How Sales Representatives Cheat

How sales representatives cheat.

And should something be done about it?
Contact substitution with the “cab driver app” and the threat of mass firing during automation – the experience of GROTEM customers


What a sales rep has to do

The profession of “sales representative” includes everyone who promotes products and takes orders on the road. Three-quarters of sales representatives are men under the age of 29. Almost all have a Category B license.

We have not found recent statistics on how many sales representatives there are in Russia, but it is one of the most in-demand professions. HeadHunter searches for them 2.5 times more often than for designers.
Peter, a representative of a dairy plant, travels to 10-15 sales outlets a day. He checks stock and storage conditions everywhere, puts the goods on the shelf, and makes sure that his 50 centimetres in the fridge are not tampered with. And that there are price tags everywhere.

Peter monitors the competitors, asks the merchandiser how their sales are going, obtains other useful information and enters the answers into a questionnaire. If the dairy plant decides to hold a promotion, he hangs up posters and puts up a stand with ultra-pasteurized milk.

Peter signs contracts with new stores. The marketing department reports a 10% increase in sales in Peter’s territory every quarter.

This is the perfect sales representative. His antipode, Ivan, occasionally cheats – doesn’t go to the stores, doesn’t do everything he needs to do, but reports that he’s doing great. Why not cheat if the opportunity is there.

Paper and automated representatives cheat differently

While they talk about the digital economy on TV, many sales reps drive around with paper forms, sending reports in Excel after work. Deception of such sales representatives is associated with faking reports and childish excuses: “there was no connection”, “the camera broke”. In this case all hope lies with the supervisors, who are also tempted to stay at home rather than following Ivan’s trail all day.

Automated sales representatives work in applications that integrate with CRM and accounting systems. Many companies use minimal app features – in fact, a tablet or smartphone screen simply replaces paper. But if at least GPS monitoring is turned on, the supervisor can see representatives’ deviations from the route, even while sitting in the office. Accordingly, cheating usually involves spoofing coordinates.

Photo Archive Deception

To make sure that the sales representative was in the store, the supervisor asks him to take pictures of the shelves and send them to WhatsApp or Viber. Ivan sends photos that he took a week ago: look, supervisor, the shelves are full, the price tags are in place, advertising is hanging.

How to fight

Have executive supervisors with Sherlock Holmes tendencies. They’ll find the catch by the dates on milk bottles, the location of items in the store, and even the shadows.

  1. Set up an app for sales representatives where you can prevent them from uploading photos from the gallery. Only a recent photo can be sent.

The sales rep can’t upload photos from the gallery – the GROTEM/Agent app doesn’t offer it.
Deception of a couch potato: start the visit to the sales outlet from home
Ivan’s working day starts at 09:00 at the Lime store, but he wakes up at 12:00. Then Ivan sets the clock on his tablet with his work app back three hours, chooses Lime from the list, and clicks Start Visit. Then he composes answers for the electronic questionnaire – as if he’d been to the store.
How to fight

You can only start a visit at the point of sale. To do this, Ivan’s coordinator enters into his route the coordinates of Laima and other stores. The system compares those coordinates with Ivan’s geolocation – if the difference is more than 150-200 meters (GPS error), you can not start the visit. True, Ivan can fool the system by substituting his real coordinates.

The application requests the geolocation of the sales representative. If the coordinates coincide with the coordinates of the outlets in the visit plan, you can work
Teleportation cheating: geolocation spoofing
There are dozens of apps that swap real coordinates for fake ones. Ivan downloaded the free app Fake GPS Location from Google Play. He is sitting with his girlfriend in a cafe, but technically he has come to the store. The system sees that the coordinates of Ivan and the store match. And allows the visit to begin.

Applications like Fake GPS became especially popular in 2016 with cab drivers who work with aggregators. The cab driver changes his location to get as close to the client as possible and receive the order. Often the car “ends up” on an airport runway – closer to the planes from which the cab is ordered

Set up tracking. The application will transmit the coordinates of the sales representative to the office every one or two minutes. It will show that Ivan invented teleportation: he was at home and now he’s at Polushka, and then he’s at Lime.

Advanced cheaters download paid applications that build a fake route with intermediate geolocations, rather than simply “transporting” from home to the store. It’s a tricky case, you’ll have to count on a supervisor and analytics.
“The rep was getting a weird route, too flat. Well, there were questions about the reports. Called her on Skype when, according to geolocation, she was at work, in the pharmacy. Asked her to turn on the video. She said she couldn’t right now: the connection was bad. As a result, she showed up on Skype in 15 minutes, which is exactly how long it takes to get from her house to that drugstore. Coincidence?”


Pharmaceutical company distributor

The office sees the sales rep’s itinerary


Deceiving a very business representative: half an hour in five minutes
Ivan honestly drove to the store, started the visit on the app. He knows that his movements are seen in the office, so he left his work tablet in the back and drove himself to the store 500 meters away. Because Ivan has an unofficial part-time job at another company, also as a sales rep. When he returned, made up answers for the questionnaire and completed the visit.
How to fight

Analysis of questionnaires. If Ivan spends 30 minutes visiting the store, and Peter, Elena and Michael enough 15 minutes in an identical outlet, there is reason to ask: “Ivan, what’s wrong with you?” Usually a preventive conversation is enough.

The supervisor sees the sales representative’s answers in the automatic report

The obligatory questions and pictures in the questionnaire. If there are twenty or thirty of them, the questionnaires will take longer than five minutes. Ivan hesitates whether to cheat in such a situation: since you came – do it normally.

Mandatory questions are marked with a red bar on the left. After you answer, the bars turn gray.
The perfect way to deal with cheaters
Total surveillance and bans. Allow to use only the service phone for work. Install parental control, forbid to download any applications – use only what the company puts. Write a hundred mandatory questions for the questionnaire. The main thing is to do it all at once, in one moment.
Why you shouldn’t do it that way.
Several years ago we sold five licenses of GROTEM / Agent application to a small producer. The company decided to turn it on full power at once and received an ultimatum from the sales representatives: either us or this automation. Two weeks later two sales representatives were left. We had to back out.

It is better to connect everything gradually and act softly. As our client is a distributor of a pharmaceutical company with 50 representatives in 28 cities:

  • Once a week we steadily catch someone cheating. How do we catch them? We record irregularities in the system. You can see that someone has lunch for three hours, someone went to the beauty salon during working hours.

Sometimes it is enough to talk to the violators, sometimes we deprive them of their bonuses. Only once was fired – an active user of Fake GPS. When a person is caught, then works honestly for quite a long time.


Probably it is easy to consider deception a natural cost of the profession of sales representative when you sell drugs. It’s harder when you sell milk that goes sour in three hours on the sales floor. But with any automation, you have to understand that you are working with people, not cyborgs.