Sales Executive as Coordinator

Optimum marketing performance in terms of sales volume, net profits, and long-term growth requires coordination, and sales executives play significant roles in coordinating. Sales executives have responsibilities for coordination involving (1) the organization, (2) the planning, and (3) other elements in the marketing strategy. Higher-ranking sales exec­utives are those most concerned with obtaining effective coordination, but sales executives at all organizational levels have some coordination responsibilities.

1. Organization and Coordination

Coordination of the different order-getting methods (personal selling, adver­tising, and so forth) is achieved through a single responsible, top-ranking executive. Generally, this is the marketing vice-president, director of mar­keting, or marketing manager. This executive is responsible for minimiz­ing the possibility that the different order-getting departments will work at cross-purposes or work toward sales goals in isolation (with little knowl­edge of what others are doing).

Inside the sales department, from the department head to down, all sales executives are responsible for coordinating the organizational units under their control. In sales departments that function smoothly, generally democratic administration is the rule. All subordinates affected by a deci­sion are consulted in advance and are allowed to participate in making it—thus reducing the tendency to resist directives issued by superiors. Not only are there minimum opportunities for misunderstandings to occur, but subordinates, as well as superiors, are able to visualize the circumstances giving rise to decisions.

2. Planning and Coordination

The sales executive, having specialized knowledge of the market and of the capabilities of the sales force, is involved in achieving coordination in marketing objectives and drafts plans that achieve desired results at optimum cost. Sales executives determine the elements (personal selling, advertising, and so forth) that make up the marketing program, apportion­ing the relative amounts of each so as—at least theoretically—to equate its marginal effectiveness with that of other elements. Coordination among the marketing planners is essential if they are to lay out specific programs for achieving predetermined sales, profit, and growth objectives. The sales executive, as a member of the planning group, seeks to secure a marketing program that is both appropriate for market conditions and reflects the probable contribution of the sales force.

3. Coordination with Other Elements in the Marketing Program

Many responsibilities of sales executives relate to coordinating personal selling with other order-getting methods. Personal-selling efforts must be coordinated with advertising, display, and other promotional efforts if the total marketing effort is to achieve the desired results. Just as they must “build coordination into” the marketing plan, sales executives must achieve coordination during the plan’s implementation.

Synchronizing personal selling with advertising is particularly important. Advertising may prove uneconomic unless the sales force capitalizes upon the interest aroused. Personal-selling effort is wasted in explaining details that might be explained by advertising, but when sales personnel and the advertising use the same appeals—if both tell the same story—promotional impact is magnified. The timing and sequence with which different phases of the personal-selling and advertising efforts are executed affect the firm’s chances of achieving marketing success. An advertising effort should be implemented within the context of the larger marketing effort, and the same applies to personal-selling effort.

Sales executives are involved in coordinating other promotional efforts with the personal-selling effort. Point-of-purchase displays, for example, are set up in retail stores where customers will see them at the precise time that tie-in advertisements appear in national and local media. It is the job of the sales force to achieve this timing and coordination. In a similar man­ner, the sales personnel alerts dealers to special couponing or sampling efforts so that they can benefit from heightened customer interest.

4. Coordination with the Distributive Network

Sales executives coordinate personal selling with the marketing efforts of the intermediaries. Among the most important aspects are gaining product distribution, obtaining dealer identification, reconciling business goals, and sharing promotional risks.

Gaining product distribution. When a new product is introduced, sales executives are responsible for obtaining distribution. Unless the product is sold directly to final users, the sales department must persuade intermediar­ies to associate themselves with the new product’s distribution. It is not an easy task to gain distribution Intermediaries refuse to stock a new product unless the manufacturer’s sales staff presents convincing arguments of its salability. Some manufacturers succeed in “pulling” their products through the distribution channel by means of heavy advertising to final buyers, but such instances of “forced distribution” are rare.

Regardless of the distribution channels used, the manufacturer of a new product, as often as not, faces distributor lethargy and dealer indiffer­ence, and must use missionary selling. But, as frequently happens in market­ing a new consumer product, even missionary selling may be handicapped because corporate chains and other integrated retailers commonly do not permit decentralized calls on their individual outlets. Thus, the manufacturer of a new product may have to build a demand for it in as many outlets as are initially willing to handle it and then prove the existence of an estab­lished market demand to the remaining “desired outlets” before adequate distribution is secured. Consequently, the sales executive must ensure that the manufacturer’s initial promotional efforts are tied in with those of the intermediaries who first stock the product. As distribution in more outlets is secured, the sales executive sees to it that progressively larger shares of the promotional burden are shifted to the intermediaries. Thus, coordinating the promotional efforts of the manufacturer and its intermediaries grows increasingly important as the product is made available in more outlets, and sales executives must adjust their coordinating efforts accordingly.

Obtaining dealer identification. In furthering the chances that the personal-selling effort will succeed, the sales executive must ensure that final buyers know which local outlets stock the product. Even if advertising succeeds in preselling the product, there will be no sales if final buyers cannot find the outlets that stock it. Inadequate dealer identification results in clogged distribution channels—all the way from the dealer’s stockroom to the factory. In some instances, dealers take the initiative in publicizing the availability of the product. But, in most cases, sales personnel promote dealer identification through providing store signs, furnishing preprints and reprints of advertisements, supplying advertising mats for local insertions, and assisting in building merchandise displays. In other cases, sales exec­utives arrange for the placing of local advertising over the dealers’ names.

The sales force plays a related role in marketing many consumer products, particularly those distributed through self-service retailers. It is important that consumers, once in the right retail stores, can locate the product with minimum difficulty. Display at the point of purchase bridges the gap between advertising impact and the retail sale. Whenever merchan­dising aids, such as interior display pieces or shelf markers, are used, sales executives must teach salespeople how to obtain the retailers’ permission to use them. Timing is important in securing permissions—at the start of a special promotional campaign, for example, retailers are more willing to allow the erection of displays (particularly if they have ample supplies of the product on hand) than they are during slow-selling seasons.

Reconciling business goals. Skillful coordinating by sales executives and the sales force minimizes the natural friction that develops because of conflicts, imaginary or real, between the business goals of the manufac­turer and the intermediaries. The less the manufacturer and the intermedi­aries work at cross-purposes, the greater the return to both parties.

One approach is for the manufacturer to share business information with the intermediaries. Certain information is imparted through trade advertising, but salespeople personalize much data for intermediaries. While the results of marketing research studies, for example, have signif­icance for individual intermediaries, sales executives have special reports prepared for personal presentation and explanation by the sales force.

The manufacturer needs information on the operating situation and problems of the intermediaries. Sales personnel, through regular and special reports, serve as the vehicles of communication. Sales executives recognize that only if timely information is available on the needs and attitudes of intermediaries is it possible to provide them with effec­tive promotional and other assistance. The sales executive makes peri­odic appraisals of existing marketing policies in the light of information provided by salespeople in the field, thus ensuring that those policies already in effect, as well as those newly formulated are appropriate for the total marketing situation.

Sales executives ensure that sales personnel are fair and impartial in their dealings with intermediaries. No outlet should be favored at the expense of another; all should receive equitable treatment. Salespeople need continuous training to keep them abreast of current operating poli­cies, practices and procedures; Effective supervision is required to ensure that they are being applied fairly as well as properly. Providing this train­ing and supervision is the responsibility of sales executives.

Sharing promotional risks. The marketing program often calls for the manufacturer and the intermediaries to share promotional risks (such as through cooperative advertising). In these cases, sales executives ensure that the sales personnel make effective presentations designed to con­vince dealers to participate. Manufacturers utilizing selective or exclusive agency distribution stand to gain the most from sharing promotional risk with intermediaries; in these situations, sales executives and the sales force play roles in both the initial selection of middle-men as well as in obtaining their consent to share promotional risks. Manufacturers using mass distribution do not find it feasible to delegate much promotional authority to their intermediaries. However, regardless of the company’s distribution policy, any steps that the sales executive takes to make the job of the middleman more interesting, more profitable, and more challenging facilitate the task of coordination.

5. Coordination and Implementation of Overall Marketing Strategy

When the overall marketing strategy is being put into effect, coordination problems occur while timing and securing the best sequence of execution of the various phases. For example, if a new product is to be introduced at a trade show or exhibition, the sales executive coordinates with advertising executives to ensure that the proper interval elapses before advertisements appear or salespeople make calls on dealers in the product’s behalf. Similar coordinating action ensures proper spacing of the advertising in relation to the call schedules of salespeople. Furthermore, sales executives see that field sales personnel integrate every phase and segment of the promotional programs of distributors and dealers.

Successful market introduction of a new brand is a severe test of the mettle and the level of competence possessed by all members of the mar­keting management team, including sales executives. The Introduction of a new brand requires policies, strategies, and detailed plans, all of them appropriate to the company’s marketing situation. Proper timing of the stages in the introduction plan is important because launching a brand at the wrong time, or faulty timing at any stage will kill or reduce the chances for success. All the promotional efforts on behalf of the new brand require coordination: advertising with personal selling and the manufacturer’s total promotion with intermediaries activities.

It is not enough for sales executives to know the techniques and prob­lems of new-brand introduction. They must be capable of putting the plans into action, to implement them effectively. They must skillfully execute the program of market introduction. Figure 1.1 illustrates a sales depart­ment’s planned coordinating action and emphasizes the importance of tim­ing of coordination effort in the introduction of a new product. Notice, for instance, that publicity releases break at about the time that the product becomes available. Notice, too, that salespeople are alerted ahead of time, but not too far in advance for them to lose their enthusiasm.

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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