What are the Functions, Duties, and Responsibilities of a Salesman in an Organization?

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By: Site Engineer, Staff

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Personal selling is of significant importance to marketing which entrepreneur should take seriously. Its effectiveness may determine not only the success of a firm’s marketing programme but also the success of the business. Personal selling is defined as the face-to-face contact of a firm’s representatives with target customers.

It is imperative to note here that salesmanship entrepreneur should understand and be aware of the importance of salesmanship as part of his business which has to be handled seriously and effectively.

He should understand that:

  • Has social poise
  • Is persuasive and persistent
  • Is willing to work hard consistently
  • Is an ambassador of the firm
  • Carefully plans the presentation
  • Salesmanship is getting on with all kinds of people
  • The buyer welcomes the successful salesperson
  • The product must be attractively packaged
  • Order maintain the life of the business
  • Customers make business
  • No customer is synonymous with no business
  • Sales are the lifeblood of a business
  • Handling people successfully is salesmanship
  • Not enough sales will lead to the death of the business
  • Salesmanship includes the study of people

Selling jobs are usually challenging and require above average intelligence, initiative, and self-discipline. To a marketer, selling is the personal presentation of tangible and intangible products including ideas of commercial significance to potential buyers.

Therefore, the ability to emphasize with others, persuade others to adopt one’s point of view, simplifying complex ideas and exercise initiative is very important in selling as well as in other occupation.

In this article, we will emphasize on the characteristics of the salesmen, sales training, selling process, salesmen motivation and control.

Characteristics of Salesmen

Salesmanship is a very demanding task; hence the entrepreneur should endeavor to employ salesmen with good health and experience of the sales job.

The salesman employed must have a pleasing personality in addition to the following characteristics:

  • Likes people and shows it
  • Is enthusiastic
  • Is aggressive but not overly so
  • Has a staying power
  • Is ambitious for self and company
  • Is friendly and good natured
  • Is abundant of self-confidence
  • Makes good use of nature
  • Is always considerate of others
  • Is honest and trustworthy
  • Always expects an order
  • Is loyal to the company and its management
  • Must have a very high level of energy

The entrepreneur is therefore advised to be well-informed of the above characteristics when selecting their salesmen. This is because the customer at the other end sees the company through the salesmen. A bad salesman misrepresents the company with his bad attitude.

Purpose of Personal Selling

We have three major purposes of personal selling namely:

(i)         Convincing Potential Buyers

Salespeople must be skillful at persuasion, information gathering, and problem-solving to meet the needs of potential buyers and to persuade them to become buyers. Salespeople should be able, not only, to answer questions and handle objections from potential buyers, but also known when to close the sale.

(ii)        Keeping Customers Satisfied

In order to encourage repeat sales, salespeople must make the effort to keep customers happy after the sale. To maintain customer satisfaction, there should be a genuine effort to handle customer complaints correctly.

(iii)       Finding Potential Buyers

Advertising is usually designed to encourage interested individuals to request additional information. However, the sales force is responsible for the follow-up of these information requests. In addition, a large number of corporate clients come from salesmen’s efforts to search out new buyers. Salesmen normally study the demographic, psychographic, or behavioral information of potential buyers.

Sales Training

For a business organization and entrepreneur to enjoy the benefits of the sales job the salespeople must be trained irrespective of how good they may be; the nitty-gritty of selling must be imparted on them.

There are four good fundamental areas of knowledge, which the salesmen must be trained on:

(i)         Knowledge of the Company’s Products: The salesman should have extra knowledge of the product. He should know about performance, the quality and the uses of the product both primary and secondary. The product’s advantages over those of the competitors should equally be trained on so as to satisfy the consumer’s needs and wants.

(ii)        Knowledge of the Consumer: For a better deal, the salesman must have an idea of the type of the consumer he is meeting and his buying motives. When the consumer’s social status, likes, dislikes, income level, purchasing power, and educational level are known by the salesman, a better deal can be struck.

When the salesman knows the buying motives of the consumer, he will be in a better position to choose a better presentation method. For example, a consumer who is buying for esteem, status, and self-actualization purposes will prefer the costly and expensive products and will always want to be associated with unique things, unlike a consumer who is buying just of buying purposes. The salesman must design different approaches to these sets of people.

(iii)       A Salesman Must Know Himself: The salesman’s first training must start from self-audit of him. Any salesman who does not know himself, his proper worth and attributes may always have problems in dealing with customers. He must know his capabilities, his level of creativity, tactfulness, diplomacy, and intelligence so as to know what to do at the right time. So proper training shall be conducted on self-audit of the world-be salespersons.

(iv)       Knowledge of the Company: Knowledge of the company is as important as knowledge of self. The salesman must be exposed and inducted properly on the followings:

  • The company’s rules and regulations.
  • The advertising and sales promotion policies of the company
  • The history, policies, procedures, goals, and objectives of the company.
  • The numbers of staff and the organizational framework in addition to the credit policies.
  • The company’s strategic advantages and weaknesses
  • The knowledge of the company’s competitors and other internal and external knowledge that will help him achieve the company’s objectives.

Selling Process

Apart from knowing the buying motives of the prospect (prospects are those who need products and are likely to buy them), the salesman must so understand the selling process as to properly present his facts and products well to the prospect.

The steps of the selling process are:

  1. Presentation: The salesman gives the prospect the opportunity to see, feel, touch and try/test the product. For example, an individual who wants to buy a car will like to drive it and a prospect of buying a cloth would like to try it. One important rule, which the salesman should bear in mind, is not to argue with the prospect. This is because the salesman might win the argument and lose the sale. The salesman instead of argument will turn any argument from the prospect into an advantage of the product.
  2. Objections Handling: The purpose of handling objections is to negate all the arguments or objections the prospects may put so as to establish confidence or conviction in the mind of the buyer. At time prospects may raise objections on the following issues like, high price, not understanding the product’s technicalities, or not being convinced by the salesman. Here are two examples of objections handling:
  • Boomerang method, and
  • Indirect denial method (or yes-but method).

Prospecting: The process of searching for the people who are likely to buy the product is called prospecting. A good salesman must always prospect for more customers so as to increase his company’s sales.

  1. Pre-Approach: Within this period, the salesman gathers information about the prospects, which he has compiled. He gets information about their income status, the purchasing power, the buying motives, the likes, dislikes, habits and general background including education. This knowledge will enable him to save time by approaching those most likely to buy his products and equally give him the enthusiasm and the confidence to excel.
  2. Approach: This is the process of gaining the interest of the prospect with the sales pitch. Here the salesman meets the prospect in person. This is a very important phase of the sale because it is during this portion that the sales people attract the attention of the customer to themselves or the product they are selling. The type of approach a salesperson uses will vary according to the selling situation.
  3. Conviction of Prospect by Salesman: The salesman converts the prospect’s objection into a reason in favor of the products in the boomerang method. For example, if a prospect objects to the high price of the product, the salesman can quickly tell him “that is the exact reason why he deserves the product because the high cost signifies high quality and the value derivable from using the product.” In the indirect denial method, the salesman agrees with the prospect’s objection but quickly tells the prospect politely that he (the prospect) is looking at the objection from a different angle. The salesman then goes ahead to explain more about the product to fully convince the prospect on the qualities of the product.
  • Follow-up: To sustain customer satisfaction, the salesperson should follow-up after a sale to be sure the product is delivered properly and the customer is satisfied with the product. Follow-up is very important because some prospects after buying a product or taking a purchase decision may see another product and may become dissatisfied due to cognitive dissonance. So the follow-up process will help to reemphasize the advantages of the purchased product and help to reduce the cognitive dissonance and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Closing the Sale: the aim of this stage is to get the prospect to buy the product. Many salesmen lose sales simply because they never asked the buyer to buy. All the other steps are not of value if the salesman cannot successfully close the sale.

There are five widely practiced methods of closing sales.

These are:

  1. As a way of encouraging the prospect to buy, he may be induced. For example, a furniture seller may tell the prospect, “If you buy this furniture today, I can assure you that we will have the furniture to your house and ready on time for the party you are giving tomorrow evening.”
  2. You could go over the main points again, emphasizing how good the product is and how it will conveniently meet the customer’s needs. Then allow the customer himself to be convinced and then decide to say “Okay I will buy it.”
  3. Where all else fail, ask the prospect directly for the order. For example, ‘you can ask directly’ “Can I go ahead and write an invoice or receipt on this for you?” The prospect will then make up his mind and answer either yes or no.
  4. Assume the sale is over and the salesman goes ahead to write the invoice or receipt as the case may be. Where the customer is not ready to buy, he will stop the salesman. But where he has not made up his mind, this will push him to buy the product.
  5. To get the prospect to buy the product, do not ask him if he wants to buy or not. If for example, one is selling a book, one may ask him whether he prefers the one with a soft cover or that with the hardcover. The customer is likely to select the one he likes.

The entrepreneur should know that effective selling could only be done through effective sales training. Every member of the sales force must be groomed in the art of salesmanship to improve productivity. Experience is the best teacher, hence the salesman should practice the art of selling always.

The Salesman Motivation

Salesmen must be motivated in order to bring out their best and be able to withstand the rigors involved in the job like the physical and mental torture, the frequent traveling and lots of disappointments. In addition to training, adequate and enticing compensation should be given and meetings/conferences organized.

Compensation

The entrepreneur and his sales manager need to design an appropriate compensation plan for the sales force.

Generally, there are various methods of compensation, from which the entrepreneur must choose the type that suits his organization:

1. Straight Salary

This is a situation where the salesmen are paid a certain amount, usually monthly. This system of compensation has some advantages and disadvantages as follows:

Advantages

  • It gives a sense of security to the sales staff
  • It makes transfers of sales staff easy
  • It does not encourage unnecessary giving of credit sales to customers
  • It is easy to budget and administers
  • It ensures stable income to the salesmen
  • It gives management more control over the sales staff

Disadvantages

  • It does not encourage incentive to salesmen who would have aggressively increased the sales
  • It does not encourage hard-working sales staff
  • It encourages idle sales staff

2. Straight Commission Method

This approach rewards hard work. Under this method, the salesmen are paid according to the sales volume made. The amount paid is usually based on a certain percentage of the net sales volume made. This method is, therefore, an effort oriented one.

Advantages

  • It encourages aggressiveness freely form the salesmen
  • It encourages hard work
  • It relieves the company the burden of paying an ineffective salesman

Disadvantages

  • It encourages selective selling because the salesmen promote and sell the product that gives them the highest profit.
  • It encourages salesmen to grant unnecessary sales credits to those not creditworthy.
  • It increases bad debts because salesmen compete on who sells highest, hence abuse sales credits.

3. Combined Method

The combination method is compensation based on a fixed salary plus commission based on the sales volume. It gives the entrepreneur the flexibility and control of salary plus the incentive and motivating effects of commission. It aims at eliminating the advantages of both the straight salary and the straight commission methods.

The salary gives the salesmen security in terms of assurance of the monthly salary while the commission rewards hard work amongst the sales force.

4. Profit Sharing Method

Under this method, the salesmen share in the profit of the firm. This is in addition to the salary and the commission they might have been paid. It can be stated that if the salesman exceeds his given quota or target he shares in the profit arising from the extra sales. This motivates the salesmen to put in their best to better the organization’s sales volume.

5. Sales Contest and Prizes

This involves compensating the salesman that makes the highest sales within the period in question. This is normally held weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually. The salesman that makes the highest sales wins the contest and is given a prize agreed. The aim of this contest is to stimulate the competitive spirit of the salesmen.

6. Promotion

Promotion is an indirect way of offering a financial incentive to staff. Inasmuch as individuals always aspire to reach new heights and new challenges, provision for promotion must always be provided. The salesmen must always be offered a promotion to appreciate their good performance and encourage them to work harder in the future.

The compensation plans are stated above for the entrepreneur to choose the one that will suit his organization.

The entrepreneur should take the following factors into consideration when designing the compensation plan:

  • Simplicity,
  • Adequacy,
  • Economical nature,
  • Flexibility and
  • Ability to offer or allow for control of the salesmen.

The entrepreneur is therefore advised to adopt the method that will allow for control and ensure high incentive by adopting salary form and commission.

Sales Meetings and Conference

The sales conference is one of the fora by which the salesmen can come together as a group to discuss the problems encountered in the field and way forward. Suggestions on how to improve performances are also discussed. It is motivating to the salesmen as they are able to share experiences and collectively proffer solutions to problems.

Such issues like:

All these issues listed above will always discuss in sales conference and they will address all of them. These sales meetings may be held weekly, monthly or quarterly as the case may be.

How to Control the Salesmen?

Controlling the sales force, therefore, involves the determination of whether the sales force is meeting the set sales target. A salesman put in charge of a specific territory, branch, outpost or division writes his reports on regular intervals. This could be on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis.

But without proper coordination, the sales organization may not be successful in its operations. It is through proper control of the sales forces that can bring about such coordination of efforts towards a common goal.

There are several ways of controlling the sales force such as follows:

Sales Reports and Records

The sales report and record is a common tool used in controlling the sales force. Each salesman is required to give a detail report of his sales activities within his territory on regular intervals, weekly, monthly, quarterly or as the firm may desire. This report should cover the daily calls, expenses, competitor’s activities, customer complaints, and economic activates within the territory among other issues. From these reports, the actual performance of each salesman can be seen compared with the set standard.

Sales Territories

A sales territory is a geographical area or group of people from which or from whom the demand for a firm’s products comes at present and are likely to arise in the future. One or more salesmen serve each sales territory and they are made responsible for the activities of the firm within that territory.

Sales territories are allocated to achieve the following objectives:

  • For effective control of the salesmen.
  • To hold a salesman responsible for sales in a definite area.
  • To utilize time and expenses efficiently by the salesmen and the company.
  • To meet competition efficiently.

Advantages of Sales Territories

  • The target market can be covered more easily and quickly.
  • It allows easy comparison between one sale is and another in terms of business prospects.
  • The salesman in a particular territory can easily know the financial condition of customers.
  • It motivates each salesman to work hard, because of the fixed goal set for him.
  • Allocating sales territories results in more sales for the company because of the competition among salesmen.
  • It allows incompetent salesmen to be easily identified.
  • Through the sales territories, the company is able to serve its customers satisfactorily.
  • Comparison of the performance of the salesmen is made easy.

Sales Quota

A sales quota may be defined as an estimated volume of sales set up as an objective to be attained over a given period of time. The estimate can be expressed in monetary terms or in unit sales volume. It is a standard for measuring the achievement of a salesman. The period of time through which the sales quota is to be achieved could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly.

The period used varies from company to company. The most important thing is for the organization to use the sales quota as a means of knowing how each salesman is performing in a given territory.

Advantages of Allocating Sales Quota

  • It helps the entrepreneur to judge the performance of each salesman.
  • It helps the sales manager or the entrepreneur to estimate the total sales for the coming year.
  • It helps in the conduct of sales contests.
  • It is easy to locate weak and under-developed market area.

Advantages of Sales Quota

  • In a bid to meet the sales quota, a salesman may grant credit to customers who are not credits worthy. This may lead to bad debts.
  • Non-achievement of sales quota may make the salesman be frustrated and often jealous of successful salesmen.
  • If unreliable and unrealistic sales quotas are fixed, it will lead to loss of motivation by the salesman. This is because the salesman may not be able to achieve sales quota.

Finally, the entrepreneur should be able to control his salesmen effectively, through the above-mentioned ways.

Personal selling or salesmanship is the face-to-face contact of a firm’s representatives with target customers.

The entrepreneur must motivate the salesman to bring the best in him. He should know that by designing an appropriate compensation plan for his sales force they must be motivated to meet the target. Salesmanship is an excellent career and someone who can really sell will always have a job.

 

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