Sooner or later, every growing company faces the necessity for establishing a field sales organization. The sales manager can personally supervise field selling operations when a company is young, when only a few salespeople are employed, when the sales force travels out of the home office, and when the marketing area is small. As more salespersons are added, it is increasingly difficult to supervise and control them. If growth in sales volume is to parallel additions to the sales force, either the same marketing area must be worked more intensively or new areas must be penetrated. Both alternatives call for closer supervision and control of field sales personnel.
The field organization consists of all employees of the sales department who work away from the home office. All outside salespeople are included, as are traveling sales supervisors, branch and district managers, and clerical employees in branch and district offices. Also included are service, repair, and sales promotion personnel. Although not all are concerned directly with increasing the effectiveness of field selling operations, each makes contributions to that end.
The two main purposes of a field organization are (1) to facilitate the selling task and (2) to improve the chances that salespeople will achieve their goals. Sales personnel count on the field organization for assistance and support. Their jobs should be made easier because of it.
The makeup of the field organization is influenced by the organizational philosophy of the management. Companies that consider centralization desirable have complex supervisory organizations. Each salesperson is subjected to close supervision—hence the need for a considerable force of supervisors. Firms that believe in decentralization, in contrast, permit individuals in the field to operate more on their own.
Numerous factors influence the size of the field organization. The larger the firm, assuming similar sales-related marketing policies, the greater the required number of salespeople, supervisors, and regional, branch, and district managers. The relative emphasis placed on personal selling in the marketing program affects the size of the field organization. For example, the firm selling directly to retailers, ultimate consumers, or industrial users commits itself to the performance of a sizable personal selling task, and it requires a field organization of commensurate size. In contrast, companies using wholesalers find that their field organizations can be correspondingly smaller, since parts of the personal selling and other tasks are transferred to these intermediaries. Other factors affecting the size of the field organization include desired frequency of sales calls, number of customers and prospects, and geographical spread of sales accounts.
Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.