Telecom and insurance are industries that have grown very quickly because of their investment in equipment and capital requirement
Performance is highest when individual and supervisor work as a team - Sundara Rajan, Director, Thomas Assessment India.
Broadly, there are 4 industries which employ sales professionals in large numbers – FMCG, Pharma , Financial Services and Telecom.
Of these, there are some traits that are unique to FMCG and Pharma. On the one hand, there are two parts of the business: one, is sales generation and the other is sales fulfilment. For sales generation, these two industries need large sales teams that can help the brand reach to all locations where potential customers are. Normally, for the fulfilment of orders, most organizations use a third party distribution.
Telecom and Insurance as industries have grown very quickly because their investment both in the form of technology and upfront capital deployment requirement, they had the pressure to grow revenues quickly and increase penetration in their very competitive markets. Those pressures were such that these industries had to find parallel ways to increase that reach, Insurance used DSAs and Telecom leveraged on a combination of channels like an in-house corporate teams, their own branches, piggy backing on FMCG distribution channels to reach much higher (specially the pre-paid voucher market) and investing very heavily for brand recall.
The talent challenges in these industries are varied, from challenges in the talent pool available for these roles, to identifying the right candidates, to managing performance and career aspirations. From my experience Telecom and Insurance sectors have been much more aggressive when it comes to managing performance and also linking pay to results. FMCG and Pharma have been traditionally more conservative with low performers, providing them opportunities for improvement through training. But this also meant having teams with less differential in terms of pay from star performers and mid performers.
In terms of pay structures, FMCG and Pharma both have a manufacturing component to their business, so their costs to the business include their manufacturing costs. For insurance and telecom, their direct costs are much lesser so they can afford to pay more to their sales people. This trend got intensified because of the ability to pay from the insurance sector. Insurance companies had an investment requirement to start operations and hence started with a financial cushion to afford to pay talent higher than other industries.
Telecom and BFSI industry drew a lot of talent from FMCG and Pharma in the early years. This migration happened because these older industries had very well trained and professional sales force and the new industries were offering a kind of packages that were hard to resist.
The profiles required for these sales teams are different but there are commonalities in terms of the attitude, drive and energy that the person must carry and also the ability to maintain relationships.
In Pharma the specialty is that the person who is in sales must follow the process that has been prescribed by the company to sale that particular drug, the process is crucial as the product sold has the capacity to influence people’s life and hence process and compliance to process is paramount.
The key trends I see in managing sales teams are: The use of electronic data from different sources to incorporate and draw insights for talent acquisition (in search of the right success profile), the increasing importance of e-learning specially in Insurance and Telecom, the extensive focus on not only the sales person but the team of sales person and supervisor (many organizations have realized that the extraordinary performance comes from this nuclear team and hence focus on creating means to strengthen the personal relationships within these teams), companies are more open to change, recalibrate and relook at processes to adapt to new realities in talent management.