The primary role of any sales team is to generate income and revenue and attract and retain clients. They may also be called business development, account management or customer management. A sales person is normally the principle interface with a firms’ customers.
Most companies employ a sales force. However they can differ significantly in the type of work required.
Business to Business
In these environments, the sales force is generally the main channel through which a company’s products are both promoted and sold. Face to face interaction is required as the product is often complex, high value, and needs explaining. In addition, the decision making process may be involved with multi parties needed to be consulted. There is often a need for negotiation of the overall price, contract, terms and potentially the product itself. It will also no doubt be a competitive market in which other products and services are also vying for the client contract. The salesman’s job is not always over at the end of the negotiation, as it may well be their responsibility to ensure the product or service is delivered and implemented and the client satisfied.
In many organisations, an account manager is responsible for large customers on an ongoing basis, particularly when there is a recurring revenue stream that needs protecting and hopefully increasing. His role is to ensure the client remains a continued happy customer and extends his use of the company’s products and services. This may well be on a national or global basis. He acts as the orchestrator of an Internal ‘team’ facilitating other parts of his firm to interact with the client – this could be product development, customer services, marketing etc.
Business to Consumer (Retail)
These environments are different as products are being sold to a mass market indirectly. The supplier does not generally sell directly to the customer but through a distributor or dealer. This could be a shop, supermarket, website or showroom for example. Therefore sales in these organisations differ, as a direct sales force would be inappropriate in that it would far too expensive. The main form of promotion is via advertising, sales promotions etc.
However management of the distributors and ensuring shelf space for the firms’ products is critical. In BTC environments, this is what the sales force are responsible for. This involves recommending the right range of products, working on product launches, developing marketing programmes to increase sales and exploring new business opportunities.
There is a growing, relatively new market of web companies that only conduct business online. In many cases, their primary business model is advertising and this in some cases (eg Google, Facebook) can be very sophisticated. These firms also employ large sales teams to sell that advertising, which is the main source of their revenue.
A sales career has many benefits. It is a front line role with a large amount of client contact, always critical to the company, with significant responsibility and freedom. If you are good, you will be well rewarded financially. It also a fun environment. However it is also a role that is target driven – every month you will be expected to achieve set targets - if you consistently under perform, you will loose your job. This makes it pressurized and stressful for many. To be successful, you will need excellent people skills, commercial acumen, be credible and confident in front of people, able to influence and negotiate, bags of tenacity and the ability to take rejection and stay motivated.
What does a sales person do?
A sales person will be responsible for a ‘territory’. This could be an actual geography or a named group of companies, or a combination of both. The companies could be existing clients or prospects (firms that currently do not deal with the organisation). The geography specifies that the sales person is responsible for any company within it. A salespersons role is very varied and listed below are some of the day to day activities.
- Building contacts within the territory
- Identifying who the prospects are and the relevant contacts
- Researching the clients and prospects for opportunities for products and services
- Meeting a range of different contacts within the clients and prospects. This could be anyone from the CEO downwards
- Preparing client proposals and pitches
- Presenting to the clients
- Demonstrating to the clients and users
- Negotiating terms with clients
- Meeting users
- Spending time within a client to understand their operations, issues, problems, use of your product and your competitors products etc
- Researching the competitors, their positioning, strengths, weaknesses, pricing etc
- Feeding back to the company with regard competitor information and client requirements
- Negotiating internally for resource for the client
- Resolving client issues
- Client training
- Forecasting future sales and revenues