What do sales agents need to do on customer visits part 1 – picture taking

On discussions about work of sales agents during their visits at retail stores there are two possible views. Some sales managers want them to do exactly what they are being told, on exactly predefined way. Others agree that agents need freedom on their activities and use their creativity. I believe that the right answer is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Agents should have guidance for every visit but they need to be able to be flexible and to skip some of suggested tasks.
There are certain tasks that are crucial for a successful visit, such as order collection, visit notes etc. There are also some tasks which could be skipped (shelf scan, competition tracking and taking pictures). Imagine customer who want to give a sales order to the agent but he responds to the customer: “Sorry but I cannot take your order as I first need to do shelf picture”. Full flexibility must be allowed in SFA solution!
I will try to elaborate on some of the most debated SFA functionalities and its value to sales teams.

Analyzing images

Very recently I had a discussion with sales manager of smaller team of salesman who is selling spices. In stores they have dedicated and branded shelves for their products. He said that he really wants to see ‘before and after’ images of their shelf in every store his agents visit. Obviously his agents’ main task is to put the shelf into order on every visit. Our SW solution of course supports picture taking and such report – so it will not be a problem for us to deliver requested solution.
But imagine the quantity of images that sales manager should review each and every day. 6 agents x 12 daily visits x 2 images per visit = 144 images every day. And this is really small team of 6 agents. In my opinion the task of reviewing images will be very interesting first couple of weeks after the implementation but later it will most probably become boring, time consuming and often neglected.

Permission to take pictures

Next problem with picture taking is also store’s permission to make such photos. There are some retail chains that enforce strong policy against any picture taking in their stores. In such locations agents will have to make hidden camera shots which will inevitably lead to poor quality images.
But to repeat: more and more of our customers are requesting agents to take pictures on their visits. I will try to interview their manager and find out what is the value of these pictures – especially few months after starting to take picture.
It is clear that it is necessary to make pictures of some special events in stores, such as out-of-stocks or all kinds of promotional activities. But I do not see a lot of value in shelf images from regular visits.
Leave a comment if you have any opinion or experience with picture taking!

Next topic: GPS tracking

Next blog entry will be dedicated to the problem of tracking position of sales agents. What is the value for the business? Is this just plain voyeurism of sales managers? Discipline enforcement?
Being part of the Spica management team for more than 15 years, Andrej Planina is considered a leading regional expert in the field of business mobile solutions and technologies for automatic identification. He obtained extensive knowledge working as a project manager for major organizations in the region. Well aware of the business aspects in information processes, Andrej is the author of some of Spica’s successful products. An award-winner for the best innovation for the "Intelligent safety control system“, he is regularly invited to share his knowledge as the lecturer at the University of Ljubljana (Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, Faculty of Economics). When not working for Špica, he is a passionate wine taster and blogger. Find out more at https://vinovino.si/