The Hole of the Sales Force

Personal selling is the interpersonal arm of the promotion mix. Advertising consists of one-way, non-personal communication with target consumer groups. In contrast, personal selling involves two-way personal communication between salespeople and individual customers - whether faee-to-faee, by telephone, through videoeonferenees or by other means. As such, personal selling can be more effective than advertising in more complex Celling situations. Salespeople can probe customers to learn more about their problems. They can adjust the marketing offer to fit the special needs of eaeh customer and can negotiate terras of sale. They can build long-term personal relationships with key decision makers.

The role of personal .selling varies from company to company. Some firms have no salespeople at all - for example, organizations that sell only through mailorder catalogues or through manufacturers' representatives, sales agents or brokers. In most cases, however, the sales force plays a major role. In companies that sell business products, such as ABB or Du Pont, the salespeople may be the only contact. To these customers, the sales foree is the company. In consumer product companies, such as N'ike or Unilever, that sell through intermediaries, final consumers rarely meet salespeople or even know about them. Still, the sales force plays an important behind-the-scenes role. It works with wholesalers and retailers to gain their support and to help them to be more effective in selling the company's products.

The sales force acts as the critical link between a company and its customers. In many cases, salespeople serve both masters - the seller and the buyer. First, they represent the company to customers. They find and develop new customers and communicate information about the company's products and services. They sell products by approaching customers, presenting their products, answering objections, negotiating prices and terms, and closing sales. In addition, they provide services to customers, carry out market research and intelligence work, and fill out call reports.

At the same time, salespeople represent customers to the company, acting inside the firm as » 'champion' of customers' interests. Salespeople relay customer concerns about company products and actions back to those who can handle them. Thev learn about customer needs and work with others in the

Figure 20.1

Primary steps in sales force management company to develop greater customer value. Thus, the salesperson often act as an 'account manager' who manages the relationship between the seller and buyer.

As companies move towards a stronger market orientation, their sale.s forces are becoming more market focused and customer oriented. The old view was that salespeople should worry about sales and the company should worry about profit. The current view holds that salespeople should be concerned with more than just producing sales — they also must know how to produce customer satisfaction and profit. Today, organisations expect salespeople to look at sales data, measure market potential, gather market intelligence and develop marketing strategies and plans. They should know how to orchestrate the firm's efforts towards delivering customer value and satisfaction. A market-oriented rather than a sales-oriented sales force will be more effective in the long run. Beyond winning new customers and making sales, it will help the company to create long-term, profitable relationships with customers. As such, the company's sales team ean he a central force in an organization's relationship marketing programme. The topic concerning relationship marketing is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 11.

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