Evaluating and Controlling Sales Representatives

Evaluation and control of sales representatives in the United States is a relatively simple task . In many sales jobs, emphasis is placed on individual performance, which can easily be measured by sales revenue generated (often compared with past performance, forecasts or quotas). In short, a good sales representative produces big numbers. However, in many countries the evaluation problem is more complex, particularly in relationship oriented cultures, where team work is favored over individual effort. Performance measures require closer observation and may include the opinion of customers, peers and supervisors. Of course, on the other hand managers of sales forces operating in relationship oriented cultures may see measures of individual performance as relatively unimportant.

One study comparing American and Japanese sales representatives’ performance illustrates such differences. Supervisors ratings of the representatives on identical performance scales were used in both countries. The distribution of performance of the Japanese was statistically normal – a few high performers, few low, but most in the middle. The American distribution was different – a few high most in the middle but almost no low performers. In the United States, poor performers ether quit (because they are not making any money) or they are fired. In Japan the poor performers stay with the company and are seldom fired. Thus sales managers in Japan have a problem their American counterparts do not: how to motivate poor performers. Indeed, sales management textbooks in the United states usually include material on how to deal with plateau sales people but say little about poor performers because the latter are not problems.

The primary control tool used by American sales managers is the incentive system. Because of the internet and fax machines more and more American sales representatives operate out of offices in their homes and see supervisors infrequently . Organizations have become quite flat and spans of control increasingly broad in recent years. However, in many other countries spans of control can be quite narrow by American standards – even in Australia and particularly in Japan . In the latter country supervisors spend much more time with fewer subordinates. Corporate culture and frequent interactions with peers and supervisors are the means of motivation and control of sales representatives in relationship oriented cultures like Japan.

Preparing US personnel for foreign assignments

Estimates of the annual cost of sending and supporting a manager and his or her family in a foreign assignment range from 150 to 400 per cent of base salary. The cost in money (some estimates are in the $300,000 to $ 600,000 range) and morale increases substantially if the expatriate requests a return home before completing the normal tour of duty (a normal stay is two to four years). In addition, if repatriation into domestic operations is not successful and the employee leaves the company, an indeterminately high cost in low morale and loss of experienced personnel results. To reduce these problems international personnel management has increased planning for expatriate personnel to move abroad, remain abroad, and then return to the home country. The planning process must begin prior to the selection of those who go abroad and extend to their specific assignments after returning home. Selection training, compensation and career development policies (including repatriation) should reflect the unique problems of managing the expatriate

Besides the job related criteria for a specific position, the typical candidates for an international assignment is married, has two school aged children, is expected to stay overseas three years, and has the potential for promotion into higher management levels. These characteristics of the typical expatiate are the basis of most of the difficulties associated with getting the best qualified personnel to go overseas , keeping them there and assimilating them on their return.