#WFH New Norm In Indian FMCG Sales

Work from Home aka Work on Mobile

The Indian FMCG industry has been on the path to automate its sales and frontline operations for more than a decade now. The final milestone (or reality) most FMCG leaders have been eyeing is a day when the daily tasks of their field representatives (or interchangeably called frontliners) get managed through a hand-held, and digitised data of market working and sales is available at the click of a button, so that managers can be matured into doing real value-adding tasks instead of pure human resource supervision.

Some of the major milestones the industry has achieved in the journey are listed below:

  • Implementation of on-premise CRM’s (late 1990’s till late 2000’s)
  • Giving company owned hand-held devices to frontliners (early 2010’s )
  • Shifting to cloud CRM’s, through SAAS model (early 2010’s till date)
  • Tracking frontliners productivity using digitised data (early 2010’s till date)
  • Analysing sales and distribution trends (very recent)
  • And recently “Work from home” during the COVID’19 lockdown (Mar’2020 onwards)

First thing to understand is that “Work from home” for sales professionals is not the same as say IT professionals where majority of daily tasks are accomplished on a laptop. FMCG Sales (General trade vertical) is a unique mix of discipline, selling skills, relationships and pure grunt work. And if the representative belongs to a tier-2 or tier-3 manufacturer, it becomes even more difficult die to lack of brand pull and retailers interest.

Peri’s team got active as soon as there were signs that a lockdown is inevitable i.e. 22nd March the day of Junta curfew.  We began working with senior sales managers to create standard operating procedures, trainings, reports and dashboards and have been continuously promoting the slogan across the sales hierarchy of its FMCG customers:

Work from home equals Work on mobile app

because we believe it is a big psychological change for sales professionals (both frontliners and managers) moving away from hitting the streets and knocking doors to searching a long list of retailers on a mobile app(beats don’t matter anymore), analysing order patterns, making tactical phone calls, pitching the right products, taking orders and sharing confirmation over WhatsApp.

Ingredients for Success

There is no doubt that work from home will be a painful transition for FMCG sales representatives. But if done in a planned and intelligent manner, this could be a blessing in disguise as it can reinforce the rhetoric of adopting technology in a holistic manner, and running day-to-day operations using hard data and not just market gut-feel. Here is a laundry list of things that Indian FMCG companies and leaders should provide to their sales and marketing teams to ensure that work from home is adopted successfully and the desired outcome in terms of productivity is realised:

work-stress
  1. Sales Force Automation Software: Although the quality, user-friendliness and other factors play an important role in end-user adoption, and overall success of automation, but this may not be the time to sweat about it. FMCG companies have to maximise whatever SFA or CRM tool they have at their disposal.
    In case you dont have an SFA!
    If your organisation has not already implemented a robust SFA or CRM and you plan on doing it, we suggest you to evaluate a comprehensive, multi-functional, mobile-first software like Peri CRM and go ahead with remote implementation which we have specifically designed for COVID lockdown. Get in touch via email sales@pericrm.com or call (91) 965088-0404
  2. Accurate Retail master: Most FMCG companies do not spend enough time on master data updation and correction. But during times like these, have an accurate retail master data will ensure that the sales representative is focusing on right retailers, not checking duplicate records, not struggling with wrong phone numbers and zero order history.
  3. Accurate Product master and pricing: When there is no physical contact and limitations of a phone conversation, the need of taking orders on correct SKU’s become pertinent. FMCG companies which do not integr\ate their SFA/CRM with their ERP face the problem of outdated sku’s and pricing.
  4. Strong MIS team: The success of any remote working operations depends on a team of MIS resources who are bestowed the task of collection data, doing followups, creating reports in various cuts and slices and maintaining the overall flow of information.
  5. Data visualisation: Although, Microsoft excel is a good entry-level tool for creating data visualisation, it doesnt offer the power to manage a large sales force. For that, companies need a full-fledged data visualisation platform (like Zoho analytics, Tableau or Power BI).

A Typical Day During Covid Lockdown

Now that we know that work from home #WFH and work on mobile #WOM are the new realities of Indian FMCG sales, let us understand a typical day of a field representative named Gautam, mid-thirties guy who hails from Uttarakhand, has been living in New Delhi for the past 15 years, is employed as a TSI (territory sales incharge) by a biscuit company to cover few clusters in the South Delhi region like Masjid mor, South extension, Hauz khas, Shahpur Jat, Malviya Nagar.

Morning: Probably the most productive time for frontliners as retail stores have minimal customer footfall, and owners have time to listen to the sales pitch, narrate orders and do account reconciliations. As per Peri CRM’s data analytics, more than 50% of frontliners achieve anywhere between 60-80% of their daily number during the morning hours. The table below shows the shift expected in the frontliner behaviour during the COVID work from home, work on mobile reality.

Normal Behaviour

Gautam likes waking up early (6am in summers and 7am in winters) which is the case with most salesperson, he prefers finishing daily rituals by 8, having a wholesome breakfast, and leaving for market on their motorbikes by 9am. He would typically open Peri to:

  1. glance at today’s beat (just to double check)
  2. mark attendance when he has touched market and parked his motorbike
  3. hasnt looking into historical data in detail
  4. follows the market sequentially without any intelligence

Expected Behaviour

Covid lockdown has put off Gautam’s normal routine and now he wakes up at 8am (because he slept late), finishes daily rituals by 9am, and opens Peri CRM to:

  1. mark attendance (this triggers a notification to his manager)
  2. glance at the list of untouched retailers, with a quick call button
  3. glance at the list of retailers who ordered 7 or more days ago, with oldest record visible first, order quantity and a quick call button
  4. checks his target v/s achievement on the home page, by SKU classification, and by brand
  5. And starts making phone calls in order of priority

Afternoon: As the day progresses, energies go down and order throughput decreases, many frontliners keep this time for either their regular and loyal retailers or for wholesalers who are more open around this time. It is also a time for a quick call with reporting manager and distributor and take a stock of the day’s situation. The table below shows the shift expected in the frontliner behaviour during the COVID work from home, work on mobile reality:

Normal Behaviour

Gautam typically finishes the daily beat by 3pm and then circles back to retail outlets who were left during the first round. He also visits the large format retailers and wholesalers during these hours because the length of interaction in such stores in typically longer and order taking more comprehensive with stock and outstanding reconciliation. He makes few phone calls to his manager , distributors and retailers for planning, todo tasks and previous order fulfilment. Around 4pm , he leaves the retail market and heads for one (or max two) distributor point as per requirement.

Expected Behaviour

Once Gautam has made the morning calls which were high priority, he again reflects back to the untouched list where the “quick call” button remains for retailers he hasnt tried today. He also filters the list by SKU classification or brand to extract retailers who have higher probability of buying certain products (say premium or bulk).

Once this is done, Gautam sends WhatsApp messages to a list of retailers based on specific grouping where he can mention the trade schemes currently applicable and a gentle reminder text for recall.

Post lunch, he joins a conference call of his territory where the half days performance is discussed on key metrics and actionable are decided.

Evening: Most frontliners are done with active retailing by 3pm, which is when they typically leave the retail market and head towards the distributor point. They spend the next 2-3 hours checking fulfilment of previous days orders, sharing today’s orders and taking stock of the warehouse to see how and when to place the primary orders. The table below shows the shift expected in the frontliner behaviour during the COVID work from home, work on mobile reality:

Normal Behaviour

Gautam leaves the distributor point max by 6pm, heads home and calls it a day. His body is tired of running around entire day, on motorbike amidst pollution and varied weather conditions. Once he is home, he reflects on his days performance but doesnt have the habit of checking the hard numbers, analysing current months performance over previous months, or planning the next day. He sleeps, wake up the next morning and the entire routine repeats.

Expected Behaviour

Since Gautam has spend the day at home, his body is not tired, mind is active and focused on the right things. He analyses the days performance on more than 20 KPI’s at the click of a button. His manager gives him targeted and constructive feedback, distributor updates the status of orders and he knows which retailers to target the next day.

Conclusion

In the end, we want to reiterate that Covid is a crisis of unprecedented scale, and it is showing ominous signs of impacting India’s economy in a bad way. There is no doubt that FMCG industry will get impacted as well starting from consumer behaviour for non-essential goods, to distribution problems, to retail offtake, tough competition for the shrinking pie and overall challenge in forecasting sales. As sales automation partner to FMCG companies, Peri CRM wants to convey that we are in this together and we are continuously innovating to making this transition smoother and less painful for you. Please reach out to us with your business problems and we promise to provide you an appropriate solution.

Food For Thought

Although there are short-term measures to be taken by Indian FMCG companies as highlighted in the article above, Peri CRM belives that companies should plan for the long-term impact of the Covid crisis. Below are few excerpts from leading consulting and market research organisations who are working round-the-clock to assess and predict the post-Covid scenarios for CPG industry:

The trends we are seeing in Asia, and lessons from the last recession lead us to anticipate at least five behaviors to “stick” through the prolonged recovery and the next normal: increased price sensitivity, higher digital engagement, rise in attention to wellness and hygiene, “nesting” at home, and a redefinition of brand purpose.

(How consumer-goods companies can prepare for the next normal, Mckinsey Apr’2020)

Companies that can leverage technologies intelligently during this time—by meeting changing consumer demands online, enabling seamless interactions through direct-to-consumer offerings and enhancing consumer experience with augmented and virtual realities—have the opportunity to earn consumer loyalty well after consumers’ concerns subside.

(Six consumer behavior thresholds of covid-19 concern, Nielsen Mar’2020)

1) Deepen your customer insight: Marketers need to analyze data about their customers’ behaviors and buying habits on a daily basis to learn what is changing and what is not.

2) Focus on the experience: Companies should immediately evaluate their customer journeys and re-imagine those that could be redesigned for a digital-first/digital-only world.

(How Retailers Can Reach Consumers Who Aren’t Spending, HBR Apr’2020)


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