Personal selling and sales management

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Personal Selling and Sales Management

The goal of this module is to develop a better understanding of what salespeople do, what motivates them to succeed, and how to effectively manage their efforts.

The Salesperson - A Boundary-Spanning Role

Figure A: The Salesperson’s Boundary-Spanning Role

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Salespeople work on the boundarybetween a company and its customers. To the company, the salesperson is the voice of the customer. To the customer, the salesperson is the physical embodiment of the company. This boundary-spanning role creates unique tension for salespeople because they are constantly forced to reconcile the competing interests of both the buying and the selling organizations.

Source: Casewriter.


1These data come from the May 2005 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates report, which was accessed online at on 1 December 2006. See occupation code 41-0000. ____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________ This note was prepared by Professor Thomas Steenburgh for thesole purpose of aiding students in the Marketing course.

Copyright © 2006 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685, write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet,or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of Harvard Business School.

Copying or posting is an infringement of copyright. or 617-783-7860.



Salespeople represent a large part of labor in most economies. In its latest report,1 the U. S. Bureau ofLabor Statistics estimates that nearly fourteen million people are employed in sales and salesrelated occupations and that these people earn over $450 billion in wages. Moreover, salespeople represent a major investment for many companies, accounting for as much as 40% of their costs. A company’s fortune often rises and falls on the productivity of its salespeople.


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Module Note—Personal Selling and Sales Management

Types of Salespeople

Whether an individual will make a good salesperson does somewhat depend on their inherent personality traits. In a classic article, Mayer and Greenberg (1964) suggest that salespeople must have two basic qualities: empathy and ego drive. Empathy allows salespeople to treat customers’ problems as their own, and egodrive enables salespeople to persist even after experiencing failure.

Hunters Hunter salespeople are persuasive, have a strong sense of urgency, and are adept at bouncing back from rejection. They are better suited to the following types of functions: • • • •

Obtaining appointments

Delivering presentations that address customers’ concerns Negotiating and securing new business

• • • •Establishing and maintaining long-term relationships Providing expert advice

Networking within customers to find new leads Negotiating and securing new business with existing customers

This type of categorization can be used to determine the likelihood of success in a job, to identify skill gaps, and to create long-term developmental plans. It should be thought of more as a snapshot intime than as a picture of unchanging personality traits.

The Sales Process


Effective salespeople become adept in understanding their customers’ needs and identifying their problems. This can be an elusive skill to master even for seasoned salespeople. For example, when salespeople become successful selling to an existing set of customers, they may begin to assume that

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