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Why tracking your Field Sales Reps with GPS is counter productive?

Tracking field sales rep location is overwhelmingly seen as an invasion to their privacy and autonomy

According to a research conducted by EY, one of top 20 pharma giants in India introduced Tablets (iPads or similar) with GPS tracking for their field force as part of their Digital Transformation initiative. They hoped that this transformation would infuse new energy and vigor in their field force and drive significant results in their sales outcomes. To everyone’s surprise, the results were quite the opposite. When the company investigated the reason behind the debacle, they found that GPS tracking bothered the field staff considerably that most of them did not even carry the tablets to work. If companies mandate the use of such tools, reps tend to use it by force and not by choice. The key in driving digital strategy is making the end level users fully convinced and onboard to the idea and the organizational vision towards digital. When we interviewed field sales reps on their app usage, it comes to light that most of them are using the system only to report calls and not making use of vast majority of features that were intended for augmenting Sales Force Effectiveness. The main reason for such a lack of adoption is their hesitation to even open the app as it arbitrarily tracks their location. Tracking field sales rep location is overwhelmingly seen as an invasion to their privacy and autonomy. On the other hand, skilled field workers are beginning to leaving organizations that entertain such practices and spread the word among the community that even prevents potential hires from joining such companies. Such is the apprehension! Nobody likes to be tracked! Even you!!

Why User Adoption matters?

User adoption is the last mile in Digital Transformation and the most important link in the chain. If users are not leveraging the systems the way they should be, the whole digital strategy behind it will fall on its face and it could cost the organization dearly.

A comprehensive user adoption drives the following incredible benefits.

  1. Data Accuracy

    Digital strategy thrives on data and analytics. When users are engaged in the system, they are more likely to bring valuable customer and micro market data that can fuel smart organizational decisions. For example, think about an enthused Sales Rep documenting doctor feedback from visit, prescribing pattern and competitor intelligence from chemist survey. These vital information can be utilized for more targeted and personalized campaign for the customer.

  2. Strategy Implementation

    Strategists and Product Managers can devise brilliant strategies and ideas for the market. If the execution team is not taking it to the last mile, the whole point of the strategy becomes moot. Think about a multi channel product campaign which the company wants to drive through rep visits as well as news letters via emails. In order to make the campaign meaningful and relevant, the messaging must be consistent across channels. Without user adoption, the rep will not be able to maintain the consistency of messaging, leading to loss of relevance with the customer.

  3. Content Delivery

    One of the main objectives of “Digital” is driving customer centricity and personalization. However, the content is delivered mostly through field force via Digital Detailing which enables companies to serve dynamic content personalized for the customer. When field force does not bring to bear the corporate messaging, sales effectiveness is hampered.

  4. Learning Management

    Effectively engaging users through digital platform speeds up the process of real-time learning management and equipping the field force with knowledge and skills needed to stay relevant in the market.

  5. Collaboration

    Think about the enormous possibilities of having the sales and marketing team collaborating on a unified platform to drive creative ideas, customer insights, expert advices to say a few.

How can I enable User Adoption?

Trust is the foremost aspect in bringing organizational change and inculcating “Digital” culture across the field force. The more sales reps feel comfortable and less apprehensive of being micro managed, the more they are likely to engage digitally. It is important for top management to establish the trust element across the board to create a conducive, open minded work environment. One might ask how then can I address integrity issues? Sure, it must be addressed but by other means like smart governance, business processes and more importantly establishing a culture of trust and accountability. What prevents a tech savvy rep from faking GPS coordinates in the device using a simple GPS hacking app? There are plenty of such hacking tools freely available in the market.

Sell the idea to field force on the benefits of going Digital and how a Digital CRM can be a virtual sales assistant working for them to improve their relationship with their customers.

Don’t expect instant results from the field force. Digital transformation is more a journey than a turn key phenomenon. Some companies have failed in this area by expecting instantaneous results after rolling out digital strategy.

Incentivize the field force to encourage more active participation through means like gamification, leaderboards etc.

Finally, there are far more benefits to avail and foster a trust based relationship than giving a “Big Brother” experience to the sales team. Technology is a two edged sword and the outcomes will be determined by which edge we choose.


  • A.k.karthigeyan

    June 8, 2019


  • Jayakumar

    June 10, 2019

    Good article


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