The line and staff sales organization is often found in large and medium sized firms, employing substantial numbers of sales personnel, and selling diversified product lines over wide geographic areas. In contrast to the line organization, the line and staff organization provides the top sales executive with a group of specialists and experts in dealer and distributors relations, sales analysis , sales organization, sales personnel, sales planning, sales promotion, sales training, service, traffic and warehousing, and similar fields, this staff helps to conserve the top sales executives time and frees them from excessively detailed work, they make it possible for their chiefs to concentrate their efforts where they have the most skill.
If the top sales executive is not equipped, through prior training or experience , to handle certain problems, staff specialists assist in increasing over all effectiveness of the department study or providing detailed analysis to staff executives. The top sales executive has more time for planning and for dealing with higher priority matters.
Staff sales executives do not have authority to issue orders or directives. Staff recommendations are submitted to the top sales executives, who if they approve, transmit necessary instructions to the line organization. Departures from this procedure are occasionally made. For example, staffs members may be authorized to deal directly with line executive’s regarding execution of plans and implementation of policies developed by the staff and approved by management. Although staff members act on behalf of line sales executives in these instances, they assume joint responsibility for results. This departure from the normal procedure is justified if it speeds the translation of staff plans into line action. The general sales manager reports to the vice president in charge of marketing as does the advertising manager and the manager of marketing research. Six subordinates report to the general sales manager, but only one, the assistant general sales manger, is a line executive. Four of the five staff executives have responsibilities in specialized fields; the fifth, the assistant to the general sales manger is given more general assignment. Note the difference between the assistant to and assistant. The assistant to is a staff executive who is given a broader operating area than those staff specialists with more descriptive titles. The assistant general sales manger carries part of the general sales manger who performs assignments of alien nature in the name of the superior.
The assistant to the general sales manger carries part of the general administrative loads that would otherwise be borne by the general sales manger. The advantages of the line and staff organization are mainly those of specialization. The chief sales executive, being relieved from much detail work, can take a broader view of the department. Problem’s a can be seen in clearer perspective, and connections between apparently unrelated problems are brought into focus. A pool of experts provides advice and assistance in specialized fields. Planning activities are subdivided and apportioned to staff members, and decision and policies rests on a sounder base than in the line organization. Meanwhile, the top sales executive can concentrate on control and coordination of subordinates. Staff members assume much of the burden of solving problems in their areas. Thus, the top sales executive can devote more attention to the human aspects of administration.
The specialization made possible by line and staff organization is also the source of its weaknesses. Work of the staff specialists must be coordinated, and this is costly. Other administrative expenses may also increase, unless the number staff executives is kept in line switch departmental needs. The staff should be expanded only when it can be shown that the contributions of new staff members will equal or exceed the costs of maintaining them. Close control over staff line relations is essential. If staff people issues instructions directly to line executives, it is difficult to prevent some persons from evading unwanted responsibilities. All areas in which line and staff executives share authority and responsibility haul be noted in written job descriptions and in the organization manual. All other areas of responsibility and authority should be delineate and assigned to specific individuals.
When the line and staff sales organization is used, the time between problem recognition and corrective action tends to widen this result from giving staff executives time to study problems before e making recommendations to the decision makers. This interval is reduced by permitting staff planners to assist in expediting re implementation of the plan. But, as already indicated, this may play into the hands of those wanting to evade responsibility. When time is important, though, it is wises to use staff people in this capacity. However, when salespeople take instructions from, several sources, confusion may result, especially if experts oversteps their authority. Then, too, problems in maintain contact with individual salespersons are multiplied.