Sales management involves planning, implementing, and controlling personal contact programs designed to achieve the sales and profit objectives of the firm. Sales managers are responsible for directing the firm's sales program; in carrying out this responsibility, a sales manager assigns territories, sets goals, and establishes training programs. In addition to setting individual goals, sales managers monitor the performance of their salespeople and continually offer direction and leadership on ways to improve their performance. As such, sales management involves both organization and motivation.
DIFFERENT STRUCTURES FOR SALES MANAGEMENT
The organizational structure for sales management varies depending on the firm's size and strategy. In field sales management, the structure consists of the unit manager, district manager, regional manager, general manager and vice president of sales. The unit manager is often referred to as the manager-in-training with interaction taking place at the customer level. Key responsibilities for the unit manager include training new salespeople, recruiting, selling to small accounts, and running district meetings. District managers, a step up from unit managers, have five to ten years of management experience and generally manage eight to ten salespeople. District managers typically report to the regional manager, who is responsible for managing multiple districts in a given geographic area. The general manager is sometimes referred to as the vice president of sales and marketing. This position is traditionally at the top of the sales organizational chart, with the VP of Marketing and Sales driving the sales strategy of the firm.
There are distinct differences in bottom- and top-level managers. The main difference is the amount of time they spend on each of their tasks. Lower-level managers spend the majority of their time on staffing, directing and monitoring salespeople. Top-level managers generally focus on planning, organizing and coordinating their sales strategy with overall corporate objectives. They also forecast sales, set objectives, develop strategies and policies, and establish budgets.
Sales management jobs are found in both consumer and commercial industries, in positions ranging from district manager, to vice president of marketing and sales, to top sales management of the firm. Competition for sales management jobs can be intense. Sales managers typically start out as salespeople, working their way to the top with strong leadership and organizational abilities. The progression of salespeople into management positions is gradual, with representatives moving into more executive positions by taking on more responsibility with larger, national accounts. It is likely that a sales representative will spend a portion of their career as a district or regional sales trainer before moving into a senior sales management role. The progression of salespeople into management positions varies based on the size and organizational structure of the organization.
SALES MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Sales managers are confronted with several challenges when designing an effective sales strategy. How should a sales force be structured? How large a sales force is needed? What methods should the sales force use to deliver their message? Strategies vary based on the number of products that the firm offers and if the firm sells to one particular type of customer versus selling to many different types of customers.
When selling one product line to a single industry, with customers in many locations, a territorial sales strategy is used. With this strategy, a sales manager will assign sales representatives to exclusive territories in a given region. These representatives will sell full product lines consisting of multiple products to customers in that territory. A good example of this strategy is food equipment sales. A sales representative for a commercial food equipment company will typically promote the companies full line of products when selling to restaurants, schools, and cafeterias in their defined territory.
A product sales force strategy is often used when a firm sells along product lines. Using this strategy, a sales manager will require their representatives to focus on selling a single product or small select group of products. This strategy is used by managers when products are numerous and complex. This strategy is widely used in healthcare sales where a salesperson focuses on selling doctors and healthcare providers specific products that are integral to their specialized area of medicine.
Finally, sales managers may use a customer focused sales force strategy where salespeople specialize in matching target customers to specific products or services. This strategy helps a company to concentrate more on building strong, long-term relationships with key customers.
MOTIVATING THE SALES FORCE
A topic of particular interest in sales management is motivation. Motivation is quite possibly the most important aspect of sales management. If a sales force is properly screened, selected, and trained, and the product is right, then motivation becomes critical for success. There are
many reasons why motivating a sales force is an important part of the sales process. First, salespeople must cope with acceptance and rejection on a continual basis. They go from being exhilarated as the result of a big sale to the disappointment that results from being turned down. Often, salespeople will spend many hours on the road, away from their families, which may affect their overall morale. This, paired with the fact that salespeople usually operate without managerial supervision, indicates that these individuals require a high level of self motivation in order to consistently produce good results. And finally, motivation directly influences the level of enthusiasm a salesperson has in presenting the product or service to the customer. If a sales representative is passionate and enthusiastic about a product or service, it can directly influence the customer's decision to purchase, as well as building strong relationships for future purchases. With that said, it is important to note that sales managers are responsible for instilling and maintaining an effective level of motivation in their staff. In addition to providing strong leadership, a sales manager must motivate a sales force in order to achieve pre-determined sales goals.
Managers can use a variety of tools to successfully motivate their sales force. The most powerful motivator is a well-designed compensation package. Sales managers can effectively motivate salespeople by designing a compensation formula that is a good balance of salary, bonuses, and commissions. Managers define selling objectives in the form of quotas, established compensation levels, and an effective incentive portion. There are a variety of formulas for compensating salespeople; the formula depends on linking the firm's overall performance expectations to each salesperson.
Compensation Packages. Straight commission is used by sales managers to reward salespeople for their accomplishments, rather than their time or efforts. Straight commission compensation fosters independence for the salesperson. It is a strong motivator in that payout only occurs if a sale is made, resulting in lower costs for the company. It is a favorable program for organizations that want to minimize compensation costs; especially for new and growing companies. There are some disadvantages to straight commission, including the inability of sales managers to control selling activities, as well as high employee turnover.
Another compensation program frequently used by organizations is salary plus bonus. Essentially, the salary plus bonus formula includes base salary with a performance-based bonus paid when sales goals and quotas are achieved. Sales reps may also be evaluated on factors, including creation of new accounts, average gross margin, and after sales servicing. Unlike straight commission, this program helps to reduce the rate of employee turnover. The plan also encourages salespeople to build long-term relationships with their customers. By having the security of a consistent income, salespeople can be patient with their customers and allow them to take the time needed to make an informed decision. This is particularly important when buying cycles are long and when sales representatives need time to get acclimated with the buying cycle of the customer.
When selling complex products or services, a salary plus commission structure may be used to compensate the sales force. Under this program, a salesperson is guaranteed a base salary and is awarded a commission based on factors determined by the organization. Typically, a salary plus commission program is structured around upper and lower thresholds related to sales volume. For example, a salesperson may earn 4 percent on the first $20,000 of sales volume each month, 5 percent on an additional $15,000 and 6 percent on sales over $40,000. Other firms may use different criteria, such as reaching sales quotas on the number of individual products sold in each product category. The advantages to this method are related to the flexibility of program. Firms are able to customize the program to meet corporate objectives as they relate to the sales force. Commissions can be spread out over a given period to ensure reps will continue to offer the customer a high level of service and to discourage the reps from leaving the company after a big sale.
Salary plus commission and a bonus is a combination of the aforementioned programs. This plan combines the stability of a salary, the incentive of a commission, as well as special bonus awards. Every activity of a salesperson is financially recognized by this program and is favored by salespeople because of the earning potential of the plan. The plan is not as popular as the others because of the complexity involved to administer the program.
Short-term incentive programs are often used by firms to motivate salespeople beyond standard compensation packages. Sales contests are the most common incentive used to generate excitement about selling products and services. The contests usually run for a limited time and include cash prizes or travel to those salespeople who achieve a certain level of sales. Timing of the contests is crucial. Typically, contests should be rolled out during the slower seasons of a given industry in order to boost sales and to generate incremental revenue.
RECRUITING A SUCCESSFUL SALES FORCE
The sales manager is responsible for recruiting salespeople by identifying sources for new employees, screening applicants, conducting interviews, contacting references, and recommending candidates to the regional manager. Typically, the regional sales manager recruits and selects new salespeople when needed. Often, candidates are found
through universities, Internet sites, or applicants who formally apply to the company through cold-calling efforts.
Managers should identify certain key qualities when recruiting candidates for employment. Personality is an important factor when considering a candidate for a sales position. Empathy, ego, and optimism are good personality attributes to consider when screening candidates for a sales position. Each of these attributes has a strong correlation to success in sales. Empathy is the ability to sense the reactions of another person and ego refers to the inner need to persuade another individual for one's own satisfaction. Both of these traits combined are predictors of a good salesperson and are strongly considered when recruiting and interviewing job applicants. Additionally, it is important to consider the applicant's level of optimism as it relates to personal achievement. Optimism and enthusiasm are good indicators of the ability of a salesperson to manage adversity and is a trait that is often needed to overcome rejection and slow sale months.
Although most companies have their own selection procedures, a typical candidate selection process will resemble the following:
- The district sales manager conducts the first interview; the candidate is accepted and given a formal application, or they are not accepted and are sent a rejection letter.
- A candidate who submits an application is invited to a second interview with the district manager.
- The candidate may spend a day in the field with a salesperson and the district manager receives feedback from the salesperson on the candidate's level of enthusiasm.
- The district manager checks the candidate's references and criminal background.
- The regional sales manager interviews the candidate.
- The regional manager and district manager discuss the candidate via telephone conference or personal meeting. A decision is made whether to offer the candidate the position.
- The regional sales manager formally offers the job to the candidate.
- If the candidate accepts the offer for the position, he or she must undergo a physical examination.
TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
A primary responsibility of a sales manager is managing relations with customers. The emergence of a global market for products and services has spurred new theories regarding management of products as they relate to the customer. Total quality management (TQM) is defined as a management process and set of disciplines that are coordinated to ensure that the organization consistently meets customer expectations. Originally defined as a manufacturing theory, TQM is now being applied to sales in particular. In the sales and marketing context, TQM defines the quality of the sales and service effort in terms of customer satisfaction. Sales and service systems that link individuals, departments, suppliers and customers are central to TQM. Each department within an organization has a direct responsibility to the customer in some capacity. Marketing designs its new products with the customer in mind. Manufacturing focuses on achieving the highest level of product quality. Under TQM, challenging, but reasonable improvement goals are set for sales and service quality. Innovation and continuous improvement of the sales and servicing process is paramount to the idea of TQM.
The customer is considered from every aspect of TQM. By focusing on customer expectations and questioning those expectations using formal techniques, TQM can discover previous misconceptions and new opportunities. Some fundamental ideas behind TQM are making continuous improvements to products and services, eliminating defects, doing things right the first time, and understanding that employees closest to the process know how to improve the process. As a function of sales and service, TQM focuses on the exchange between the buyer and the seller. Intangible issues such as responsiveness to varying customer needs, empathy for customer concerns, reliable service performance, and assurance of service capabilities are considered when managing relationships with customers. This process is somewhat more difficult than actual management of product quality because customers are required to be participative in the process. They are expected to offer feedback to the company on products and services to allow for continuous improvement to the process.
Customer satisfaction is central to the philosophy of total quality management. In sales management, TQM suggests that organizations need to have the majority of employees in customer support functions, with fewer staff positions. This will help to eliminate costs associated with management and reduces levels in the decision-making process. Fewer levels of management also allows for the organization to be flexible enough to change quickly to support new sales opportunities. Continuous improvement for all products and improvement in the selling process allows firms to consistently move forward with innovative products and services in order to remain competitive in the new global market.
In the twenty-first century global marketplace, managers face many challenges related to fulfilling the
customer's ever-changing needs and expectations. The concept of customer service has recently become more complex as a result of globalization of goods and services. Customers are now well-informed decision makers as a result of the abundance of information that is available online and in the media. In addition, today's consumer is most concerned with how a salesperson can solve basic problems and ultimately add value to a product or service. The role of sales intermediaries is now, more than ever, important to success in this new competitive global marketplace. As a result, sales managers face the ever-changing challenge of responding to this new environment with innovative techniques for managing and motivating the sales force.
SEE ALSO Customer Relationship Management; Employee Compensation; Employee Recruitment Planning; Human Resource Management; Motivation and Motivation Theory; Quality and Total Quality Management
Calvin, Robert J. Sales Management Demystified. New York:McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Cron, William L., and Thomas E. DeCarlo. Dalrymple's Sales Management: Concepts and Cases. 9th ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2005.
Johnson, Mark W., and Greg W. Marshall. Sales Force Management. 9th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008.
Kotler, Philip, and Gary Armstrong. Principles of Marketing. 12th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Thomas, Wayne M. The Sales Manager's Success Manual. New York: AMACOM, 2008.
"Sales Management." Encyclopedia of Management. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/management/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sales-management
"Sales Management." Encyclopedia of Management. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/management/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sales-management
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Sales management refers to the administration of the personal selling a company's product line(s). It includes the planning, implementation, and control of sales programs, as well as recruiting, training, motivating, and evaluating members of the sales force. In a small business, these various functions may be performed by the owner or by the sales manager. The fundamental role of the sales manager is to develop and administer a selling program that effectively contributes to the organization's goals. The sales manager for a small business would likely decide how many salespeople to employ, how best to select and train them, what sort of compensation and incentives to use to motivate them, what type of presentation they should make, and how the sales function should be structured for maximum contact with customers.
Sales management is just one facet of a company's overall marketing mix, which encompasses strategies related to the "four Ps": products, pricing, promotion, and place (distribution). Objectives related to promotion are achieved through three supporting functions: 1) advertising, which includes direct mail, radio, television, and print advertisements, among other media; 2) sales promotion, which includes tools such as coupons, rebates, contests, and samples; and (3) personal selling, which is the domain of the sales manager.
Although the role of sales managers is multidisciplinary in scope, their primary responsibilities are: 1) setting goals for a sales force; 2) planning, budgeting, and organizing a program to achieve those goals; 3) implementing the program; and 4) controlling and evaluating the results. Even when a sales force is already in place, the sales manager will likely view these responsibilities as an ongoing process necessary to adapt to both internal and external changes.
Goal setting is usually based on a company's overall sales goals, modified by the mix of products to be moved. Overall sales goals must be met, of course, but balance must also be maintained. A company that makes three different types of boats, for instance, of which the highest-priced model has the highest profit margins but the lowest-priced boat is easiest to sell, the goal will be structured to move as many of the highest-priced models as possible. Balance between regions also enters the goal-setting process. Sales to some regions may be more difficult (far fewer lakes) but necessary to maintain the company's total volume. If multiple lines are sold (tenting and trailers, for instance), different goals will apply to each category. Goal setting will depend on product mix. In the usual case, past history will be a guide and goals will be set in light of the history—and desires to change past performance—by lifting all sales, high-margin sales, creating sales for new products, etc.
PLANNING, BUDGETING, AND ORGANIZING
After goals are set, the sales manager may accept, or be required to modify, the general approach to sales in the current year. Both ongoing patterns and new ones require budgeting and, occasionally, changes to the organization. Fundamental structural issues are involved such as the distribution channel, the forces to be deployed, and the sales program (incentives, pricing schedules, cooperative advertising programs, etc.) that will be used. A company, for instance, may be engaged in making a transition from direct sales using its own sales branches as distributors to using independent distributors. The planning process in the first year may involve finding and starting three new distributors and closing two company branches and relocating its best sales people. In another operation, the goal may simply require adding four new sales people and training them. In yet another case, the company may have decided to distribute some of its production through a "Big Box," thus creating ill-will among its servicing retailers—and in consequence has decided to offer the retailers a more attractive sales program, higher co-op advertising participation, and high discounts on four occasions if they hold seasonal sales. Finally, in yet another case, no big changes are in the offing, but budgets must be formulated anyway, retiring salespeople replaced, and programs launched in the past continued.
For start-ups, of course, the sales organization must be built from scratch after its general structure has been determined. In such situations planning, budgeting, and organizing take on rather formidable dimensions. The ideal approach is to concentrate on hiring the best possible sales people, to bring them on board as rapidly as possible, and then using them to help with the process.
Implementation of the plan will have different emphases depending on whether the operation is up and running or required to be built or rebuilt. Recruiting, training, and setting compensation are primary implementation activities of start-ups or expansions. So are designing sales territories and assigning sales goals to each.
Recruiting salespeople ideally requires understanding of the customers and the market, not least its physical aspects, travel time needed to reach targeted points, and the type of selling involved. Experienced sales managers typically bring such skills to the job or, if brought in from a different field, will make some preliminary field trips to get a feel.
The manager may seek candidates through advertising, college recruiting, company sources, and employment agencies. Another excellent source of salespeople is—other salespeople. In this field, to be one is to know one. Sales recruiting has special characteristics difficult to describe in analytical terms—especially in the small business environment where relationships tend to be closer. But, indeed, in all areas of sales, managers rely a great deal on their experience of sales to find people who have the special knack. Generalizations are dangerous, but good sales people have good communications skills, enjoy human contact, are disciplined, can tolerate rejection with good humor, respond to rewards, and have a high level of energy—often needed because sales may be tiring, may require many hours of standing, and occasionally physical effort in demonstrating products. In technical sales, an engineering background is often required in addition to favorable personality traits. Generalizations are dangerous because experienced people in this business know that often the outwardly least likely people turn out to be great producers whereas those who seem ideal miserably fail. Not everything can be determined by administering personality tests. Good sales people have something in common with entrepreneurs; both categories are notoriously diverse.
After recruiting a suitable sales force, the manager must determine how much and what type of training to provide. Most sales training emphasizes product, company, and industry knowledge. Only about 25 percent of the average company training program, in fact, addresses selling techniques. Because of the high cost, many small businesses try to limit the amount of training they provide. The average cost of training a person to sell industrial products, for example, commonly exceeds $30,000. Sales managers can achieve many benefits with competent training programs, however. For instance, research indicates that training reduces employee turnover, thereby lowering the effective cost of hiring new workers. Good training can also improve customer relations, increase employee morale, and boost sales. Common training methods include lectures, cases studies, role playing, demonstrations, on-the-job training, and self-study courses. Ideally, training should be an ongoing process that continually reinforces the company's goals.
After the sales force is in place, the manager must devise a means of compensating individuals. The ideal system of compensation reaches a balance between the needs of the person (income, recognition, prestige, etc.) and the goals of the company (controlling costs, boosting market share, increasing cash flow, etc.), so that a salesperson may achieve both through the same means. Most approaches to sales force compensation utilize a combination of salary and commission or salary and bonus. Salary gives a sales manager added control over the salesperson's activities, while commission provides the salesperson with greater motivation to sell.
Although financial rewards are the primary means of motivating workers, most sales organizations also employ other motivational techniques. Good sales managers recognize that salespeople have needs other than the basic ones satisfied by money. For example, they want to feel they are part of a winning team, that their jobs are secure, and that their efforts and contributions to the organization are recognized. Methods of meeting those needs include contests, vacations, and other performance-based prizes, in addition to self-improvement benefits such as tuition for graduate school. Another tool managers commonly use to stimulate their salespeople is quotas. Quotas, which can be set for factors such as the number of calls made per day, expenses consumed per month, or the number of new customers added annually, give salespeople a standard against which they can measure success.
Designing Territories and Allocating Sales Efforts
In addition to recruiting, training, and motivating a sales force to achieve the company's goals, sales managers at most small businesses must decide how to designate sales territories and allocate the efforts of the sales team. Territories are geographic areas assigned to individual salespeople. The advantages of establishing territories are that they improve coverage of the market, reduce wasteful overlap of sales efforts, and allow each salesperson to define personal responsibility and judge individual success. However, many types of businesses, such as real estate and insurance companies, do not use territories.
Allocating people to different territories is an important sales management task. Typically, the top few territories produce a disproportionately high sales volume. This occurs because managers usually create smaller areas for trainees, medium-sized territories for more experienced team members, and larger areas for senior sellers. A drawback of that strategy, however, is that it becomes difficult to compare performance across territories. An alternate approach is to divide regions by existing and potential customer base. A number of computer programs exist to help sales managers effectively create territories according to their goals. Good scheduling and routing of sales calls can reduce waiting and travel time. Other common methods of reducing the costs associated with sales calls include contacting numerous customers at once during trade shows, and using telemarketing to qualify prospects before sending a salesperson to make a personal call.
CONTROLLING AND EVALUATING
After the sales plan has been implemented, the sales manager's responsibility becomes controlling and evaluating the program. During this stage, the sales manager compares the original goals and objectives with the actual accomplishments of the sales force. The performance of each individual is compared with goals or quotas, looking at elements such as expenses, sales volume, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.
An important consideration for the sales manager is profitability. Indeed, simple sales figures may not reflect an accurate image of the performance of the sales force. The manager must dig deeper by analyzing expenses, price-cutting initiatives, and long-term contracts with customers that will impact future income. An in-depth analysis of these and related influences will help the manager to determine true performance based on profits. For use in future goal-setting and planning efforts, the manager may also evaluate sales trends by different factors, such as product line, volume, territory, and market. After the manager analyzes and evaluates the achievements of the sales force, that information is used to make corrections to the current strategy and sales program. In other words, the sales manager returns to the initial goal-setting stage.
ENVIRONMENTS AND STRATEGIES
The goals and plans adopted by the sales manager will be greatly influenced by the company's industry orientation, competitive position, and market strategy. The basic industry orientations available to a firm include industrial goods, consumer durables, consumer nondurables, and services. Companies that manufacture industrial goods or sell highly technical services tend to be heavily dependent on personal selling as a marketing tool. Sales managers in those organizations characteristically focus on customer service and education and employ and train a relatively high-level sales force. In contrast, sales managers that sell consumer durables will likely integrate the efforts of their sales force into related advertising and promotional initiatives. Sales management efforts related to consumer nondurables and consumer services will generally emphasize volume sales, a comparatively low-caliber sales force, and an emphasis on high-volume customers. In certain types of service activities, e.g., consulting, market research, and advertising, sales are very often conducted by high-level executives or the principals who actually supervise the work to be performed—for example senior researchers or account executives.
Besides markets and industries, another chief environmental influence on the sales management process is government regulation. Indeed, selling activities at companies are regulated by a multitude of state and federal laws designed to protect consumers, foster competitive markets, and discourage unfair business practices.
Chief among anti-trust provisions affecting sales managers is the Robinson-Patman Act, which prohibits companies from engaging in price or service discrimination. In other words, a firm cannot offer special incentives to large customers based solely on volume, because such practices tend to hurt smaller customers. Companies can give discounts to buyers, but only if those incentives are based on real savings gleaned from manufacturing and distribution processes.
Similarly, the Sherman Act makes it illegal for a seller to force a buyer to purchase one product (or service) in order to get the opportunity to purchase another product—a practice referred to as a "tying agreement." A long-distance telephone company, for instance, cannot require its customers to purchase its telephone equipment as a prerequisite to buying its long-distance service. The Sherman Act also regulates reciprocal dealing arrangements, whereby companies agree to buy products from each other. Reciprocal dealing is considered anti-competitive because large buyers and sellers tend to have an unfair advantage over their smaller competitors.
Several consumer protection regulations also impact sales managers. The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966, for example, restricts deceptive labeling, and the Truth in Lending Act requires sellers to fully disclose all finance charges incorporated into consumer credit agreements. Cooling-off laws, which commonly exist at the state level, allow buyers to cancel contracts made with door-to-door sellers within a certain time frame. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires door-to-door sellers who work for companies engaged in interstate trade to clearly announce their purpose when calling on prospects.
Calvin, Robert J. Sales Management. McGraw-Hill, 2001.
Cichelli, David J. Compensating the Sales Force: A Practical Guide to Designing Winning Sales Compensation Plans. McGraw-Hill, 2004.
"Sales Force Control." Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. Winter 2005.
"Sales Management Functions—analysis—planning—strategy—implementation—decision making—quotas." Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management. Winter 2005.
Simpkins, Robert A. The Secrets of Great Sales Management. AMACOM, 2004.
Hillstrom, Northern Lights
updated by Magee, ECDI
"Sales Management." Encyclopedia of Small Business. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/entrepreneurs/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sales-management
"Sales Management." Encyclopedia of Small Business. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/entrepreneurs/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sales-management
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The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
TRAVELING SALESMEN are representatives of business firms who travel through assigned territories to solicit orders for future deliveries of their employers' goods and services. Unlike peddlers or canvassers, they seek orders from other business firms and public institutions rather than from individual consumers or households. Also, unlike peddlers and other itinerant merchants, they usually sell from samples or descriptions of their products rather than carry goods for immediate delivery.
Although itinerant dealers, such as seagoing and overland traders, emerged early in American economic life, traveling salesmen were virtually nonexistent before the mid-nineteenth century. Thin, sparsely developed market areas, small-scale manufacturing, and the lack of branded merchandise lines provided little incentive for the use of salesmen. Wholesale merchants, who maintained their own contacts with suppliers, dominated trade. Retailers either made periodic buying trips to major wholesale centers to replenish their inventories or patronized local wholesale jobbers. After 1840 manufacturers began to take the initiative and send salesmen in search of customers. This change resulted from (1) the growth of market opportunities as America became more urban; (2) transportation improvements that reduced travel time and expense; and (3) growth in manufacturing capacity and the consequent need to sell greater quantities of goods.
The pioneer traveling salesmen cannot be precisely identified, in part because of definitional problems. For example, should a company owner or partner who made an occasional visit to distant customers or agents be classified as a traveling salesman? A Wilming ton, Del., railway equipment manufacturing company, Bonney and Bush (subsequently Bush and Lobdell and then Lobdell Car Wheel Company), employed a traveling agent starting in the 1830s and added additional salesmen in the 1850s. Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Conn., which made brassware, experimented with a traveling salesman from 1832 to 1835 but did not finally adopt that selling method until 1852. The Rogers Brothers Silverware Company and other metalworking firms also began using traveling salesmen in the early 1850s.
Many states and municipalities, acting at the behest of their local wholesalers, imposed costly licensing requirements on traveling salesmen entering their jurisdictions. These barriers proved ineffective and eventually were declared unconstitutional in Robbins v. Taxing District (1887). The U.S. Census reported 7,262 traveling salesmen in 1870 and 223,732 in 1930, but these figures may represent only one-half to one-third of the true numbers. The number of salesmen undoubtedly increased after 1930.
Salesmanship in the twentieth century became increasingly professionalized and scientific. The early sales management textbooks of the 1910s and 1920s were followed by a steadily expanding stream of books, periodicals, and college courses; more careful planning of salesmen's itineraries; attention to new methods of testing, selecting, and training salesmen; and experimentation with various commission and salary methods of compensation.
Traveling salesmen continued to ply their trade well into the twenty-first century. But while salesmen selling to businesses thrived—selling drugs to doctors or cosmetics to salons, for example—the door to door salesman became extremely rare. The rise of the two-income family after the 1970s deprived door to door salesmen of daytime access to customers. In addition, the rise of the Internet as a marketing device and the trend toward gated and policed suburban subdivisions created steep barriers for door to door work. In many parts of the United States by the end of the twentieth century, the door to door salesman was a thing of the past.
Hollander, S. C. "Nineteenth Century Anti-Drummer Legislation." Business History Review 38 (1964).
Moore, Truman E. The Traveling Man: The Story of the American Traveling Salesman. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972.
Porter, Glenn, and Harold C. Livesay. Merchants and Manufacturers: Studies in the Changing Structure of Nineteenth-Century Marketing. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971.
Spears, Timothy B. 100 Years on the Road: The Traveling Salesman in American Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
Stanley C.Hollander/l. t.;a. r.
"Traveling Salesmen." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/traveling-salesmen
"Traveling Salesmen." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved April 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/traveling-salesmen