Sales, an attractive profession - provides above-average income | Sunday Observer

Sales, an attractive profession - provides above-average income

25 October, 2020

The leadership of all commercial organisations is extremely concerned about business growth.

The growth of the organisation is determined by the revenue increase that is known as the Top Line which is mostly linked to the bottom line as it drives the organisational profits. The turnover also determines the share or the power of the particular organisation within their respective industry.

Therefore, it is common to see that all business reviews of commercial entities commence with proud emphasis on their revenue growth. Those are the headlines we read in business pages in newspapers. However, do we properly understand how this increased revenue reaches the organisation? Do we realise that it commences with a simple bill written by a salesperson in the market after convincing a customer?

Many stakeholders in commercial organisations do not understand that salespeople are the only employees who bring money to the organisation when all others are waiting to spend that money. Of course, organisations invest a major part of that revenue to build infrastructure, launch new products, communicate with consumers, develop employees and do many more activities to ensure their sales people are able to bring more money in the future.

Sales people in many industries deal with customers, and not with consumers. All Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), hardware, consumer durables, pharmaceuticals fall into this category. These are the industries that need more sales personnel as they cater to the entire country. The prime responsibility of the sales personnel in these industries is to ensure their products are available in all potential outlets so that consumers can have easy access to them. The role of the sales person in the Insurance Sector or Financial sectors is different as they directly reach the potential customers to introduce insurance policies and credit cards.

A recent study conducted by this writer under the guidance of the University of Kelaniya revealed a serious situation in the FMCG sector in Sri Lanka with regard to the retention of their sales people within the same organisation.

All companies selected to the sample recorded more than double in their sales force turnover when compared to the rate of total employee turnover of the respective organisation.

What does this mean? Does that mean the sales profession in the FMCG industry has more demand than other functions in the same organisation? It is a known fact that the demand increases when the supply is weak. For one profession to have a demand more than the others, it can be argued that the particular profession has inadequate supply of human resources.

This has been reiterated as a fact based on the information provided by the industry leaders in the FMCG sector. In addition, a simple study on the vacancies advertised in newspapers and websites dedicated for recruitments have confirmed the same.

If that is true, what are the probable contributory factors for that situation? There are some known perceptions regarding the duties and responsibilities of the sales function. It is true that the nature of the sales function in the FMCG sector involves hard work.

The sales representative of a FMCG organisation has to be responsible for a certain geographical territory and visit the potential outlets on a planned frequency and talk to the customers and convince them for orders. Many organisations have transferred the responsibility of the stocks in the truck and collection of dealer’s money to their nominated distributor of the area.

Therefore, Fast Moving Consumer Goods sales representatives have the primary duty of educating the dealers on the products, special promotions and schemes, and then making the products available, displaying them well and ensuring proper hygiene of their stocks within the outlet.

When you consider the physical functions, it is obvious that the sales job involves extensive travelling, walking in the market whether it is hot, dusty or raining, keep standing for long periods during the day, talking to customers whether they welcome you or not, fix display materials and arrange the stocks on shelves.

These are the known facts to the outside society and many will look at these functions as difficult, tough and demanding. Obviously that will paint a somewhat negative picture in the minds of the potential youth entering the job market. However, there are so many positive factors related to the profession of sales that is not known to many. When someone enters the profession as a sales representative with positive GCE Advanced Level results, these sales front liners are paid a basic salary generally equal to the clerical staff of the company. But, they receive more than double or triple of that amount as monthly incentives. They are also paid an allowance daily for meals and another fixed monthly base allowance for lodging.

This does not include many special schemes conducted by companies during the year offering their salespersons cash prizes, foreign trips and other gifts. Therefore, the front liners in the sales profession receive an above average, more than double or almost triple the income compared to many other professions with similar educational qualifications. When entering the job market, another important factor considered by many is the availability of a career path in the selected profession. In the function of sales, there is a very clear corporate path upwards.

The structure of the sales force in a typical FMCG company has Sales Representatives at the bottom and then the immediate upward layer is Sales Supervisors or Sales Executives. Above them, you find Area Sales Managers or Regional Sales Managers. Some companies have Field Sales Managers as the next layer and the top position is held by the National Sales Manager as the Head of the Sales Division.

Most of the time, the top position holders of FMCG companies emerge from the bottom layer. They are not necessarily from the same company but when you look at them as a profession, it is obvious that except in a very few instances, the top layers are occupied by those who climbed up from the bottom with effective results, wealth of experience and obtaining educational qualifications such as Diplomas in Marketing or Sales, External Degrees and MBAs. From the time they start climbing up, fringe benefits such as company vehicles, attractive salaries, international training and many allowances are available for them.

With all above positive factors, why have we failed to attract talented youth who are entering into the job market for the large number of opportunities available in the sales profession? It is a profession where they can receive an above average remuneration package and can look forward to an excellent career progression.

When you look at many FMCG organisations in Sri Lanka, there is an unproportionately high number of CEOs who have come through this path. Almost all heads in the sales division in the FMCG industry in Sri Lanka have come from the bottom layers. If these are the facts, how come we still find it difficult to show these live examples to motivate qualified youth and upgrade the quality of the sales profession particularly in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods industry in Sri Lanka? It is the moral duty of all those who have come on this channel to the Top to show the path for those who are not aware of the true potential of the sales profession.

The writer holds a MBA (UK) and EDBA (Colombo) and is a business consultant, corporate director and visiting lecturer.