Success in the world of Field Sales Marketing is quantified, quite simply in hard cash: for every pound a brand spends with us, they need to see more back in sales. Sometimes these ROI figures run to over a thousand per cent. But how do we do it? The answer is largely down to HR.
Others in the sector talk about the battleground being a highly scientific mix of technology, data, analytics and buyer psychology – and all of those are of course in play. But we believe that those factors should be a given. Watching them at work visiting shops and supermarkets up and down the country, it is clear that the biggest point of difference is people.
The job of a field sales person is a challenge. Success depends on building good relationships with shop staff, so constancy and continuity are vital. Also, shop staff are busy people who don’t like to feel like they’re being sold to, so certain attributes are essential to earn their respect.
Our people need to be tenacious – because you very seldom get a result on the first visit; persistent enough to keep coming back; and down-to-earth enough to roll up their sleeves and make themselves useful on the shop floor with tasks such as shelf-stacking and arranging merchandise.
And we’ve got over 250 people, just like this.
First we have to find them. We do our own recruitment in-house because those hard-to-define human attributes are the things we are best placed to spot. Strong field sales people recognise these attributes in others, and for that reason we also incentivise all our people to recruit and refer people, with those incentives linked to the performance of the ones we hire.
The next area is the training process. As in many industries, there is a steep learning curve: candidates have to become immersed in the brands and products they are representing, as well as to understand the highly complex nuances of the shop floor.
We operate a 26-week induction programme and an eight-stage sign-off process for every new employee. Each individual is fully supported through courses such as customer relations, what a successful call looks like, and client expectations. Even once inducted, they are accompanied by one of our senior management team at regular intervals, which the overwhelming majority of them welcome for two reasons.
The final piece of the puzzle, of course, is retaining the best people.
We encourage ambition. If someone is a superstar on the shop floor, there are many rewarding paths open to them. Of course we incentivise people who want to stay in a certain role if they are good at it – our Make A Difference (MAD) programme offers reward points linked to length of service, performance, initiative and other indicators.