Sales Force Objectives and Strategy

Each company needs to define the specific objectives its sales force will achieve. Increasingly, companies are setting objectives for sales reps based not only on sales volume and profitability targets, but also on their ability to create customer satisfaction.

Consider Tiffany, the famous retailer of expensive jewelry. A purchase in this store can be like an investment, so management trains its retail sales staff to be consultants rather than strictly salespeople. Salespeople are trained to offer advice and information about the quality and cut of stones, the suitability of various settings, and the choices available in various price ranges. Even when selling less expensive items, salespeople know that part of the purchase is the experience and prestige of shopping at Tiffany. They also know that a satisfied customer is a potential repeat customer. In addition to its retail sales staff, Tiffany has 155 field reps, a catalog, and a Web presence (www.tiffany.com) to serve corporate customers. Training for new corporate sales

Figure 5-15 Designing a Sales Force

Figure 5-15 Designing a Sales Force reps lasts for 6 to 8 weeks, and only when new hires have mastered the skills, knowledge, and products are they allowed to deal with customers.4

To implement the firm's sales objectives, a common strategy is for sales representatives to act as "account managers," arranging fruitful contact among various people in the buying and selling organizations. Selling increasingly calls for teamwork requiring the support of other personnel, such as top management, especially when national accounts or major sales are at stake; technical people, who supply technical information and service to the customer before, during, or after product purchase; customer service representatives, who provide installation, maintenance, and other services; and an office staff, consisting of sales analysts, order expediters, and administrative personnel. An example of a successful sales team orientation is provided by DuPont. Finding that corn growers needed a herbicide that could be applied less often, DuPont appointed a team of chemists, sales and marketing executives, and regulatory specialists to tackle the problem. Working together, they created a product that captured $57 million in sales during its first year.5

Once the company decides on objectives and strategy, it can use either a direct or a contractual sales force. A direct (company) sales force consists of full- or part-time paid employees who work exclusively for the company. This sales force includes inside sales personnel, who conduct business from the office using the telephone, fax, and email, and receive visits from prospective buyers, and field sales personnel, who travel and visit customers. A contractual salesforce consists of manufacturers' reps, sales agents, and brokers, who are paid a commission based on sales.

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