Organising sales visits is one of the key aspects of commercial management since these must be quick, efficient and profitable. Proper planning of commercial routes can lead to savings in terms of time, money and energy resources. This, in turn, will represent increased profitability on the part of our sales representatives.
Planning a route that is both efficient and profitable, requires a broad, objective view. The majority of companies perform this preliminary planning on the basis of customer status, geographical location of the point of sale and even in some cases regularly scheduled visits. To achieve an optimal commercial route, the following factors must come into play:
Definition of territory will be the initial consideration. This will determine whether commercial appointments are made on the basis of the locations of the various points of sale, or, whether the territorial scope is broadened in favour of other criteria. This decision may be useful in terms of time management bearing in mind the concept of “more visits over fewer miles; less expenditure on transport and expenses”.
2. Classification of the prospect/customer
For our purposes, not all customers are of equal value. Indeed, some may even represent obstacles to our productivity. This is the case with points of sale in which we invest a lot of time and money but which generate low-value orders. The solution is to schedule visit frequency on the basis of the point of sale’s purchase history and growth potential. Customers with a higher score should be prioritised when scheduling visits and organising routes. Our visits to these customers will be more frequent and will last longer.
3. Knowledge and history of prospect/customer
The digital transformation of sales teams has led to a before and after approach to how their work is focused. For example, one of the most obvious changes relates to how data about each customer is collected and stored. A database recording the frequency, volume and characteristics of orders from each point of sale will give us a better understanding of that particular customer’s requirements.
This system also allows us to track the seasonality of orders and any upward trend in purchasing. It also highlights whether a customer is likely to expand product range, add second locations or accept new promotions, or if, on the contrary, it is a stagnant customer.
All these factors clearly have an impact on route as they will affect the client’s score and also, if a degree of seasonality has been detected, allow us to avoid certain points of sale at certain times of year when they are not interested in purchasing the product.
4. Profitability per route
All the above is closely linked to organising a profitable route. The optimal commercial route is obviously the one which enables us to bill the most, at the least cost. This can be in partial or absolute terms. For example, taking the scenario of a visit to one of the less profitable clients we mentioned earlier. A good option may be to make it a stop-off on a route that in itself works well and generates good profits as a result of other, high-scoring customers. This will, to an extent, compensate for its low profitability and the time spent on it will not feel poorly invested.
5. New customers
When analysing the profitability of a visit and, therefore, the route, new commercial prospects are another important factor. This can be tracked on the basis of the total number of customers placing a first order as the result of a new route. This is most easily analysed when we have collated data on prior routes and visits, but for new customers, we can work on the basis of estimates which can give us some indication of the profitability of the visit. The factors to take into account can range from the company’s billing level to the prominence of our competitors at a particular point of sale.