DESIGNING THE SALESFORCE
Sales personnel serve as the company’s personal link to the customers.The sales representative is the
company to many of its customers.The sales representative who brings back much needed information
about the customer.Therefore,the company carefully needs to consider issues in salesforces design,the
development of salesforce objectives,Strategy, Structure, Size, and compensation.
Sales Force Objectives and Strategy
Once the company has established objectives,Strategy,Structure,Size and compensation, it has to move
to recruiting,selecting,training,supervising,motivating,and evaluating sales representatives.
Recruiting and selecting sales representatives
Superb sales managers know the value of a solid plan to do the upfront work required to attract,
interview and select the best sales performers. They have determined when and where interviews
will be conducted, as well as when the identified top candidate will come aboard. Before skilled
sales managers begin interviewing prospective candidates they know what they are looking for.
A well thought out job description, ideally tested and verified at least one level above in
management will provide a good template for selection. In the absence of a formal job
description, soliciting the input of the best sales representative currently on your team works
pretty well too. Next, identify the critical skills needed to be successful in sales.
Two sets of data will make up the composite picture of the candidate. One is "manifested" skills,
the other "abilities and aptitudes". Manifested skills are those that are recognized through
interviews, work experience and reference checks. For the most part, they are subjective since
they are judgment calls made by you and others regarding the candidates' likelihood of success in
Prior to interviewing candidates create an evaluation grid that contains all the "manifested"
criteria. This will keep you focused during the interviews. Candidly, these are clear indicators of
what you value in your representatives. A few examples of these criteria might include:
years of successful sales experience in the same or related industry
performance compared to quota
written and verbal communication skills
appearance and general demeanor
basic intelligence - ability to think quickly and clearly while delivering concise answers
to your questions.
It would be useful to assign a weighted value to each item signifying the relative importance you
place on each one. Use the grid to score the interviewees and develop your short list of
Prepare a checklist of questions to prequalify candidates during a telephone interview. This step
will determine whom you wish to interview in person. Consistently using the same set of
questions in both the phone interview and the in-person interview will enable you to determine
your best-qualified individuals. Additionally, using a Q & A pattern avoids haloing of
candidates. Choices are an inevitable part of life and advisedly we recommend you select at least
two finalists based on your "manifested" criteria. Here's why: A written offer of employment that
is not accepted will delay the timetable undoubtedly committed to other management.
At this step checkout all finalist references very thoroughly. Have developed a pre-set list of
questions that can be posed to every reference. Offer penetrating questions like "rank David on a
scale of 1 to 10 in salespersonship, personal qualities, work ethic and sales performance to
quota." A question such as "If there is one thing you can think of that would improve the sales
performance of David, what would you think it would be?" will open up the reference to tender
details you might never have uncovered otherwise. The point is use some imagination at this
step, as the more penetrating and thoughtful your questions, the better you are able to validate
your prior subjective candidate assessments.
Now go to the second set of skills or objective criteria, which are the "aptitudes and abilities" of
candidates. The most progressive organizations have correlated how human style and behavior
affect a sales persons' ability to perform in a sales role. These can be obtained through formal
assessment tools which are available today.
This type of testing can be used to match the candidate's personality or style with their adapted
sales style. They can also determine how the candidate will function in a work environment. The
real value lies in the ability to match how your most successful people function and what their
styles are with those of the candidate. Tests results that are too far astray from what you need
indicate a probable candidate misfit for the position.
To sum up, start the interviewing process fully knowledgeable about what skills, characteristics
and work experience you are seeking in your candidate. Then use assessment tools which will
provide you a more complete picture of the individual than simply your instinct, experience and
Now you have succeeded in attracting the finest candidate you can find in your designated
timeframe. This is not the time to rest on your laurels, so to speak. Your introduction of the new
representative to your team ensures the assimilation into your group is positive. Attention to this
detail is a must! Think about it. If you spent this much time planning, interviewing, doing
reference checks and succeeded to this point, this is the time to maintain control of the process.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate your genuine concern for your new team member and
identify the new representative as a valuable member of your team. Your personal interest in this
step will be appreciated and respected by the new representative and your team.
Before your candidate actually steps into this position, put together a "Getting Started Plan". In it
you should identify all activities, objectives, responsible parties and dates targeted for
completion of each. The list needs to be chronologically prioritized with most important activity
to least important. As these activities are completed, use this as an opportunity to discuss the
progress the new sales person is making. Your positive feedback will energize the new
representative and serve to encourage completion of activities even faster.
A couple of milestones are achieved when you take an active and participatory role in the hiring
process. You establish your leadership style. Secondly, you create a roadmap for your
representative that can be measured and from which both of you are accountable. You can
confidently and knowingly put a "success" plan in place that is realistic, discerned, and from
which you can lead from a responsible and authoritative position. Rather than leaving the new
employee wandering about aimlessly, you put him or her on a plan so together you can measure
progress toward every identified objective.
Superior sales management begins at the time of the initial face-to-face interview. What happens
thereafter and throughout your supervision of the representative is directly reflective of the
leadership you have previously displayed. Furthermore supervising the sales activities, as well as
setting meaningful and cooperative goals for your representative will be smoother thereafter.
Delegation and abdication of any of the steps mentioned might require corrections that are time
consuming. Not withstanding your new hire attaining quota immediately, it is difficult to
imagine any single activity of sales management more gratifying than succeeding in bringing
aboard another top performer.
Training sales representatives
Many companies send their new reps into the field almost immediately supplied with samples,order
books, and description of the territory.Much of their selling is ineffective.Sales training programs have
Sales representatives need to know and identify with the company.
Sales representatives need to know the company’s product.
Sales representatives need to know customers and competitor’s characteristics.
Sales representatives need to know how to make effective sales presentations.
Sales representatives need to understand field procedures and responsibilities.
To get a return on your investment, training programs must be targeted to achieve particular
Improve Company Knowledge
Sales training should allocate sufficient time, and include an appropriate amount of information,
to improve new and existing sales representatives&#039; knowledge of the company. This
should include its history, values and mission, and its policies and procedures with respect to
dealings with external stakeholders and internal coworkers and managers.
Clarify Responsibilities and Expectations
An effective sales training program leaves sales representatives with a full understanding of their
day-to-day activities and responsibilities, as well as a clear vision of the process of advancement
within the company. Highlight sales quotas or targets that are relevant and ensure that there are
no questions before moving on to another topic of discussion.
Improve Product Knowledge
One of the primary objectives of a sales training program is to ensure a thorough understanding
of the products and services that the salespeople will be selling. Sales guides with product
specifications, features and basic pricing should be distributed before the training sessions so that
sales representatives can review them beforehand--and raise any questions they have during the
sales training session. It is a good idea to have manufacturing/supplier representatives and
technical support/installation personnel on hand to answer any detailed questions sales
representatives might have about the product. Salespeople should leave a training session with
full confidence that they could effectively answer any question raised by the customer about their
products and services.
Enhance Sales Skills
Sales training should also improve sales skills. Representatives should gain new knowledge
about how to effectively prospect for and deal with clients, and learn new techniques to persuade
them to purchase the product. Review common objections raised by clients and practice handling
them in live drills, such as role-playing exercises. Upon completion of training, sales
representatives should be fully confident in their ability to break the ice with new clients, build a
solid business relationship with them, convince them of the value of the product and persuade
them to purchase it.
Sales training programs can and should lift morale. Sales representatives should leave the
training program with a positive attitude and renewed motivation to perform at a high level. They
should feel like a respected and important part of a cohesive team and take away a sense of pride
for their company and the products and services they represent.
Supervising sales representatives
Supervision is generally used today to refer to time spent working with employees to be certain
they are aware of the responsibilities of their job and how to perform them correctly.Because
of the independent nature of the sales job, most of the supervisory activities sales managers
engage in occur when they’re working with new hires. This seemingly simple and potentially
time consuming task should not be taken lightly, as it is a critical element of a sales manager’s
responsibilities. Supervision was an important element in a manager’s position when
“management” was first studied,and it continues to be in the twenty-first century.Today, the
term supervisor is seldom heard, yet the act of supervising is no less important than it was a
century ago. Sales managers—and sometimes sales trainers—spend time supervising people
performing new tasks. They observe and then offer suggestions for improving their
performance if needed. Their presence can help ensure that if the salesperson needs
assistance, he or she gets it.Whatever you want to call it, supervising involves lots of “handson”
time. Mark Baranczyk, the midwest regional sales manager for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing
Company, spends about three days each week in the field with his sales representatives
providing personalized supervision. During this time,he reviews the objectives of the call and
helps out reps if he’s needed. If a call goes well, he’ll hold back on participating during the visit
and offer a review of the representative’s performance during a “curbside coaching and
counseling” session. Sometimes Baranczyk will know the representative is having difficulties
achieving an objective with a client. During calls such as these, he takes a more active role
helping to answer questions,providing insight, and overcoming the client’s objections. At times
like these,Baranczyk needs to use coaching skills to help the salesperson identify and correct
any shortcomings they have identified. We present more information about coaching later in
this chapter.Sometimes managers don’t supervise new hires; more experienced sales personnel
do.Some companies refer to people such as this as a first-level manager.1 Another source of
supervisory assistance sales managers use is technology. If a company is using a CRM system,
a supervisor can track an employee’s daily activities. This information can provide a sales
manager with insight about how an employee is progressing with his or her customers,
whether or not the person is achieving his or her objectives during calls, and using his or her
Even if all Sales Representatives had appropriate motivation and could see their own selling
faults, the need would still exist for someone to decide what each Representative should do in
relation to all other personnel – in order that the Company achieves its Sales
objectives.Supervision primarily entails giving direction to each person’s work and in relation to
the work of others. It should ensure that people do what they should do and do not do useless
things or activities which harm overall Company objectives. Good supervision will also: (a)
provide guidance to improve the abilities and activities of Sales Representatives in their work
and (b) encourage and help them so that they can more easily help themselves.Sales
Representatives have difficulties peculiar to their occupation since most of their work involves
dealing with other people. Success or failure in a sale depends on decisions made by other
people. While Representatives can influence the decisions they must face rebuffs, disappoint-
ments, rudeness, and “brush-offs”. Supervisors need to offer encouragement and support to
maintain high morale in their Sales force.Supervision of outdoor Sales Representatives has
special difficulties. They work over a wide area and often they see no one from their Company
for several days at a time. They spend a fair proportion of their time travelling, often alone.
Sometimes they have to put up with unsatisfactory accommodation and meals. They frequently
have to travel away from their families for long periods. In these circumstances – especially after
an unsuccessful day – Sales Representatives can rate their work as unrewarding. These
difficulties mean that Managers need to offer a high quality of supervision. The fact that
travelling time restricts contact between Supervisor and Sales Representatives makes the task
even more difficult.
MOTIVATING SALES REPRESNTATIVES
Any manager, coach, or teacher knows the difficulty of getting people to perform better. It is one
thing to get reps excited and energized at a sales meeting-but quite another to maintain their
enthusiasm over the long haul. Whether you are trying to motivate your sales team or yourself,
consider the following strategies that will drive you to action:
Picture the Possibilities
There are bumper stickers everywhere that call us to 'visualize world peace.' From global
harmony to personal performance, visualization is an important step in the realization of any
goal. Begin by imagining your company as the industry leader. See each of your representatives
as superstars--and treat them that way. Goethe stated the principle this way: "Treat a man as he
appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially
could be, and you make him what he should be."Encourage your team to see themselves at the
top of the sales chart or accepting your company's highest sales honor. Ask them to think about
what they would do with the additional bonus or commission money after they have earned it.
The seed of powerful motivation starts with seeing the desired result as if it already happened.
Get Really Personal
As you begin to introduce new sales goals, remember the channel every rep is tuned to: WIIFM--
'What's In It For Me?' Describe how the new goals will benefit each member of your team in a
personal way. You will ignite their energy and excitement needed get the job done. Keep in
mind, "Winners are ex-losers that just got passionate." For enthusiasm to stick, the more personal
the vision, the more powerful the performance.
Motivation that leads to peak performance boils down to this basic formula:
Accomplishment + Acknowledgment = Achievement2
Most human beings are driven by an innate desire to make a difference, to be of contribution. By
acknowledging the success and good works of your people, you will promote exponential
increases inperformance. One easy way to do this is to follow Tom Peters' advice, 'catch your
people doing something right.' Be generous with praise. Look for ways to acknowledge people
for their performance and effort. If their efforts fall short of your expectations use the 'Stroke and
Kick Approach.' "Stroke" by acknowledging something good in their actions then "Kick" with a
gentle nudge toward improved performance. For example, "Jerry, your closing skills are the best
in the company, but what can be done to improve the number of calls you make?"
Show Me the Money
Salespeople are motivated by money and the opportunity to make more. Financial incentives tied
to achievement is just another form of acknowledgment. In fact, bonus money provides a double
incentive. The chance to earn more money and receive the recognition that comes with the
achievement. Be sure to tie reward to superior work performance. Special bonus rewards
received without an extra effort are not special at all. When creating financial incentives to
motivate your sales team, remember the German proverb: "He who likes cherries soon learns to
The Ball Goes in the Cup
In golf, landing on the green isn't enough to win the match. If you want your people to achieve
specific goals clearly communicate your expectations and ideals for success. Don Shula
attributes his success as the winningest coach in NFL history to the " result of a strong set of
operating beliefs and principles.You won't be a successful leader if you don't have a clear idea of
what you believe, where you're headed, and what you are willing to go to the mat for." Goals that
are just out of reach--not out of sight, are the most powerful, so remember to keep them realistic.
The more vivid the vision, the more real the results.
No Train No Gain!
Give your people the tools and training to become successful. Top teams learn from top coach's.
Provide the best training you can afford. Consider it an investment that will pay higher dividends
in outstanding performance. Thomas Jefferson said it best, "Of all of the investments you can
make, education pays the best interest". Motivate yourself and your people with these ideas then
sit back and watch the mountains move.
EVALUATING SALES REPRESENTATIVES
Once you have engaged sales representation, whether using a commission sales force or a house
sales rep, or entering one of the collective arrangements, you will want to measure and evaluate
sales performance on a regular and continual basis. There are a number of performance indices
that should be followed and studied. Eight areas of evaluation are listed below; the first five
focus on the question of how hard the rep is selling. Although much of what follows pertains
more to managing an independent commission sales force, the principles may be extrapolated to
evaluating other types of reps as well. It should be noted at the outset that sales increases are, by
themselves, not an accurate gauge of performance, and a commission arrangement does not
guarantee maximum sales and efficient self-management.
1. Visits. Consider first how many accounts your rep is visiting each season. Routinely review all
orders received and books sold. This will tell you whether or not your rep is working every day.
Track the number of sales calls made each season. If the number of visits is decreasing, it could
be because of illness, lethargy, or even factors such as the overexpansion of a rep's line so that
not as many accounts can be seen each season. In any case, the number and quality of visits is a
key indicator. As a rep gets to know a territory better, he or she can get around faster and learn
what buyers are interested in; therefore, visits go more quickly and smoothly, leaving time for
new accounts to be opened.
The visitation pattern defines the rep's sales strategy. By seeing major accounts first, back orders
on major books grow early in the season, and this gives a marketing director time to adjust print
runs. The rep should call on small specialty accounts last in a season, and perennial stop-ship
accounts last, if at all. At the end of each season, review what new accounts were opened, and be
sure all major and midsize accounts were visited.
Sales managers should closely track the number and quality of new seasonal orders received.
(Note that this is different from backlist orders generated by bookstore computers and forwarded
to reps for processing.) Comparing orders with itinerary/call lists will tell you how many visits
yielded orders. (Often catalogs are left, or tentative orders taken, and the rep is told, "We'll mail
the order in to you." The latter often require phone follow-up, so the number of orders taken is
2. Orders. While the number of orders is important, their quality may be more significant. If the
rep is doing a good job, he or she will present the entire list, including backlist. Close perusal of
rep orders will tell the sales manager whether or not the rep is using the full sales kit (if, for
example, anthologies are sold to contributors, local bookstores), if your rep is a real care-giver
(i.e., special attention is given to orphans on your list), if your rep understands the fine line
between representing the publisher and representing the bookseller (i.e., includes text orders on
sales rep order forms), and if your rep is opportunistic (i.e., responds quickly to important book
reviews and finds new markets for your titles).
3. Unit Sales. Keeping in mind the changing size and quality of your new offerings and backlist
as well as the percentage of cloth and paper of your list, you should track whether or not your
frontlist and backlist unit sales are increasing or decreasing.
4. Net Sales. Certainly turnover in a particular sales territory needs close watching, but this can
be a deceptive measure of performance. Factors independent of the rep's selling work can
influence sales, for example: the growth of superstores and other chains, a shift in buying for an
important regional chain into or out of a territory, and the opening or closing of key independent
accounts. Major reviews of a lead book, or of a major regional book, can inflate sales figures
independent of a rep's work, and economic conditions or natural disasters can depress sales. If
you have the capability, track the value of orders taken, rather than the value of shipments, since
the latter can be adversely affected by late arrival of stock and by credit problems.
5. Organization, Communication, and Information. Some aspects of this measure are
intangible; nevertheless, reps should demonstrate in a concrete manner that they can handle the
administrative side as well as the selling side of representation. The most important evidence that
a rep is organized is a written itinerary. Reps should supply a list of accounts to be visited in each
city, with dates; such a list keeps booksellers informed, ensures that important accounts are
visited, and lets you handle special sales accounts yourself.
It is unusual with commission sales reps, but house reps often submit a weekly call sheet,
detailing who has been seen (who is only getting catalogs, and who is stiffing whom on
appointments), what is selling, what's not, and why (to provide an opportunity to
reposition/rethink books and/or adjust print runs), coop/signing ideas or interest, customer
service problems, and any reason why a backlist order has not been taken.
Publishers often find that a monthly or seasonal summary memo is useful. Some information is
most efficiently gathered by the press itself; how ever, since most university press sales
managers are unable to get into the field very much, the reps' eyes and ears are extremely
important to publishers' marketing decisions. The publisher may be able to follow trends shown
in order data but still needs to know why certain accounts are doing better or worse compared to
last season, and why it is seeing changes in frontlist/backlist buying patterns. In addition, the
sales manager needs to hear firsthand what the impact of superstores or chain stores in the
territory was and what accounts were opened or closed and which ones are in trouble.
Sales reps must have the equipment to do the job. Their specific needs will depend on what kind
of sales force you have, and whether or not a rep handles some administrative work for a sales
group or not. These days, reps should have faxes, and one would hope that they have computer
programs with the capability to develop a database of accounts for mailings and to develop,
review, and then prioritize an account list. Obviously, independent commission reps will need to
invest more in equipment than a house sales force will, since much of the latter's administrative
tasks are handled by the publisher.
Finally, whether you use house reps or commission reps, you have a right to expect prompt
answers to your inquiries and speedy processing of orders and other paperwork. Again, how well
reps handle this illustrates how well they respond to customers.
6. Sales Conference. This may be the only opportunity to size up your sales representatives
face-to-face, so try to make the most of this time together. The first test, of course, is whether
your reps show up. If not, that says something about the way they manage appointments with
customers. Whether you have house reps or commission reps, you have a right to expect that
they will be prepared, enthusiastic, and productive at sales conferences. The sales manager
should assess the reps' performance at each sales conference, and first of all, ascertain if each rep
has reviewed the catalog pages in advance. Consider the following: Does the rep help position
books and clarify markets for titles? Can he or she provide a quick, thoughtful reality check on
marketing concerns, such as print runs, jacket comps, ad placements, and places for parties?
Does a rep subject a book or author to his or her political litmus test, or does your rep complain
about every hardcover trade book and suggest that you do it in paperback instead? Does your rep
go off on tangents that are of marginal relevance to the book at hand or are focused on narrow
concerns of sales force, or does this person see the "big picture"?
7. Handling Regional Shows. These meetings are of varying importance to presses, depending
on the overall list size and its salability within particular regions. Commission sales reps
routinely attend and display books at these meetings. If you have commission reps, they should
offer you the chance to participate.
Carefully coordinate what to display and offer. Observe how your rep prepares for exhibits with
mailings to accounts featuring presses, titles, offers, and giveaways. In addition to orders, ask for
a memo summarizing attendance, interest in titles, and new accounts seen (even if no orders are
From time to time, the sales manager should try to attend these regional trade shows, even if the
press does not take its own table. It is a good way to observe your reps in action as well as a cost-
efficient way to get closer to the marketplace.
8. The Intangibles. There are some truly subjective measures of performance. Here are a few.
Does your rep find time outside of sales conferences to visit and talk? Does your rep check in
during the season? When you (the sales manager) call, what is the rep's attitude? Does he or she
see inquiries and requests for information as necessary to a sales director's job, not as
harassment? When you share data on their performance, do they see this evaluation as helpful,
not threatening? Does your rep allow you to sit in on occasional sales calls to key accounts? Will
the rep graciously help with problems, such as nudging accounts on stop-ship? What do
booksellers think of your rep's selling ability?
Finally, it must be noted that if your reps are doing a good job, make sure you tell them so.
Although we may forget it, we all know from our own evaluations how important this is.