Field sales is essential for building a product’s distribution, volume and overall growth within independent retail channels. In today’s highly competitive environment, sales teams are expected to scale up activities with speed and agility to maximise opportunities.

While it is still common for companies to build and manage their own internal field teams, this can often present challenges that can detract from the business’ core offering and function.  This is one of the reasons more brands are recognising the benefits and competitive advantage of outsourcing to a specialist field agency.

When looking to appoint a field partner, it’s important to remember that not all agencies are the same and choosing the cheapest option can often end up costing the most. A common approach that brands will take when going to market is to look at the “cost to serve”, which is the cost to maintain the channel. While the cost to service a channel is often viewed by how much money the channel is making against how little they need to spend to maximise profits, the core sales function of any business is about growth and expansion.

While the typical “cost to serve” mindset is quite common in the commercial analysis of compliant head-office driven retailers, for field sales in independent channels, a business can limit its growth if the calculations are assessed against current sales. Independents don’t have the luxury of a single large-scale and long-term deal, field sales teams need to be continually driving sales at a store-level just to maintain its baseline, let alone gain incremental distribution.

I’ve seen first-hand the impact that a targeted field sales strategy can have on a brand’s success, and I encourage companies to factor in the value of growth and distribution when appointing a field agency. If your product is in the growth lifecycle, then budgeting your sales distribution drive based on what you currently have will mean you’ll be crawling towards success. You need to factor in the cost of growth, not the cost to serve.

Another way to explain the benefits of cost to serve is to liken it to a large plot of land where crops have only been planted in a small area and yield a certain amount each season. However, with more investment and a smarter approach to resourcing, the plot can be expanded while delivering a greater return on investment for far less effort. This is where many companies fail to seize the opportunity for growth.

Adopting a cost of growth approach helps brands unlock their potential within a channel. It often involves concepts such as speed to market, professional and expert salespeople, targeting the right high-value stores, negotiating better deals, and using data reporting capabilities intelligently. These attributes are what brands and manufacturers should expect from a field agency partner.

This smarter and more adaptive approach to field sales achieves better results and increases distribution and sales, which ultimately delivers a higher return on investment. When engaging a field sales agency, brand and manufacturers leaders should consider three steps.

Conduct an analysis

Brands should consider the strength of their product, its potential in the channel, and how it differentiates from competitors. If the product has enough opportunity, invest in a strategic partner who can design a smarter plan, guide you through the process, and own the execution.

Partner with an agency that can help grow your distribution

An effective field team isn’t about buying minutes, it’s an investment in distribution results. Identify your distribution targets then build a case for procurement to ensure everyone’s aligned.

Get all your ducks in a row

Maximise the effectiveness of your field sales execution by having a strategy in place for your distribution and top multi-site owners (MSOs). They will open the doors required before even walking into a store.

By engaging the right field partner, businesses will not only be well placed to optimise growth and distribution opportunities, but they will also benefit from extensive retail industry expertise and business intelligence capabilities that can be key to a product’s success.

Patricio Servat is business development manager at CROSSMARK Australia.