Methods of Supervision and Control of Sales Force01/09/2020
The last but not the least significant phase is control of sales force operations. In any sphere of activity, supervision and control of salesmen is essential with a view to achieve the maximum success. The sales operations are to be materialized as per plans laid down, followed by scientific control of efforts and resources. A plan is necessary when you construct a building. In the same way, in business also a chalked out plan is a sine-qua-non and the plan to be under a successful control is essential.
What is control? It simply means a check, a means of controlling or testing. Control involves such functions as checking, verifying, standard selling, and directing or guiding. One may say, “Control means watching results and translating them into positive action.” Control is a process to establish the standard of performance measuring the work done. Through control salesman’s performance can be appraised.
All the organisations must have the operation of control, as a tool, for their progress and successful working. It is an act of checking or verifying the performance as per the plans. “Control consists in verifying whether everything occurs in conformity with the plans adopted, the instructions issued and the principles established. Its objective is to point out weaknesses and errors in order to rectify them and prevent their recurrence. It operates on every thing-things, people and actions.”
Is Control Necessary?
The manager exercises the control over the activities of salesmen through supervision. The planned sales operations are to be carried out systematically in order to get success over the aimed result.
Salesmen are human beings; the need for supervision arises because of:
- Salesmen may be working independently and may be at a longer distance from the sales manager. There may arise a problem of co-ordination, of salesmen’s effort with the other sales efforts i.e., publicity, sales promotions etc. To ensure co-ordination, control is a must.
- The sales effected by each salesman should be known to the sales manager, who compares the actuals with the targets, to find negative variation, which should be rectified by corrective actions. There may be mistakes in the approach of a salesman, laziness in activities etc.,. These must be traced out and the salesman guided in order to channelize his efforts into desired path.
- Efforts of the salesman have to be directed to maximize profits to firm in the light of progressive ideas and techniques to ensure the proper utilization of men and materials.
- “Of all the assets customers are the most valuable.” To build a sound public relation, complaints of different types of customers are to be redressed. Thereby, it is possible to build a good image in the minds of the public. The salesman is guided by the sales manager, who tries to satisfy the customers through salesmen.
Prerequisites of Control
- The sales manager should know what exactly he expects a salesman to do. (through fixing the sales quota).
- Salesman should be given an idea of what he is expected to do. (through training).
- Sales manager should know that the salesman is doing exactly what he is expected to do. (through reports).
- Salesman should be made to know that the sales manager knows what he does, (through personal talk and reports).
- Salesman should know that the sales manager appreciates what he does, (through reports).
Elements Involved in Control
The following steps are involved in the process of control:
Analysis of Performance
All controls involve the setting of a standard and the measurement of performance against their standard. The performances are analysed and compared with reference to the objectives, budgets and standards. This will reveal the variances between the performance and the standard.
Analysis of Variance
After finding out the variance, the first question is whether this variance is significant. If the variance is significant, the next question is usually, “What went wrong with the performance?” and possibly a better question will be “What is wrong with the standard?” Effective sales control should reveal poor execution of sales policies or indicate when sales policies need changing.
Sales Control may not, however, disclose the reasons for poor execution. For instance, poor execution may be due to ignorance of sales policies, inability to perform the tasks, resentment, discontent etc. The significant variances are considered carefully to enable the authority to take corrective steps.
Measures to Deal with Unfavorable Variance
The function of control is to identify the weakness and errors in the sales efforts. Reasons and causes are found out and their remedial measures are formulated in order to correct the weakness and errors in a speedy manner. These enable the sales manager to guide the individual salesman when necessary. All these are done in order to improve the sales programme performance.
Methods of Control
Control is essential in order to secure optimum performance from salesmen. Sales managers effect controls, by common methods, through personal contacts, correspondence and report.
Personal contacts are more effective than other methods. Sales manager himself or through branch managers or field supervisors, exercises controls over the salesmen. Salesmen can be assisted and inspired, and corrective steps can be taken.
This method is commonly accepted and is economical. Through correspondence, instructions are passed on to the salesmen and replies received from the salesmen. The salesmen are supervised or controlled through letters.
They are not in the form of letters. Printed report forms are used by the salesmen to make reports to the sales manager. In certain cases, the report may be oral.
Bases of Control
The control of salesman is based on:
- Reports and Records
- Sales Territories and Sales Quotas
- Determination of salesman’s authority
- Field Supervision and
- Remuneration Plans.
Importance of Supervision and Control in a Sales Organization
In an organization, the success of planning largely depends on the efficient supervision and control of the sales force. It is an important aspect of the management of the sales force.
In fact, the activities of the salesmen have to be supervised and controlled to ensure that the job is done properly and efforts are being made towards the achievement of the sales objectives. Supervision and control of salesmen is essential for the sales organization to achieve maximum success.
An organization may have a talented and efficient sales force with adequate training and the compensation plan may be attractive, but unless the activities of the sales force are properly supervised and controlled, it is hardly possible for the organization to achieve the sales targets.
Therefore, an effective method of supervision, direction and control of the sales force is extremely important in order to secure the most productive and economical performance from them. The establishment of sales territories and sales quotas are the specific control devices by which the sales manager exercises control on the salesmen.
Control is the process of trying to achieve conformity between goals and actions. Controlling is an act of checking and verifying an act to know whether everything is taking place in accordance with the predetermined plan. In other words, control covers the direction and guidance towards securing desired objectives.
To M.C. Niles, ‘controlling is maintaining of a balance in activities directed towards a goal or a set of goals.’ Therefore, control consists of the steps taken to ensure that the performance of the organisation conforms to the plans. The process of control consists of a few steps, namely
- Establishing standards or measures for performance,
- Measuring and recording of actual performance
- Comparing actual with the planned measures to find out the deviations
- Taking corrective measures, if needed. Thus, control is one of the important ingredients for the success of the sales department.
Reports and Records
Every sales manager needs accurate and up-to-date information, on the basis of which he formulates policies for future business. Formulation of policies may not be practical in the absence of information. For the growing needs of the organization, expanding the professions, widening activities of the business etc., it has become essential to look for the information.
A report is a presentation of facts on the basis of activities. Salesmen’s reports-daily, weekly, monthly, provide valuable information relating to the salesmen’s activities for a sales organization. Salesmen, who are the primary source of information, being the eyes and ears of the selling firms, are asked to send reports periodically.
Advantages of Reports
- Salesman’s report is a good guide and indicator for building future plan-a barometer.
- Competitors’ attitude can be known.
- Sales manager does not waste time in formulating the policies for future, because of the brevity in reports.
- Salesmen takes little time in writing the reports.
- The report is a good form of control as it reveals the weakness and strong points of the salesmen.
- The changes in demand and attitude of the consumers can be known.
- It is a tool by which the activities of the salesmen can be sharpened.
- Sales manager is able to divert his attention to the situation warranted on the basis of importance.
- Salesman himself develops the habit of self-activity analysis.
- The two-way communication assures employee morale.
Sales Territories and Sales Quotas
Sales manager must try to know the sales field well in advance, before the production starts. He must know the area of demand for the products and for this he should know the habits and economic position of the customers; and the type of demand and quality of products usually in demand. In short, a detailed study of consumers is important. The sources of information are year books, census reports, publications, professional organisations etc.
Almost all the firms divide their markets, after the sales field is located into different territories. Sales territory is a particular grouping of customers and prospects assigned to a salesman. A sales territory is a geographical area which contains present and potential customers, who can be served effectively and economically by a single salesman.
Its aim is to facilitate management’s task in matching sales efforts with the sales opportunities. An efficient salesman can successfully discharge his duties and responsibilities if the territory allotted to him is of workable and suitable size. A good sales planning is based on sales territory, rather than taking the whole market area.
That is, the market of a firm’s product is divided into small segments or territories or areas, so that each territory can be allotted to each salesman.
When allotting perfect sales territories, which have been planned carefully, the following objectives are aimed for the reasons thereof:
- Sales effort can be fruited more effectively in the assigned territory.
- It is possible to have increased market coverage, not losing the orders to competitors. He meets the competition wisely as it is pre-planned, because he knows the local condition.
- It prevents the duplication or overlapping sales efforts.
- Headquarters of each sales territory can be located in a place, where greater number of customers are located.
- Work load for each salesman can equitably be distributed, in terms of sales volume.
Apart from the allocation of sales territories, salesmen are further controlled by fixing sales quota. Almost all the companies use quota system of defining and evaluating the task expected of the salesmen. Sales quota may be defined as the estimated volume of sales that a company expects to secure within a definite period of time.
Quota is the amount of business, in terms of value or in terms of units of sales, which is fixed for every salesman. It may be fixed for a geographical area to be achieved within a definite period of time, a month or a year. Shorter the period, the better it is. It is a target or a standard of performance that the salesman has to attain. The quota is fixed on the basis of sales forecast. For an effective control, smaller area and shorter period are preferred.
A sales quota, to be effective, practical and successful, should satisfy the following:
- Sales quota must be attainable and fair.
- It must be scientifically calculated. It should not be too small or too big.
- It must provide definite incentive to salesman.
- It must be flexible.
- It must be simple and must be fixed in consultation with the salesman.
Sales quota brings the following benefits
- The sales quota can be used as yardstick to assess the performance of the salesmen.
- It is a measuring rod with which the sales operations are directed and controlled to more profitable channels.
- It is possible and easier to locate strong markets and weak markets.
- It is a device to adopt more effective compensation plans.
- It fixes the responsibility on each salesman and so they work hard to attain the goal. The salesmen never allow the sales to fall below the quota.
- It facilitates sales contests and is a base.
- In many cases the sales quota is fixed arbitrarily.
- If situations are changed, the quota fixed may become ineffective.
- If the quota is too small, the salesman will relax and if the quota fixed is too large or unattainable, the salesman loses initiative.
- It is difficult to set an accurate quota.
Bases Necessary for Fixing Quota:
- Purchasing power of the prospects.
- Past sales figures compared by analysis.
- Demand trend for the products.
- Position and degree of competition prevailing.
At the end of the quota period, it is a must to measure the effectiveness of quota by comparing the performance of salesman, in relation to the quota. To keep salesmen’s effort on the right path, quotas can be used as a control mechanism. Departure of sales activities from the projected quota is a main problem to the sales management. If sales volume is not satisfactory, the fault may lie with quota plans. Quota, as a diagnostic aid, cautions the authority to take corrective steps and especially, when the sales volume takes a negative departure from the past sales.
In all fairness, quota should be aimed at equitable distribution. It should be equal for all salesmen. Should all the salesmen have the same quotas? The answer depends upon the territories, which are not the same in respect of competition, extent, customers etc. the ability of the salesman is also different. The ‘better’ salesman with ‘better’ territory exceeds the quota and ‘poor’ salesman with ‘poor’ territory fails to achieve even the quota. By considering all these, fairness of the quote decision takes place.
Types of Quotas
- Sales volume, in value or units by product line, consumer type etc.
- Salesmen activity, such as calls, new accounts, demonstrations, display arranged etc.
- Expenses quota, either in value or percentage of sales obtained.
- Gross Margin from sales obtained etc.
Quota can be used as a management tool, if it is set scientifically.
If the sales manager goes for doing all the works of a firm, it is very difficult to conduct the business Moreover, he lacks time. Therefore, the job is divided and entrusted to the salesmen. When the authority is passed on to the salesmen, there is transfer of power to the salesmen i.e., delegation of power. Delegation is the required authority to the salesmen to discharge their assigned job.
When one is delegated the authority, it means permission is given to do the duties. When authority is conferred on salesmen, they know their responsibilities. Customers may not be willing to deal with a salesman having no authority.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how much authority be given to a salesman. In modern time, the degree of authority is reduced. The authority and freedom of salesmen varies from firm to firm. To what extent the authority is given to a salesman depends upon the size and nature of the firm.
Since the salesmen are representing the firm and deal with customers, who have no direct contact with the firm, the salesmen’s authority be well-defined. Generally, catalogue, price lists advertisements etc., reveal the prices, guarantees, quality and other details of the products. And the salesmen are being relieved of these botherations.
However, salesmen may be conferred with certain measure of authority in dealing with the matters, such as special concessions, discount rates, granting credit, settlement of claims, settlement of damages, defective, unsalable items etc. But it is important that salesmen are watched in their acts which must be in accordance with the instructions by the sales manager and their activities are subject to the approval of the sales manager.
Performance of a function or service by an individual is called duty; activities that an individual is required to perform are a duty on him. Authority is a right or power required to perform a job on the basis of duty assigned to one. An authorized person is empowered to do the assigned job Responsibility must always be followed by corresponding authority or power. Authority and responsibility move in opposite directions.
Authority always moves from the top downward, whereas responsibility moves upwards. Authority is derived from sales manager to whom the salesmen are responsible for proper performance of their activities. The individual responsibility and freedom of the sales personnel vary from firm to firm. A good degree of control is essential over the activities of the salesmen.
Generally the sales manager or any senior sales personnel or field supervisor; are appointed to check the activities of the salesmen so as to:
- Know whether the salesman is doing his job in best way
- Find out deficiencies if any
- Make suggestions for further improvement
- Check the procedure of orders taking
- Evaluate the performance of salesman
- Provide spot motivation to salesman
- Secure maximum coverage of the market
Control aims at appraisal of salesman’s performance. It must be done periodically and on continuing basis as to determine the compliance of policies and attainment of targeted quota in respect of job. Supervision and control are different. Supervision aims at direction for working and control includes supervision and evaluation of past performance.
Routing and Scheduling
Time must be used wisely while a salesman travels in his respective territorial area. Salesman will be encouraged to get maximum sales by reducing the wastage of time. Routing and scheduling is one of the techniques of controlling a salesman’s day to day activities. A planned routing of the salesman will facilitate easy communication, maximum territorial coverage and thereby reduce the waste time.
Management has a closer control. A clear tour plan is there and reveals route, location of customers, transport facilities, maps etc. The planned routes and schedules are to be followed by the salesman. The reports sent by the salesman can be compared with the planned routes and schedules and this reveals the deviations.