Information services

Information services

Information services

Management has a vital need for an adequate information service from the field to enable it to formulate appropriate policies. On the other hand, some limitation must be put upon the amount of paper work which flows between the salesman and his manager. A salesman's primary function is to sell, not to sit at home writing reports. Equally, management personnel should not be so burdened with the reading of reports that they have insufficient time for their main duty, which is to devise policy and control its implementation. An effort should be made, therefore, to simplify as far as is practical the task both of writing and reading sales reports.

For companies selling branded consumer foods in wholesale or retail outlets a pre-coded report form, requiring only a tick against relevant items, may suffice for daily or weekly call-reports. Where the product to be sold is of a sophisticated nature, or the market is complex, a written report becomes necessary. In setting out instructions for written reports, the Sales Manager should emphasize the following essential factors:

(1) Promptness

(2) Brevity

(3) Accuracy

(4) Utility.

Promptness is vital. Sales reports should be written as soon as possible after completion of a call. In practical terms this usually means at the end of each day. They should be posted to reach Head Office by the first available delivery. Many companies have adopted mechanical aids to assist their salesmen to complete their reports promptly. Battery-operated tape recorders enable salesmen to dictate their reports sitting in their parked cars. This cuts out the delay caused by writing and enables the salesman to put the completed tape spool into an envelope and drop it into the nearest post-box. Alternatively, arrangements can be made for the salesman to dictate his reports by telephone onto a tape machine at Head Office.

The achievement of brevity in report-writing demands considerable self-discipline. The majority of salesmen, unfortunately, are not renowned for their economy in the use of words! It is, however, an attribute which the industrial salesman in particular should be urged to acquire. Clear exposition will ensure that the substance of his report is grasped quickly by his management, whereas a garbled message runs the serious risk of being misconstrued. Industrial salesmen should receive instruction, during their training sessions, in the use of concise English.

One of the drawbacks to the use of a tape recorder is that it encourages the salesman to ramble, whereas the physical effort involved in a hand-written report encourages economy of words. Where a tendency towards verbosity is a problem, the use of a printed report form, with a limited allocation of space under various sub-headings, will act as a useful corrective.

It is obvious that the information imparted in a sales report should be as accurate as possible. Salesmen guilty of obvious inaccuracies in their reporting should be censured. Their attention should be drawn to the very serious consequences which may result, both in the form of incorrect action on the part of sales office staff and also in the incorrect formulation of sales and ONLINE MARKETING policies.

The utility of the information contained in sales reports should be as comprehensive as possible. The Sales Manager should emphasize to his salesmen the importance of an adequate feedback of information from the field. This should be done during basic training and reiterated at Sales Force Improvement sessions. The man in the field seldom appreciates the full significance of all that he sees and hears during his round of calls upon customers and potential customers. A scrap of information, given to him casually-almost 'by the way'-by one of his contacts may hardly seem worth passing on. But it could be the final piece in a jigsaw pattern of market knowledge for his Sales Manager, who has already gathered related snippets, in the form of rumours or comment, from several other sources.

No system of reporting is likely to remain apposite indefinitely. The Sales Manager should review the situation periodically and modify methods in accordance with changing needs and circumstances. Any changes he proposed should be explained to the sales team, preferably at a sales meeting, in order that the new method can be fully discussed before it is implemented. The co-operation of the salesmen will be all the greater if they are able to appreciate its relevance and realize that it is not a change made merely for change's sake.

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