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The Sales Force of the Future

13 May, 2016 - 13:23

What will the sales force of the year 2020 look like? Will it still consist of dependent operators who are assigned a territory or a quota? Will the high cost of competing in a global marketplace change the traditional salesperson? Although we can speculate about dramatic changes in the nature of personal selling, the traditional salesperson figure will likely remain intact for several decades. Why? Many products will still need to be sold personally by a knowledgeable, trustworthy person who is willing to resolve problems at any hour of the day.

Still, major changes in personal selling will occur, in large part due to technology. Though technology has increased selling efficiency, it has also resulted in more complex products, so that more sales calls are required per order in many industries. Also, because of the trend toward business decentralization, sales representatives now have more small or mid-sized accounts to service. Currently, companies such as Hewlett-Packard and Fina Oil and Chemical as well as many smaller companies provide laptop computers to all salespeople. Computer-based sales tracking and follow-up systems allow salespeople to track customers. This technology means that salespeople can assess customer-buying patterns, profitability, and changing needs more rapidly. Accessing this information via computer saves the salesperson time and allows customization of the sales presentation.

Sales teams will continue to gain in popularity because customers are looking to buy more than a product. They are looking for sophisticated design, sales, education, and service support. A sales team includes several individuals who possess unique expertise and can coordinate their efforts to help meet the needs of the particular prospect in every way possible. The salesperson acts as a team quarterback, ensuring that the account relationship is managed properly and that the customer has access to the proper support personnel.

Procter & Gamble is one company that has adopted the team approach. P&G has 22 sales executives who coordinate the sales effort of various P&G divisions in their assigned market areas. Each manager coordinates key account teams composed of sales executives from P&G's grocery division. As many as three key account teams may sell in each market. The marketing manager supervises a logistics team composed primarily of computer systems and distribution executives. The team works closely with retailers to develop mutually compatible electronic data and distribution systems. P&G hopes the team approach will reduce the pressure for trade promotions because the team provides greater service to resellers.

Salespeople of the future will have to adjust to new forms of competition. With the increased capabilities and greater use of direct marketing, for example, salespeople must recognize that some customers will buy a product without contact with a salesperson. Product catalogs that feature everything from computers to classic automobiles are mailed directly to customers or ordered on the Internet. These often provide all the information about the product the customer needs to know. Questions can be answered through a toll-free number, an Internet comment form, or e-mail. Salespeople of the twenty-first century should either integrate direct marketing to support the selling process or offer the customer benefits not available through other marketing communications techniques.

On this very small planet, salespeople will also have to adjust to new sources of competition. Companies in Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe are introducing thousands of new products to industrialized nations every year. The salesperson of the future must know how to respond to foreign competitors and how to enter their markets. A program that integrates personal selling with other marketing communication tools will give salespeople more opportunity to act efficiently and have selling success.

Newsline: New toys for sales success?

Recent technological advances have given salespeople more ways than ever to improve sales and productivity. To make technology work, however, you have to control it instead of letting it control you. Start by learning to use everyday tools (computer, fax, and e-mail) more efficiently and effectively. Once you know how to get the most out of technology, you can get more out of each workday.
Get a voicemail advantage. You can avoid time-consuming two way phone conversations by outlining detail in voicemail. Also, if you need the person for whom you are leaving the message to take some actions, say so in the message, then say there is no need to call you back unless they have questions or problems.
Improve your email habits. To avoid frequent interruptions to your workday, set aside specific, scheduled times during the day to answer your e-mail.
Fax casually. When you are flooded with faxes, forget about taking the time to send replies on new sheets of paper and fill out cover sheets. Instead, simply hand-write your replies at the bottom of the fax you received and turn it around.
Get better acquainted with your PC. Take an hour or so before or after work for a week to learn all of your computer's functions and how they can boost your productivity.
Make a sound investment. You rely on technology every day to do your job, so it pays to spend a little more for equipment that will not let you down. Carefully assess your technology needs, then shop around for equipment that meets those needs without a lot of bells and whistles.
Take a break. Overall increases in the speed of business can leave a salesperson feeling done in and turned out. 1

The Wall Street Journal (

In practice
Marketing communication must communicate an organization's ideas to its target audiences, compete consistently and effectively in the marketplace, and convince consumers to buy its products. To achieve these objectives, marketers design an integrated marketing communication plan using advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling.
Marketing communication is both internal and external in scope with an array of target audiences some small, some large. Marketing communication is also both direct and indirect. Advertising and public relations are indirect, mass communication systems, while sales promotion and personal selling are direct, interpersonal and organizational systems.
The Marketplace section of the Interactive Journal is an invaluable source for articles related to marketing communication. With a section dedicated for Advertising news, the Journal keeps readers informed of the latest trends in the field.
Marketplace Columns are the main features in the Marketplace section. They are regular weekly columns, offering insight into a variety of topical issues such as E-business and work and family.
The Marketplace Extra section is the online companion to the print edition's supplement to the Weekend Journal. Here you will find stories about broader market trends. Astute marketers can leverage this information to learn more about consumer behavior. In turn, they can develop marketing communication strategies with more relevant and convincing messages.
Many marketers get their start in advertising, sales, or public relations. The Interactive Journal offers job seekers advice about finding jobs and building careers. On the Front Section, click on the Careers link under Free Sites. You will find negotiation strategies, a career Q&A, and interviewing tips. You can also find information about writing effective cover letters and resumes.
Read one of the featured articles in today's Marketplace section of the Interactive Journal. Search the Interactive Journal and other relevant sites for additional information. Identify the marketing communication strategies the company uses and argue their effectiveness. Support your conclusions with facts and chapter concepts.


  • Why are organizations shifting from specialized to integrated marketing communication strategies?
  • How can organizations design marketing communication programs that keep pace with the rapid changes in technology?
  • What careers are available in advertising? Sales? Public relations? What skills are employers seeking for these positions?