Field Sales Software Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the right software for your field sales team is a major decision. It needs to be a platform that sales reps will actually use—and it needs to work well for managers, schedulers, and IT teams, too.
Read on to learn more about the buying process for field sales software.
Table of contents:
- Field sales software: the basics
- Before the search: key factors to discuss
- Define ideal sales process and business goals
- Identify the sales reports and data you need
- Create a list of stakeholders (users, licenses, support staff)
- Document other software and systems related to field sales
- List software requirements
- Set a budget and discuss ROI expectations
- Feature checklist for field sales management software
- During the search: questions to ask a software provider
- How Skedulo can improve field sales operations
Field sales software: the basics
Field sales, aka outside sales, is the practice of selling a product or service directly to potential customers in the field. Field sales may occur on-site with customers, at trade shows, seminars, networking events, or other industry events.
More than 55% of salespeople are in outside sales roles, and they can be found in nearly every industry: software, medical supplies and services, internet installation, marketing and advertising, real estate development, industrial equipment, and many others. The outside sales approach is particularly valuable when the product or service benefits from a live, physical demo, or when the sale requires a high degree of trust and buy-in from many stakeholders.
Face-to-face interaction is still at the heart of field sales—but advanced software and sales enablement can make a big difference.
Field sales software is the technology used to manage, assist, and empower field sales teams. Sales reps can use field sales management software to brush up on customer details, record sales notes, communicate with colleagues, and get the best route to the next appointment. Managers can track sales reps’ performance using data analysis and reports, while schedulers can use the software to optimize team schedules and share real-time updates.
Field sales operations rely on customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage customer information, communication, and visit history. For most companies, the field sales platform integrates with the CRM of choice, allowing field sales reps to read up on the customer to prepare for upcoming meetings. After an interaction with a prospect, the sales rep can record visit notes in the field sales mobile app, which syncs directly to the CRM.
Purchasing field sales software is a big decision that affects many different teams. Evaluate your options carefully, and use the information below to guide your decision-making process.
Before the search: key factors to discuss
What you do before the search can make all the difference. Take some time to consider your business—who you employ, what you sell, and what makes your company unique—before you dive into the search process. Consider the unique needs of your industry, your product(s), your customers, your geographic market, and the growth trajectory ahead.
Before the search begins, take a few important steps:
Define ideal sales process and business goals
It may seem simple, but defining your goals is perhaps the most important pre-search step you can take.
First, map out the sales process in its ideal state. Answer the following questions: How long should the process take? How many “touches” should the process require? What sales enablement material would it need? How should sales reps be assigned to leads?
You can consider current limitations, but try to focus on the best, most ideal version of the sales process. The gap between your current process and the ideal version is where technology and process improvements will come in.
Next, define your business goals in the clearest possible terms. These goals should align with big-picture operational objectives for your outside sales team, such as:
- Eliminate redundant tasks and paper-based processes
- Equip sales reps with accurate, up-to-date data in the field
- Harness sales data to analyze profitability, customer satisfaction, and regional trends over time
- Improve managers’ visibility into day-to-day operations
- Improve the accuracy, consistency, and speed of sales reports
- Improve the quality of customer interactions
- Improve win rate for field sales reps
- Increase the frequency of interactions with sales prospects
- Increase the utilization of field sales reps
- Reduce the amount of time spent on sales reports and data entry
- Standardize the data collected and submitted by field sales reps
- Standardize the sales workflow and follow-up process
When possible, try to create goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, in order to achieve a goal like improving the productivity of sales reps, break down the goals into measurable components. Better productivity may actually depend on increasing win rate, increasing the average appointments per day, and/or decreasing travel time.
Here is an example of a big-picture operational goal and relevant SMART goals:
Increase the frequency of interactions with sales prospects
Improve the completion of follow-up visits by [%] by [DATE]
Increase the average number of visits per day by [#] by [DATE]
Increase the utilization of skilled sales reps by [%] by [DATE]
Reduce the time reps spend on data entry by [%] by [DATE]
Reduce the time to schedule appointments by [%] by [DATE]
Reduce travel time by [%] by [DATE]
Identify the sales reports and data you need
Analyzing sales data is a huge part of understanding and improving field operations. Field sales software should help leaders understand trends in profitability, win rate, travel time, and other data points.
Compile a list of field sales reports that your managers will need. For starters, it is always helpful to know the top customers by sales revenue, top products, and top sales reps in each region and product line.
Beyond these top-level reports, consider other data points that help managers track progress toward business goals. Based on the goal of increasing visit frequency, consider the sales reports listed below:
- Average travel time by team and individual
- Average visit frequency per customer
- Canceled and rescheduled appointments
- Top customers by sales revenue (lifetime and current revenue)
- Top products by customer, region, or cohort
- Top sales reps by revenue, close rate, product type, etc.
- Utilization rates by team and individual
Sales reports are only as useful as the data points they rely on. Identify the most important KPIs that will signal progress—or lack thereof—toward reaching your stated goals.
You can expect a field sales tool to deliver KPIs like win rate, revenue, and visits completed per day/week. Using the example goal from above, here are some additional relevant KPIs:
- Appointments completed per day, per week
- Average visit length
- Cancellation rate
- Schedule adherence
- Time spent on data entry
- Time to schedule
- Travel time
- Utilization rate
Your field sales platform of choice will need to measure your top KPIs directly, or easily integrate with another tool that does. The platform should also have dashboards and recurring reports to report on these KPIs on a regular basis.
Bring together the various groups of people who will be involved in the purchase, implementation, and usage of the software. This includes users of the software, like field sales reps, managers, schedulers, and customer support teams, as well as IT and technical support teams.
This is a great opportunity to discuss what each group needs from the software before the decision is made. Collect feedback from users to understand:
- What field reps need from the mobile app, CRM integration, communication, and data collection features
- What managers need from the desktop interface, data analytics, and performance management tools
- What schedulers need from the scheduling, job matching, and communication features
- What customer support teams need from the CRM integration, visit notes, and scheduling features
- What IT and tech support teams need from the security, privacy, data retention, and permissions infrastructure
When possible, also consider feedback from customers. Feedback shared after visits, in NPS surveys, and through other channels helps identify gaps that software can fill.
Document other software and systems in place
A successful field sales operation relies on several different systems working well together. Consider the following pieces of the tech stack:
- Field sales CRM is the database for customer info, including communication and visit history
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems bring together several tools (supply chain management, capacity planning, finance, etc.) for a holistic view of the business
- Sales training and sales enablement tools provide advanced training, learning modules, and resources to improve sales skills
- Finance and accounting tools govern employee payroll, staff time tracking, customer invoices, and generating quotes for services
Take inventory of the systems currently in use, and discuss how their use would change with the introduction of field sales software. New field sales software will need to integrate with or complement the existing pieces of software that stay. If the new field sales platform will replace a certain tool, discuss the plan to sunset the old tool by a certain date.
Finalize the list of software requirements
With all of the information you’ve collected, you can create a comprehensive list of software requirements. Using your business goals, process map, and conversations with stakeholders, document the following requirements:
- Compliance requirements – relevant data security, retention, and privacy standards
- Reliability requirements – service level agreements (SLAs) and performance expectations
- Integration requirements – the integrations with other tools that must be present and functional
- Feature requirements – the software features that are necessary to meet business goals
List the requirements in each area to ensure you are prepared to evaluate software options. For example, based on a goal of increasing appointment volume, here is a sample list of necessary features:
- Automated tasks: use automated reminders to decrease no-shows and use automatic route planning to decrease travel time
- Job matching: use proximity-based job matching to reduce travel time between appointments, and assign the right number of jobs to each rep
- Mobile app with CRM integration: give reps access to customer data and the ability to log visit notes using a mobile app
- Scheduling tools: quickly respond to initial requests, book the right number of visits, and account for travel time when setting appointments
Set a budget and discuss ROI expectations
Finally, consider how much you are willing to invest in your field sales team. The monthly or annual subscription cost of a platform is a good place to start—but it’s not the full story. The short-term question is whether or not you can afford the subscription cost. However, the long-term question is whether the benefits of the software will significantly outweigh the subscription cost over time.
There are a few ways to think through long-term ROI:
- What is the cost of your challenge(s)? Can you quantify the cost of inefficiency or underutilization in the field sales team? What is the cost of leaving the issue(s) unaddressed?
- What are the key results you want the software to help you achieve? How much revenue could you gain by achieving those key results? What is the likelihood of achieving those results?
- Does the expected revenue gain outweigh subscription cost? How does the revenue you could gain compare to the cost you pay for the software? How long will it take to “break even” on the investment?
Implementing new software and training staff to use it costs significant time and money—but that expense should always be weighed against the potential gains from the software. If the field sales software helps achieve key goals, like reducing travel time and improving on-time arrivals, it will have a noticeable impact on revenue.
Keep in mind, with a great provider, the software will also improve over time. The provider will introduce new AI-enhanced tools, mobile app updates, omni-channel communication tools, and hybrid workforce management features. These product enhancements will accelerate ROI well after the time of purchase.
Feature checklist for field sales management software
Choosing the right platform will depend on the needs of employees, the expectations of customers, and the goals of a business. With those considerations in mind, look for the following features in field sales software:
- USER-FRIENDLY MOBILE APP. The interface should be built with field sales reps in mind.
- AUTOMATION TOOLS. There should be tools to simplify recurring tasks, like sending appointment reminders or quotes for newly purchased services.
- CUSTOM FORMS AND WORKFLOWS. Managers should be able to customize workflows and create branded, custom forms for needs of the business.
- REPORTING AND DASHBOARDS. Managers should be able to review KPIs per individual, per sales team, and over time
- INTEGRATIONS WITH KEY SYSTEMS. The software should integrate with other systems required for day-to-day work, like the CRM, finance, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools.
- INTERNAL COMMUNICATION TOOLS. The main office should be able to share cancellations, new leads, and other time-sensitive updates with reps in the field.
- CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION TOOLS. The tool should make it easy to generate estimates, send invoices, and sign documents on the spot.
- DATA CAPTURE FROM IN-PERSON INTERACTIONS. The platform should give outside sales reps an easy way to log notes, outcomes, and next steps from each sales visit.
- SECURE AND ROLE-BASED DATA ACCESS. Data collected in the field should be stored securely and made available to other team members based on permission structures.
- SMART SCHEDULING AND DISPATCHING. It should be easy to assign the right rep for the prospect based on skill, proximity, preference, or other factors.
- ROUTE OPTIMIZATION AND GPS TRACKING. The platform provides automatic route planning to instantly display the best route to the rep’s next appointment.
- OFFLINE ACCESS. Field salespeople should be able to access key customer data, forms, and other tools without network connectivity.
During the search: questions to ask a software provider
For field sales companies, this is the moment when the tables are turned: it’s time to be the buyer who asks all the questions, rather than the seller who answers them. Luckily, that sales experience comes in handy, no matter which side of the table you’re on.
Be prepared to ask questions to ensure the software meets all of the key requirements you identified. Some questions may be answered in product documentation or conversations with a sales rep—but if not, or you’re unsure, go ahead and ask.
|Questions to ask
|Analytics and Reporting
|Data, Security and Compliance
How Skedulo can improve field sales operations
Field sales is a unique discipline that requires excellent people skills, significant travel time, and effective scheduling of field reps. Without the right technology to keep everyone together, communication and efficiency will suffer.
Skedulo is a mobile app and scheduling platform that helps field sales operations run smoothly. The Skedulo Pulse Platform offers route optimization, smart scheduling, job matching, easy note-taking, offline access, and much more.
With Skedulo, sales teams can communicate better, improve customer interactions, and track key data points to improve field sales operations. See how Common used Skedulo to schedule 37% more appointments and reduce the time to schedule by 94%.