REV: DECEMBER 1, 2006
Personal Selling and Sales Management
Salespeople represent a large part of labor in most economies. In its latest report,1 the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly fourteen million people are employed in sales and salesrelated occupations and that these people earn over $450 billion in wages. Moreover, salespeople represent a major investment for many companies, accounting for as much as 40% of their costs. A company’s fortune often rises and falls on the productivity of its salespeople. The goal of this module is to develop a better understanding of what salespeople do, what motivates them to succeed, and how to effectively manage their efforts.
The Salesperson - A Boundary-Spanning Role
Salespeople work on the boundary between a company and its customers. To the company, the salesperson is the voice of the customer. To the customer, the salesperson is the physical embodiment of the company. This boundary-spanning role creates unique tension for salespeople because they are constantly forced to reconcile the competing interests of both the buying and the selling organizations. Figure A: The Salesperson’s Boundary-Spanning Role
1 These data come from the May 2005 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates report, which was accessed
online at http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#b41-0000 on 1 December 2006. See occupation code 41-0000. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ This note was prepared by Professor Thomas Steenburgh for the sole purpose of aiding students in the Marketing course. Copyright © 2006 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.
Module Note—Personal Selling and Sales Management
Types of Salespeople
During cocktail hour discussions, sales managers still engage in the old debate of whether great salespeople are born or whether they are made. It is a question, of course, without a single answer. Some people are better suited to selling than others (in fact, some salespeople are better suited to certain types of sales jobs than others) and yet most people can sell more effectively by learning to follow a process. Whether an individual will make a good salesperson does somewhat depend on their inherent personality traits. In a classic article, Mayer and Greenberg (1964) suggest that salespeople must have two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive. Empathy allows salespeople to treat customers’ problems as their own, and ego drive enables salespeople to persist even after experiencing failure. Whether an individual is right for a given organization depends on the fit between the individual’s skills and tasks that need to be accomplished. Narayandas and Weinstein (2005) examine the differences between salespeople who thrive in ”hunter” and salespeople who thrive in “farmer” types of positions.2 Hunters Hunter salespeople are persuasive, have a strong sense of urgency, and are adept at bouncing back from rejection. They are better suited to the following types of functions: • • • • Sourcing and qualifying new leads Obtaining appointments Delivering presentations that address customers’ concerns Negotiating and securing new business
Farmers Farmer salespeople are empathetic, consistent, and adept at developing relationships. They are better suited to: • • • • Establishing and maintaining long-term relationships Providing expert advice...