Effective sales managers understand that success cannot be measured without specific objectives and standards to be measured against. Managers need basic information about sales goals, warehouse capacity, inventory levels, distribution channels, and actual sales performance to develop performance measurements (Lisoski, 2006). Successful sales managers develop an organized sales methodology by identifying the techniques and behaviors of their top sales people. Using careful recruitment processes, offering training and sales tools, and encouraging sales through appropriate incentives, managers have a better chance of meeting sales goals (CRM, 2006). Following is an outline of some basic processes in sales management and the tools and reports used to measure success.
Professional sales managers know that meeting the company’s sales goals depends on building a successful sales team. Building a profitable sales team is accomplished through organizational processes including recruitment, hiring, training, encouragement (incentives), and evaluation. Sales managers must continually audit sales and performance, adjust sales goals accordingly, and communicate success or improvement needs to the sales force responsible for accomplishing those goals (Lisoski, 2006).
A well planned recruiting effort is a critical part of any firm’s hiring process. Most professional sales managers agree that spending the time and money to find well-qualified candidates is a much more profitable investment that attempting to train “marginal recruits into solid sales performers” (Johnston & Marshall, 2009, p. 295). Recruiting and hiring for sales personnel can be especially difficult, however because individuals with little or no sales experience tend to have a negative view of sales positions, whereas individuals who normally apply for sales positions usually lack the business experience and education sales managers are seeking. Recruiters can reduce the number of unqualified applicants by either adopting technical match processes or advertising for very specific levels of experience, qualities, and credentials. To find prospective recruits, sales managers can utilize internal sources like other departmental employees or external sources like educational institutions or employment agencies. Recruitment efforts should be concentrated on the sources most likely to render qualified applicants (Johnston & Marshall, 2009).
Following the recruitment process comes the hiring (selection process). Prospective employees are normally identified through their responses to a standard company application. The primary purpose of the application is to collect basic information about the recruit’s personal history, business experience, and education level. The next stage of the selection process typically involves a personal interview. Recruiters may choose a structured interview strategy in which all applicants are asked the same predetermined questions or an unstructured interview in which the applicant is allowed to speak more freely. Depending on the position to be filled other testing may be used to determine the most qualified applicant, such as physical exams, or intelligence, aptitude, and personality tests. The final stage in the selection process generally involves verification of business references and academic degrees (Johnston & Marshall, 2009).
Many companies believe that improving an individual’s basic selling skills will lead to an improved performance in the field. The development of a successful sales program requires linking the program with the overall business strategy of the company. Sales managers must begin by analyzing the training needs of the sales force, setting realistic objectives, deciding how to implement the program (internal or external sources), and then reviewing and evaluating the program for success or weaknesses. One of the most valuable and effective measuring tools is the placement of a field sales manager who can provide feedback on sales performance to the corporate office and also offer coaching or support to the salesperson (Johnston & Marshall, 2009).
In general the concept of motivation is believed to be an intensely personal behavior. Motivation involves three psychological dimensions: intensity, choice, and persistence. The challenge facing the sales manager is to channel the salesperson’s efforts, persistence, and intensity in directions that will help to meet the company’s strategic goals. To develop a successful motivational package the sales manager must assure that the salesperson believes that greater effort will indeed result in greater rewards in the areas that are important to the salesperson (Rich, Spiro, & Stanton, 2008).
The evaluation process is valuable to both the company and the salesperson because it allows for the identification of success or problem areas. Sales force performance evaluation is a broad term that includes analysis of sales volume, marketing cost and profitability analysis, and various individual salesperson evaluation measures. Sales performance can be evaluated by sales territory, product, customer group, the salesperson (Johnston & Marshall, 2009).
Sales Management Tools
Corporations use several management tools to monitor the success of the sales force. The marketing plan of a corporation is based on past market history and goals for the company’s future. Depending on the company’s goals, whether to increase volume or reduce cost, sales quotas are developed to help guide the sales force in their daily activities. Sales quotas not only provide incentive and direction for the sales force. Quotas also allow for analysis of sales activities because the salesperson’s performance can be evaluated as well as indicating problem areas within certain territories (Spiro, Rich & Stanton, 2008).
Sales reports are submitted by the sales representative to provide daily records for monitoring activities. A sales report usually includes the number of new contacts acquired, actual orders placed, miles drive, and phone calls placed. A call plan is another tool used by sales representatives to help organize their daily activities. The call plan outlines the salesperson’s itinerary for the future and allows the corporation to assure that the salesperson’s activities are in line with the company’s overall sales plan (Spiro, Rich & Stanton, 2008).
Effects of Technology
The ongoing advancement of technologies in the world marketplace today has a tremendous affect on the business industry, especially on the sales effort. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems provide access to several aspects of the sales effort for both the salesperson and corporate sales managers. CRMs improve service to the customer by allowing the salesperson to quickly quote the latest price, write a contract on the spot, or track an order. Sales managers benefit from CRM technology by having access to daily sales figures, inventory numbers, and call report information (Spiro, Rich & Stanton, 2008).
Without a doubt, the sales force is one of the most important members of any manufacturing or service industry. Careful analysis of previous sales figures, market environment, and intended accomplishment help a sales manager to develop a sales plan that will be in line with the company’s overall goals. A sales manager has to begin with developing a sales plan and then recruiting the right salespeople. With solid training processes, relevant sales measurement tools, and appropriate incentives a sales manager can develop a sales force that is strong enough to meet the company’s sales goals, yet flexible enough to adapt to changing market needs.
Johnston, M. W. and Marshall, G. W. (2009) Sales force management, (Ninth Edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies
Replicate sales success. (2006, September). CRM Magazine, 10(9), 4. Retrieved March 20, 2011
Rich, G., Spiro, R. and Stanton, W. (2008) Management of a sales force, (Twelfth Edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies
Lisoski, E. (2006, September). If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. Supervision, 67(9), 14.