agree a budget for such items in advance. A sales manager should also make sure that they spend time with members of their sales team individually to monitor performance.

Communication is key in managing a field sales team. Communicate objectives, targets and responsibilities to the team and you should have a happy, motivated and productive sales force.

Matt Smith – Freelance business, conference calling and technology blogger.

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