Types of selling job - Marketing Management

A classic description of different types of salesperson was devised by McMurry:1

  1. The salesperson’s job is mainly concerned with delivery e.g. milk, beer, bread and lemonade. They possess little in the way of selling responsibilities. Increases in sales are more likely to stem from a good service and a pleasant manner.
  2. The salesperson is predominantly an inside order taker, e.g. a sales assistant in a retail outlet. Opportunities to sell are limited as customers have often already made up their minds.
  3. The salesperson is predominantly an order taker, but works in the field, e.g. the wholesale or retail grocery salesperson. Selling to an account like a large retail chain is usually done by senior executives at head office. The field salesperson simply records and processes customer orders and makes sure the customer is carrying sufficient stock. Good service and a pleasant personality may lead to more orders, but the salesperson has little opportunity for creative selling.
  4. In ‘missionary selling’ the salesperson does not actually take orders, but builds up goodwill, educates the actual or potential user and undertakes various promotional activities, e.g. salesperson for a pharmaceutical company.
  5. In technical selling, companies tend to use technically qualified salespeople where product and application knowledge is a central part of the sales function.
  6. Creative selling involves both tangible and intangible products and services, e.g. vacuum cleaners, washing machines, encyclopaedias, insurance, banking and investment advice. The last three are more difficult because the product cannot easily be demonstrated.

Classification of the nature and range of selling positions is useful in that it provides clues to effective management of sales and selling activities, e.g. they help recruitment and selection procedures; different selling positions may require different training and remuneration schemes. Since McMurry’s early classification scheme other schemes have been developed. Donaldson2 has developed a classification of types of selling job encompassing 12 categories of selling, ranging from ‘industrial direct’ through to ‘franchise selling’. Anderson3 identifies three categories of selling encompassing ‘order taking’, ‘order supporting’ and ‘order getting’ categories. A useful view of different selling jobs is proposed by Pickton and Broderick4 together with examples of selling categories. Their classification system is based on two key dimensions, the degree of communication and relationship building skills required and the degree of complexity and value of the sales involved. One type of selling job in this system is ‘key account management’ (KAM) where high levels of communication and relationship building skills are required and where transactions are relatively complex, involving high values. At the other extreme is the example of retail shop sales involving simple low-value sales where levels of communication and relationship-building skills are low. elationship-building skills are cited as a key dimension.


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