The consumer goods industry recorded solid profit margins in 2015 and 2016 as companies worked to reduce costs and eliminate waste. However, reducing costs is only half the story, and the industry is looking to sales growth to fuel profit improvements. In many cases, the focus is now on improving returns from one of the industry’s most valuable assets: The sales force. We asked Sam Barclay, executive vice president, managing director of StayinFront (www.stayinfront.com), to explain how companies are using of performance management strategies and tools to do just that.
1 How are new performance management technologies changing the way consumer goods companies are do business?
BARCLAY: New technologies are enabling new hires to reach their potential quickly, which means they are helping new employees hit their targets more quickly, and boost potential sales profits. Sophisticated online training can provide a consistent and measurable baseline of knowledge so new reps can hit the ground running. Enterprise social messaging tools can be used to connect them to their colleagues quickly and provide a knowledge safety net, enabling the new hire to ask questions that can be quickly answered by more experienced field reps. Also, coaching and mentoring tools can help in-field supervisors identify and resolve performance issues quickly. Ideally, these three capabilities can be accessed directly from the rep’s phone, providing new hires with training, a support group and coaching and mentoring to get them up to speed quickly.
2 What role does gamification play in performance management?
BARCLAY: Gamification uses a set of performance enhancing incentives to stoke our natural competitive instincts. Electronic games have provided a roadmap to the performance improvement potential of competition against ourselves and colleagues. While long-term selling and bonus incentives have been in use for over a century, gamification works more on short-term instant gratification type incentives and competition against colleagues. The key to providing these micro-incentives is to give the sales representative small interim goals, and provide positive feedback and reinforcement when those small short-term goals are achieved. For example, a good “gamified” process might be to incentivize a rep to improve a store’s “perfect store” rating by a minimum of five points during this store call. The rep receives constant positive reinforcement during the call as they work toward the achievement, and are rewarded with some form of “currency” that can be used within the organization.
3 How can performance management technology also improve customer service?
BARCLAY: The best customer service is all about the communication and collaboration between the rep, merchandiser, driver and supervisor, who are all in store at different times. In the case of a large format store, the biggest brands will have team members in that store several times per week. Finding a performance management tool that supports this kind of instant messaging across the service team is enormously beneficial to the customer as it will provide them with common communication from all employees at all times. Performance management is critical to improving margins through the sales organization, and having the right tools to train, coach and incentivize the sales team will help you increase sales and improve margins by getting new hires up to speed, and by providing encouragement to the more experienced.