The need for control - Sales Management

An assumption is often made that salespersons are all highly motivated work-horses,who, because they are frequently rewarded by substantial commissions or bonuses, need very little active management and control.

That assumption is erroneous. A sales force without proactive hands-on management dislike a missile without a guidance system – advice full of energy but with no sense of direction, drifting along aimlessly through space. In managing a sales force controls are needed to:

  • ensure performance and results relate to plans, programmers and policies
  • maximize the productivity from the available resources, e.g.
  • the sales team
  • time
  • sales aids and promotional materials
  • financial resources allocated to budgets for sales and marketing activities.

Controls cannot exist in a vacuum. If controls are to be implemented in the sales force then as prerequisites it is necessary for sales managers to:

  • identify key result areas
  • establish standards of performance against which productivity and activity can be measured.

Controls can be implemented either by the sales office or by the field sales managers.

  • Sales office controls normally focus on monitoring sales performance at the company level down to the level of the individual territory, against company objectives, e.g. sales targets in terms of volumes and values of products sold.
  • Field management control normally focuses on monitoring and controlling:
    • work activities
    • skills
    • achievements and standards of performance covering aspects of the job not easily monitored from paperwork controls, or where reporting through paperwork controls needs to be verified(e.g. claims about display and promotional activity).

Types of controls

Control, like training, is on ongoing management function. There are three main forms of control.

  • Continuous controls are designed to:
    • monitor tasks and duties, reducing the risks of problems occurring;
    • monitor objective factors (quality,quantity, cost, time).
  • Warning controls are designed to:
    • recognize and identifying deviations from plans;
    • identify the direction and magnitude of variations, usually in numerical form analysis of performance measurements operating in key result areas.
  • Warning controls typically take the form of:
    • computer printouts
    • graphs
    • cables of comparative performance.
  • Self-control is promoted through skill training and feedback, where the salesperson monitors his or her own performance against standards of performance and requirements of the job. The salesperson is the best guide to problems and deviations from standards of performance and plans. It is particularly important to concentrate control in the sales force on key result areas because of the natural tendency we all ha veto concentrate effort on those aspects of the job that are noticed or are emphasized in training, bulletins or other verbal or nonverbal communications.

All personnel should be familiar with their standards of performance so that they can check their own performance against objective factors and criteria. It is useful to encourage salespersons to keep their own basic records in key result areas, such as call rates,or sales against targets, and to ask for these to be summarized (possibly on the daily report).

Self-control is fostered where salespersons make commitments as to how a territory target will be broken down and achieved through each individual customer at monthly area sales meeting.

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