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.

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