Sales management is not simply a supervisory process, that is, in the sense of the “policing” role of management: checking and making sure things are done. It is, or should be, a creative role, one that enhances the ongoing sales activity and ensures it achieves everything possible. So too the relationship between sales people and sales manager should be a constructive one and viewed as such by both sides. Two other factors are of key importance.
Change and complexity
The markets of the twenty-first century are nothing if not dynamic. For example: customers are increasingly demanding and fickle, distribution patterns are ever changing (e.g. with the increasing power of large customers and the e-sales routes now possible in many industries), buying processes and responsibilities change and pressure on time means buyers may want less personal relationships with suppliers.
Competition (including global competition) seems to increase all the time. There is a direct impact here on the sales job. Customers not only have considerable choice in almost any industry and product area one cares to mention, they have choices that are very close in performance, price, service and other factors. There has come to be a powerful commodity aspect to many markets. This means that sales people have a three-tier job to do. They must:
- communicate (clearly and appropriately)
- be persuasive
In other words it is not enough to be able to describe products and services effectively, nor even to do so persuasively – always there is the added dimension of ensuring something is described in a way that makes it more desirable than other similar products on the market.
Because of these factors the quality of selling itself can literally be a differentiating factor, giving any organization that maximizes its effectiveness an edge over competition. This is a vital factor in marketing success. The manager or managers who head up the sales function, and who work to make it effective, have a vital task. It is a complex job, and one that in future will tend to get more complex as the trends described here progress. For sales management, creatively making the sales activity work well is a challenge; for the organization an effective sales management function, now and in the future, is a must.