Undoubtedly, this is one of the key questions when planning commercial activities which implications will help defining the size of the sales force. To properly estimate the optimal number of visits for the different types of clients during the year, we must take these 5 factors into account:
- The size of the account, meaning the turnover of each client and its actual or potential profitability.
- The duration and content for the visit.
- The location of the client, which translates into the time and costs of displacement in case of face-to-face visits.
- The type of product.
- The possibility of cross-selling.
The account size
Usually, this parameter tends to be the one with the highest repercussion when defining the number of visits. We pay more visits to those clients or potential clients that we consider most important, but we should not put the other 4 factors aside. Let’s also keep in mind that some smaller or medium-sized clients may increase their turnover volume over time, meaning we constantly will have to assess potential opportunities. In any case, the costs of each visit will have to be precisely calculated to maximize profitability and efficiency. Let’s not forget that in-person contacts are always the most expensive ones.
Some smaller and medium clients could increase their turnover volume over time, that is why we will have to assess all potential opportunities.
The duration of the visit matters
Beyond the size of the accounts or the business opportunities that we may have detected, there are other relevant factors, like the duration of the visit which will also depend on the importance of the client. Let’s think of a salesman whose client is a hypermarket (typical Key Account visit). He will have to review the products one by one, get information from our most direct competitors offers, enter space negotiations for a certain period, negotiate merchandising actions and a long etc. This takes time, and our time is limited, so we must be highly scrupulous when assigning the necessary number of visits for each segment of our salesforce.
Another case is a salesman of marginal industries, who will probably complete some demonstration of his products to the client’s specialists and that could consequently require a whole day with the client. Another example for a different type of visits, is the salesman of daily bakery consumption products, who makes very short visits because his routes require him to complete 40/50 visits per day.
Where is the client?
The location of the client is another key factor to be taken into consideration, always subordinated to the size of the account, but accurately estimating the displacement time and the costs of the visit (fuel, plane tickets, hotels, other expenses, etc.) because these are fundamental elements when assigning clients to the salesforce.
Evidently, a salesman operating in a key city will have less lost moments spent on displacements than other salesmen in peripheral zones.
Don’t forget the product
The typology of the product sold is another key factor as the sales of luxurious articles with high value added, requires more time and a much more elaborated and planned visit strategy than the one needed for a simpler product. Thus, the sale of a luxurious yacht or of a highly elaborated industrial product can require the salesman to dedicate the entire day with a client.
This point is of great importance because it allows to increase the effectivity and performance of our commercial actions with the same cost per visit and with consequential greater results in terms of turnover and profitability.
At the same time, the increase of new references strengthens the link between the client and the organization, and it should always be considered in any commercial team’s variable remuneration system.
After analyzing these 5 key factors, we will be ready to define the ideal number of visits for each client as well as the salesforce network. Even so, we must remain cautious, because whatever the frequency of visits the company might have established, it could change according to the evolution of the relationship with the clients. Let’s keep in mind that visits are always attached to a constant change, and that clients, as I was saying in the first point, can increase sales considerably (requiring more time and attention by our salesforce) or decrease them, buying only a small portion of our product, without giving us many options for cross-selling actions.
Whatever the frequency of visits established by the organization, it may vary depending on the evolution of the relation with the client.
Hence, we clearly see how the strategy and frequency of visits are a key decision to be designed by the company’s distribution. We need to precisely measure the need and relevance of each visit, especially the face-to-face visits, which will help determine the size of our sales force. In other words, the number of times we visit or contact a client in-person is a critical strategic decision.