This blog post is based on a webinar led by Juliet Depina, the National Sales Manager of Retail, Corporate Marketing and Sales Services at LP Building Products, a leading manufacturer of quality engineered wood building materials. She shared some insider secrets on field sales and topics ranging from enabling and measuring field team success to encouraging healthy competition between field reps, and more.

Contributions of the Field Sales Team

Let’s start from the beginning. What do field sales teams actually contribute to companies? The two key aspects of taking market share in stores are relationships and knowledge, and field sales teams provide both.

Field reps act as the face of the company in each retail store. They use their knowledge of the store’s sales team to establish trust and loyalty while ensuring that the in-store teams are knowledgeable about the company’s products. Field reps also guarantee that the company’s products are well-merchandised and well-stocked by verifying inventory levels, which helps to prevent any potential issues involved with inaccurate inventory counts.

But field reps don’t just manage the relationship a company has with it’s current customers – they also contribute greatly to obtaining new ones by attending events to meet and convert customers to their product.

Investing in Your Field Sales Team

Since field sales teams can be so valuable to companies, it is crucial that they are provided with the resources and support that they need to succeed. This support can come in simple forms, like using coaching and communication, which can not only increase performance, but job satisfaction as well. At LP, field reps are coached by regional managers and peers who join them on the road to help them perfect their skills.

But all the training in the world is useless unless field reps have the tools and resources they need to succeed. This includes vehicles, company phones, sales enablement software, and laptops or tablets. These tools allow field reps to be efficient and effective when completing their tasks. Even providing simple things like company swag can go a long way in increasing loyalty and creating a sense of appreciation.

Measuring Field Team Success

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one, and it’s not possible to identify problems without measuring performance in some way or another. This is where data comes in. When it comes to measuring success, LP primarily uses Salesforce and Askuity. These tools allow the company to do a variety of things, like setting and measuring quarterly and annual goals, as well as determining focus stores by comparing current and past sales.

One of the primary metrics that LP uses to measure field team success is the number of store visits completed, and what is accomplished in those store. They use a fun and effective technique to drive this engagement – contests. These contests are run by using data to measure and exceed what was done in the past. For example, LP is currently running a “Beat the Streak” contest to encourage activity growth 20% year-over-year on variables such as customer conversions and number of  pro events. Contests can be used in order to create a fun and engaging atmosphere within teams, but it’s important that companies ensure these contests are fair and easy to understand.

Knowing Your Market

Juliet is very data-driven and when they’re not in the stores, her field team spends most of their time analyzing the market. This information allows them to be on top of seasonality and building practices, and provides them with knowledge of competitors and the wants of the customers.

This data-driven mindset allows LP to inform their buyers of innovations and changes – establishing them as a trusted and valuable resource in terms of product mix timing and inventory levels. A specific example of how LP’s field team uses data is finding stores with inventory and a good record of sale, but no recent activity. Field reps look at this data to determine where they should be spending valuable time.

LP also uses a unique method to look for growth that they call the “Secret Shop”. This method involves LP anonymously calling the customers that represent their products, and asking to purchase their own products. This simple yet clever trick provides the company with valuable information, like which areas would benefit most from a product knowledge blitz, events, and extra merchandising efforts.

Sharing Best Practices

As previously mentioned, one of the most important aspects of having a successful field sales team is knowledge. But knowledge that can’t be passed on is only so useful. That’s why communication is the key for growth, and why technology – which has made communication so much easier – is crucial.

The transfer of knowledge allows field sales reps to share the knowledge they have gained with each other, creating an environment of company-wide collaboration and learning. This communication can be facilitated in a variety of ways. For example, LP uses Salesforce chatter, bi-weekly conference calls, and quarterly and annual meetings.

Here are two examples of LP field reps using Salesforce chatter to share information:

Hiring the Best

A talented field sales team requires talented field reps, making the hiring process key. LP uses some common, everyday methods when scouting candidates – like looking for people who are intelligent and adaptable.

Juliet also does something unique. She makes all the reference calls herself, as opposed to these calls being made by an HR department. Talking to previous employers allows her to determine the drive and adaptability of her candidates, which are skills that she believes are crucial and cannot be trained.

In addition, LP hires people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They currently have people on their team who have worked as bankers, bartenders and contractors in the past, all of whom are very successful at LP.

If you’re interested in hearing more about field sales and Juliet’s insider tips, be sure to check out our webinar, which goes more in-depth on the topic.