DNV's recurring challenges and how to meet them

DNV business challenges and how to meet them

Margot Bonhomme
December 20, 2023 - 10 min reading

The supermarket sector is competitive: more and more brands are entering the market, yet shelf space is not expanding. Getting and keeping shelf space is therefore a daily task, and one that can prove difficult.

To get listed and gain market share, brands can rely on their sales forces, and in particular their sales managers, or in larger structures, their DNVs and DRVs.

Sales forces have the dual mission of developing sales and profitability for both stakeholders (distributor and producer), while improving their own efficiency.

To achieve this, DNVs need better data to make decisions; but they face three major challenges:

  1. How can I make my sales force more profitable?
  2. How do I manage my sales force?
  3. How do you manage your brand's sales performance?

In this increasingly demanding environment, CRM must be a tool that enables and enhances performance.

Unfortunately, too many DNVs are still blocked by their CRM software: data modification and export impossible, no integration with datasharing or other solutions, non-personalizable data collection...

Too many companies are still equipped with CRM systems that don't meet the needs of the field, and aren't developed as sales support tools.

Added to this is the difficulty of ensuring that sales staff carry out their missions in the field, and that they have all the tools they need to achieve their objectives: mobile application, route optimizer, customer follow-up...

In this article, we're going to explore some of the common problems faced by DNVs and propose some concrete solutions, to help you strengthen your leadership and boost your teams' performance. And we know that, unfortunately, the last point may be of interest to you.

How to make your sales force profitable

The main issue for DNVs is managing their sales force.

  • How can I be sure that my sales people are working well?
  • How can we ensure that they carry out their actions?
  • How do you meet your objectives at the lowest possible cost?

These questions are all about making the sales force more profitable.

You're aware of the reality on the ground: it's not possible to visit 100% of stores. It requires a colossal workload and exceeds the allocated budget. The objective is rather to find the 80/20: visit the stores that bring in the most sales.

And to carry out these visits, the DNV (you) is faced with various challenges:

My salespeople's selling time is too short

Salespeople spend 2/3 of their time not selling. Imagine if your area managers only started selling on Thursday afternoons.

So how do you increase your selling time?

  • Short answer: by optimizing their productivity.
  • Long answer: by giving them the means and tools to be as efficient and effective as possible in preparing their sales actions, and to have a sales pitch based on reliable, real-world data.

My sales reps spend too much time planning their rounds

Your area manager is planning his rounds for the coming week. First, he determines which stores he will visit: "the active outlets around Brest, which have a DN of -50%".

How long does it take?

  • He has to fetch the information manually;
  • He must calculate the DN manually;
  • He then has to collate the information and prioritize it.

On average, an area manager makes 5 visits a day. That must take up 40 minutes of his time. For one tour.

Once the points of sale have been selected, the salesperson determines his or her route plan: which store to visit first? Google Maps helps to avoid getting lost, but not to optimize the route.

This means that sales reps have to manually enter each point of sale into google maps, calculate their own itineraries, and define the order in which to visit their stores. Not ideal.

In general, this will take 30 minutes to 1 hour of his time. For a tour.

If your sales reps make three rounds a week, they waste an average of 1/2 day planning them. That's too much!

If you want to help your sales reps plan their sales rounds, we recommend investing in a CRM that optimizes their routes.

You'll be able to create filtered views for your sales reps. For the same example, you'll filter out stores that are tagged "active" and have a DN of less than 50%. You will save the view.

Once on the map, your sales reps will filter the area they wish to visit, by clicking on the view you've previously created. Only active stores with a DN of -50% will appear on the map.

Instead of 40 minutes an hour, your sales reps will know which stores to visit in just 5 minutes.

Then, still on the map, your sales reps will use a lasso to circle the points of sale to be visited. A visit schedule will be created. All they have to do is enter their point of departure and their point of arrival, and click on "optimize" to optimize their route.

Instead of 45 minutes on average, optimizing their route will take 5 minutes.

So if your sales reps make three rounds a week, planning will take half an hour instead of half a day. That leaves plenty of time for appointments and sales!

My sales reps spend too much time taking statements

Your field sales team's tour is done and optimized. Your area manager arrives at store #1 and needs to understand why DN is so low: pricing problem? merchandising problem? stock problem?...

To record this, he takes a survey. But the latter is too complex:

  • Too much mandatory information;
  • Information not necessarily relevant to this outlet or brand;
  • The statement is not adapted to cell phones or tablets;
  • The application doesn't synchronize and the area manager has to find a new network each time he opens a new page of the form;
  • Etc...

And if it takes too long to do its survey, it won't be able to perform any other action.

Area managers have a very busy day. A visit lasts an average of 30 to 40 minutes, during which they visit their departments, take attendance and meet with the department manager.

Once the survey has been taken, the sales assistant must first make any necessary changes, and then, if there's still time, discuss them with the department manager and/or negotiate sales promotions, PdM...

Several solutions can be implemented to optimize visit time and the time spent gathering information:

  1. Once a year, post-negotiation, check that your agreements are being respected. The only objective of your area managers' visits is to re-design your product range. We advise you to target high-potential outlets (your famous 80/20) and to use PO as a basis for calculating your DN. This will enable you to calculate your holding in relation to the new agreements. Analyze it in percentage and in value (number of references).
  2. If you sell a lot of products, it's time-consuming to keep a record. In this case, we advise you to collect information on all your products once a year. Once the agreements have been verified, focus on your flagship products, your best-sellers (those that bring in the most money) and your innovations.
  3. If you sell highly seasonal products, you can focus on a single department during the peak season. For example, chocolate sales during the holiday season can account for 60-70% of sales.

To implement these actions, you need to customize your statement forms. We'll talk more about this later in the article.

My sales reps don't visit enough stores

It's important to understand that everything is connected:

  • If your sales rep spends less time planning his sales actions, he'll have more time to make his rounds;
  • If your sales rep spends less time on his survey, he'll be able to visit more stores in a day;
  • If your sales rep makes more visits, he'll be able to sell more...

To understand your sales force's ability to visit, a few (simple) calculations are in order:

On average, a field sales rep makes 5 visits a day. In rural areas, the number varies between 4 and 7, and in urban areas between 8 and 10.

This represents 25 visits per week (if your sales reps visit sales outlets daily), or 1,500 visits per year (working days).

You need to visit your sales front every 2 months, 2.5 months.

At Sidely, we recommend a visit to :

  • Your bronze every two months;
  • Your silver every month and a half;
  • Your gold every month.

And then there are the stores you don't have time to visit.

So you need to look at the number of visits you can make over the year. To put it simply, if you have 10 sales reps, you can make 15,000 visits a year.

It's up to you to decide how much sales pressure you want to put on each of your sales outlets. How do you allocate your sales force according to the number of visits they can make?

We advise you to prioritize your 80/20: visit the 20% of stores that bring you 80% of your sales.

If you haven't reached your visiting capacity, we advise you to visit other sales outlets for brandawareness and relationship building. The more your brand grows, the more you'll (potentially) recruit new field sales reps, and therefore have a higher visit capacity, which will include these stores.

By increasing the number of visits, you'll increase the quality of the visits, as your area managers will have a better chance of meeting a department manager. And to do this, we recommend that youoptimize their route and sales tour plans.

My sales reps are making too many blank visits

When it comes to making the sales force profitable, white visits are at the heart of the matter. On average, a visit costs your brand €50: so you need to be able to put it back into your costs, i.e. put a new product on the shelves, put up extra POP, sell a promotion... In other words, implement actions that will increase your sales.

A visit has a dual purpose. To make sure that your products and merchandise are present, and therefore to ensure sales in the store, and to be able to take action if necessary:

  • Your products are missing from the shelves;
  • Agreements are not respected;
  • The planogram is not respected ;
  • Your point-of-sale advertising is not installed;

Or you want to negotiate a higher PdM or additional facing...

And for that, your area managers need to talk to the floor manager.

To be sure of meeting him, they can make an appointment.

In this case, your sales people need to arm themselves with their phones and e-mail addresses, and do some customer relations work.

The most important thing is to record all interactions and comments in your CRM, so that you can keep track of them. If your area manager leaves, his or her replacement can pick up where the relationship left off, not where it started.

Your sales staff should therefore take note of :

  • Best times to visit or call the store;
  • The best times to talk to the department manager (or managers if you're in a multi-radius operation);
  • Store opening hours;
  • Best days to visit or call the store;
  • The best days to chat with the floor manager;
  • Etc...

As you can see, all the information you need to ensure the best possible interaction and relationship with the person who will be placing your products.

The second option, mentioned above, is toincrease sales pressure, and therefore the ratio of visits at times when department managers are working.

How can you ensure that your sales reps actually meet someone? You can do this by inserting a mandatory checkbox in your statements. If the box is checked, add an additional field to summarize the interaction, the actions taken... You'll then be able to track meetings versus appointments, understand the number of blank visits, and take action if necessary.

Information doesn't filter down to my sales reps

Your sales reps have followed all the recommendations, and are ready to sell. But sell what? They don't know!

Let's take the example of an ongoing promotion. Marketing informs you that your brand is running a summer promotion. To keep your sales staff, scattered all over France, up to date, you can set up a meeting, and hope they'll remember and push it.

You can also integrate it into your CRM, so that a reminder is displayed for each visit.

Here's how it works in practice:

  • Create a promotional campaign in your CRM. Inform your sales staff of the points of sale involved and the products on promotion.
  • Add promoted products to your campaign.
  • Filter the promotions displayed on the campaign page according to your criteria, to show only current promotions or all promotions.

Your sales representatives will have the information they need to sell the promotion and check its implementation:

  • In its calendar, the campaign appears according to the configured dates.
  • On store cards, a banner at the top of the page reminds you of current promotions.
  • In the app (on mobile), campaigns appear on the relevant company pages. Clicking on them reveals campaign details.

Then, to gather the information you need to analyze your promotions, create a specific form and ask your sales reps to report specific information.

Here's an example in a nutshell:

  • Block 1: Identification (user, company, date).
  • Block 2: Promotional example photo and actual in-store photo shoot.
  • Block 3: Multiple-choice questions on the presence of promotional material and a free text field for comments.

With these tools, you have everything you need for efficient management and accurate analysis of your promotions, thanks to reliable and comprehensive data collection. That's what we're going to look at now.

Data collected is incomplete or unreliable

How can you make the analyses on which you base your decisions, if you don't trust them? How can you be sure that all information is collected?

You need to be free and autonomous in the collection of your internal information. To achieve this, one piece of advice: equip yourself with a CRM/SFA designed for the field, simplifying information gathering.

Survey forms are not adapted to the terrain

If you want your data to be reliable, it's important to simplify the work of your sales force in the field. The simpler it is to collect data, the more certain you are that the job will be "well done". To achieve this:

  • Equip yourself with a CRM/SFA that allows you to collect the information that interests you at any given moment. Create forms that reflect your image and collect the information you need (merchandise survey, shelf space tracking, layout, visit report...);
  • Create different forms depending on the brand or stratum, to adapt to assortments. Your sales reps won't waste time entering useless information, and the data will be more reliable;
  • Create multi-radius, multi-strate or multi-brand forms according to your needs. Your sector managers will then enter all the information in a statement for each visit. Detention calculations are then performed at store, department, brand or stratum level, depending on your choice.

Having conditional forms will also save time: depending on the answers received in the field, the survey questions will be adapted. Only questions related to the visit will then be asked. For example, if your mobile sales rep doesn't meet the floor manager during his visit, there's no need to ask him for an interview report.

My sales reps can't use their CRM without logging in

During store visits, it's not uncommon for the connection to fail. This dependence on the Internet limits your sales force. They can't capture information in real time. So what do they do? They wait until the end of the visit, or the end of the day, to enter the information. You can be sure that information will be forgotten in the meantime, and your data will be incomplete.

Adopt a CRM that works both online and offline, enabling your sales force to enter essential information even without an Internet connection.

"Okay, but how do I see them from my end?" you might ask? Well, "thanks to automatic synchronization", I might reply.

Once again, our aim is to make life as easy as possible for your area managers. The less they have to think outside their core business, the more you can be sure they'll do it well.

Once the Internet is back, their application will synchronize.

My CRM doesn't have a mobile application

The younger generation of sector managers was practically born with a phone in their hand (we're exaggerating a little, but you get the idea). They're used to user-friendly mobile applications developed for B2C.

When they start out, they're asked to work on aging tools and media. While they watch their series on their smartphone, they have to collect information on a laptop. The gap is big enough to impact their productivity, data reliability or worse, drive them away.

As well as simplifying the work of your field sales reps, having a mobile and tablet application gives youaccess to features you don't have on a computer:

  • Voice notes: they can record details quickly, without having to type. This saves time and reduces typing and spelling errors, which can hamper comprehension;
  • Photos: they can visually capture the layout of merchandise, sales events, promotions, or even the state of your assortments (before/after in-store), your facings...

Photos taken in the field are often shared via WhatsApp or SMS. As a result, they are easily lost and difficult to find. Taking photos directly with your CRM/SFA allows you to centralize information (thanks to an integrated gallery), but also to link them to statements to clearly identify which store they relate to, or which promotions they are associated with, and thus facilitate your analyses.


This is what we'll be looking at in the second part.


Manage the sales force and the brand's commercial performance

To control, you need data to analyze.

We've just seen how to collect and manage it. Now we'll look at how to read and use it.

Keeping track of your data

One of the key issues is to keep track of data. Many brands still have siloed services and/or tools, which prevent information from being shared. Having data scattered all over the place - in different systems such as Google Maps, Excel, or spread across several departments - complicates matters enormously. Sales staff spend most of their time copying orders rather than collecting invoices.

To keep track of your data, you need to centralize it :

  • Have a CRM that brings together all information for a complete analysis;
  • Have a CRM that connects to different business applications to build bridges.

Beware, too, of solutions that offer customized integrations. They are often more costly and time-consuming than beneficial. Better to avoid them and opt for simpler, more efficient systems (open APIs).

To keep track of your data, you need to clean it up: Having clean data is essential if you want to succeed in your analyses.

To keep track of your data, you need to filter it: there's no point in tracking everything. In supermarkets, you have too much information. Once again, we recommend filtering: follow a few key indicators. To keep track of your sales performance in supermarkets, it's best to strategically select the data you want to analyze.

We recommend that you prioritize 5 KPIs:

  • Ownership/number of references present ;
  • Distribution/number of active stores ;
  • Coverage, i.e. the number of surveys carried out over a given period in relation to the number of stores visited over the same period;
  • Breakage rate ;
  • The number of facing and the share of shelf space.

Note that each of these kpis can be 'redivided' by product, brand, brand name, store, department...

Master your data and your CRM

It's your CRM, it's your data, you should be the sole owner. Unfortunately, many DNVs are faced with the problem of not being able to work with their data as they wish.

-> Many can 't import and track 100% of field data, such as checkouts, which all too often remain outside the CRM. This is a real shame when you consider that one of the primary missions of crm software is to centralize data;

-> Many can 't export their data. They have to go through the IT department or worse, the CRM departments to do so. A waste of time that DNVs don't have;

-> Many people have no control over the security of their data: they can't choose who has access to what. This poses a twofold problem:

  • This can confuse your sales staff, who have too much information and can't find their way around;
  • This gives them access to sensitive information they shouldn't see, especially in a multi-brand context. If there's no notion of rights and roles in your CRM, your sales reps can leave with all your data and go to the competitor. It's a risk to give everyone access.

So what are the solutions?

  • Opt for a CRM that lets you easily import your data, such as stores, assortments, orders, products... That way, even if you change solutions, you'll have the complete history.
  • You're told you own your data, but when it comes to exporting it, it's a different story. This is a common problem with many CRMs. Before choosing your CRM, test it. Make sure you can export your data easily, at your leisure and autonomously. At Sidely, it's a promise: you have total autonomy over your data and are the sole owner of it. Don't get stuck again!
  • Implement rigorous access rights management protocols in your CRM: control precisely who has the right to view and modify different parts of your data. To do this, use rights and group management in your CRM and assign members to each specific group.

For example, you could have a group 1 that only has access to field data, but not to analyses. Group 2, on the other hand, could have access to all data. This segmentation ensures that each team member only has access to information relevant to their role, enhancing the security and efficiency of data management.

Stop wasting time on reports

Do you spend all your Friday afternoons writing reports for your Monday morning sales meeting? Are you wasting an inordinate amount of time producing your reports?

You want to spend your time on things other than making graphics. We understand.

The solution, once again, is to equip yourself.

SFA solutions provide analysis and reporting tools to help you automate your reporting. To do this :

  • Create a customized dashboard with the major trends you want to track to get an overview of your business: sales, sales volume, holding, distribution, map of your points of sale...
  • Create reports for a more micro view of specific data: points of sale by status, DN by point of sale, merchandising by point of sale, events by point of sale, activity by sales rep...

Next, choose your time granularity. If your meeting is monthly, take the last 30 days.

With Sidely, all you have to do is copy your graphs, paste them into your presentations, and voila: you're off to find other tasks for your Friday afternoon.

Ensuring that sales reps carry out their actions properly

All the points covered in this article are worthless if your sales reps don't go to the point of sale in the first place.

Without good visibility of what your sales reps are doing, it becomes difficult to manage your resources efficiently and optimize sales performance. It's also hard to check whether they're doing their job properly in the field. How can you be sure they're completing their tasks, such as visits or calls? How can you be sure they've actually been to a store at a specific time?

A great way to overcome this challenge is to add activity tracking functionality to your CRM.

We don't like to go this way, but if you have any doubts, the "check-in" feature can help. When a sales rep is within 50 meters of a point of sale, this function activates an alert confirming his or her presence. This enables you to effectively check that your sales reps are on their way to scheduled appointments.

These pain points offer in-depth insight into the day-to-day challenges faced by DNVs, and their resolution can lead to significant improvements in business performance and efficiency.

Area manager study
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