Managing the Industrial Sales Force

Sales force management is one of the important task for industrial marketing managers where they take great care in selecting the right personnel who can help them to increase their sales. They also give their sales team proper product training, supervise their performance, frequently motivate them by offering compensations, and at the same time control the expenses incurred.

There are various steps that are involved in the industrial sales force management.

1. Selection of Sales Personnel

Personal selling starts with selecting the salesperson who acts as the representative of an organization. They help to create an image and reputation of the company apart from increasing the sales by offering various products and services to the industrial buyers. In addition to giving the details on product features to their prospective buyers, they offer other services like technical assistance, recommendations, ideas, and sharing their experience. They also posses the skills that are required to negotiate with professional buyers, handle huge sales volumes, understand the customer’s needs and solve their technical problems.

At times, the salespeople represent the buyers wherein after understanding their needs, they pass on their requirements to Research & Development department or the production personnel who are suggested to manufacture the products as per customer’s needs.

All these call for careful and proper selection of sales person. The selection process is based on the personal profiles of the candidates, the sources available to get the right candidates and the use of various selection aids.

Personal Profile: There are certain characteristic features that an ideal candidate for the selection of industrial sales force should possess. Most of the industrial organizations look for these common characteristics because of the nature of their business and the kind of selling that is involved. The prospective salesperson should be a self-starter, well disciplined, good presenter, innovative, sound knowledge in product technicalities, persistent, adaptable to situations, friendly and considerate, honest, well qualified, etc. All these qualities give them a priority and preference to get short listed for the next process of selection.

Sources of Candidates: To get good candidates with required qualities, the industrial marketers depend on various sources. Some of the sources include:

  • Publications – business newspapers, trade magazines etc.
  • Institutions – engineering/management colleges or campus placements.
  • References – existing sales force, customers, suppliers, other departments/employees of the organization.
  • Placement agencies – head hunters, job portals, recruitment consultants etc.

Sometimes, candidates imply walk-in if the company is a reputed one just to try their luck or to just keep their database with the HR department of the company.

Selection Aids: When a candidate has to be short listed, there are various aids used by the industrial organizations that help them to select the best personnel. Some of the aids they rely on are:

  • Candidate’s formal application i.e. resume/bio-data that gives their qualification/experience and other details
  • Tests – that tests the candidate’s technical/sales knowledge
  • References – that provide confidential report/performance/aptitude report about the candidate. This also helps to check the credentials of the candidate
  • Interview – where candidate’s personality is judged and an appraisal created based on the impression created by him

2. Training

The main objective on any organization is to improve the sales, increase the service levels and build the image of the company and its products. Training plays a crucial role in this aspect for many of the industrial organizations. It helps them to do effective sales by spending considerable time and money training their salespersons frequently. It is very essential in this competitive world that sales people must be effective in discharging their duties by learning new ongoing techniques.

Any good sales training program content will have:

  • Product information – where sales people are given complete details of the product line and their features so that they can easily explain and address to customer’s queries.
  • Market information – where sales people are provided with complete information of customers and competitors, their needs, behaviors, strengths, weaknesses, strategies etc.
  • Company’s information – where sales people are informed about the company’s history, objectives, organizational structure, key persons, complete details of company’s performance during the last few years and future plans.
  • Company’s promotional activities – where sales people are updated on the various promotional activities a company is carrying out like the promotional schemes, discounts and any other offers.
  • Selling skills – that is very important for the sales people. They learn to develop the selling skills, sales presentation, negotiating skills and Customer Relationship Management.

Usually a sales trainee is trained generally by a Branch Manager or his supervisor. There are different methods of training that can be use like lectures, case discussions, group/individual presentations, role plays, business games, product demonstrations, personal counseling, on-thejob training, etc. The training process has to continue until the trainee becomes perfect in his job. It is said to be successful only when the actual sales achieved by the trainee after the training is more than what he has achieved before the training.

3. Supervision

Sales force is directed to perform the selling job in accordance with marketing objectives and sales policies of the company. Supervision is prime responsibility of the Branch Manager or the immediate supervisor to whom the salesperson reports. They have the sole responsibility of guiding the day-to-day activities of the sales people (task assignment), boosting their morale, maintaining cordial and healthy working atmosphere, allocating territory to each salesperson, evaluating the sales and revenue in a particular location, etc. The other supervisory activities of the sales supervisor includes:

  • Communicating and implementing company policies and strategies
  • Counseling on problems and deficiencies of sales force.
  • Establishing standards of performance, both through formal setting of goals or targets and setting an example for others to follow.
  • Creating a favorable work environment and working relationship with sales persons.
  • Continuous training and development of sales representatives and
  • Clarifying the responsibilities or expectations clearly to the sales people.