Friday, December 7, 2007

Managing the sales force

Today the mangers are having competitive sales persons and excellent communication systems enabling them to react much faster to formulate strategies and implement tactics in the prevailing competitive markets. We are outlining below various forces a manger has to confront with in contributing for the survival and growth of his organization.

Changing Demographics of the Sales Personnel

The new salespeople joining the firms are young, more educated, ambitious, and have grown up in urban areas. More and more women are joining the sales team of different companies. The younger sales group implies a value system different from their older counterparts in the team. The latter emphasized loyalty to the company and believed in developing a friendship with their customer groups. The young sales people believe in loyalty to the profession and career. The company comes right at the bottom-end of the loyalty structure. These people believe in making customers their business partners. They want to go up the organizational and social ladder fast and hence feel uncomfortable with the parental kind of sales leadership.

More Opportunities to Salespeople-thanks to Competition

Economy has opened up, barriers are reduced and now there is an increase in the inter-firm rivalry. More and more firms are going to enter the market or expand their operations. This obviously implies more jobs in sales because every firm will need to have a salesperson. This fact is exemplified by an increase in the number of advertisements for sales jobs appearing in leading newspapers and business magazines. Hence, there is a competition even in the job market. This is different from earlier decades. This trend is accelerating and therefore two things will become important in attracting and retaining high performing sales personnel. These are: firstly, salary, commissions, perks and the career growth that a firm offers and secondly, whether the firm offers a job or a career?

The Challenge of Technology

Developments in technology have affected the sales operations in as much as they have affected the manufacturing and corporate functions. Computers, fax, VSAT, internet and direct dialing all over the world are some of the major developments that help sales managers speed up their response to the market. Today, a sales manager can get to know sales in different territories, collection and outstanding of each customer and the extent of competition that exists, all on his computer which may be linked to different regions in the country. The territory managers are also getting the same information through the computer network as well as from their sales personnel. Hence, the time required to respond to market forces is now getting shorter. Sales managers will have to learn to respond faster so that their firms do not lose the competitive advantage.

Better Trained Competitor Sales Team

As competition intensifies, a firm will be faced with a threat from competitors sales force will be better trained. This is true for all transnational firms who are vying to enter the expanding Indian market. These firms invest significant resources, financial and non financial, in training and developing their sales people. This is in contrast to most of the Indian firms who believe that sales people are “born? and they need to spend their time only in selling and collecting payments. Training is the last priority for the Indian firms. It is a well- known fact that a well trained and motivated army always win the war. This is true for marketing too, which is a war for the customer’s mind. Sales managers who do not invest sufficient resources in developing their sales team may find that they have lost their competitive edge.

The need for training will also arise because customers are changing. They are demanding more reasons why they buy firm A’s product and not its competitors. The sales management information system will undergo a change to reflect market realities and also the impact of technology.

Managers have to identify the above factors and decide upon the training and other needs so as to work with a force that can perform. Accordingly he must also organize the necessary inputs like training, communication systems, network etc., to achieve the task.

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