Marketing Aptitude: Personal Selling

The personal selling is an art of selling goods. It is a face-to-face oral communication in which a salesman attempts to influence a buyer to make a purchase. The purpose of personal selling is to create an understanding and interest, to develop the importance of brand and to discuss about the prices with the customers.

Today, most salespeople are well-educated and well-trained professionals. They have clear facts about the product, have long-term customer relationships, can easily evaluate customer needs and organize the company’s efforts to solve customer problems.  Hence, we can say, personal selling influence people to buy goods and services. Therefore, personal selling is said to be called as the Back-bone of Marketing’. The term ‘Personal Selling’ has been defined by following scholars: –

  • Richard Buskirk: – “Personal selling consists of contacting prospective buyers of products personally.”
  • William J. Stanton: – “Personal selling consists in individual personal communication, in contrast to mass relatively impersonal communication of advertising, sales promotion and other promotional tools.”
  • American Marketing Association: -“Oral presentation is a conversation with one or more prospective purchasers for the purchase of making sales.”
  • American Marketing Association: – “The personal selling is the personal or impersonal process of assisting and/or persuading a prospective customer or buy a commodity or service or to act favorable upon an idea that has commercial significance to the seller.”
  • Cundiff and Still: – “Personal Selling is basically the method of communication. It involves not only individual but also social behavior each of a person in face to face contrast— salesman and prospect-influences each other.”
  • Henry Ford: – “Personal Selling is an internal activity that works from one mind someone else’s mind.”
  • Philip Kotler: – “Personal selling involves an alive, immediate, and interactive relationship between two or more persons. Each party observes the other’s needs at close hand and makes immediate adjustments.”
  • Dalrymple and Decarlo: – “Personal selling is direct communications between paid representatives and prospects that lead to purchase orders, customer satisfaction, and account development.”
  • Robinson and Stidsen: – “Personal selling may be defined as interpersonal face-to-face interaction for the purpose of creating, exploiting or maintaining a mutually beneficial exchange relationship with others.”
  • Sharelekar: – “Personal selling refers to oral presentation in conversation (by a salesperson) with one or more prospective customers for the purpose of making sales.”
  • Mahoney and Slone: – “Personal selling is the personal Communication between a salesperson and a potential customer or group of customers.”
  • National Association of Marketing Teachers of America: – “Personal selling is the ability to persuade people to buy goods and services at a profit to the seller and benefit to the buyer.”

Characteristics or Nature of Personal Selling

Following are the characteristics of Personal Selling: –

  • Personal selling involves oral conversation between selling and buyers regarding quality, price, features, uses, etc. of the product, with an objective of selling.
  • It’s a part of marketing programme, which involves direct method of selling.
  • Personal selling is based on buyer’s reactions and response. It makes the buyer feel that he is listened to, and his needs are considered. Thus, we can say personal selling has the customer-oriented prospective and approach.
  • In personal selling, the doubts of the customers are dispelled by the salesman.
  • It establishes a selling relationship and also a deep personal friendship. It keeps customer’s best interests at heart.
  • It is creative by nature. The salespeople try to create needs, make the customers aware of these needs and try to persuade them to buy the product. The salesman “does not sell, but he creates in the other man the urge to buy.”
  • It is a method to collect and report market information on interested matters to company management.

Process of Personal Selling

The personal selling process is a logical sequence of steps that a salesperson takes in dealing with a prospective customer. It is an eight step approach that has been found to be beneficial in sales. The eight steps are: prospecting, pre-approach, approach, need assessment, presentation, demonstration, meeting objections, Closing the sale and following up. These are as follows: –

  • Prospecting or locating prospective buyers: – It is the step where salespeople identify and develop a list of potential or prospective customers. Potential customers may be spotted through observation, enquiry and analysis of records of existing customers. After they figure out potential customers, they must determine whether customers are qualified leads, or leads who are likely to buy. (Qualified leads are those who have a need for the product, can afford the product and are willing to be contacted by the salesperson).
  • Approach: – It is the step where salesperson initially meets with the customer and determines a customer’s wants and needs. He should be polite and courteous while introducing himself and his product to the customer. This is done by using the product’s features and advantages. This is known as the FAB technique (Features, Advantages and Benefits).
  • A feature refers to the physical characteristics of product such as size, taste, etc.
  • An advantage refers to the performance provided by the physical characteristics e.g. it does not stick with the dirty spots.
  • A benefit refers to the benefits for the prospect. E.g. saves you 20% on replacement cost.

Thus, the salesperson has to be very careful in his approach as the first impression is the last impression.

  • Presentation: – The sales presentation is closely related to the buying process of customers. For this purpose, the salesperson has to present the product and describe its features in brief. The presentation should be matched with the attitude of the prospect so that the salesman can continuously hold his attention and create interest in the product or service.
  • Demonstration: – The demonstration is a part of presentation. It is the crucial task of providing the proofs and providing the statements about quality, utility, performance and service of a product by evidences of experiment, operation or a test. Then, in order to maintain customer’s interest and to arouse his desire, the sales-person must display and demonstrate the product. He has to explain the usefulness and typical qualities of the product or service so that the prospect realizes the need for the product or service to satisfy his needs and wants. He should not be in a hurry to impress the customer and should avoid controversy. He may suggest uses of the product and may create an impulsive urge to possess the article by appealing to human nature. (Prospect is a person or an institution who is likely to be benefited by the product the salesman wants to sell and can afford to buy it).
  • Handling objections: – At this stage, customers who are interested in buying the product will raise questions on the price or value of the product, dismiss the product/service as inadequate, avoid making a commitment to buy, or refuse because of an unknown factor. A clever salesperson should be patient, polite and courteous while answering the questions of the prospect. He should clear all doubts and objections without entering into a controversy and without losing his temper. He should convince the customer that he is making the best use of his money by purchasing the product. For this purpose, the salesman should prove the superiority of his product over the competitive products. He should not lose patience if the customer puts too many queries and takes time in arriving at any decision. If the customer does not buy even after meeting rejections, the salesman should let him go without showing temper. He must believe in the universal rule that the customer is always right. Otherwise, he will lose the sale.
  • Closing the sale: – The success in earlier stages will lead to the last stage of closing the sale and clinch the deal. Here, ‘closing the sale’ is the act of actually getting the prospect’s assertion to buy the product or service.  It is the critical point in the personal selling process. An expert salesperson should watch for every sign which may indicate that the prospect is willing to buy the product. A sale is said to be complete when the product is in the hands of satisfied customer.
  • Follow-up: – Finally, the salesperson must remember to follow up. Here, “Follow-up” refers to the activities undertaken to ensure that the customer is satisfied with the article and the firm. These activities include installation of the products, checking and ensuring its smooth performance, maintenance and after-sale service. It helps to secure repeat sales identify additional prospects and to evaluate salesman’s effectiveness. Thus, following up will ensure customer satisfaction and help to maintain healthy relationship with the customer.

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