Most sales personnel require motivational “help” from management to reach and maintain acceptable performance levels. They require motivation as individuals and as group members. As individuals, they are targets for personalized motivational efforts by their superiors. As members of the sales force, they are targets for sales management efforts aimed toward welding them into an effective selling team. Four aspects of the salesperson’s job affect the quality of its performance. The following discussion focuses on these aspects, each is an important reason why sales personnel require additional motivation.
1. Inherent Nature of the Sales Job
Although sales jobs vary from one company to the next, sales jobs are alike in certain respects. Every sales job is a succession of ups and downs, a series of experiences resulting in alternating feelings of exhilaration and depression. In the course of a day’s work, salespersons interact with many pleasant and courteous people, but some are unpleasant and rude and are difficult to deal with. Furthermore, sales personnel spend not only working time but considerable after-hours time away from home, causing them to miss many attractive parts of family life. These conditions cause salespersons to become discouraged, to achieve low performance levels, or even to seek non-selling positions. The inherent nature of the sales job, then, is the first reason that additional motivation is required.
2. Salesperson’s Boundary Position and Role Conflicts
The salesperson occupies a “boundary position” in the company and must try to satisfy the expectations of people both within the company (in the sales department and elsewhere) and in customer organizations. There is linkage with four groups: (1) sales management, (2) the company organization that handles order fulfillment, (3) the customers, and (4) other company sales personnel. Each group imposes certain behavioral expectations on the salesperson, and, in playing these different roles, the salesperson faces role conflicts, such as
- Conflict of identification arises out of multigroup membership. As the salesperson works with the customer, identification is with the customer rather than the company. On returning to the company, the salesperson drops identification with the customer and identifies with the company.
- Advocacy conflict arises when the salesperson identifies with the customer and advocates the customer’s position to other groups in the company organization. This may be important and may be encouraged by the sales management group, but the advocator is in a difficult position.
- Conflict is inherent in the salesperson’s dual role as an advocate for both the customer and the company and the salesperson’s pecuniary interest as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur paid directly or indirectly on the basis of sales volume, the salesperson has an interest in selling as much as possible in the shortest time. However, the salesperson also needs to keep the customers’ perspective in mind to develop the long term selling relationships. In few cases, salesperson may miss the sales as a particular product may not be the right one for a key account customer.
Not much can be done to reduce the role conflicts of sales personnel. Some evidence exists that experienced sales personnel perceive significantly less role conflict than those with less experience. This suggests that a salesperson’s perceptions of, and ability to cope with, role conflict are influenced not only by experience but by the effectiveness of sales training. It also suggests that those who become experienced sales personnel may cope better with role conflicts (that is, psychologically) than those leaving the sales organization earlier.
3. Tendency Towards Apathy
Some sales personnel naturally become apathetic, get into a rut. Those who, year after year, cover the same territory and virtually the same customers, lose interest and enthusiasm. Gradually their sales calls degenerate into routine order taking. Because they know the customers so well, they believe that good salesmanship is no longer necessary. Their customer approach typically becomes: “Do you need anything today, Joe?” They fail to recognize that friendship in no way obviates the necessity for creative selling and that most customers do not sell themselves on new products and applications. The customer’s response, as often as not, is: “Nothing today, Bill.” Later, a competing salesperson calls on the same account, uses effective sales techniques, and gets an order. Many salespeople require additional motivation to maintain continuing enthusiasm to generate renewed interest, in their work.
4. Maintaining a Feeling of Group Identity
The salesperson, working alone, finds it difficult to develop and maintain a feeling of group identity with other company salespeople. Team spirit, if present at all, is weak. Thus, the contagious enthusiasm—conducive to improving the entire group’s performance—does not develop.
If sales management, through providing added motivation, succeeds in developing and maintaining team spirit, individual sales personnel strive to meet group performance standards. Few people who consider themselves members of the sales team want to appear as poor performers in the eyes of their colleagues. Providing the kind of working atmosphere in which all members of the sales force feel they are participating in a cooperative endeavor is not easy—nevertheless, effective sales management works continuously to achieve and maintain it.
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.