The Complete Guide to Sales Route Planning

Everything you need to know to make the most of every day in the field.

Time to read: 8 minutes

Sales route planning is critical to a sound sales strategy. If you do it right, you’ll reap the rewards of connecting your sales reps to high-value opportunities at the right time.

This can be a complex process. But with planning and the right technology, sales teams can get the most out of every day in the field. Here’s everything you need to know to get started.

What is sales route planning?

At its simplest, sales route planning is the process of finding the most efficient way to get from Point A to Point B, The most efficient routes also help sales reps in the field identify, understand, and navigate their most impactful opportunities. These routes consider multiple factors. including market dynamics, competitor actions, and customer status and engagement.

Why should I plan my routes?

Across industries, sales reps face many of the same challenges. Common challenges include:
Planning sales routes helps address these challenges. Flexible schedules help reps take advantage of unplanned downtime and deal with unexpected changes, such as last-minute appointment requests, inclement weather, or traffic delays. For companies that rely on a boots-on-the-ground workforce, agile, efficient, and productive route planning is especially critical during times of change and uncertainty.
Disconnected tools and data mean reps have to manually comb through sales data and spreadsheets to map their own routes. This can lead to lost time and missed opportunities. Sales route planning that brings together sales and customer data to automatically plan the most efficient routes addresses these challenges. This way, reps spend less time on low value, repetitive tasks and more time with customers — ultimately increasing revenue and improving productivity.

Spotlight on: Michelin

As an organization, tire manufacturer Michelin operates in a saturated market with ever-increasing competition. For sales reps in the field, this often meant canceled meetings, unplanned downtime, and lots of frustration. It didn’t help that they had to rely on back-office support for route planning and adjustments. As a result, Michelin was seeing double-digit turnover in its sales staff and new reps who were unfamiliar with their territories.

With intelligent sales route planning from Salesforce Maps, Michelin streamlined route planning and empowered reps to update and optimize their own routes from the field. With mapping technology integrated with business insights, they could visualize competitor and marketing opportunity data to understand and maximize their territories, leading to a 20% reduction in unplanned downtime, additional customer visits every day, and an increase in new pipeline growth.

How do I create and optimize my route?

It starts with technology. Whether you’re using maps and spreadsheets to plan routes manually or optimizing schedules with connected customer data, the right planning tools can help your sales team become more productive.

One approach relies on mapping software to chart the most efficient route from one location to the next. These tools are a fast and easy way to estimate travel times and adjust routes based on traffic or construction delays. They’re also more manual and limited to readily available data points. Sales reps must manually look at sales data and spreadsheets before using the software to chart a course.

Intelligent route planning software goes a step further. It integrates sales data dynamically and automatically plans routes. Then it uses these insights to create a route that considers sales goals and customer data, along with complex schedules, multiple stops, and strict timeframes. The software also helps reps spot new opportunities and avoid problems before they happen by ensuring they always have ready access to relevant customer, market, and territory data.

For example, say a rep is out in the field meeting with a customer. The rep’s team uses intelligent routing software that integrates with the rep’s CRM, so the rep can see that even though this customer is interested in a certain product, they are also due for an upgrade on another product they already use. This data helps the rep decide how to pursue the additional opportunity.

No matter what tools you’re using, every sales team should keep three things in mind when mapping routes.

#1: Business priorities.

Even the most efficient routes won’t improve your bottom line if they aren’t aligned with your business goals. Look at your best opportunities and design your routes around them first.

#2: Flexibility.

It’s important to be nimble in your routes. This helps you adapt to changes in the landscape such as traffic or schedule changes, as well as market changes such as new customer expectations or opportunities.

#3: Access to sales data.

Having immediate access to customer data helps sales reps make informed decisions out in the field. Integrate your route planning with CRM and business data to help reps act on the fly.

How does intelligent route planning software work?

Traditional route planning software calculates the distance between two fixed points and estimates a driving time. Intelligent route planning software takes many more variables into account. These include multiple destination points, weather and traffic data, appointment windows, rep downtime, sales goals, and customer data from your CRM.
Here are three key ways intelligent sales routing software optimizes your schedules.

#1: Connects your data to increase productivity and lower costs.

Commercial route planning software automatically manages complex route planning to find the most efficient routes between multiple locations, immediately making your mobile workforce more productive and efficient. The software can route and schedule multiple vehicles and client visits, accommodating variables like rush hour traffic or unexpected delays. This makes it ideal for sales teams that want to improve their time management and fuel consumption.

Intelligent routing software also provides a holistic view of field sales performance to drive decision-making and keep reps accountable. Managers can track how visits are contributing to the pipeline and overall business goals, automate mileage logging, and gain visibility over field rep activities, all while spending less time generating reports.

#2: Designs routes from the ground up based on capacity, priority, and/or geography.

Mapping software that integrates with your CRM is a powerful tool for making important business decisions. It allows you to visualize your customers on a map and understand where you need to allocate resources, so you can ensure the right reps are in the right place at the right time. For example, say two reps are assigned to similar routes based on capacity and driving time. However, each of these reps specializes in a different type of client industry. Intelligent sales routing software can help you create optimized routes that put the reps with the right knowledge in meetings with the right clients — leading to better client service and increased revenue.

#3: Helps reps make agile decisions on the go.

Cloud-based routing software gives your teams access to essential information on the go. Based on customer data, weather patterns, or traffic updates, reps can make decisions in the moment to help them get more out of a day’s work. It’s a convenient way to calculate (or recalculate) routes while you’re in the field, at the office, or on the road. This gives you the flexibility to fill schedule gaps or cancellations with nearby prospects at the touch of a button on any mobile device or tablet.

For example, if a customer scheduled for a morning appointment needs to reschedule, intelligent routing software can adjust to accommodate last-minute changes in the moment. Similarly, if a rep realizes spending a little more time with a particular customer is likely to result in a big opportunity, the rep can quickly adjust the rest of the day’s schedule to accommodate the extra time.

What are the benefits of route planning software?

Intelligent route planning software makes it easy to address these field teams’ challenges by enabling them to identify, understand, and navigate their most impactful opportunities.

How do I decide on the best route planning software or app for me?

The best route planning software for any organization should be based on your business needs and objectives. Start by listing the primary challenges your team faces on a regular basis. Does your team struggle with long delays and lots of unplanned downtime? Do you miss out on opportunities because the right reps weren’t meeting with the right customers? Are you missing sales goals because you don’t have full insight into your territories, market dynamics, or customer data?

Based on your team’s specific priorities, consider the key functions you need in a routing software. All businesses will need basic functions — mapping and routing — but how will the solution capture sales data? Will it help reps in the field make data-driven decisions on the go? Can it help you plan optimal routes based on business priorities or customer data?

Determining your criteria will help you decide if you’re making the right purchase. Capture your current benchmarks, set goals for what you would like to accomplish over the next six months to a year, and choose the metrics you will track to gauge your progress. Does the solution have the capabilities you need to achieve your goals?

Get started with route planning.

The right sales route planning software ensures sales teams in the field are operating at maximum efficiency doing what they do best — engaging with customers.

Interested in what Salesforce Maps can bring to your route planning?






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