iStock_000053217770_MediumSurvey. Audit. Store check. Call it what you want, this is the busy season for that “special activity” we all know and love. The truth is that most survey projects are poorly executed and expend a lot of time, energy and political capital to accomplish very little. We believe there is a better way of surveying that actually drives increased sales. Here is how.

There are 2 types of survey questions; the “information gathering” type, and the “sales execution” type. Information gathering surveys (like those for capturing pricing in the market) may be important for driving greater understanding of your products’ position within it’s competitive set, it’s the sales execution type of survey activity where the real and immediate sales value and impact lies. Yes, surveying can be a sales driving activity!

What type of surveys are you doing? Are you gathering information or are you driving sales? Here are some tips/best practices for doing the latter most effectively.

First, let’s define a worthwhile sales execution survey and describe how a survey can drive sales. Since executing against key sales driving activities (such as menus, displays and cold boxes) is a leading indicator of actual sales volume, these activities should be the focus of every sales plan. The survey should focus the sales team on those initiatives. A worthwhile/effective survey is one that focuses field sales teams on the most important actions to be executed within each account – ENSURING THEY EXECUTE IT – before the survey even happens. Don’t just tell reps you are going to survey their accounts without telling them exactly what you want to see in the accounts when you do perform the survey. Having the survey available in a mobile device like an iPad or smart phone is critical so they can see what’s expected and report on it easily while in the store.

Another critical component of the survey project is the ability to link the data back to retail account depletions/sales to retail. Wouldn’t it be great to see the sales in every account that reported having a display to ensure they bought in for the program and analyze how much volume the display is driving? To do this, you need a powerful system that manages all these activities as well as the account information and depletion data to connect the dots.  In addition, the system must have analytics included so that reporting isn’t a massive undertaking. The survey data must be visible to reps and management alike and be able to be shared with distributor and agency partners to collaborate on the selling effort. Make it a competition with dashboards visible to everyone showing a leaderboard of average survey scores by person or market! The good news is that this system exists in GreatVines. Make sure you are using a tool to help execute surveys to this level and not wasting hundreds of man hours trying to administer a survey done in Excel or Survey Monkey!

Here are some Sales Driving Survey Best Practices:

  1. Plan months in advance, not weeks.
  2. Define exactly which accounts to survey and only survey key accounts.
  3. No pet accounts –  if it’s not an important account in the market, then don’t waste your time executing there or visiting the account. No milk runs!
  4. Develop surveys by account segment.  Define exactly what you want to see.
  5. Define your perfect account.
  6. Keep it short and sweet – don’t ask questions about stuff you don’t care about, like tracking distribution of every single size in every account.
  7. Organize questions by areas in the account (shelf, cold box, backbar, menu, etc).
  8. Specify target answers for each question.
  9. Assign points to each question to help prioritize and weigh each initiative and enable survey SCORING.
  10. Mobile app to collect the data – no paper.
  11. Must be accessible offline if internet isn’t available.
  12. Turn “off target” answers into objectives for followup.
  13. Send an ACTIONABLE recap of each survey with notes directly to sales reps immediately after the visit.
  14. Analytics, reports and dashboards baked in to share rollups of results and details by account to management.
  15. Re-survey and compare results vs prior visit.
  16. Reward high scores.
  17. Reward reps for achieving follow=up objectives that close the gaps.

How you write the questions is important!  Here are some good survey question examples:

Q1 Good: Is there a Display of 5 cases or more of Brand X in the front of the store?
Q1 Bad: What brands are on display?

Q2 Good: Is Brand Y in the Cold Box?
Q2 Bad: Is Brand Y in a secondary location in the store?

Q3 Good: Is Brand Z on the shelf to the right of Brand Q?
Q3 Bad: Where is Brand Z on the shelf?

Q4 Good: Is Brand A between $14.99 and $15.99?
Q4 Bad: Whats the price of Brand A?

There is a big difference between a good survey and bad one.  A bad survey is one where you just capture data then leave the account. The analysis is done by management well after the fact, and nearly all opportunities for improvement fall through the cracks. Congratulations, you found out your execution was poor. Now what? You need a tool to help capture the failed execution points and a way to create, track and report on follow up objectives to close the gaps.

With a good survey, everyone knows ahead of time what the store should look like, and walks away after the survey with a clear understanding of how the store looked compared to expectations. Most importantly, each execution issue/off target survey answer is captured and called out in a follow-up objective designed to improve the situation.  To do this properly and at scale, requires a tool like GreatVines to facilitate this entire process.  GreatVines enables precision execution at scale.  Transform how you do surveys and start driving sales today!

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