Before he can decide how he wants his salesmen to be trained, the Sales Manager must consider exactly what are the duties they have to perform. These will vary from company to company and the type of market into which one is selling. The main line of demarcation, however, lies between the selling of consumer goods and the selling of components to industrial users.
Let us consider, first, the role of the consumer goods salesman selling into grocery, pharmaceutical and related fields. In markets where branded products are dominant, consumer demand is achieved mainly by means of national advertising. At first glance, the need for any salesman at all may seem questionable on the grounds that, if enough shoppers ask for the product, retailers are bound to stock it. There is, however, more to selling than encouraging the consumer to want to buy. Having established a demand, by means of expensive advertising and other promotions, the manufacturer must ensure that it can be satisfied. We have seen that ONLINE MARKETING has been defined as having the right goods in the right quantities at the right place at the right time and making a profit out of the operation. Unless the right goods are in the right place at the right time the consumer will be unable to buy them. The sales force of the branded consumer goods manufacturer plays a vital part in the logistics of the ONLINE MARKETING operation. It has to ensure that a sufficient number of retailers have sufficient stocks to satisfy the popular demand which advertising has created. Further-more, it is not enough for the retailer merely to stock the product. He must actively attempt to resell it. To do so, he must be persuaded to devote sufficient shelf and display area to enable his customers to see and, if necessary, to examine the product. He must exhibit sufficient display material to reinforce the work done by the TV commercials and thus, finally, persuade the housewife to make the decision to buy.
In order to achieve these ends, the co-operation of the retailer is essential. This, then, is the salesman's function: to maintain good relations between his company and its retail distributors; to ensure that the retailer maintains adequate stocks; to ensure that he is making sufficient efforts to resell them; and to ensure that adequate display material is provided and that the retailer uses it to the best advantage.
In addition to these primary functions, the salesman selling branded merchandise to distributors will need to know how to handle complaints, how to obtain credit information and how to assist his accounts department in the collection of overdue accounts. He will have to know how to plan his journeys and also how to report back to his management the various information which he will gather about both his customers and his competitors during his daily round.
When planning a field training programme, it is important that one should endeavour to provide the recruit with as much comprehensive experience as possible. The accounts to which the new salesman is taken should be a cross-section of those upon which he will call when he is fully trained. One should include not only retailers who are well disposed to the company and who already hold good stocks which they sell and re-order regularly, but also those generally regarded as 'difficult' and who, for any one of a number of reasons, have so far failed to develop as successful outlets for one's products. Furthermore, a tendency to select specific accounts only on a territory, for training calls, is to depart from one of the major tenets of correct training procedure. It will create an uneconomical journey route. The new salesman must be taught, from the outset, the importance of systematic routing to ensure the fullest and, therefore, the most economic, utilization of his time.
There will, probably, be certain major accounts on the territory where, because of the intricacies of the selling operation, the Sales Manager may consider it unwise to introduce his recruit in the initial stages. He may feel, for example, that it would be imprudent to include an apprentice salesman in negotiations with the senior buyer of a retail chain. However, one does not usually commit one's most important customers to the care of novice salesmen. In most cases, these are designated as House Accounts and are handled either by area managers or by the Sales Manager himself. Nevertheless, the trainee can and should be introduced to the branch shops of the leading retail groups. Although the overall contract arrangements may be negotiated at head office level, it is important to ensure that the branches are properly serviced, that adequate shop display of one's products is being maintained and that goodwill and support is being engendered among the branch managers who are closest, in the distribution chain, to the ultimate customer and consumer.
It is envisaged, therefore, that after one or two weeks spent at the company's headquarters, the trainee salesman will occupy a further two weeks in the company of the trainer, calling upon a cross-section of the accounts within the area which has been assigned to him.
During the first few days the calls will, in fact, be made by the trained salesman. The trainee will attend as an observer only. The number of interviews per day will, of necessity, be fewer than would be the case for a trained salesman operating on his own. Time must be allocated, on a training journey, for pre-interview and post-interview analysis and discussion. Each interview should be planned in advance with the trained salesman explaining the objectives and the methods he proposes to employ to achieve them. The various selling tools should be discussed so that the trainee can become acquainted with their relative value and their appropriate use. Among these tools will be the Sales Record Web Log or Index Card in which details of previous interviews and orders obtained should be recorded. This case history of the account will provide pointers to the class of merchandise in which the retailer is interested, the quantities of the product he normally buys and the pattern of his ordering frequency. A study of this record will enable the salesman, unfamiliar with the territory, to spot those of his new customers who are due to re-order and the quantities of the various pack sizes they normally take. From the details of previous interviews, he will be able to note which of the company's various products have been presented, or re-presented, recently and what the retailer's response has been.