Many sales executives get promoted into their positions because of their previous performances as salespersons. In some companies, outstanding sales persons have in inside track when sales executives jobs are being filled. The assumption is that outstanding salespersons will be outstanding sales executives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The sales executives job demands administrative skills much beyond those required of salespeople. Personal selling experience is not unimportant, as sales executives manage people who do personal selling. But personal selling experience and outstanding personal selling performance are two different things most companies can recount instances where an outstanding salesperson failed in a sales executive’s job.
Basically, the sales executive has two sets of function: operating and planning. The operating functions include sales force management, handling relationships with personnel in other company departments and with the trade (middlemen and /or customers), communicating and coordinating with other marketing executives, and reporting to some superior executive (such as the marketing vice president). In addition, in some companies and fairly commonly in lower level sales executive sells some accounts personally (to keep a “hand in “ and to keep abreast of current selling problems and conditions).
The sales executive’s planning function includes those connected with the sale program. The sales organization and its control. The sales executive is responsible for setting personal selling goals, for developing sales programs designed to achieve these goals, for formulating sales policies and personal selling strategies, and for putting together plans for their implementation. Sales programs are put into effect through the sale organization, and the sales executive is responsible for designing and shaping the sales organization, for staffing it, for developing the skills of those who are part of it, and for providing leadership to it. Achievement of sales departmental goals requires controls over selling activities, sales volume, selling expenses, and the like. The sale executive is responsible for these and related control activities.
The relative emphasis that sales executives give to the operating and planning functions varies with (1) the type of products, (2) the size of company, and (3) the type of supervisory organization. Customarily, sales executives at all organizational levels devote more time and attention to sales force management than they do to any other single activity. The significance attached to operating and planning functions varies with the product. If the product is a consumer good, sales executives attach the greatest importance to planning function: development of sales programs, coordination of personal selling with advertisings, and building and maintaining relationships with dealers and customers. If the product is an industrial good, sales executives attach the greatest importance to the operating function managing and directing the sales force, making calls with salespeople, and selling personal account. Consumer goods sales managers, in general, spend more time on planning and less on operating than do their counterparts in industrial goods companies.
The amount of sales executive’s time devoted to planning and operating functions is influenced by size of the sales organization. Sales executives in small companies spend less time on planning and more on operating. As the size of the company increases, the sales executive devotes more time to planning and less to operating. Exerting important influences on the way sales executives distribute their time and effort, too, is the type of supervisory organization. When the sales executive supervises the field sales force directly, he or she spends most of the time on operating function. When the sales executive supervises the field sales force through subordinate sales executives, more attention is devote to planning and less to operating. Sales executives who have high caliber subordinates generally are more willing to delegate most of the performance of the operating functions to them and, consequently, have time left for planning.
Role of Sales Executive in Communication and Planning
Chief marketing executives are responsible for setting promotional policies, but sales executives participate in their formulation. Their knowledge of the market and their control over personal selling activity make sales executives a key source of information, and they occupy a strategic position in implementing promotional plans. Sales personnel are responsible not only for transmitting sales messages to prospects but for securing the use of point of purchase displays and for coordinating dealer efforts with advertising programs. Sales executives, because of their key roles in making and implementing promotional policies, must coordinate closely with other executives in the formulation and implementation of the promotional program.
Almost every product relies on personal selling as a promotional method at one or more points in the marketing channel. Personal selling’s effectiveness traces to the use of personal contact in conveying the sales message to prospective buyers. But personal selling is the most expensive promotional method in terms of cost per sales message transmitted. The proportion of personal selling in the promotional mix generally must be limited, and it is the sales executive’s responsibility to keep selling costs down.
The sales executive makes certain that salespeople keep abreast of current advertising campaigns. Sales personnel need briefing on specific advertising appeals, enabling them to adapt their selling approaches in ways that enhance the total promotional impact. The sales force should know which media are scheduled to carry advertisements for which products and the timing of each ad’s appearance. Advertising personnel need access to the sales executive, since this executive is an important source of information about customers, their needs, behavior, and motives.
Sales executives play similar roles with respect to other promotional methods. Decisions regarding the usage of these methods in the promotional mix are normally made by the chief marketing executive or by other specialists. Besides serving as an important source of information, the sales executive secures coordinative efforts by the sales force to ensure that each promotional activity obtains optimum results.