Typical job functions in a sales organization - Sales Management

The sales manager or sales director

The sales manager is the person responsible for leading and guiding a team of salespeople. A sales manager's tasks often include assigning sales territories, setting quotas, mentoring the members of her sales team, assigning sales training, building a sales plan, and hiring and firing salespeople. The sales manager is the person responsible for leading and guiding a team of salespeople.

A sales manager's tasks often include assigning sales territories, setting quotas, mentoring the members of her sales team, assigning sales training, building a sales plan, and hiring and firing salespeople. In large companies, sales quotas and plans are typically established at the executive level and a manager's main responsibility is to see to it that her salespeople meet those quotas.

Some sales managers were managers from other departments who transferred to sales, but the majority are top-tier salespeople who were promoted to a management position. Because these former salespeople have little or no management training or experience, their main challenge is allowing their sales team to do the selling and offering whatever guidance the team members need.

Because a sales manager's compensation is tied to how many sales her team makes, she's highly motivated to get her salespeople producing. This often leads to a scenario where she micro manages her sales team, hanging over their shoulders and constantly asking for updates. It's especially common with former star salespeople, who tend to want to feel in control of every situation – particularly where their own salary is involved.

Unfortunately, salespeople don't work well in this kind of environment, and their performance will suffer, leading to a vicious cycle where the sales manager becomes more and more frantic as her team fails to meet their quota. So sales management is a balancing act between providing guidance and direction without taking this to extremes.

Sales managers who are responsible for hiring and firing members of their sales team must learn some human resources skills. If a sales manager doesn't know how to critically review a resume, ask probing questions in the interview, or catch any red flags during the process, she will probably end up hiring salespeople who look good on paper but fail to produce.

Firing an employee is never easy, but a sales manager must know when one of her salespeople simply isn't working out – either because he isn't a good fit for the company, or because he isn't a good fit for a sales position at all.

Knowing how to get his/her team motivated is a critical part of sales management. A smart sales manager has several tools in her arsenal, ranging from silly prizes like paper crowns to major monetary rewards for big producers. He/She must also know how to motivate a poor producer into getting back on track. And she must recognize when the problem is not a lack of motivation but something more basic, such as the lack of a specific sales skill.

Sales managers must also understand the 'big picture.' In all but the smallest companies, sales managers are usually at the middle management level of responsibility. They supervise a sales team, but are supervised themselves by a higher-level manager, often at the executive level. When a sales manager's team performs well, her supervisor will often give her the credit. But if a sales manager's team fails to meet their quota, that executive will expect her to provide a solution.

A sales manager must have excellent communication skills to succeed. He/She must be able to understand the sales plan and explain it clearly to her sales teams. He/She must also be able to understand her salespeople's needs and communicate those needs to the executive level. If a problem such as an unrealistic quota arises, she must be able to go to bat for her salespeople with upper management and get the situation resolved. When her salespeople do well she must show them that their hard work is appreciated, and when they falter she must uncover the reason and fix it.

The field sales manager

The Field Sales Manager (FSM) is accountable for the profitable achievement of sales objectives associated with the assigned market, segment, and sales team managed. The FSM is responsible for their assigned team’s sales productivity, and directs their effort in order to have the greatest overall impact on company results.

The FSM manages all aspects of running an efficient sales team, including hiring, supervising, coaching, disciplining, and motivating direct-report sales associates.

The field sales manager:

  • accepts responsibility for achieving assigned objectives, targets, forecasts,budgets, etc., with and through the team
  • liaises with salespersons and superiors insetting sales performance targets,objectives, standards of performance, etc.by territory
  • plans and monitors call coverage to optimize effective frequency of calling in relation to potential
  • implements field programmers supporting company marketing plans
  • maximizes the sales effort by providing training, counseling and feedback
  • exercises control and maintains team discipline
  • interprets and filters company policies
  • communicates effectively with salespersons through regular sales meetings and bulletins
  • selects, trains, manages, motivates and controls his or her sales team
  • advises superiors on market intelligence,competitive products, promotions, terms of trade
  • liaises between head office department sand field personnel
  • ensures each of his or her sales team achieves high job satisfaction through:
  • job content
  • team spirit and membership
  • management
  • monetary and non-monetary rewards
  • recognition of achievements
  • quality of products sold
  • the company as a good employer.

The effective field sales manager will work to accomplish his or her goals and maximize sales team performance by:

  • ensuring he or she is well briefed on company policies, objectives and activities
  • putting subordinates first in his or her priorities.

The key account manager

Key account management includes sales but also includes planning and managing the full relationship between a business and its most important customers. Management of the company’s business and relations with major customers will normally be the responsibility of a key account manager who:

  • liaises with Sales Director and marketing departments in setting customer targets/forecasts, which would be broken down by product and branch or use location (depending on whether the supplier is offering industrial inputs or products for resale through trade distribution channels)
  • liaises with buyers to agree annual sales volume forecasts, and to negotiate any ongoing supply contracts
  • advises on setting terms of trade for each key account, and then manages the business to these trade terms
  • conducts negotiations on products(standard products or special production runs such as customized industrial products or private label retail products),quantities, prices, promotions, special offers, etc.
  • implements the company’s sales and marketing programmer at the key account level
  • negotiates special distribution requirements
  • monitors key account profit performance and achieves satisfactory profit contributions from accounts
  • recommends key account special promotional activity to senior managers
  • reports market intelligence concerning the key account’s own strategies and performance, and that of competitors with the account
  • follows up at individual locations of multi branch customers to ensure programme implementation, ensuring that all branch locations receive adequate direct coverage (either personally or through other members of the sales team)
  • develops relationships with other key account personnel influential in the buying process (e.g. users, specifies, budget controllers, other authorizers, etc.) – this networking within major accounts is normally critical to successful business development
  • liaises internally with all departments and colleagues involved in supplying or servicing the key account
  • monitors performance of the key accounting terms of sales volumes, turnover, profitability, usage/distribution, and any other relevant criteria, comparing performance with plans agreed with the account head office buying team, giving breakdowns for branches/ subsidiaries, providing feedback and promoting corrective action to counter any deviations from plans.

The territory manager (or salesperson)

A territory manager is responsible for improving revenue and developing sales methods for a geographical area. The territory can be as specific as a city or as broad as a group of states.
Territory managers are responsible for monitoring and managing a sales force and properly assigning those sales representatives to areas throughout their territory. By constraining salespeople to work within territories, they must work with less profitable customers or prospective businesses, as well as the sales accounts that are most desirable.

This ensures that personal attention can be paid to these customers and thus, increase the chance of sales. Also, assigning a single salesperson to a customer ensures that there is no overlap in coverage. Territory managers are often allotted a budget to negotiate special deals and organize promotions with businesses in their territory to increase sales and strengthen relationships with customers.

In a retail setting, the territory manager oversees all aspects of his territory such as ensuring that sales are rising and that general service and customer service is improving. This includes overseeing product deliveries, receiving inventory and requisitioning and overseeing equipment maintenance.

The merchandiser

This role is primarily a function in consumer product companies, where goods are offered for resale through a network of retailers or trade distributors, and where there is considerable competition for display space and display impact on consumers who face a mass of similar competing products. Typically the merchandiser, whether directly employed by the supplier or engaged through a contract merchandising company, will work to:

  • locate products and display material at key selling spots within any product category (where the merchandiser can arrange this locally)
  • maximize display of company products in assigned retail outlets
  • tidy any displays, ensuring damaged product is not left on display
  • ensure products in retail outlets are correctly priced according to the retail outlet’s pricing structure (and can advise as tore on competitor pricing where an individual branch manager has any authority to vary prices)
  • rotate products according to any sell by code
  • support products on promotion through construction of feature displays and placement of promotional point of sale(POS) material
  • motivate retail outlets to re-order company products as necessary to maintain stock levels avoiding out-of-stock situations
  • report on competitive activity.

Product promoters

When a supplier is running certain types of promotional activity with trade dealers or retail customers it is sometimes appropriate for them to place product promoters at the customer’s locations to communicate product features and benefits directly to customers.

These promoters can fulfill a useful role, if suitable persons are selected and trained, by:

  • promoting consumer trial through:
    • sampling/demonstrating products
    • direct customer contact
    • supporting promotional activity at the point of sale
  • motivating display retention through presence and activity
  • providing a direct interface between the distribution company and the customer, reporting on attitudes, reactions, etc.
  • cementing relationships between the distribution company and on or off trade retailer.

Here we have only reviewed some of the typical field selling job functions within a selling organization. These will be supported by a range of specialist functions or departments to ensure that they can perform optimally, possibly including order processing, telesales, customer service, sales training, sales planning, sales promotions, with additional clerical support. There is no definitively correct sales organization, as it must be designed to reflect the needs of the company, the trade channels, the products, and final users/consumers.

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Sales Management Topics