Personal selling was one of the leading techniques for a very long period in history. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that it was probably the only form of product or service selling when business activities became common.
However, globalization and the advent internet and social media have reduced personal selling to one of many selling and marketing techniques. The selling technique may not be as common as it was before. Still, there are so many organizations that heavily rely on this selling technique.
Let’s find out in detail.
What is Personal selling?
Personal selling is a face-to-face technique where a sales representative approaches a potential customer or the lead personally to sell a product or service. This technique is more common in the B2B arena, but it doesn’t mean B2C companies don’t incorporate personal selling in their overall selling strategies.
Personal selling becomes more important in the B2B industry because you need to convince another business. Statistically, companies lose 69 percent of their B2B customers just because of indifference or failure to show enough empathy and value. This is where a professional and skilled salesperson comes in because a personal touch can clear many ambiguities.
Features of personal selling
Technically, personal selling has six main features:
- It is a form of selling where both buyer and the seller meet each other face-to-face.
- Personal relationship development between the potential buyer and the salesperson is another feature. This leads to sales and long-lasting profitable connections.
- Both buyer and seller converse orally in this face-to-face meeting. Both parties talk about the features and benefits of the product or service.
- As the client/potential client has a face-to-face meeting will the salesperson, it allows a smooth and instant response to the queries from the buyer.
- Selling in-person is a great way to know about potential client’s preferences, likes, dislikes, etc.
- Making the sale is the last and most important feature of personal selling. The main purpose is to sell the product or service and not just inform the potential client.
Objectives of personal selling
Of course, the main objective of any sales is to sell the products or services and build a long-lasting, profitable relationship with the customer. But some major objectives of personal selling are described below:
- Attracting and Engaging the Potential Buyer/Lead. The first objective to attract a potential customer who has shown any interest in your product or service.
- Properly Educating the Potential Client. It involves properly educating the potential customer. This includes educating about the benefits, value-added features, price, and everything about a product or service.
- Urging or Convincing the Potential Client to Buy. Educating the potential client is not enough. A salesperson needs to convince the potential buyer that this product or service is the best solution to his/her specific need(s).
- Making the Sales. This is indeed the basic motive to conclude the sale. In fact, the number of sales is the measure of success in personal selling.
- Sales Repetition. As mentioned earlier, It is about making sales and building a long-lasting, profitable relation.
Types of Personal Selling/Roles in Personal Selling
Basically, there are three main types/roles in personal selling:
Order takers have two further categories:
- Inside order takers: They generally don’t meet the clients/customers directly. Retail Sales Assistants are a common example of inside order takers.
- Outside order takers: They visit the field and meet the customers directly.
Order takers are the salespersons whose job is solely transactional, i.e., they take orders from the customers. Their job is to answer the queries from the customers/potential customers, but they don’t directly increase sales.
These salespersons don’t make sales directly to the end consumers. Rather, they create orders for the companies. This type of personal selling is common in the B2B market.
For instance, pharmaceutical companies hire sales representatives that convince potential customers (medical practitioners, etc.) to promote their company’s product(s). These practitioners then prescribe that specific medicine (product) to the end consumers.
The front-line salespersons actually persuade/convince the potential customers to buy a product or service.
When to Use Personal Selling
Personal selling is not a technique that fits in all types of business. It works better if you incorporate it into your overall sales strategy. Still, there are many businesses where personal selling is a more suitable option, such as:
- When a company sells specialized, technical, or costly equipment/product such as software, homes, etc.
- Personal selling also works better when:
- You are selling a high unit value product
- When you are introducing a new product.
- When a product needs proper demonstration before usage.
- Businesses go for personal selling when they have a limited number of large-sized clients.
- This type of selling is also a favorable option for companies that cannot afford the advertisement of their products on different advertising channels.
- It is most suitable when a company has infrequent but valuable purchases.
Personal Selling Techniques
Personal selling is not just selling products or services. It is a process where salespersons built a long-term business relationship with the customers. Following are the techniques that salespersons use in personal selling:
Strictly speaking, prospecting is the lead generation stage where salespersons search for “workable” potential clients. The term “workable” means those prospects that can be converted into actual clients if they are approached and managed properly.
After the lead generation, a salesperson needs to collect maximum information about the potential clients (individuals or companies). If you intend to target a company, you need stronger preparation. For instance, you need to know the products offered by the company, their sales volume, their managerial panel, etc.
Approaching Your Prospect
This is one of the most important stages in this process. The term “the first impression is the last impression” fits best in this context. Homer B. Smith has suggested some approaches that can help you during this stage:
- Ask your prospect a question most preferably related to the sales presentation.
- You can offer a free service or any benefit according to your prospect’s needs.
- A referral can be of great help.
- Acknowledge and appreciate any achievement of your prospect.
Once you have successfully convinced a prospect for a sales presentation, it is time to “impress” them. Salespersons use different approaches according to their needs. However, canned presentation or stimulus-response learning theory is one of the oldest methods.
Canned presentation means you can convince a lead if you can expose them to the right stimuli such as pictures, terms, words, actions, etc.
According to 82% of B2B buyers, salespeople are not prepared and avoid these meetings as they consider it a waste of time.
Tackling Queries and Objections from Prospects
No matter how much you prepare for all possible questions, you will end up facing questions “out of syllabus.” This is the stage where your presence of mind will be tested. One thing you must do to tackle this situation is to have complete knowledge of the product you are selling.
Closing a deal means asking for the order. Once a salesperson completes the presentation, the next step is to ask the customer to make the order at the end of the presentation. Asking for the order needs confidence and the ability to read the cues from the prospect.
It is equally important to stay in touch with the customer after making the sale. A salesperson should inquire about the product and its functionality or if the prospect needs any assistance. A regular follow-up helps in building confidence and a long-term relationship with the customer.
Advantages of Disadvantages of Personal Selling
|Advantages of Personal Selling||Disadvantages of Personal Selling|
|Unlike mass marketing it allows the companies to create two-way communication that helps the salespersons to adjust according to the customer’s response and get regular feedback.||One of the biggest disadvantages of personal selling is that it is pretty expensive. First, you have to bear the training costs, and then the cost-per-action is also higher.|
|It helps in developing and strengthening personal relationships with the customers. As salespersons are in direct contact with the customers, they can cater to their needs in the best possible way.||A salesperson can score high salaries if he/she knows the drill. That is why the turnover ratio is higher in salespersons. This can be very frustrating for the companies as they not only have to train the new sales force, but it can also dent the relation with the customers.|
|This sales strategy helps the salespersons to collect information about their competitors, their products, etc.||Generally, there is a misconception that people often presume that salespersons are aggressive and annoying. This is one of the biggest challenges for salespersons.|
|Direct interaction with the prospects and customers can help salespersons in understanding their needs in a better way.|
|Some prospects are hard to reach because they usually don’t respond to other modes of marketing. However, personal selling works best for such prospects as you can reach them directly.|
Examples of Personal Selling
Medical Representatives- B2B personal selling
Medical representatives are a very common example of personal selling. Mostly, medical companies such as GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) hire Salespersons that approach medical practitioners on behalf of their respective companies and persuade them to prescribe their products to end consumers.
Many multinational/international retail stores such as Ikea, Walmart hire sales staff. This staff helps people in choosing suitable products according to their needs.
Food manufacturing companies hire sales staff that approaches retailer and wholesalers to sell a company’s products in their stores.