Your organization has a new Knowledge Manager

A dominant theme that emerges from the recent advancement in the field of economics and marketing suggest that we are moving towards a knowledge intensive economy (Verbeke et al., 2010). This immediately prompts our minds to think about industries and emergence of new business domains such as life sciences. However, importance of knowledge in selling cuts across selling context (B2B or B2C) and product categories (Financial products, Consumer products, Industrial products etc.). In B2B contexts knowledge on buying process, buying centres are critical to sales success. In B2C contexts, a deeper understanding of customer segments, channel complexities and pricing implications.. Customers are unwilling to partner with salespeople who are not efficient in processing and connecting knowledge to the process of value co-creation. Therefore, one of the key responsibilities of the sales management is to ensure that salespeople use depth of knowledge to co-create value with their customers. This responsibility is steadily crafting sales manager’s role into a knowledge manager’s role.
• Sales Manager and Organizational Goals: Sales managers have a much more evolved role that is aligned with the strategic goals of the organizations. In such a scenario, sales managers are required to take a mid to long-term view of anticipated developments in area of their buyer’s industries. They need to keep an eye on the pace of innovation and identify knowledge updating needs for their sales force.
• Sales Manager as Knowledge Provider: Sales Managers are taking lead in positioning themselves as “Knowledge Centres”. This involves using efficient methods to assimilate required information and package them into “Knowledge capsules” and train their sales force to apply these during sales encounters.
• Sales Manager and Customer Championship: If sales Manager must champion the cause of customers, how does he do that? Possibly by developing insights into macro-level indicators that is driving the change in customer’s business and therefore, his/her needs. Sales Managers therefore should go beyond mundane market intelligence gathering and form bases for picking up themes for future needs of the customers.
• Sales Manager is the ‘Data Guy’: We will find bigger roles for such sales managers. Data analytics is making a shift from being a decision support activity to a core activity in the daily grind of a sales manager. Sales Managers are not only learning new tools but they are also making themselves better equipped for decision making based on intuitions that are largely supported by data.
• Sales Manager as the Coach: Coaching roles does require deeper knowledge about the sales force members. As a coach, Sales Managers help their team members overcome obstacles, perform better and lead a ‘good life’. Increasingly, Sales Managers are equipping themselves with knowledge that help them manage work-stress and role overload. Concepts and related knowledge on workplace spirituality is finding more and more takers.

Verebeke, W., Dietz, B. and Verwaal, E. (2010), “Drivers of sales performance: A contemporary meta-analysis. Have salespeople become knowledge brokers?”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(3), 407-428.


Future of Sales Management

In the early 20th century, sales as a vocation was recognised in academic literature and issues like sales performance attracted much attention from the business. From a historical perspective, selling as a transaction dates back to early Roman era and it carried ethical concerns:“Suppose an honest man sells a house because of some defects that he is aware of but others don’t suspect. Suppose the house is unsanitary but is considered healthy; suppose no one knows that vermin can be seen in all the bedrooms that the house is built of poor timber and quite dilapidated. The question is: if the seller does not tell these facts to a buyer and sells the house for much more than he thought he could get for it, did he act without justice and without honor?” (Cicero 44 BCE)

Many sales researchers and practitioners would argue that the concerns and challenges, including ethics, remained consistent over time (e.g. Jones et al., 2005). While this argument is tenable for few more years to come, the fast growing economies of emerging markets might warrant a fresh perspective on the future of selling and sales management. Emerging markets would provide bigger opportunities in terms of increased production and consumption, for sales organizations to maximise their impact on the firm’s financial growth. Here are few thoughts:

Salesperson’s role – Salespeople are likely to get more importance as key resource for firms. Their contribution will move from just being a ‘revenue earner’ to a ‘frontline marketing thinker’. Therefore, firms will have to factor in value of sales function and life time value of sales teams in their broader business agenda.

Technology – Sales force automation will take a leap to sales force analytics that would enable more objective decision making. However, this change will require sales managers to use their ‘gut feel /intuitions’ more effectively.

Legal – The accountability of having ‘happy customers’ will shift from products/services to sales teams. Practices such as ‘pressure selling’ will be impossible to sustain and legal aspects of customer relationships will take the centre stage.

Social and Ethical Agenda – Salespeople in emerging economies will be much more engaged with these issues as firms would try to optimise operational costs to meet growing demand. Social agenda for firms are likely to come under government regulations (e.g CSR Act in India) and sales teams in firms would be pursuing few of these ‘social causes’.

Vocational Esteem – This one big change is around the corner! Look for more and more sales managers progressing into in C-suite roles. Selling may not claim the glamour associated with marketing but it certainly will claim its rightful place with all pride and honour.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Officiis, trans. Harry G. Edinger ( Indianapolois: The Library of Living Arts, 1974),120.

Jones,E.,Brown, S.P.,Zoltners A.A and Weitz, B.(2005) “ The changing environment of selling and sales management,” Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 25(2),105-111.


Smart marketers sometimes get outsmarted by their consumers. Here’s what happened :

Yesterday afternoon Rachita ( My daughter ) called me up to inform me that the printer needed a cartridge replacement. This so called technical purchase was always executed by me. When I was in Kolkata, there was a HP store nearby and I would walk in and buy the thing. When we moved to Delhi, I though buying online would be a good idea. So first purchase in Delhi was online at flipkart! Now, yesterday we had to take a buying decision. Two actors in the decision process:

ME : The influencer

RACHITA : The buyer and user

I asked Rachita if she can order this on flipkart and she answered in a YES. I felt great having resolved my daughter’s problem : she is busy working on her projects and printer is an essential item at home these days.

” Papa I placed the order for cartridges but not at Flipkart. They were charging Rs.40 for delivery. I checked Amazon and found the price to be lesser and no delivery charge. I saved Rs.75 ”   Wow, that’s great but what made you visit Amazon, I asked. She replied : When I saw delivery charge I thought if everything else including groceries,pizza etc are delivered without any charge, why to pay for the cartridges and that made me visit Amazon and I got a good deal.She continued, when I am getting the same thing for lesser price why go to Flipkart!

And marketers thought that kids are more likely to behave impulsive on online shopping sites. So if you are considering buying something online, outsource the task to your kids. They are going to do proper research and if you trust them- even get the best deal for you.