It’s obvious that the more prospects and customers sales reps are meeting with, the more deals will be closed. But, what is the best way to make that happen within a given area? This is where optimized multi-stop route planning comes in.
Most anyone involved in outside sales would agree: manually planning out which stops to make and when is one of the most tedious and stressful parts of the job. This is because when it comes to determining the best route for multiple stops, it is more than just plugging addresses into Google Maps.
From traffic restrictions to unexpected client emergencies or cancellations to keeping track of crucial data, there are so many variables to sales route mapping and so much to risk if it’s not done efficiently.
In this article, we’ll break down what effective multi-stop route planning is and how it can benefit your company, as well as some of the top options in route planner apps.
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What Is Multi-Stop Route Planning?
Multi-stop route planning is the process of determining the best and most productive course/route for a sales rep to visit multiple customer locations. This means planning a route that has a logical order to the stops to maximize the opportunities to make sales. There are a variety of parameters that go into planning these routes effectively.
Three of these are:
- Location: Taking into account a specified geographical area or territory and focusing the route within that area. Keep in mind, the larger the area, the fewer stops a rep can realistically make in one day.
- Priority of customers/prospects: The most effective route will focus on prioritizing the customers or prospects who will provide the most return.
- Efficiency: The route ultimately needs to minimize driving time and maximize the amount of time a sales rep can spend with a customer.
When these things are factored in, your multi-stop route planning will result in routes that have a reasonable travel time, realistic proximity of target destinations, and a maximized return on investment.
The biggest thing to remember is that for an effective and efficient route, it is about quality, not quantity.
You can elevate your multi-stop route planning efforts by utilizing a route planning app, like the ones we’ve covered below. These apps help you automate your route planning efforts and create optimized and effective routes in much less time.
Benefits of Strategically Planning Routes With Multiple Stops
It can feel daunting to try and figure out the best route to include multiple stops. Especially for a team full of sales reps. But, strategically planning and mapping multiple stops for a sales route will result in significant benefits for your company. A few of these benefits include:
One of the most obvious benefits comes from the optimized efficiency. By selecting the best and most efficient routes between customers, the number of visits that each sales rep can make in a day will be increased, effectively boosting customer facetime. This will not only help skyrocket sales productivity but, in turn, the quality of the customer interactions and your team’s overall sales effectiveness.
Through the use of digital analysis, your route plans will become more and more efficient and productive as you track and identify which customers are most likely to buy your product.
Improved Customer Satisfaction & Retention
When reps aren’t feeling rushed to get to their next appointment and can spend the time that is really needed, your customers and prospects can tell. They’ll get quality time with the right specialists that can meet their needs. This will not only increase the number of sales but even more importantly, customer satisfaction.
Plus, the real magic happens when you incorporate the data from your travels into CRMs, like Salesforce, ZOHO, and Microsoft Dynamics. If you combine customer lifecycle data with your route plan, you will be able to further improve your relationship with your existing customers and thereby improve your customer retention.
Improved Profit Margin
One of the biggest cumulative benefits of optimizing your multi-stop route planning efforts is an improved profit margin. This is because more sales will be made and it will cost less to do it.
When sales reps are driving the most efficient routes, this means less driving time (aka “windshield time”) which means reduced fuel costs, maintenance, etc. Also, as mentioned above, with more quality meetings with customers and prospects the number and size of sales will be increasing. So, as certain costs are going down, revenue will be increasing.
Tips for Planning Routes With Multiple Stops
As you can see, the key here is to drive smart, not hard. Focusing on the quality of the journey rather than the quantity of destinations can produce some huge benefits. There are a few valuable tips to follow that can help make sure that happens:
Tip #1: Cluster Destinations to Decrease Windshield Time
Clustering is one of the most effective ways to decrease windshield time for sales reps and delivery drivers. It wouldn’t make sense for a sales rep to go back and forth from one end of a city to the other multiple times. So, it’s important to make sure sales routes are being clustered in reasonable zones on a map. Define each route by roughly a day’s worth of work, give or take, and then you have an easy way to divide and conquer territories.
If routes are made up of a batch of closely clustered locations, you will see immediate improvements in several areas. Less driving will mean less gas, more facetime with customers, and happier sales reps.
"Every minute you spend thinking about your route or driving it is a minute you’re not engaged in an income-generating activity."
The easiest and most effective way to cluster addresses for routing is to utilize an advanced route mapping app. An app like this can enable you to segment locations more easily and help you find optimized routes while still using a favorite navigation software, such as Waze, to direct representatives across town.
Tip #2: Organize Stops Based on Priority
Considering priority destinations is key to optimizing your route planning efforts. Having a list of zones or territories is one thing — but what if you have customers that need urgent attention? Or a list of “high profile” leads that just can’t wait?
Ideally, you want to flag certain customers or prospects that just can’t wait. If you place these jobs at the top of the priority list and use them as the point of origin for your sales reps, you can quickly optimize sales routes to both be efficient and deal with priorities first.
"Start with your major accounts. Identify which other accounts are in close proximity to your major accounts."
Urgent and high-priority jobs sometimes need a specialist, and for that reason, these sales targets need to be blocked off and given to a specific representative. This way, you’re managing your sales consciously and not letting important jobs get lost in the shuffle.
Many of the top route planner apps will make it easy to group and prioritize customer accounts and prospects. Thus, allowing you to assign priorities to the best people to handle them all while creating the most efficient routes to get it done.
Tip #3: Collect Data for More Accurate Customer Insights
Sales reps should be treating every stop along their sales route as an opportunity to learn something more — and taking detailed notes along the way. This can somewhat be done manually. Every time a sale goes through, you save that address in a spreadsheet. After you have all of your addresses for a set period , then pinpoint those successes or failures visually on the map.
You will quickly see which zones and territories are performing well and which ones are not. After that, you can make inferences about why your plan is or is not working. Is it better to sell in a particular zone during a particular time of day? Or a particular day of the week?
Being able to answer all of these questions means finding your niche customers and then figuring out ways to engage them directly. Tracking your successes and failures is therefore an essential element of any proper sales plan. Keeping track of slowdowns and difficulties will help you optimize your routes and boost face time with customers that are ready to buy your product. Keeping track of these successes will let you know where your product works best.
"Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves."
There are apps available that help you take data collection even one step further much faster than doing it manually. You can not only create an optimized sales route but also utilize sales automation activities like check-ins and note-taking that will sync seamlessly with your CRM software. Allowing you and your team to capture, manage, and organize all of the most valuable customer data like never before and in half the time.
Tip #4: Be Proactively Flexible
One thing that is certain, there are going to be times where customers or prospects are going to cancel their appointments last minute or an emergency comes up. It’s important to have a backup plan to fill that spot and be able to adjust your itinerary easily so that the time doesn’t go wasted.
One way to do this is by being able to quickly and easily pull up where nearby customers or prospects are, while you are on the go. This is another instance where a powerful routing and mapping app will come in handy for you and your reps.
Best Options for a Multi-Stop Route Planning App
In today’s evolving business environment, a route planner app is an invaluable tool when it comes to multi-stop route planning. These apps will help you follow the tips that we’ve covered above, optimizing not only the process of mapping multiple stops in a route but the routes themselves that are created.
There are a variety of tools available that will build the most efficient route to cover all of the necessary stops, while being easy to implement and including other valuable features as well. The important thing is pinpointing the app that will meet the unique needs of your team and company. Not sure where to start? We’ve done the digging for you and have broken down by use case a few of the top options available:
Map My Customers
Best for sales teams who need a mobile-friendly all-in-one solution with optimized routing and more
Work-from-anywhere sales teams need multi-purpose automation tools that can work on the go as well. So, if you are looking for a robust mobile-friendly routing and mapping app that will help achieve all of the tips we covered earlier, Map My Customers is your answer.
This mobile-first, all-in-one software maximizes your routing efforts, as well as your team’s overall efficiency and productivity, all through a more intuitive workflow, whether you’re on your desktop or your mobile device. This app, purpose-built for outside sales reps, simplifies routing as well as day-to-day activities, making it easy for your reps to capitalize on more opportunities and equipping you to make data-backed decisions.
With Map My Customers, you can create, store, and share optimized routes and call lists based on location, priority, deal size, and more. Within the routing interface itself, reps can easily view both the mapped route and their step-by-step itinerary simultaneously. They can also quickly and easily log activities, check-ins, and notes directly from their routes, simplifying data entry across your teams.
Map My Customers can stand on its own as your primary sales CRM or can integrate with many of the top CRMs. By optimizing your multi-stop route planning and sales activities, Map My Customers enables you and your team to get the most out of their time and supercharge productivity.
Best for logistics intense businesses looking strictly for optimized routing
Route4Me’s number one focus is creating an optimized routing solution for logistics intense businesses. So, Route4Me, a cloud-based fleet management solution, is a great choice if you need a way to quickly plan the most efficient routes for your delivery drivers, home service technicians, etc.
The app’s platform allows you to manually input or upload customer addresses and plan a route (or multiple routes) in seconds. Routes can be planned to fit daily, weekly, monthly, or even seasonal schedules. They can also be a round trip, round trip based on set time constraints, or designed to end at any location.
Route4Me also includes a “command center,” where you can see an overview of your entire company. From here you can also manually move customers to a different driver’s route and track driver progress on routes in real-time.
Best for companies needing a fleet management solution for a large fleet of drivers
If your business depends on your fleet of delivery drivers getting goods to different locations, route optimization is a game-changer. In this situation, OnFleet is a solid choice to meet your routing needs.
OnFleet is a cloud-based end-to-end delivery management solution that will help route, assign, and track your company’s local deliveries, communicate with both your drivers and customers, and rapidly scale your delivery operations. It is built to handle the complicated logistics involved with overseeing fleet operations and does so with a clean, intuitive, and professional user interface.
Among its features is the integrated route optimization engine that can factor in real-time traffic incidents when generating routes. If last-minute route changes need to be made, updates can be sent to drivers instantly, no matter where they’re at. The auto-dispatch features ensure the right drivers get the route they need at the right time, helping to decrease both service time and labor costs.
WorkWave Route Manager
Best for field service businesses looking for a route planning solution
WorkWave Route Manager, a cloud-based route planning solution, was built to fit the routing needs of field service providers (though it can be a fit for delivery drivers as well). This app allows you to easily build routes, track drivers, and stay connected.
The routing platform enables you to build optimal routes as well as utilize features like driver territories, drag-and-drop, and best-fit for assigning last minute orders. You can also plan routes around time-windows and customer requests, confirm driver ETAs, adjust routes/schedules as needed, and more.
Route Manager keeps the lines of communication open across your team and leadership. Drivers can sync updates back to the office via the mobile app. They can also receive routes, check in and out of stops, capture proof of delivery, and mark destinations as rescheduled if needed. From a management perspective, when GPS tracking is activated you can track drivers in real-time and maintain full visibility.
Best for individual sales reps who want a simple and free route planning app
If you are looking for a simple, easy to use, and free mapping tool, look to the original commercial web mapping service, MapQuest. Famous for its simplicity, MapQuest enables you to create routes between destinations as well as locate destinations such as gas stations, restaurants, and hotels.
The app allows you to upload your destination addresses (with copy/paste or spreadsheet upload) and utilize a free route optimization option to re-order stops in the most efficient and optimal sequence. When creating a route, you do have the option to set it as a round trip, which is good for delivery or service businesses that have a central location or warehouse that your driver needs to return to. The route can then be easily shared with your driver via an SMS link. The program also offers real-time traffic updates and voice-guided navigation.
With MapQuest, compared to other route planning apps, some limitations will mean it won’t be a good fit for some companies. It can only be used for a single driver and is limited to 26 locations.
Step Up Your Team’s Routing With A Multi-Stop Route Planner App
As you can see, a multi-stop route planner app will be extremely beneficial in improving your sales team’s efficiency, sales productivity, and more. From increased fuel efficiency to fully optimized sales routes to proper customer targeting, the advantages of an effective route planning app can help your business thrive in competitive sales environments. Thus helping to continually improve your company’s bottom line and scale sales efforts.
Exactly which route planning app is right for your company will depend on your use case, as well the needs you are trying to meet and the unique characteristics of your team. Try out a couple of these apps today and start optimizing your routing efforts!