Business

Four key roles of the modern salesperson

Sales Pitch

Herman Alvaranga

Wednesday, November 08, 2017



“Salespeople, along with management, are the prime bearers of the burden of contributing to profit by generating revenue”

— Bearden, Ingram, LaForge (2001)

In recent years many companies have been placing much greater emphasis on the productivity of their salesforce for two main reasons.

The first is the high cost of maintaining a salesforce, and the other is that in this age of product parity, quite often the quality of your salesforce may be your biggest differentiator.

Today we will look at four of the key roles of the modern salesperson.

KEY ROLES OF SALESPEOPLE

Ingram and LaForge (2016) speak of the following four key roles of salespeople: financial contributor, change agent, communications agent, and customer value agent. Having referred to Tom Ingram and Buddy LaForge twice already, perhaps we should point out that they are co-authors of this marketer's favourite texts on marketing principles, selling, and sales management.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTORS

To support the bottom line, salespeople are expected to achieve revenue goals or a healthy top line, the first item on the profit and loss statement. While sales organisations are expected to achieve overall revenue targets, in recent years profitability has also been brought sharply into focus. Indeed the old maxim of quick sale and small profit is no longer acceptable in many companies. One result is that salespeople who formerly used heavy price discounting to generate high gross revenues are no longer viewed as sales superstars. Instead, with the focus on margins, they have been forced to improve their selling skills.

CHANGE AGENT

Salespeople are also expected to act as change agents as they stimulate sales cycles and help customers reach buying decisions as soon as reasonably possible. In this sense, they are expected to educate potential customers and advance toward an ultimate sale. In their change agent role, salespeople are heavily involved in the diffusion of innovation, which frequently leads to improved quality of life for consumers and improved business practices. This can be a critical factor in the success of small technology companies, for example, that may want to list on the Junior Stock Exchange here in Jamaica.

COMMUNICATIONS AGENT

Another key role fulfilled by salespeople is that of communications agent. Some customers, despite modern communications technology, still depend on salespeople for their knowledge of products and services, as well as developments in the marketplace. Sales organisations typically rely on their salespeople to be the eyes and ears of the company, reporting back to the company on competitive activity, buyer preferences, and ideas for new products. Most companies find it extremely beneficial to rely on the salesforce to provide valuable information back to the company. But how many really sharp salespeople do you know who want to spend their time filling out reports accurately and in a timely fashion?

CUSTOMER VALUE AGENT

The fourth key role fulfilled by salespeople is that of customer value agent. Now this can be tricky, because if you are a sales representative for, say, a technology company, you may be required to develop and communicate at a high level several different value propositions depending on your range of products.

As a reminder there are three types of value propositions:

1. Points of contention: refers to your selling points on which you and your customer may not be in agreement regarding the value created.

2. Points of parity: here you are on par with, but not really different from the next best alternative.

3. Positive points of difference: This is what matters most, because here the sales representative can state in one crisp sentence what makes their product better value when compared to the next best alternative.

THE LAST WORD

With these four key roles of today's salespeople clearly defined and their effective discharge being so critical to the success of some firms, managers are always seeking to hire and develop the right salespeople. But in your opinion, is there any one salesperson who can really master all four of these functions? Please share your thoughts with us.

Herman Alvaranga is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM) and president of the Caribbean School of Sales& Marketing (CSSM). For more insights on sales and marketing please go to his blog at www.cssm.edu.jm.

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