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Job Description of an Industrial Semi-technical Sales Person

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The key to understanding the differences between the industrial / semi-technical sales category and the other sales categories lies in the products themselves. In industrial/semi-technical sales, there are two major product characteristics to be concerned about: frequently the product of one firm is not easily distinguishable from that of its competitors, and the product is a necessity for the operation of the buyer's organization. (In other words, they gotta have it, and so they're gonna get it from someone.)

Since the "Acme" and "Cadillac" versions of the industrial / semi-technical product are commonly very similar, there are really only two areas of responsibility for this category of salesperson. One responsibility is to provide knowledge and information to customers; the other is to provide service.

The salesperson must present an entire array of knowledge and information to the potential buyer. This includes not only the information the customer wants to know about the product-price, color, and so forth-but also an in-depth understanding of the industry, the client's business, future developments in both, and how "Acme" can provide everything necessary to meet the forthcoming challenges. (Hey, that sounds pretty good.' Maybe I should look into a career in the industrial/ semi-technical field?) The salesperson meets with clients on a regular basis and interprets their needs for them. The salesperson must recognize and communicate quality and cost trade-offs, the application and value of innovations in the field, and the "lasting power" of current offerings. Ideally the salesperson should understand the client's business as well as the client does. With that understanding, it is the task of the salesperson to make educated suggestions regarding purchases instead of making sales pitches, and in so doing to become a trusted, dependable asset to the client. Clients are much more likely to place their reorders ind new business with trusted, dependable assets.

Another thing to consider in the knowledge and information area is that the customer is a professional and usually knows a good product from a bad one. So the attributes of the product, while obviously important, are simply presentations of fact. The difference lies in the extension of those facts as they apply to the customer's individual situation.

The second area of responsibility is the service surrounding the product. Service in this context can mean actual maintenance on a piece of equipment, the handling of delivery problems, dealing with incorrect or defective merchandise, reordering, presenting new innovations or applications of current products, introducing new products, and/or following up on any questions the customers might have.) Service on the product can only occur after the actual sale of the product, and a key selling point of any product is the quality of service. This presents the salesperson with an interesting dilemma. How does the salesperson convince the buyer that the service on the product will indeed be satisfactory? "Believe me, do I look like the kind of person who would lie about something like this?" "Honest Injun, we have great post sale service." A big factor in convincing the customer of good post sale service is to show dependability in making the sale. Things like being prompt, finding answers to questions the client might have, being honest and courteous. References from other customers lending credence to claims of good post sale service are also valuable.

If the customer does decide to buy from your company, then it's time for the fantastic service you bragged about to happen. And that depends to a large degree on the "inside people" who are responsible for shipping the correct product on time, for making the appropriate credits for mistakes, for providing you with the information the customer wants, and so forth. This requires that the outside salesperson maintain a good relationship with the inside people. Because, even if they don't do the job right, you are still the one who says, "I'm sorry," and who takes the responsibility and the heat.

The sales managers and I all get together on a monthly basis. It's not all performance evaluation. It's a little bit of evaluation; a little bit of direction; and a little bit of telling them where I am, what I am working on, and what's going on. We work on budgets for the next month, what calls will be made, what potential business is out there, md what areas can be improved.

Recently a salesperson who had been with the company a good forty years, an older person with a family, was let go, because even though he worked hard, the numbers weren't there. That's exactly what we're judged on-the numbers.

Q - Who else in the firm do you deal with?

A - Every day I talk to an inside person, my customer service representative, who actually takes the orders. Sometimes we travel with manufacturers' representatives for the products that we distribute; they're technical people, and they really help out. If a laboratory is expanding and it needs a lot of reusable items as well as capital equipment, the laboratory usually requests bids. The bid department will ask what percentage I want to make on this, I tell them, and they do all the paper work.

I frequently work with the credits department both in approving new customers and dealing with existing customers. I also work with the advertising department setting up new advertising programs and discussing how many advertising dollars should be spent. Customers sometimes need assistance in evaluating product applications in their particular situation, so I do a lot of work with the technical services department, which helps with the technical aspects of our product. Also, I have constant contact with the distribution people.

Q - Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in sales, or do you have anything to add?

A - Be prepared to limit your social life drastically, and be ready to work your tail off for at least three months. It takes at least that long for things to start rolling.

Money has to motivate you. There is no one there to say, "Okay get going, it's 8:00." Unless you really want to make the money and have a real competitive spirit, you'll just sit back and not do it.

I think there are very few positions right out of college that entail so much responsibility and authority as does the position of marketing representative for an oil company. Most of our people don't work in a district office environment; they work out of their homes and ii remote locations where they are the only people in that area. There's no a person right down the hall to go and talk to, and there's nobody constantly badgering you about what you should be doing.

There are numerous opportunities to talk with people in the business world, and ask them questions, and observe what is going on You are better off talking to them than to a counselor in a university

You should do as much as you can to prepare yourself, but you can only get the true experience of dealing with people in a job situation when you're out in the territory.
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