Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Title track
Challenges that sales personnel face

Salesman, the word conjures up images of an intruder, trying to sell unwanted goods. Probably the most abused and disrespected person in India, yet experts say he is the real cutting edge of any marketing success.

“It is time to remove negative perceptions and bring in credibility, respect and pride back into the job of selling,” says Pingali Venugopal, Dean, and Professor (Marketing) Xavier Labour Relations Institute, Jamshedpur, in a new book, “Managing Your Sales Force”.

The National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) estimates that the middle-income category is expected to cross 63 per cent in all Indian households by the end of this year.

The middle class constitutes the major market for consumer goods. There is a great aspirational class in the smaller towns that is absolutely hungry for a good range of electronics, consumer durables and technological products.

But the fact remains that consumers have some deeply ingrained negative stereotypes about the salesman. They feel that neither the salespersons are honest, nor do they give correct information.

Popular perception

A poll on the honesty and ethics of salesman in 32 different professions found that insurance and car salesman ranked close to the bottom, says the book. Another survey found that commissioned salesman were perceived as less honest than non-commissioned ones, says the book, noting this is primarily because selling is unattractive in modern Indian society.

Motivating the sales force

Even the salesperson is not very comfortable in referring to himself as one. Salespeople, especially in India, do not think highly of their profession, notes Venugopal.But he says unless they take pride in their work, they are unlikely to perform to the best of their abilities. This, in turn, is bound to affect the organisation in terms of both its growth and its profit.

The book notes that many companies are giving a growing recognition to the fact that, in many cases, the sales force is the competitive advantage. The big question, however, is how to develop and motivate the sales force to operate in the challenging environment where the unique and valuable solutions are not reaching or connecting in this respect, the right people, in the right place and at the right time? A study identified three key areas: need to increase the base of customers; tap the potential of the salespersons and improve the level of engagement of the salespeople.

Research has shown that none other than the sales manager can improve the quality of the salesperson’s performance. Yet many organisations, not just in India, but all over the world, have done very little to help the former focus on the latter to achieve results, he says. PTI