Distribution and Consumer Goods

Area manager, do you have all the tools you need to meet your daily challenges?

As a retailer, you know that the frequency of your store visits is the key to achieving your objectives. From visit preparation to shelf layout analyses and route organization, you can optimize your time and gain in efficiency at every stage — provided you have the right tools and the right information. How about a CRM with everything you need to work faster and better every day?

Routes aligned with your objectives

Most FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sales forces rely on multiple tools, so area managers spend a lot of time looking for the information they need to prepare their visits and organize their routes. Some data is in the CRM, other in business intelligence (BI) software or external databases, not to mention data that is only in the personal notes of area managers, or even only in their heads. This scattering of information makes the preparation phases more complicated, whereas a unified solution like Solvnet by Nomadia allows you to quickly obtain precise answers, particularly to the following 2 recurring questions:

Which stores should you visit first?

To plan your week, you need to identify the stores in your portfolio where your visit will have the greatest impact, taking into account your overall objectives (sales, potential, number of visits, etc.) and the short-term priorities set by your sales management. Clearly, you won’t organize your week in the same way if the priority is to sell a specific promotion in a particular chain, or if the watchword is to install an innovation in all the hypermarkets in your fleet over the next 4 weeks. Taking this type of constraint into account can mean returning to certain stores you’ve visited very recently or, on the contrary, skipping stores you haven’t visited in a long time.

Centralizing data in the CRM facilitates the selection of relevant stores. Thanks to map linkage, you can display stores matching your criteria/priorities on a map and select them on-screen to automatically generate a list of stores offering the best opportunities for your brand. In Solvnet, you can also create and validate this list from the analysis table in the integrated BI tool.

In what order should I make my visits?

Once you’ve drawn up your list of stores to visit, you need to organize your days so as to make as many visits as possible each day, covering as few kilometers as possible. To do this, you can use the map to select stores in close proximity to each other to schedule each day. This visual approach is ideal if you know your sector well and if your portfolio is spatially concentrated. On the other hand, if you’ve just taken up your post, or if your portfolio includes more than a hundred stores spread over a wide area, you have a lot to gain from using a route optimization solution. Based on your store selection, Solvnet’s integrated route optimization constructs an optimal order of visits for each day, taking into account criteria such as: your starting point, the distance between stores, the probable duration of each visit, store opening hours and the times when you are most likely to meet the department manager(s). With this approach, you can:

  • significantly reduce the number of “white” visits, with no meetings with your contacts, bearing in mind that each of these visits with no real added value costs your company between 120 and 150 euros;
  • integrate interesting but out-of-the-way stores as rationally as possible into your route;
  • limit or avoid overnight stays away from home;
  • visit more stores in a day, without necessarily driving more kilometers.

The optimization engine suggests route plans you might not have thought of spontaneously. You’ll be amazed to discover, for example, that on certain days you can make not 5, but 6 visits, without working overtime, and that this sixth visit can even reduce your next-day journeys by 70 or 100 km – a precious saving in time, fuel and, therefore CO2!

Once you’re happy with your route plan, simply validate it and the appointments will be entered directly into your diary, taking into account travel times and the time spent in each store.

Better prepared visits

For each of your visits to be successful, you need to prepare them carefully, referring to the reports of previous visits and preparing your arguments to achieve the specific objectives of the next visit. Here again, if the information is scattered, if you have to juggle between several tools to retrieve it, it can be very time-consuming. This was the case at General Mills France, before the adoption of Solvnet:

“To prepare for a visit, salespeople had to search for information in six different tools, including the CRM, which could take them more than an hour! For just one appointment!

Solvnet’s extensive functional coverage has enabled us to eliminate many of these older tools. In the satisfaction survey carried out after just a few weeks’ use, 100% of sales staff acknowledged that the new solution had made their business easier. That is the best KPI! That means that portfolio coverage targets can be met, as well as sales targets.”

William Marmin, National Sales Manager

Read the full story about General Mills France 

Knowing exactly why you’re going to each store, you need to put together the arguments that will convince your contacts to implement the promotions and innovations you want to push. Thanks to Solvnet’s integrated digital sales book, you have direct access to all the sales pitches prepared by marketing and category managers. The advantage of the digital book is that it’s always up to date, unlike the big paper sales book you may still be using. At Lesieur, the adoption of the digital sales book means that area managers don’t have to print out more than a hundred pages every two or three days. On a sales force scale, this means significant paper savings and, for sales reps, easier-to-use information and a further step towards going “paperless”.

More productive time in store

The length of your visits depends fundamentally on the number of references and categories you are responsible for.  But whether you’re managing a dozen items on a single shelf or a hundred or so on 3 shelves, you’ve got no time to lose! When you open the visit on your mobile app, you immediately see what you have to do in that particular store, in addition to the usual tasks of shelf layout and, of course, the tasks of (re)arranging your shelves. If you work in tandem with a sales promoter, you’ll spend less time on the latter tasks, but the shelf layout analysis, however tedious, will always be the first essential step of your visit.

And if you’d like to plunge into the Merchandising 4.0 era and revolutionize in-store performance, Solvnet integrates a brand-new feature developed by the EasyPicky company: the video shelf layout analysis! An innovative, groundbreaking recognition technology for retail professionals at the point of sale, the AI embedded in the application enables you to collect data on hundreds of products and obtain a reliable report in a matter of seconds, even without network connection!

Instant shelf analysis

The shelf layout analysis is the only way to check that your brand is properly showcased and that all the references that need to be present are present in accordance with previous negotiations.

>> Instead of taking photos to be analyzed after the visit, you can now film your aisle with your smartphone and, thanks to automatic product recognition, have an immediate, detailed and objective analysis of your brand’s presence and references. The automatic comparison with the previous situation highlights any shortfalls, setbacks in the number of facings, and so on. This analysis enables you to cut to the chase and defend your share of shelf space in your discussions with the floor manager, giving you more time to present new promotional operations or innovations that are part of your objectives.

Simplified and immediate visit report

Your visit is coming to an end. Report back before you leave the store! With Solvnet, you can do this in your mobile app, thanks to a form where all your tasks and objectives are pre-listed. This form feeds directly into the integrated BI tool. You can supplement this report with a qualitative report dictated on your smartphone and automatically transcribed into text. You can attach photos and a list of missing items for your sales promoter. All this takes just a few minutes per visit, and prevents you from forgetting important information. The hour and a half you used to spend every evening on reporting and other administrative tasks linked to visits literally disappears from your schedule!

If reading this post has left you with the feeling that you’re working with outdated tools, if you’re spending hours organizing your rounds and analyzing your shelf layout, if you’re failing to meet your visit targets and feel like you’re drowning in administrative tasks, here’s our advice: talk urgently to your sales manager about Solvnet and the time and productivity savings that accompany its adoption by the sales forces of leading FMCG brands.