NEWS > Field Force: A sales and merchandising storm to be reckoned with

Field Force: A sales and merchandising storm to be reckoned with

In a Post Covid-19 landscape accompanied with contracted consumer spending, the need for face-to-face sales and merchandising remains imperative for brands, if not more important than before. Ultimately, brands need feet on the ground to get the right product in reach of as many potential buyers within each market and channel – formal and informal – efficiently and profitably.

The informal and formal nature of South Africa’s retail channels often comes with complexities in managing logistics and retail relationships within the route-to-market. Each market and each product category are different, with no one fits all strategy. This has giving rise for higher demand for customised, fit for purpose route-to-market channel architecture strategy, implementation and compliance reporting, to not only drive efficiencies, but deliver scale and agility across the value chain.

The “not-so-new” kid on the block

Enter Field Force, a Provantage company, boasting a 4 500 large field structure team including trade development representatives, independent sales agents, promoters and surveyors. Its mission is to connect brands with shop owners across a wide scope of channels through end-to-end field sales services, covering both formal and informal territories in South African and broader Africa.

In two short years, Field Force has steadily grown from a start up to an established business, adding top-tier blue chip clients to its roster, while creating jobs on the ground. ‘The company has done exceptionally well, and our performance have exceeded our own expectations,’ says Carmen Brown, General Manager for Field Force. ‘The business has seen year on year double digit growth and the team is continuously reaching new heights.’

Carmen Brown, an experienced general manager with an extensive pedigree in the R18-billion field sales and merchandising sector, believes that putting people first is key to their success. ‘Our teams are passionate and committed to delivering every call. They make it happen,’ she says. ‘From the leadership, all the way down to execution, everyone has the same sense of urgency – that’s why we’re able to deliver great output for clients.’

Shifting gears in unprecedented times

But launching the business was not plain sailing. Its entry into the market was shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in South Africa. This meant the business had to one, develop and capitalise on innovative ways to execute on its operational rollout and two, strategically build more efficient ways of working to future proof the business. Through an agile operating model and focus on slicker execution, they have been able to implement on channel strategies that directly translate into profitable growth opportunities and cost saving for clients.

‘In a way, the pandemic has given us a competitive edge as our need to pivot worked in our favour, not only building a sustainable business model, but also proving our agility and ability to come up with effective solutions in the face of real challenges, whilst keeping our overheads in check,’ Brown adds.

Upping the game

Clients also expect solid return on investment, meaning accurate data capturing and reporting integrity are core competences of the business. Brown says Field Force guarantees data integrity with a 96% validated query return and compliance tracking, above the industry standard. ‘We’re very robust in terms of our measurements and making sure that we’re not compromising on the quality of output,’ she says.

Through a powerful technological backbone and business intelligence reporting mechanisms, they detail stock levels, sales, strike rates and targets – along with providing a granular visual representation of brand performance at trade level. This allows for continuous monitoring and in-the-moment optimisation of performance across channel, brands, areas and individual representatives.

The combination of measurement and agility also affords the application of test-and-learn approaches. ‘Many of our clients have found great value in using our methodology for new product launches as they can quickly introduce concepts into the market, while measuring uptake and potential demand to inform real-time decision making,’ states Brown.

Getting the right product to each market efficiently and profitably is ultimately how the team create value to their clients. As a challenger in the sector, their competitive advantage extends to the wealth of trained field representatives nationally represented across informal markets, ranging from Matatile to Kwanobuhle and everywhere in-between. The extensive workforce has a target of 96% strike rate.

‘We are about delivering and have proven we can do this, even in challenging times and the inherent toughness of the environments in which we operate,’ asserts Brown. ‘Every single executed call counts – regardless of how bad the roads, the weather or other factors that complicate travel.’

Field Force has another very powerful proposition: it also has access to Provantage’s experiential division, ProActive, South Africa’s largest brand activation agency. Boosting Field Force’s efforts, it offers creative experiences infused with deep insights into the target audience.

It’s a winning combination, one that is making strides into the field sales and merchandising sector. From sell-in to sell-through, lead generation, direct sales, merchandising, surveys and training requirements, with Field Force your brand will be in good hands.