Guest post by ASRAR AHMAD QURESHI
The job of sales manager calls for special talents in managing large numbers of people spread over a wide geographic area and working with little or no day-to-day supervision. More than in most managerial jobs, the sales manager must be a leader, motivator, and expert communicator. Managers of inside functions, such as production, accounting, and advertising, can supervise their people directly on a person-to-person basis. Sales managers, on the other hand, must communicate by phone and in writing, with only occasional face-to-face contact.
Salespeople work alone and often must be away from home during the week. They can be discouraged by the inevitable rejection they receive from some customers and prospects. Successful sales managers have to find out the right people, train them properly, and build and maintain their enthusiasm for carrying out plans and achieving objectives week after week. They use more incentives and morale-building devices than other managers.
The personal qualifications and skills needed for sales management are not the same as those needed for selling. While a sales manager should have had sales experience, the star salesperson is no more the ideal candidate for manager than is the star athlete for coach. This is why many major companies look for managerial potential in their college recruiting programs. College graduates are hired for selling jobs with the expectation that many will demonstrate the qualities needed for sales management. In Pakistan mostly companies prefer experienced sales persons from immediate competitors.
Sales is a common starting point for those who make it to the top marketing executive jo b and often to top corporate management.
PLANNING THE SALES FUNCTION:
The general sales manager assists the marketing manager to develop marketing strategies and has the key role in developing tactical sales plans to help implement those strategies. A key planning function is defining the sales job. This is not always done regularly or thoughtfully, yet it is the foundation on which most other sales management decisions are( or should be) based, such as types of sales people needed, sources for recruits, selection procedures, training, sales territory lay out, compensation, and organization.
Defining the Sales Job
Defining the sales job is the process of deciding what personal selling functions are to be performed within the context of the overall promotional mix. Selling functions will vary because of the types of products sold, distribution channels used, the company’s position in the market, and the role that advertising plays in the sales. Once required selling functions have been determined, the decision is made where to assign them. All may be performed by each sales representative; or they may be divided among two or more sales representative; or they may be split between sales representatives and sales supervisors. Position descriptions are then written to describe each salesperson’s and each sales supervisor’s functions, responsibilities, and places in the organization.
The sales job should be reviewed each time there is a significant change in marketing strategy or changes in the product line, markets, competition, or economics conditions. If sales management does not redefine the sales job when changed conditions require it, salespeople will do it for themselves. In consulting assignments, it is not unusual to find a marked difference between what sales managers think their salespeople do and they what actually do. The result is that organization, recruiting, and training practices get out of line with the realities of the market place and the needs of the sales force.
Selling Functions. The following activities are common to many selling jobs:
- Locating customers, potential customers, and buying influences and determining their needs and preferences
- Classifying accounts by potential volume
- Planning frequency of call by class of account
- Determining routing of calls on accounts
- Obtaining interviews with buyers and buying influences
- Presenting the sales proposition
- Writing orders or contracts, or making arrangements for orders to be submitted to the company
- Arranging for credit and payment terms (may include collections)
- Arranging for delivery and service
- Handling complaints
- Reporting activities, performance, and market conditions to higher levels of supervision
- Receiving and digesting information from supervisors and head office
- Participating in other activities such as trade shows, conventions, meetings, and training courses
“Accounts” in the above list refers to wholesalers and retailers where intermediaries are used, or to end users if sales are direct. Activities will vary according to the products sold and markets served, and some sales jobs will call for specialized activities not shown in the list. Different applications can be seen in several types of selling.
Direct Selling. When industrial products are sold direct to other companies and shipment is made direct from the supplier’s factory or warehouse to the customer’s premises, the salesperson must perform all key selling functions.
Customers and potential customers must be located, classified, and called on with the necessary frequency. Buyers and buying influences in each account must be identified, their needs and interests determined, and selling propositions made to them. The first sales step in an industrial sale frequently is to get the prospect to test the product and to approve the salesperson’s company as a source of supply. Orders may be placed by the purchasing department, but the actual decision to buy may be made by research, engineering, or manufacturing departments or by higher management levels.
The selling proposition includes not only the quality, performance, utility, and price of the product, but also credit, delivery, and service. These latter considerations may be if greater importance to the customer than the product itself when competitive products are similar in design, quality, and price. Orders may be written by the salesperson or placed directly with the factory by the customer. This sales job may include handling complaints, following up on delayed shipments, and arranging for changes in specifications to meet customers’ need.
Selling Through Intermediate Channels. Whereas selling direct to the using customer requires the sales person to perform nearly all sales functions personally, selling through intermediate channels of distribution, such as wholesalers and retailers, transfers some of the selling functions to the Intermediaries.
Selling through wholesalers or retailers involves two main tasks. The first is to secure market coverage by obtaining the desired quality and quantity of wholesalers and/or retailers. The second is to assist the channel intermediaries in making sales to the ultimate consumers or users. Both tasks may or may not be performed by the same salesperson. In selling packaged foods, for example, sales to chain store head quarters may be made by one salesperson while in-store merchandising is performed by someone else.
Selling to an intermediate channel of distribution is only half the battle. In the final analysis, the size of the company’s sales is determined by the amount of product purchased by end users. The sales manager should plan the sales job to ensure that the product moves through, as well as to, intermediate channels of distribution.
Missionary Selling. This type of personal selling includes only some tasks from the list above. Its purpose is to influence the ultimate sale rather than to make the sales itself. Prescription drugs, for example, can be sold only on a doctor’s orders. Drug companies, therefore, utilize missionary sales representatives to call on doctors to explain the company’s products, distribute samples and literature, and encourage them to prescribe their products.
The food sales representative who carries out promotional work in the retail food store is form of missionary salesperson. Although missionary sales representatives do not as a rule write orders, they exert a definite influence on the placement of orders.
Manufacturer’s Agents. Rather than sell through its own sales force, company may use manufacturer’s representative or agents. The manufacturer’s agent usually carries product line for more than one company. There are arguments pro and con for the use of company people as opposed to agents.
Mr. Asrar Ahmad Qureshi is a freelance writer. He ha over 30 years of work experience in the area of sales and marketing in leading FMCG and retails organisations in Pakistan.