Role of Manufacturer’s Sales Force

Channel partners regard the manufacturer’s salespeople not only as sales representatives for the product line, but also as instruments through which the manufacturer’s business philosophy is implemented. Their opinions of the company and its products are influenced by the conduct of its sales personnel. Salespeople need not be public relations experts, but they need skill in interpersonal relations. Training, retraining, and experience make salespeople competent in applying the manufacturer’s sales policies and practices, but only skill in interpersonal relations equips them to get along with people. Unless customers receive favorable impressions of the manu­facturer from their contact with its sales force, cooperative programs with the channel partnersare not likely to succeed. Selecting basically good peo­ple for the sales force and developing their interpersonal relations skills are important.

Attitudes of distributive outlets are particularly influenced when man­ufacturers’ sales personnel apply undiplomatic tactics. In one study, deal­ers stated that they resented salespersons who begged for business with personal hard-luck stories, became unpleasant when they did not receive orders, bragged about big orders they had written for other dealers, acted as though they were doing a favor for the dealer, carried gossip from dealer to dealer, hinted at great favors in the future, and acted as though they were entitled to business just for making calls. Such tactics are more common than many sales executives admit.

First-line communications with channel partners are initiated and maintained by the manufacturer’s sales force, so the utmost care is needed in their selection, training, and supervision. Nothing damages the reputations of a company and its products more than a salesperson who fails to win and hold the respect and confidence of the customers. Sales management relies upon the salespeople to treat customers fairly. Good salespeople do not make promises that cannot be kept or that are later ignored. Good salespeople do not sell orders larger than the cus­tomer can handle—overselling causes poor relationships with channel partners.

Making lasting friendships for the company is as much a part of the selling job as securing orders. Effective sales management keeps salespeople supplied with up-to-date information of the products, their applications, and changes in sales and other policies (or their manner of implementation). With this information and skill in interpersonal relations, salespeople handle customer relations effectively.

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.

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