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The distribution is an operational function in companies , the products or services for customers or end-users to make them available. It is the element of the marketing mix that was referred to in older textbooks as distribution policy. According to the current understanding of marketing, it is a question of sales policy, in which the implementation of the sales strategy and the efficient design of the sales process are in the foreground. The persons responsible in sales need appropriate sales skills that especially when Investitionsgütermarketing knowledge- or in marketing and technology-intensive products and services are of particular importance.

Evolution path of sales

Evolution path of sales

An evolutionary path in sales can be identified by increasing the level of training and knowledge on both the consumer and seller side. While “power-selling” focuses on quick sales success, method-based selling requires the seller to become a market manager. With Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the view is directed beyond the sales department: processes are structured in a much more customer-oriented manner and supported by software and databases .

Sales planning process

The starting point for sales planning is the marketing plan , which defines the framework for all further activities. According to Manfred Bruhn , due to the strategic and long-term nature of sales policy decisions and the associated high costs and risks, it is advisable to plan the sales process systematically. The following planning phases should be taken into account:

Analysis of the sales situation

Sales planning usually begins with a systematic analysis of the most important (internal) strengths and weaknesses as well as the (external) opportunities and risks to be expected ( SWOT analysis ). It is about the most objective possible representation of your own position in comparison to the competition as a basis for setting realistic sales targets.

Determination of sales targets

The sales goals are not only derived from the needs of the end customers and the company, but should also include sales intermediaries (such as wholesalers and retailers) and sales assistants (such as freight forwarders and warehouses) as well as competitors. A distinction is made between the following categories of goals:

  • Economically oriented sales goals, such as increasing sales volumes, securing price levels and reducing sales and logistics costs
  • Ecologically oriented sales goals, such as increasing energy efficiency
  • Logistically oriented sales goals , such as increasing the degree of distribution , reducing delivery times and increasing delivery readiness and reliability
  • Psychologically oriented sales goals, such as ensuring a good sales image and maintaining or improving the willingness of retailers to cooperate
  • Competitive sales goals, such as crowding out competitors

Development of the sales strategy

The sales strategy serves as an orientation framework for all sales measures. This includes the segmentation of the end customers and the sales organs, such as the sales channels, the type and number of sales intermediaries and the structuring of relationships with them.

Determination of the sales budget

This is where the financial leeway is determined, which is available, for example, for commissions for the sales force and for sales promotion measures in the trade.

Implementation of sales measures

The sales design should be implemented taking into account strategy and budget. The questions to be taken into account are how the sales intermediaries are to be bound to the company, which incentive and remuneration systems are used and at which locations warehouses are to be set up.

Sales control

At the end of the planning, it must be checked whether and to what extent the sales targets have (not) been achieved and which adjustments are necessary. This success control requires the definition of suitable key figures.

Selection of the distribution system

When selecting the distribution system, according to Bruhn or Weis, a distinction can be made between the direct and the indirect route (vertical distribution channel structure).

The most important sales channels within a company's distribution policy are:

With direct sales , the company sells directly to the end customer, i.e. without the use of external sales organs. The characteristic is the direct contact between the end customer and the manufacturer, who takes on all trading functions. The implementation can take place through the employment of own sales employees (travelers) or through the company's own sales outlets. Sales can also be designed in the context of direct marketing , through direct mail , catalogs , mail order , packages or telephone marketing .

The advantages of direct sales lie primarily in ensuring the quality of advice, direct and comprehensive control of sales activities and thus direct influence on the end customer. Last but not least, the margin remains with the manufacturer. Disadvantages are the high capital requirement for the sales system and a possibly lower degree of distribution . Direct sales play an important role in the capital goods industry and in the service sector (banks, insurance companies) as well as in companies that want to differentiate themselves from the competition in the form of door-to-door sales ( Amway , Avon , Tupperware , Vorwerk ).

Indirect sales exist when legally and economically independent sales intermediaries (wholesalers and retailers) outside the company are involved. The advantages here are the ability to achieve a high degree of distribution and the ability to expand quickly, greater flexibility and lower capital commitment in sales. Disadvantages are the strong dependence on the sales agents and the low distribution control. Here, complex cooperation strategies and incentive systems are often necessary for the sales intermediaries in order to ensure sales success and to cover the resulting trade margin. According to Homburg / Krohmer, the decision between direct and indirect sales can be made with the help of transaction cost theory . This makes statements about the cheapest form of processing the transactions depending on their characteristics.

Selection of marketing agents or sales bodies

Within marketing , sales policy , i.e. the type of sale, is also referred to as distribution or sales. Customer orientation and customer loyalty are key concepts here. The salespeople commissioned with acquisition (customer acquisition) have different job titles depending on their specialization and commercial position. As part of the sales policy, companies must decide which types of sales bodies should perform the sales tasks. In principle, company-internal and external sales bodies can be used.

Furthermore, a distinction must be made between the legal form of cooperation and the organizational structure in sales. Even if the provider and seller do not formally refer to a certain legal form in their cooperation or do not make a written agreement, the rights and obligations of both parties are regularly determined by the actually prevailing conditions and the usual remuneration. A so-called freelance employee who works without the provisions of commercial agency law or who does not know that employment relationships subject to social insurance arise as soon as certain criteria of dependent activity are present (subject to instructions, use of the provider's operating resources or organizational classification in its operations), applies retrospectively to the Social security institutions as liable to pay benefits. Franchise contracts and brokerage agreements, like all legal relationships, can be interpreted as contentious if no clear agreement is made. However, a legal transaction is by no means in the legal vacuum just because no written contract has been concluded.

For permanent employment, the entrepreneur can decide, depending on the job description, with the help of appropriate methods of aptitude diagnostics, whether the individual salesperson is correctly positioned for the position to be filled or in the so-called order center. The negotiating group to be expected in the customer's shopping center determines the composition of the industrial sales team. When choosing a distribution channel , a company has to consider a number of factors. Experience has shown that the economic interests of the provider outweigh the interests of employees and customers. Such a position is then reversed if the seller enters into negotiations with the provider with important information about the market and can put the feasibility of the specifications into perspective based on his professional experience and / or his customer contacts (for example, shows data on customer behavior in this special market environment ). The "sale" of the sales service is thus the most plausible work sample for evaluating salespeople in practice.

Fundamental characteristics of the company's own sales organs are their permanent employment and, as a result, being bound by instructions, both of which contribute to easier management. The best known form is the sales representative, whose job it is to broker and close deals as an employee for the company. He is often referred to as a traveler in literature.

The sales bodies outside the company include, for example, the commercial agents who conclude transactions on behalf of the companies they represent, the commission agents who act in their own name but for the account of the manufacturer and the brokers who are commissioned with buying or selling tasks on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, the choice is reduced to the alternatives of travelers or sales representatives, as commission agents and brokers are becoming less important. Despite the differences in legal status, travelers and sales representatives have very similar roles. The decision primarily relates to the question of who can solve the sales tasks more effectively and efficiently. There are u. a. The following criteria must be taken into account: costs and sales incurred, the controllability and flexibility of use, the possibility of obtaining market information and the risks associated with a legal obligation.

Incidentally, according to Bruhn, a distinction is made between horizontal and vertical sales channel structures. It is important to determine both the type of sales intermediaries and their number, taking careful account of their sales skills. Depending on the type of product and the respective sales and marketing strategy, a distinction must be made between universal, selective and exclusive sales strategies.

With universal sales, the manufacturer accepts any sales agent who is willing to offer his range of services. The aim is to ensure that the products are available everywhere (ubiquity) in order to ensure a high degree of distribution. The strategy of selective sales is that only those sales intermediaries are accepted who meet the sales selection criteria. Criteria for this selection can be the importance of sales, the quality of advice and service, the pricing policy and the size and location of the business. If not only qualitative, but also quantitative criteria are taken into account when selecting the sales agent, it is exclusive distribution . The extreme case of this strategy is exclusive sales, in which only a single sales agent is granted sales authorization for a specific sales area. According to Homburg and Krohmer, one advantage of exclusive sales is the possibility of ensuring a consistent market presence (advice to customers, external appearance of sales partners). In contrast, the comprehensive presence of the products speaks in favor of universal sales; a uniform market presence cannot be guaranteed due to the diversity of the sales partners.

Employed salespeople

The permanent seller (it can also be a traveler) is bound to his employer with a service contract according to § § 611 ff. BGB . Accordingly, regardless of the success of the sale , the employer owes him wages and welfare, in particular social security benefits .

Independent broker

The commercial agent is an independent businessman and entrepreneur who mediates business on a commission basis . According to the legal definition in Section 84 (1) of the German Commercial Code ( HGB) , a commercial agent is someone who, as an independent trader, is constantly entrusted with arranging business for another entrepreneur or concluding them on his behalf. Anyone who is essentially free to organize their work and determine their working hours is self-employed. A commercial agent can be a partnership (OHG, KG) or a corporation (AG, GmbH). In contrast to the employed salesman, he can also work for several providers (multi-company representative). Several companies are usually represented by commercial agencies. According to the results of the CDH statistics 2010, the number of companies represented by commercial agencies averages 5.4.

The basic duties of the commercial agent are stipulated by law in Section 86 HGB. According to this, the commercial agent has the duty to endeavor to mediate or conclude transactions, to safeguard the interests of the entrepreneur represented and to give him the necessary information. Further duties are derived from the duty to safeguard the interests of the company represented. These include, for example, the duty of confidentiality, the non-competition clause and the duty to check creditworthiness. The rights and obligations are regulated more precisely in the commercial agency contract. However, drafting a commercial agency contract is often difficult. If the contractual relationship is terminated, the commercial agent is entitled to a compensation claim under the conditions of § 89b HGB. This is a remuneration claim for the customer base created by him and given to the represented entrepreneur after the contract has ended. A modern special form is the time-limited commissioning of sales representative organizations in the form of rental sales (often through call centers or affiliated field service ).

Incentive systems and control of the sales organs

The sales bodies are to be deployed in such a way that the sales targets are achieved. The objects of the necessary control measures are the division of the sales districts, the planning of the sales quotas and routes, the frequency of visits and measures for training the field service.

According to Philip Kotler, many salespeople need constant encouragement and special incentives to do their best. In general, Bruhn differentiates between material and immaterial incentives. Material incentives are included in the seller's remuneration system. Often these are paid in addition to a fixed salary according to a commission system. In the simplest case, commissions are calculated as a percentage of sales or contribution margin. More complex commission systems with minimization, maximization and / or staggering are quite common. In addition, target agreements or bonus systems are often used, within which cash or non-cash bonuses are awarded for special sales services.

Among the intangible incentives include promotions, commendations, awards and enhanced responsibilities and work areas. Regular salesperson meetings belong in this category. They offer variety and the opportunity to get to know superiors and colleagues in a pleasant environment and to exchange ideas. In most cases, a combination of different material and immaterial incentives is recommended in order to take into account the different value systems of the employees. The prerequisite for the successful management of the sales organs and the effectiveness of the incentive systems is the systematic development of the sales skills of all employees in sales.

According to Waldemar Pelz, the following questions should be asked in order to identify key success factors of incentive systems in sales:

  • How satisfied are the customers with the performance of the sales force ( customer survey )?
  • Do the employees have a direct influence on the result by having the necessary resources and skills?
  • Does the incentive system make the “right” people role models and encourage them?
  • Is the system of indicators across all hierarchical levels and functions designed so that it is free of contradictions so that everyone can see what contribution they can make to the company's success?
  • Is the system attractive to employees who will be needed in the future?
  • Do the employees behave in a customer and deal-oriented manner?
  • How strong are the leadership and implementation skills of management (employee survey)?

Acquisition and stimulation of sales systems

The key question here is, in the opinion Bruhns extent to which a endabnehmer- or sales mid -looking strategy is to pursue: When endabnehmergerichteten (pull) strategy , consumers are primarily addressed through the use of marketing and communication tools. The aim is to generate active demand or a demand pull for the advertised products. Thus the intermediaries are likely to see themselves forced to list the products to satisfy customer demand. The aim of the sales agent- oriented (push) strategy is to promote the willingness of sales agents to accept and support their own products. This is done through the use of incentives, such as the improvement of trading margins, the granting of discounts, bonuses and financial assistance as well as the assumption of services at the sales agent. In practice, the push and pull strategies are not presented as alternative courses of action, according to Meffert and co-authors. Rather, combinations of sales intermediary and end-user-oriented measures are mostly to be found. Here it is important to optimally distribute the available budget between push and pull measures.

Cooperation with other specialist departments

Sales cycle

The eight basic activities of the sales cycle

Sales cycle can be understood as the organizational chart of a sales process. He divides the entire process of selling into purchase-relevant phases and determines their activities and organizational affiliations.

The simple form of a sales cycle consists of four stages:

  1. Engage: Identification of new customers including their evaluation and sales initiation.
  2. Transact: Creation of - if necessary individualized - offers, conclusion of contract.
  3. Fulfill: provision of the service and invoicing.
  4. Service: Provision of services (after purchase) via all communication channels.

In addition, there is often talk of an eight-step sales cycle, which consists of the following phases:

  1. Look for potential customers (leads)
  2. Address prospects (leads) (contact management)
  3. Understand customers and evaluate opportunities
  4. offer, convince and win
  5. Deliver to customers (processing)
  6. Follow up, qualify and retain customers
  7. Develop customers further (up- and cross-selling)
  8. Eventually win back customers


Presales (from the Latin prae = "before" and English sales = "distribution", "sale") is a term for which no valid definition has yet been established in the relevant literature.

In practice, it is necessarily a vague term that summarizes or labels all activities that must be assigned to sales in the broader sense, but are not performed by the sales department, but in which specialist and development departments work for sales. This preparatory work is characterized by the fact that there is not yet an order from a customer, so the workload cannot be charged to the customer on an order-related basis; The client for presales expenses is the company's own sales department, which hopes that a contract will subsequently be concluded with the customer.

Sometimes the pre- sales are counted as the preliminary projects that are commissioned and paid for by a customer, which are often not calculated to cover costs. Their actual purpose for the contractor is to subsequently win a lucrative large order. The “ Presales” label then serves to make it clear to cost controlling that a cost-benefit analysis only makes sense in the context of the follow-up project.

Such input from specialist departments to sales usually occurs

  • for products or services that require a lot of advice
  • when a product merely forms the basis from which tailor-made solutions are developed for the customer
  • when the customer's work processes have to be extensively adapted in order to be able to use the product efficiently
  • when different departments of a company are involved in a complex project. The sales employee is then the contact person for the customer, who, during the sales phase, puts people in touch with the experts who can answer specific questions from the customer.

Typical presales activities include:

  • Product presentations and customer advice on site and by telephone
  • Workshops and seminars
  • Online product demos
  • Telephone conferences with the involvement of international project staff
  • Trade fair appearances
  • Clarification of technical questions, for example feasibility
  • Creation of competitor analyzes
  • Creation of system designs and concepts
  • Creation of calculations and customer offers
  • Support in the creation of sales strategies
  • Support of product management in product innovations.


Postsales (from Latin post = "to" and English sales = "sales", "sales"). Similar to presales , postsales is a fuzzy collective term that summarizes or labels activities that do not serve to fulfill the contract after the conclusion of the contract, but rather to customer care and the preparation and facilitation of future contracts. As with presales , they usually refer to activities that are not performed by sales themselves, but by specialist and development departments on their behalf. Since postsales activities serve to prepare future contracts, postsales cannot be clearly separated from presales . The only decisive feature is that it is based on an existing contractual relationship.

Typical goals of postsales activities are:

  • Sale of maintenance contracts or maintenance contracts with a higher service level
  • Selling complementary components to a product or service that has already been sold
  • Towards the end of a product's life cycle, ensure that the replacement investment is made with a product from your own company
  • Sell ​​modified products or services when market conditions change.

The main motivation for sales to include suitable specialist departments in customer care is that there is a much closer, longer and more trusting cooperation between the customer and supplier departments than is the case between the supplier's sales department and the purchasing department of the customer is possible.

Non-university further education

  • Proven (r) Consultant / in sales - Germany-recognized IHK Accounts (IHK training Level I)
  • Specialist for sales - IHK qualification recognized throughout Europe (IHK advanced training level II)


See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Sale  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ C. Homburg, H. Krohmer: Marketingmanagement . 3rd edition Wiesbaden 2009, p. 828 f.
  2. Peter Winkelmann: Sales conception and sales control - the instruments of integrated customer management (CRM) . 3rd edition Munich 2005, p. 173.
  3. ^ Manfred Bruhn: Marketing. Basics for study and practice . 8th edition Wiesbaden 2007, pp. 247–249.
  4. ^ Hans Christian Weis: Marketing . 14th edition. Leipzig 2007, p. 372 ff .
  5. ^ Waldemar Pelz: Strategic and Operative Marketing . Norderstedt 2004, p. 123 ff .
  6. ^ C. Homburg, H. Krohmer: Marketingmanagement . 2nd Edition. Wiesbaden 2006, p. 873 .
  7. ^ Manfred Bruhn: Marketing. Basics for study and practice . 8th edition Wiesbaden 2007, p. 265 f.
  8. ^ Manfred Bruhn: Marketing. Basics for study and practice . 8th edition Wiesbaden 2007, p. 259 f.
  9. see among others: Heribert Meffert u. a .: Marketing . 10th edition Wiesbaden 2008, p. 260 ff.
  10. ^ C. Homburg, H. Krohmer: Marketingmanagement . 2nd edition Wiesbaden 2006, p. 879.
  11. cdh24.de: Commercial agency law: The main features at a glance
  12. ^ Bruhn, Manfred: Marketing: Basics for study and practice . 8th edition, Wiesbaden 2007, p. 268 f.
  13. ^ Philip Kotler: Marketing Management . 12th edition, Munich 2007, p. 821
  14. ^ Manfred Bruhn: Marketing, basics for study and practice . 8th edition, Wiesbaden 2007, p. 270 f.
  15. ^ Philip Kotler: Marketing Management . 12th edition, Munich 2007, p. 823
  16. Waldemar Pelz: Incentive systems in sales: No crutch for bad leadership . In: Sales Business 12/2009, p. 51
  17. ^ Manfred Bruhn: Marketing, basics for study and practice . 8th edition, Wiesbaden 2007, p. 262 ff.
  18. ^ Meffert, Burmann, Kirchgeorg: Marketing . 10th edition, Wiesbaden 2008, p. 594
  19. http://www.direktvertrieb.de/