Using Workforce Management Technology to Actively Drive Sales

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Do you want to increase sales?

Expand your market?

Increase customer satisfaction?

Who doesn’t?  

Products and services won’t sell themselves; they need people actively selling. Yet many sales strategies only include vague ideas or unspoken methods on how to manage the salespeople. Although technology like CRMs and automated marketing campaign software are commonly listed, very few sales plans describe any technology that can help manage the sales workforce.

And what a waste of resources…

The technology that manages your sales team, workforce management technology—time and attendance, scheduling, and absence and leave—aren’t typically on a sales tech short list. To understand how to use workforce management technology to drive sales, let’s use the A.C.T.I.V.E. Principles.

ALIGNMENT. Every business has a sales goal.

To meet that goal, we look at metrics like average calls per hour, customer acquisition cost ratios, churn rates, etc. However, these metrics assume that we’ve already resolved all the workforce related issues like:

  • Grouping the right tasks and activities into a single job
  • Comparing worker schedule preferences to actual shift assignment
  • Measuring the distance an employee must travel to the work location
  • Determining the right incentive balance for each particular worker

CONTROL. Whether our sales process is an art or a science, details matter.

If we don’t control the details (who, what, where, when, why, how) people work, then we cannot control how our sales budgets or processes either. Without a clear understanding of rest breaks, rounding rules, overtime rates, call-in status, or premium rate stacking, they stay out of sight and out of mind, but worse, they may fall out of control.

Controlling the labor budget doesn’t always mean reducing it, but it could mean reigning in pay manipulation, fraud, and abuse. These actions may only occur in small pockets, but they cut into margins, affect the profitability of the organization, and cause unfair distribution of pay.

TIMING. Selling is about choosing the right moment to strike.

We might sell during regular business hours or afterhours; we may even sell 24/7. But do we know why we sell at those times? If it’s because we’ve always sold at these times, then we haven’t drilled down into the details of your real demand and capacity. Luckily, workforce management systems can provide us with important details such as:

  • Work span duration – How long do the shifts last?
  • Work span occurrence – How many shifts do you have per day? When and how often do they occur?
  • Work sequence – Are these shifts consecutive or scattered throughout the week?

Workforce management systems can help us schedule an adequate number of people depending on the forecasted demand. Are we selling as much product on a Tuesday afternoon as we are on a Saturday afternoon? Do we need to hire more people before the holiday season?

When top sales performers don’t come into work, the workforce management system identifies the absence and may even help a manager find the best matched replacement worker. Sometimes we can be proactive about workforce management, other times we are stuck in reactive, damage-control mode, but timing will affect how we handle sales.

INFORMATION. To sell, we need to know actions, wants, and needs.

To sell something we not only need to know what it costs, but we also need to know whether a real need for the product exists, who will actually buy the product, and what actions will follow the sale. Managing our workforce is much the same. We can’t just manage people according to their base rate of pay; you need to know the total compensation package, the value of that compensation to them, and the exact tasks or metrics for which they receive compensation. Luckily, we can find all of this information in the workforce management system. Not every employee has the same cost or the same value.

  • Senior workers might get more pay for the same work
  • Graveyard shift workers might get the same pay for a much more undesirable work
  • Having three employees for every customer that walks into the store can seem overwhelming to the customer, losing them the sale

Pay is not the only thing that motivates employees, yet it’s often the only thing businesses look at—especially in sales. Consider all potential data points on the worker’s work habits.

VISIBILITY. If we can’t see the sales goal, then we aren’t going to reach it.

“We are a global, connected economy. We work on integrated platforms.” Those sound nice, but in reality, dispersion still persists. Many workplace environments are remote and compartmentalized, causing some things to slip into the shadows or avoid exposure. If our sales dashboards lacked transparency we could never know how close we were to the goal. Similarly, if we cannot see the workforce attendance, productivity, or cost (through reports, dashboards, etc.), then we cannot manage the workforce effectively.

Knowing our days of high volume or knowing the kind of experience our clients expect when they walk in the door helps us staff the right people. We want to know these types of things before the floor manager schedules a shift, before the employee clocks in for work, and certainly before payroll cuts the check. To make better decisions about staffing, decision-makers should have access to all relevant data and information. They should also have accountability structures in place to make sure that problems can be addressed as soon as they arise.

  • Real-time dashboards, easy-to-interpret reports, and highlighted notifications within workforce management systems improve visibility and allow us to be more proactive about managing compliance, cost, and productivity.

Sales of $100,000 are very different than sales of $10,000. For workforce management, 100 absences is a very different problem than 10 absences.

EXECUTION, ENGAGEMENT, EFFICIENCY. Selling doesn’t happen on its own.

We don’t expect salespeople to sell perfectly just because that’s their job title or that’s what we wanted them to do. We have to instruct them, motivate them, and provide them with constructive feedback. The same is true in both implementing optimized systems and staffing the right people for the job. The tools and people alone won’t achieve our goals.

  • Systems need to be carefully designed and configured according to a specific vision or objective
  • People need to be trained and managed to increase productivity output and reduce labor cost leakage
  • Sometimes we need an expert or guide to help us with both of these

In large enterprises with lots of complex rules, policies, or regulations, managers would struggle to handle it all on their own. That’s why we have workforce management systems and professionals that know how to design, install, and use them sustainably.

 

 

The A.C.T.I.V.E. Principles come from the Workforce Asset Management Book of Knowledge (John Wiley and Sons, 2013).