Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Is Importance Of Sales Manager?

This piece is not going to be a great read for sales managers. I am not a fan of sales managers or sales management generally. I read an awful lot written by sales managers about sales managers and the claims they make to justify their existence. I hear all the time about their theories, their frustrations with their charges, their responsibilities, their concerns and their willingness to dish out discipline or tough love and the influence they have upon the success of their "team". But, the underlying thread most commonly evident during these comments or articles is the view that sales people are somehow lesser beings in need of cajoling, control and coaching by them - the gifted ones - the ones with the inside track on sales excellence who choose to live their life by telling others how to do things rather than doing it themselves.

I always think that surely, they would be better off doing the selling themselves and earning huge bonuses from employing their outstanding sales talents. Why hide their light under a bushel? Their companies would flourish and a whole level of management salaries would be eliminated at one fell swoop. Targets would be smashed and profits would soar. Wouldn't they? Well, they might except it is likely that the sales managers have no personal experience of selling for a living and only have theoretical knowledge or, they are sales people who have been promoted into the role without any recognisable management talent or they have been successful sales people who are now burned out and need a refuge from the day to day grind.

Sour grapes? Who knows. But rather than just have a go at sales managers I thought I'd extend the theme into an alternative view of sales. It seems to me that the real culprits are the companies that employ sales staff and sales managers.

If a product or service offered by a company meets or exceed the needs of the targeted customers it should "fly off the shelves" shouldn't it? Is there really any need for anyone to "sell" it? Surely, all you need is someone to take the order. "Selling" implies having to overcome a reluctance to commit by the buyer who needs to be persuaded or tipped over the edge into buying. But why, when what is available does what they want it to? They either need or want it or they don't.

The only differential is, I guess is how badly they need it. How important to the potential buyer are the benefits it bestows. This impacts directly upon pricing. Clearly, we all weigh up the benefits versus the costs. Food in a famine is able to attract a premium fee as is a life jacket when a ship sinks - it's a seller's market and the motivation of the buyers is very clear. The need for someone to "sell" will be redundant if the product or service on offer is viewed by the buyer as essential to them. They will buy it if they are allowed to. The clearer the benefits to the buyer the more likely the sale at whatever price.

However, even the simplicity of this scenario is more complicated than at first sight. Have the potential buyers the wherewithal - either money or goods or services to barter or some other asset to swap in exchange? - So, cost is a variable to be considered and perhaps, becomes even more of an issue when the imperative to buy is smaller, less important or of no consequence to the potential customer. So we have inverse proportionality.

The more important/useful the product the larger the potential customer base and the fewer the sales people needed. Order takers yes, sales people, no. The less popular or relevant the product or the greater the number of producers of a product, the greater the need for someone to push it. If we assume that uniqueness and relevance in the market can support a product with few if any sales people we see the only reason for sales people at all is if the product is unremarkable or of no hugely, vital use; is poor or has many competitors between which customers have to choose.

These are the environments most heavily populated by sales people. Where companies struggle to sell product or services they will employ sales managers to drive the sales people. There seems to be no correlation drawn by management between producing "stuff" over producing more relevant and attractive "stuff" which will sell better. Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) or Value Propositions (VPs) can help win the race and the sales person can be a big differentiators but basically the product is the key to winning business.

All else is smoke and mirrors. Innovation and originality of product or service is the best way to succeed. Companies need to take stock of their offerings and make some hard decisions about the realities of the industry in which they operate. If they are also-rains or just followers-on they should recognize it and make the changes necessary to overcome that situation. Expecting sales people to work miracles or using sales managers to beat up the sales force won't solve anything. Mediocre products are mediocre products.

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