Measuring ROI of your Sales Force Automation Implementation

September 13, 2022

Over last few years, implementing Sales Force Automation (SFA) for the field sales or merchandising team has become so common across different industries that it hardly needs any effort to get the nod from CEO or CFO to go ahead with such an implementation. Vendor selection, go-live, training, adoption drive everything goes as per the plan and everyone is happy to have one checkbox ticked in the innovation list for that year. However, some difficult but very pertinent questions pop up after few months when things settle down. What are we getting out of it? Whatever we are getting, is it enough to justify the ongoing recurring cost? Are we even tracking right set of parameters to measure the effectiveness?

Sooner or later the team that initiated the project, be it Corporate IT or Sales IT vertical or the Marketing team, is going to face these uncomfortable questions. And that’s where it becomes so important to decide on how to measure ROI of SFA during the initial days and keep tracking them on a regular basis.

The question is how do you measure ROI of such initiatives? And it must be decided after discussing with all stakeholders even if it takes a month of two to reach to a conclusion. One easy and tempting way to measure is by checking actual growth in sales. But in almost 90% cases, it’s an incorrect way to measure ROI of your SFA implementation. There should not be any debate on the statement that actual sales depend on a lot of factors and very few of them are controlled by the field sales team and even fewer of them by the SFA system. So the easy but incorrect way of measuring success of SFA must be discouraged and discarded at the very beginning.

Well, based on our experience of implementing SFA solution for so many clients over the years and our experience of managing Sales Force / Merchandisers for various famous brands over a decade, we believe the first step is to define the right set of KPIs for your field team to manage their performance. These KPIs are something which the field team can control irrespective of whether there is an SFA or not. Now the two most fundamental objectives of any SFA implementation is to:

  1. Enable to the field team to do their regular job better and in a productive way
  2. Quickly find out the inefficiencies either in the team or in the sales ecosystem

So the most logical way to measure success of an SFA implementation is to check whether the KPIs set for the field team is showing a positive trend when rolled up at national or other geographical level. Well it might sound simple, but when we look at the basic objective of a SFA implementation, it follows logically.

So, now we need to answer what kind of KPIs shall be set for the field team to measure their performance and eventually to measure ROI of your SFA implementation. It will for sure vary across businesses depending on what kind of retail execution the field team is supposed to do. We have listed down some of them which we think are important and appropriate:

Daily Visits: In any kind of retail execution, importance of regularly visiting the stores doesn’t need any explanation and the onus is on the field team to ensure they are achieving their visits and coverage targets every month. We have seen how these metrics improve over a period of time post successful implementation of SFA. So, Visit and Coverage % should actually be tracked to measure success of your SFA implementation.

Beat Compliance or PJP Adherence: Route Optimization is one of the key components of any modern day SFA solution with an obvious reason to increase productivity and bring in discipline among the field execution team. In case of one of our esteemed clients, beat compliance at national level was more than 90% before they started using an SFA solution. Post implementation, for the first few months it hovered at 50% before reaching at 90% again after a year. So, it clearly shows how your SFA solution can help you to find out inefficiencies within your team simply by tracking this one parameter.

Time Spent in Stores and in the Market: Be it a sales team or a merchandising team, building relationship with the customer is very important for many obvious reasons such as pushing for more orders, pushing for more shelf space, influencing positioning of visibility elements etc. And the same can be achieved only when someone is spending more time at the retail outlet and in general in market in a day. So, Average Time Spent in a Store and Average Daily Time Spent in Market are very important parameters which should be tracked and gradual improvements would surely yield positive outcome for the brand / company in the long run.

Data Reporting Compliance: An important KPI for the field team enabled with an SFA should be compliance in data reporting using app. You get value out of an SFA implementation when you automatically get alerts on out of stock SKUs or products nearing expiry or employees not active on the field. And you will start getting such alerts only when the team is reporting the data as per the processes set. So, an improvement on those compliance parameters can surely be correlated with ROI of the SFA implementation.

Campaign Coverage: Irrespective of the industry (FMCG, Consumer Electronics, Apparel) you belong to, in-store visibility is a key factor to boost up sales. So it’s very important to constantly monitor the execution status of the ongoing campaigns, promotions etc. In most of the cases such activities are outsourced to BTL agencies and the execution status is largely tracked by verbal confirmation over phone or through images shared over WhatsApp. So, when you start checking authenticated Campaign Coverage and Execution data from your SFA application and see a steady improvement, you know every penny you have spent on your SFA is worth it.

Merchandising Execution Index: It’s the job of your merchandising team to ensure that whenever a customer steps in to a retail outlet, s/he gets to see your products properly arranged and in the right shelf. Not only that, they must also ensure that visibility elements and permanent assets are maintained in the right place in proper condition. Merchandising Execution Index, which can be obtained by doing an audit of the data reported by the team, should be an important KPI for the merchandising team and thus can be tracked to measure ROI of the SFA implementation.