Sales Route Planning: A Guide for Field Sales Teams

With excellent route planning, sales reps spend less unnecessary time on the road and more time in valuable sales conversations. Nearly one-third (29%) of sales reps said that making the sales process more efficient was a top goal in 2023, including reducing unnecessary steps and making field visits more worthwhile. Route planning can help make the most of sales resources—both time and money.

Continue reading to learn more about sales route planning and the role of field sales software.

What is sales route planning?

Sales route planning is the process of creating and optimizing the ideal route between sales visits. 

Route planning for sales means the literal travel route from point A to point B, but it also means the strategic prioritization of sales visits. Sales reps’ time is valuable—especially in outside sales, where the cost per interaction is higher. 

Route optimization helps sales teams schedule customer visits in a way that prioritizes the best-fit prospects, the largest deals, and the deals most likely to close. It also helps match new sales opportunities to sales pros who are best-suited for the prospect based on expertise, proximity to other appointments, geographic territories, or a mix of factors. 

Why is route planning important for sales?

The goal of route planning is to increase the productivity and overall success of any sales team, but it is absolutely critical in some situations. 

Companies struggling with excessive travel time, high transportation costs, or low staff utilization need route planning to improve expense management. It can also be a difference-maker for companies that need extra coordination due to rapid growth or a large number of sales territories to cover. 

Sales route optimization impacts operations in several areas:


Sales reps spend just 28% of their time on selling activities, with the rest spent on administrative work, traveling, etc. With better route planning, field sales teams can reduce unnecessary travel and maximize the time spent on revenue-driving work.

Profit margins

When surveyed in 2023, 70% of sales professionals said budgets were being scrutinized more than they were the previous year. An efficient sales route means less unnecessary travel, which reduces fuel expenses and vehicle wear-and-tear. It also helps focus the team’s attention on the best opportunities in the sales pipeline, driving up sales efficiency and the ROI of field sales work.

Customer service

Reliable, professional, and well-informed sales reps instill more confidence in buyers. The relationship between sales pro and buyer is particularly important in outside sales, which has a higher share of large, even enterprise-scale, deals with longer sales cycles. Effective route planning means more on-time arrivals and fewer disruptions due to weather, traffic, or staff absences. Also, route planning helps ensure that sales reps with specialized knowledge or experience are matched to relevant prospects who can benefit from that expertise.

Employee satisfaction

Reps who spend more time selling to qualified leads and less time on administrative work are more likely to be highly satisfied in their role. Sales managers need to provide mobile-friendly tools that reps can use to brush up on buyer details before a sales visit, access sales enablement content, and communicate with the team. When these tools also include up-to-date schedules and smart route guidance, reps can focus their attention on making the sale.

The role of sales route planning software

Sales route planning software is a platform used to create, optimize, adjust, and share the route between scheduled sales visits. 

There are standalone route planning software tools as well as field sales software and field service tools that include route planning features. The right fit for a given team will depend on the sales operations and the technologies already in use for the workforce. Regardless of the setup, sales reps should be able to use their mobile device to access the sales route, record sales notes, and communicate about any issues with their manager.

Route planning software needs data from other sources to be effective. The scheduling process requires client details from the customer relationship management (CRM) system or sales prospecting tools, as well as sales employees’ working hours and qualifications from the human resources management system (HRMS) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

The route planning platform will use several kinds of data—user priorities, historical sales data, real-time info, internal customer data, external weather and traffic data, and more—to create a data-informed draft of the sales schedule and make adjustments later on to handle unexpected changes. 

Key features of route planning tools

When evaluating field sales software, always review the overall technology stack and how the software will be used in daily sales operations. Field work often involves multiple systems working together, and the interactions between systems matters: high-performing salespeople are 17% more likely to say their CRM is very important to the sales process than average performers, according to a 2023 Hubspot survey. 

During the evaluation process, explore real-world scenarios to see how the software uses data from the CRM, HR software, sales databases, and other sources to help make good scheduling decisions

Generally speaking, route planning features should include:

    • Intelligent job matching – assign sales reps to prospects based on geographic territories, rep experience/expertise, proximity, the earliest available appointment, or other factors
    • Real-time communication – send updates to and from the field
    • Dashboards and reports – equip managers with real-time data about today’s visits, weekly reports, and quarterly/annual trends
    • Automatic data syncing – automatically record visit notes, arrival time, mileage traveled, and other field data
  • Integrations – ability to sync with customer relationship management (CRM), scheduling software, and other data sources
  • Optimization tools – customize the importance of various factors in the scheduling process to reflect the company’s sales strategy 

The best route planning tools have optimization features that go beyond travel time and staff availability. Sales leaders should be able to set the importance of many complex factors, like the skills of each sales rep and the balance of work (or lack thereof) across the sales team. With this level of customization, field sales teams are more productive—for example, Skedulo customers using the new optimization engine have scheduled and completed 64% more jobs

How to plan a sales route

Creating and optimizing a sales route is deceivingly complex. It requires clear sales priorities, a reliable GPS mapping system, and access to good data about prospects and sales reps. Route planning software weighs all these inputs—and many others—to help sales teams make good decisions.

The major steps in the process are:

  • Implement sales routing software after a thorough evaluation. Train sales reps, managers, and administrators to use the software, and customize it according to the team’s specific needs and sales KPIs. Set up integrations with the CRM, ERP, HR, scheduling software, and other relevant tools.
  • Map appointment locations using location data from the CRM and time preferences from the scheduling system. Consider all types of outside sales work when building the schedule—not only in-person meetings with prospects, but also trade shows, conferences, and sales development work.
  • Prioritize sales opportunities based on sales targets, company goals, estimated deal size, and lead scoring methodology. Choose how to weigh different factors in the decision logic, e.g. proximity, lead quality, deal size, sales rep expertise, etc. 
  • Assign sales reps to leads based on those sales priorities. Translate sales priorities into software settings and optimization rules. For example, if a key sales goal is to reduce transportation expenses, sales leaders can prioritize shortest driving time when creating the initial schedule, so sales reps have appointments clustered closer together by default. To handle brand-new inquiries, leaders can choose nearest sales rep as the #1 deciding factor. 
  • Automate simple tasks based on sequential or conditional if/then optimization rules. These settings help the automated scheduling system execute more straightforward tasks, e.g. generating a first draft of the schedule each week or assigning a new rep to a visit if the appointment meets certain criteria. Add new automations over time as more patterns emerge.
  • Optimize the system based on the observed results. For example, a team that wants to assign the top sales reps to the best sales opportunities may see a massive increase in travel time, especially for the most experienced sales reps. Sales leaders will need to tweak the settings to find the right balance of expertise and efficiency in the field.
  • Anticipate and address changes quickly that come up due to road conditions, prolonged visits, staff absences, or other unexpected events. Adjust the assigned route, send out a new schedule, and consider setting up automated alerts (e.g. an updated ETA) to keep others informed. Adapting the schedule is an ongoing task that requires regular staff involvement, although route planning software will help.
  • Collect data to ensure the routes are improving sales efficiency the way they should. With the right data, managers can analyze sales trends, spot growth opportunities, reward high-performers, and coach low-performers. Use a combination of real-time dashboards to troubleshoot daily routes, weekly/monthly reports to track goals for individuals and teams, and long-term reports to review overall department trends. 

How to prioritize key factors 

Of all the steps above, prioritizing opportunities may be the most challenging. It requires sales leaders to define the sales philosophy, metrics, and targets in a way that is not only clear, but also can be translated into settings and conditional rules in the route planning software.

Even in the same product family, the sales priorities may vary based on the industry, geographic region, or target market. This may be the best strategy to reach different buyer groups—as long as the company has reliable data about the buyer’s needs and the potential product fit from the beginning. 

For example, the VP of Sales for a solar panel company may choose to prioritize sales rep proximity for buyers interested in a small array of solar panels—typically family homes and small businesses. These are valuable sales, but the profit margin is small enough that sales expenses need to be relatively low. 

However, the VP of Sales may prioritize sales rep expertise for prospects interested in large solar arrays for government buildings, corporate offices, and large housing complexes. A better win rate for these high-annual contract value (ACV) deals will help offset an increase in transportation expenses for the top sales reps to reach these customers.

A product’s unique value proposition (UVP), price point, and target market will help determine the unique mix of factors that matter most. Here are a few of the many different approaches:

  • Prioritizing the proximity and availability of sales reps leads to faster follow-ups and better staff utilization, especially when prospects are located relatively close to each other. This works well when all field sales reps can sell the product effectively and/or when a sales team has well-defined geographic territories. It is a good place to start for sales teams that need to reduce travel time or transportation costs.
  • Prioritizing the biggest potential deals means assigning the most effective reps to the most lucrative opportunities. This strategy works well when there is a unique sales process for lucrative, enterprise-scale deals and some wiggle room to increase transportation expenses for particularly valuable deals. Look out for an increase in travel time, especially for top-performers.
  • Prioritizing the experience and qualifications of sales reps leads to better value-based and solution-driven selling. This works best for complex and customizable deals that require an experienced, specialized sales professional with deep knowledge. In these cases, the technical expertise of the rep is more likely to affect the final sale than any other factor, so it’s worth prioritizing above all else. 

Try route planning to increase sales efficiency

Sales route planning maximizes the time that reps spend with the right customers. It also provides valuable data about ongoing sales operations that leaders can use to adjust and improve their strategy. With the right route planning tools, sales teams can be more productive, increase win rates, and scale up as the company grows.

Skedulo helps sales teams create the ideal sales route based on company priorities, staff qualifications, and the ideal customer profile. With AI-enabled job matching and staff scheduling, Skedulo can address highly complex scheduling needs for sales teams. Sales leaders can use the Skedulo optimization engine to set priorities, fine-tune job assignments, and make real-time schedule changes. 

See how Sunrun used Skedulo to optimize the scheduling process, match sales reps to specific sales opportunities, and support a growing sales operation.