Sales Route Planning: The Key to Optimizing Your Sales Efforts

Sales Route Planning: The Key to Optimizing Your Sales Efforts

Dorota Owczarek - October 17, 2022

In order to succeed in sales, you need to have a well-defined plan and be organized. One of the most important aspects of any successful sales strategy is proper route planning. This involves creating a map of your potential customer base and then organizing your visits on the most efficient route possible.

There are many different factors to consider when planning your routes, such as distance, time, and traffic. In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of sales route planning and how using a sales route planner can help optimize your efforts.

Sales Route Optimization – What Is It?

Sales route optimization is the planning of a series of sales meetings in the most logical order by taking into account various factors. These include distance or time from the current location, traffic congestion, weather conditions, construction work, client preferences, and available resources (e.g., number of sales reps).

The goal of sales route optimization is to minimize the time and cost of sales opportunities while maximizing customer satisfaction. Finding the fastest route from point A to point B is a process that logistics professionals have worked on for many years, yet only basic sales route optimization was possible until recently.

Nowadays, machine learning algorithms and a company’s historical data can create optimized routes. It’s possible, for instance, to train an artificial intelligence (AI)-based deep learning model on addresses, order histories, preferred delivery times, etc., to generate optimized route suggestions.

Why It’s Important to Have a Sales Route Plan

It’s not enough to just have a list of meetings scheduled for that day and a map of the area – you need to have a well-optimized plan that will make the most of your available time and resources. That’s where a sales route plan comes in.

Sales managers in various industries all face a lot of the same challenges, most notably the amount of time wasted by sales reps on non-sales-related activities and due to inaccurate or out-of-date information.

There is also data lag hindering real-time decision-making abilities, outdated tools resulting in missed opportunities, and rapidly evolving markets causing poor understanding of sales territories, among other issues.

However, sales route planning – and dynamically changing AI-based planning in particular – can help to overcome many of these challenges.

Machine learning algorithms can plan the most efficient sales route automatically without reps having to manually use spreadsheets and sales data, while flexible scheduling allows them to handle any unexpected changes or conditions.

As a result, sales reps can spend more time with customers instead of wasting it on a tedious process, improving their productivity and increasing sales revenue for the business in the long run.

Challenges of Sales Route Planning

Before you get started with any sales route planning, it’s worth considering some of the potential difficulties that you might encounter during the process.

Manual Scheduling and Planning Routes

Sales route planning can be a very time-consuming process, particularly when doing route optimization by hand (i.e., with spreadsheets). It is difficult, if not impossible, to plan optimal sales routes manually because you need to take into account a multitude of variables that can all change in real-time.

You also need to consider the different constraints that each driver may have, such as maximum working hours, vehicle type, and availability. Altering a sales route plan manually last minute can be very annoying and time-consuming, too, particularly if you have already created printable or GPS directions.

Selecting the Right Customers for Client Visits

This can be a huge challenge even with reliable customer data and having segmented it properly. since reps must still be located in the right geographical area for each meeting and have sufficient time for all of them.

Moreover, it can be hard to find a good balance in any sales route plan between meeting new potential clients and maintaining relationships with existing ones. Additionally, the sales rep must be qualified to deal with the type of client they’re visiting (i.e., don’t send a junior sales rep to meet with a high-value customer).

Lack of Visibility of Field Sales Activities for Sales Leaders

When outside sales reps are out in the field meeting with clients, it’s not always easy for their work to be tracked by sales leaders who need to know if targets are being met or not.

This is particularly true if a rep is not using a company-approved mobile device or CRM software to update their sales activities in real time.

Unpredictable Events (Traffic, Customer Cancellations, etc.) Can Disrupt the Best-Laid Plans

Even if you have planned and scheduled everything perfectly, there is always the possibility of unexpected events occurring that are out of your control. For example, bad weather can cause traffic delays, which in turn can make it difficult for sales reps to get to their appointments on time.

Further, clients may cancel or reschedule appointments at the last minute, and so plans may need to be altered on the fly. Such unpredictable events affect even the best-laid sales route plans and cause frustration for everyone, especially since manual optimization can’t take such disruptions into account in real time.

What Goes Into Creating an Effective Sales Route Plan

It’s now time to learn how to plan a sales route in such a way that you can overcome any of the challenges associated with doing so. Below are a few key elements that are essential for any sales route plan to be effective.

Client Details

You need accurate and up-to-date customer data in order to create an effective sales route plan. The most vital piece of information here is the customer’s address for arranging meetings there, followed by their contact details to schedule an appointment and send them notifications or updates.

Other useful details to have are previous purchase histories and notes from previous interactions that may help when dealing with the client going forward. If you use a CRM system and have accurate customer data, it can be imported automatically into your sales route planning software.

Historical Traffic Data

Predicting congestion and optimizing routes accordingly requires information about traffic patterns in the areas you are planning to travel through.

Such data can be acquired from a number of sources, including Google Maps and Waze, for example. If the solution you are using has the capability, you can connect it directly to these services so that the data is updated automatically.

Locations of Sales Reps

Take into account where your sales reps are based when creating a route plan so that you can assign territories to each one within a reasonable distance from their home or office. As a result, they won’t have to waste time traveling far to get to their first meeting or client.

To plan routes dynamically, you will need to know the current locations of your sales reps at all times so you can assign them more jobs en route as soon as one has been completed. This can be done using GPS tracking software, which is something that you should consider if you don’t already have it in place.

Type of Sales Call

Each type of meeting will have different requirements that impact on the route that you choose.

For example, if you are arranging customer visits, it would make sense to include multiple stops in one particular area so the sales rep can get the most out of the time spent traveling there.

On the other hand, if you are planning a sales route for door-to-door selling, remember to space out the stops so that the sales rep has enough time to give each potential customer their full attention.

Product Information

Having accurate data on the goods, you are selling means that your outside sales reps will only be attempting to sell the right items or services to the most qualified leads at the right time.

Such information includes which items are selling well and where, their stock levels, what the profit margins on them are, and delivery times.

Competitor Analysis

Knowing what the competition is doing and where will help you gain a complete understanding of the market and make better decisions about how to target your own sales efforts when route planning.

This data can be gathered in a number of ways, including online research, sales intelligence software, and business insights from your sales reps themselves.

Sales Targets

Without clearly defined objectives, it will be difficult to measure the success of your sales route planning.

Your targets could be anything from the number of new clients you plan to visit to the amount of sales you aim to make, but they should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

How to Use a Sales Route Planner App

AI-based sales route planning can be extremely beneficial for any business that relies on field sales reps to generate income. A mobile app or web application that utilizes this technology can help managers in many ways, but how to use one?

Sales route planner app - how to use it step by step

Sales route planner app - how to use it step by step

1. Create a list of contacts to visit

Export the names and addresses of new leads from your CRM, their addresses, information on opening hours, past sales, meeting history, etc.

2. Import the list into your route planner app

Do so via the exported document to match your CRM data.

3. Decide which leads each sales rep can meet

Set criteria for assigning meetings, starting with location-based territories and then considering overriding factors such as high-value customers and previous interactions.

4. Send the generated routes to your sales reps

Share the directions via the app directly so that your drivers can get started right away, with dynamic changes being made due to issues like traffic congestion or road closures.

5. Track the locations of reps in real time

If your route planning app has live tracking, you’ll know exactly where everyone is at all times. Their ETAs will indicate if a rep will be late for a meeting so that this can be addressed in advance.

6. Update the plan on-the-fly

In case of any cancellations, postponements, meetings being scheduled last minute, or sales reps calling in sick, changes can be implemented, and optimal routes recalculated automatically.

7. Gain insights into sales reps’ performance

A good route planner app will be able to display information about their time on the clock, distance traveled, number of meetings completed, punctuality, and much more.

The Benefits of Using a Custom AI-Based Sales Route Planner for Dynamic Route Optimization

Many, if not all, of the challenges associated with sales route planning, can be overcome by utilizing artificial intelligence technologies such as machine learning to optimize routes dynamically if and when the variables change.

Benefits of Using a Custom AI-Based Sales Route Planner for Dynamic Route Optimization

Benefits of custom AI-based sales route planner for dynamic route optimization

Time Saver for Sales Reps Planning Their Customer Visits

An AI-based system can take into account dynamic variables such as customer traffic conditions and automatically generate the best possible routes.

This means that sales reps can simply follow an up-to-date and most efficient route plan rather than optimizing by hand.

In addition, a custom sales route planner can provide GPS directions for each rep, so they don’t even have to waste a few moments every time (which soon adds up) doing it themselves.

Targeting Crucial Customers and Meeting Customer Expectations

Prioritizing visits to the most important or valuable customers allows you to take into account their preferences when mapping routes with multiple stops.

As such, an AI-based route planner can help you meet clients’ expectations by scheduling meetings at times that suit them best, whether that’s first thing in the morning or later on in the day.

Option to Plan Activities of Whole Sales Teams

A good automatic sales route planner should offer the ability to plan the activities of entire sales teams concurrently.

Having such a feature allows you to optimize routes considering all of the variables for multiple reps simultaneously.

Visibility of Sales Efforts for Sales Managers

To check that field sales teams are sticking to the plan and meeting targets, sales managers need to have visibility of their reps’ activities.

An AI-based sales route planner can be extremely beneficial here, providing managers with real-time updates on the location of each rep and the status of every visit and predicting the number and the value of all the forecasted sales.

If a sales rep is running late or has to deviate from the plan for any reason, the right custom solution will alert a manager so that they can provide assistance or make alternative arrangements if necessary.

Territory Management for Field Sales Teams

If you have a sales team that covers a large area, an AI field sales route planner can be of great help in managing the locations that each rep is responsible for.

The system can automatically generate and quickly assign territories for each sales rep based on various criteria, e.g., the number of potential clients in the area.

Predicting Route Traffic

An AI-based system can use historical data about congestion levels in a given area to make informed route-planning decisions.

What’s more, a custom solution can take current traffic into account and update the optimal route in real-time as the situation develops.

Efficient Routes – Optimizing Travel Time and Minimizing Fuel Consumption

Planning optimized sales routes using AI helps drivers avoid getting caught in traffic, waiting at roadworks, or taking the wrong route.

This produces significant savings in terms of both how long it takes to complete the whole schedule and fuel consumption levels, the latter of which has an eco-friendly upside too.

Related case study: Implementing AI model to optimize routes and timelines of deliveries

A company from the logistics sector approached us to create a custom AI model that optimizes routes and the scheduling of deliveries.

Our challenge? The key challenge here was to prepare a dedicated AI-based system designed for carriers to optimize delivery time depending on the destination address. Thanks to the model we managed to reduce failed and late delivery rates by 30%. Read our detailed case study of this project.

How to Choose the Best Route Planning Software for Field Sales?

Consider the features that are most important to you and your sales team bearing in mind your budget to invest in sales route planning software.

There are various paid and free route planner options available on the market, so spend some time comparing their functionalities and costs to find the best option for your business.

If the visibility of sales efforts, say, is a priority, then you’ll need a solution that offers real-time updates on the current location of each rep and the status of every visit. If you cover a large geographical area, you may require software that can plan sales routes for multiple reps in different locations simultaneously.

nexocode has vast experience in developing logistics solutions, meaning they can help you build a custom solution for optimizing the routes of your sales teams with all of the features you might need.

Thanks to a custom solution, getting from A to B with maximum efficiency in order to save time, limit fuel consumption, and reduce emissions will be a breeze.

Leverage Advanced Analytics and Increase Sales Performance With Sales Route Planning

If you are looking to improve your sales performance, route planning software is a must-have tool. Artificial intelligence-based, advanced analytics solutions can help optimize your sales routes to save your business time and money.

What’s more, AI-based route planning software can dynamically update the optimal directions for sales reps as and when conditions change in real time. So why not give it a try today? You could soon see a significant improvement in your sales figures.

Get in touch with the nexocode team about your own custom, AI-based sales route planner. Our team of AI experts has extensive experience in developing predictive analytics solutions and other AI-based software solutions for logistics & supply chains.

About the author

Dorota Owczarek

Dorota Owczarek

AI Product Lead & Design Thinking Facilitator

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With over ten years of professional experience in designing and developing software, Dorota is quick to recognize the best ways to serve users and stakeholders by shaping strategies and ensuring their execution by working closely with engineering and design teams.
She acts as a Product Leader, covering the ongoing AI agile development processes and operationalizing AI throughout the business.

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This article is a part of

AI in Logistics
25 articles

AI in Logistics

Artificial Intelligence is becoming an essential element of Logistics and Supply Chain Management, where it offers many benefits to companies willing to adopt emerging technologies. AI can change how companies operate by providing applications that streamline planning, procurement, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, transportation, and sales.

Follow our article series to find out the applications of AI in logistics and how this tech benefits the whole supply chain operations.

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