There can be many thousands of miles between the head office and stores around the country, which means keeping in touch with sales representatives in remote areas can be – at best – tricky.
For Arla in China, this was a constant challenge until last summer, when it started to track store visits via GPS and upload field sales data via mobile phones.
Head of Arla Asia, senior vice president Jesper Colding told DairyReporter, “It’s a very simple tool that just allows you to buy a smartphone, track your salespeople; they report on that GPS location, so you know the call took place on that GPS location.
“Then you have the opportunity to upload up to five pictures per call, so you can really see what’s going on in that particular store. You can have training together with a regular sales meeting and be up and running, it’s very simple to use.”
Product performance tracked
He said that the data includes how frequently reps visit stores, and how products are performing.
"Now, it’s very easy to see which regions, stores and sales reps are the top performers. This is crucial in a country where it is hard to get our key account sales data," he said.
“You can imagine that this kind of monitoring, some people think it’s good and some people would not, so we had a bit of a rotation in the sales force in the beginning, but I think generally people appreciate that what they do is something that they get recognition for.”
So far, more than 1,700 stores - of a total of nearly 7,500 stores where Arla products are sold - are tracked. The stores are classified and visited according to their classification.
High potential or performance stores are visited with higher frequency, and about 300 stores are visited daily. All data is available in an online database for central management to monitor.
Productivity going up
“It has improved productivity in so many ways. The number of calls per day has gone up. The efficiency of those calls in terms of both what gets done and the success on the activity has increased, and that was a quick ‘win’.
“Our sales productivity has gone up, efficiency and effectiveness is going up per call, so we’ve seen a significant improvement. We don’t track it in all our stores, so it’s really a sample. Many of our stores are covered through wholesalers and distributors where we don’t have our own sales force.”
“We can track all categories from UHT to cheese. We expect to increase efficiency by 40-50% by using this system," Colding added.
Applicable in other markets
China is the main strategic market for Arla Foods in Asia. The company expects to quadruple its sales of consumer products in China by 2020. However, Arla operates in other countries, and Colding thinks the app, FieldPower, made by a Chinese developer, can be used elsewhere.
“I do think it’s applicable. This tool is something that at the moment we’re only using in China, but we’re thinking of rolling it into other markets as well. In other markets, we have other solutions, but in China it fits particularly well,” he told DR.
“This would be relevant in the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, countries where we have sales forces on the ground.”