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Personal Selling Process and Approaches

Personal selling can be termed as the oral presentation given by the salesperson to one or more than one consumers face to face to sell the product or service. Personal selling is a highly peculiar form of promotion. It is mostly two-way communication, which not only involves a particular individual but also social behavior.

The intention is to deliver the right product to the right customers. Depending upon the complexity of product, personal selling plays an important role. Industries manufacturing technical products like laptops, computers, digital phone, gadgets, etc., likely depend on personal selling as compared to the other manufactures.

The reason behind this is to explain the features of the product, tackle the customer queries and provide the best customer service. The competition in the market has increased today and therefore the importance of the salesperson in the organization.

Salespersons are also called salesman or salesgirl or sales representative and their payment is made as the commission to push the product in the market by motivating the customer through oral conversation.

The consumer wants all kinds of goods and services in the market but lack of interest keeps them away from making decisions or purchasing products. This is where the salesman needs to act as a catalyst and explain the product or service to the customer. He/she should motivate the customer by giving a presentation and he may sometimes act as a consultant. This helps the consumer to make a decision.

In case of technical products, the salesperson plays a more vital role as compared to the promotions. It becomes difficult for the customers to make decision while purchasing high value products with complex nature. The salesperson helps the customers by making personal contact with them and making them understand the quality and utility of the product.

Objectives of Personal Selling

Personal selling contributes in achieving the long-term objectives for the organization.

The following are some of the objectives of personal selling

  • To do the complete selling job when there are no other components in promotional mix
  • To provide service to the existing customers and try to maintain contacts with the present customers
  • Identify and find new prospective customers
  • Promote the products to increase sales
  • Provide the information to the customers regarding the change in product line
  • Provide assistance to the customers to help in decision-making
  • Provide technical advice to customers for complex products
  • Gather the data in relation to market and provide it to company’s management

The reason behind setting personal selling objectives is to make decision on sales policies and personal selling strategies, which helps in promoting the product. The objectives are set for long-term, as it becomes the important element for qualitative personal selling objectives.

The objectives can also be quantitative if they are short-term and it could be adjusted from one promotional period to another. The quantitative personal selling objective is related to sales volume objective. Hence, the sales volume objective should also be explained.

The following are a few sales objectives

  • Capture and maintain a specific market share
  • Increase sales volumes that help the organization to gain maximum profit
  • Reduce or keep the expenses provided for personal selling within limits
  • Obtain the percentage of customers as per the set targets

Relevant Situation for Personal Selling

In some situations, personal selling becomes more relevant. The following are some relevant situations:

Product Situation

Product selling is more effective for the following types of products.

  • Product with high value like machinery, computers etc.
  • Product in its first stage of life cycle, when it needs more demand.
  • Product to match consumer needs like insurance policy
  • Products that need presentation, for example, industrial products
  • When the products need after sales service
  • Product with less brand loyalty

Market Situation

Personal selling can be utilized optimally depending upon the market situation.

  • An organization selling products to small number of buyers
  • Company selling in local market
  • Required middle men or agents not available
  • No direct channel available for selling products

Company Situation

Personal selling is comparatively more adequate to the companies when

  • A company cannot invest huge amount of money in advertisement on regular basis.
  • A company is unable to find and make use of relevant non-commercial media in promoting the product.

Consumer Behavior Situation

In case of some consumer behaviors, personal selling can be effective when

  • The product purchased by the consumer is expensive but it’s not regular.
  • The consumers need answers instantly without delay.
  • The customers need follow up in competing pressure.

These are the four situations where personal selling is important. This will help the salesperson to spot the customers and provide product knowledge through face to face presentation. Once the consumer understands the nature of the product, it helps him/her to decide whether to purchase the product.

Diversity of Selling Situation

In our day to day life, we come across different types of selling situations. This depends on the individual selling styles because of the marketing factors. The activities of the salesperson differ as per the situation.

Example − The job of a salesperson selling soft drinks is different as compared to that of a salesperson selling computers. In case of soft drinks, the salesperson is not required to explain the significance or the nature of product but in case of computers, the salesperson has to clarify all the technical requirements.

The categorization of the salesperson is done on the basis of selling styles, creative skill required in the job, complexity of the product etc.

Let us now discuss different kinds of selling positions:

Delivery Salesperson

As the name suggests, the job of the delivery salesperson is to deliver the product; the selling responsibility is secondary. Example − Milk, curd, bread, soft drinks etc

Inside Order Taker

The person standing behind the counter is known as inside order taker. He does not help the customers much with suggestions. The main purpose is to provide the product requested by the customer. Example −General stores.

Missionary Sales People

The salesperson does not have the permission to promote an order. Their primary job is to develop goodwill and educate the customers about the products. Example − Medical Representatives.

Consultative Salesperson

This type represents those products or services sold to consumer, which are highly priced and need huge investment to purchase. Due to high capital investment by the customer, the salesperson cannot put much pressure to sell.

The salesperson should have a thorough knowledge regarding the product and the patience to discuss and advise the features and advantage of the product.

During the sales process, the salesperson has to be creative. He should maintain the interest with customer without exerting much pressure on the client. Example − Huge Machines, computer systems, etc.

Technical Salesperson

The most important character of the salesperson should be the knowledge relating to the product. The salesperson should have a detailed knowledge regarding the product features, benefits, disadvantages, etc.

Most of the people do not have the required technical knowledge and easily agree to the points of salesperson but there are few customers having knowledge that may influence the decision of purchasing the product. The salesperson should satisfy these types of customers by explaining the product features, installation etc. The salesperson should be well trained to tackle the questions of customers and provide relevant knowledge.

Commercial Salesperson

In this category, the salesperson has to sell the product to other business, industry or government organization etc. It’s generally business to business where the salesperson closes the sale in the first or the second call. The sales process is short as compared to business to customer sales.

The salesperson has to be aggressive and highly motivated for the follow up and maintenance of accounts. Example − Wholesale goods, construction products, office equipment etc

Direct Sales People

Direct sale of product involves selling the products and services to the final consumers. The sales process is short and closed in a short period of time. There are many products available in market for direct sales; hence the salesperson is trained to close the deal in the first visit because the consumer will either purchase the product or switch to its competitor. Example − Insurance, door to door sales, magazines, etc.

Steps In Personal Selling

The selling process consists of several steps; there are few basic steps, which need to be followed for all types of products. The selling process can be for short time or long time, depending upon the nature of the product. A product, which needs huge investment, may take longer time to complete the selling process whereas in case of daily products where the customer is aware of the nature of the product, the selling process ends in shorter time.

Example − Door to door sales, where the salesperson explains all the steps and ends the process in 10 to 15 minutes. However, for heavy machinery, it may take time to present the technical nature and explain the product; it takes more than one visit to complete the selling process.

Prospecting

The initial step of selling process starts with prospecting or searching for potential customers. Apart from retail sales, it’s very rare when customers reach out to the salesperson. It’s the salesperson who reaches out to customers in order to sell the product.

The following are the two major activities under prospecting:

  • Find the prospects or the potential customers
  • Educate them in order to figure out if they are valid customers

Find the Prospects or the Potential Customers

Finding the prospect is not an easy step for a sales person because consumers would not even like to listen to the presentation regarding the product they do not need. The rate of saying “No” is very high. In few consumer goods, the identification of customers comes from sources like friends, relatives, colleagues etc. The following are some of the best sources.

  • Existing Customers: One of the good sources of prospects is an existing customer. For a salesperson, it is very easy to sell the products to an existing customer instead of selling to the new customers.
  • Never-ending Chain: This is a competing strategy to find out prospects. The salesperson reaches many new customers with the help of existing customers. The salesperson selling the product to existing customers asks to provide referral to friends or relatives and the salesperson reaches the new customers. This chain goes on and on.
  • Cold Call: In this technique, the salesperson has to visit door to door to sell the products. The sales process starts from introduction but in this case, the rejection rate is high.
  • Directories: The salesperson tries to find out prospect customer contact with the help of a directory. The salesperson can also collect the information through membership directories of trade associations, social organization etc.
  • Mailing: The companies promote their product through mails by sending advertisements. The advantage is that it’s cheap and the company targets many customers by sending mass mailers.
  • Exhibition: The salesperson could target the prospective customers through tradeshows and exhibitions. It’s one of the simplest ways and the salesperson could also practically show the use of the product and the features. Announcement is advance, before the exhibitions starts, is very helpful to attract more customers.

Train/Educate the Prospects

After the salesperson has identified the potential customers, he should find out if they are valid prospects. After finding the valid prospects, the salesperson has to give the presentation.

There are several approaches for qualifying customers and the prominent approach is MAN, i.e., Money, Authority and Need.

  • Money The salesperson should know the financial status of the customers because money matters a lot, and, without it, the prospect cannot purchase the product. The consumer or the prospect should be able to pay money in return of the product.
  • Authority The prospect that is purchasing the product should have the authority to make decision. This is important while dealing with government agencies, corporate etc.
  • Need This is one of the most important points because if the prospect has money and also the authority but there is no need of the product, he or she will not purchase the product.

The salesperson has to find out about these aspects before proceeding to the selling process.

Preparation for the Sale of Product

Once the prospect has been identified and qualified as discussed in first step, the salesperson has to prepare for the sales of product or service. The following are the two stages involved in preparation:

  • Pre-approach
  • Call Planning

Pre-approach

This step involves collecting all the information important to learn about the prospects and their needs. The following are the four steps of pre-approach:

  • Prospect need and ability should be disclosed.
  • All the required information, which would help the salesperson to prepare the presentation.
  • Relevant information, which helps salesperson not create any errors during presentation.
  • Confidence to tackle the questions of the prospect.

Call Planning

Call Planning includes a particular planning sequence. The salesperson calls the customer and explains the objective of the call and explains the product to makes appointments.

The first objective of the salesperson is to get an order from the customer. Some objectives may also be required in the mid-of-the-call progress, depending on the call. Following are a few objectives for call planning −

  • Collect more information from the customer .
  • Find out the need of the customer and link with the features of product.
  • Take permission from customer before presentation of product.
  • Suggest a new distributor.

The salesperson has to develop a strategy and plan accordingly to achieve the objective or goal. The salesperson should be very careful while checking the background of the customers and obtaining details. This helps to frame a strategy and develop a plan. The calls made by salesperson are costly, so they have to take prior appointment.

Presentation

In this step, the salesperson has to give the presentation regarding the product to the customer. She/he should explain the features of the product and how it will fulfill the needs. The presentation should be clear and understandable by the customer. It should also be interesting to keep the customer involved in the conversation.

A presentation can be classified into the following categories −

  • Fully automated
  • Semi-automated
  • Memorized
  • Organized
  • Unstructured

Fully Automated

In this approach, the salesperson gives the presentation with the help of slides in a structured manner. He also explains and clears the doubts of the customers. Example: Life Insurance.

Semi-Automated

The salesperson reads out the company brochures and adds comments as per requirement or queries from the client. Example: Pharmaceutical products.

Memorized

The company presents its message, which is short and crisp, and which can be easily memorized by the customer.

Organized

One of the most attractive, effective and often-used approaches is organized presentation. The salesperson can make changes in the presentation as required but based on the company’s pre-defined outline. In this approach, the sale person covers the four steps, i.e., Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

Unstructured

The salesperson and the customer together try to resolve the problems. Hence this approach is also known as problem solving. This type of presentation is not well focused many a times; some points are missed and time is wasted. Also the salesperson has to face many queries from the customers and if the salesperson is new in the field, he/she will not be able to answer the queries in an effective manner.

Thus, we can conclude that the presentation to the established customers should be done by an effective salesperson.

Handling Objections

The salesperson has to struggle to sell the product to the customers. During the sales process, the prospects raise objections, which can be stated or hidden. Prospects may state the reason for objections and give a chance to salesperson to answer. This is an absolute situation because the prospect is informed regarding the objections.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the prospects do not provide the reason for objection of the product. They hide their real reason for not buying the product. If the salesperson is unable to know the real reason, he/she will not be able to resolve the problem.

To resolve this, there are two techniques to find out the objections.

  • To allow the prospect to talk to find out the hidden objection.
  • The observation gained by experience and mixing with the knowledge of the prospects.

Many times, the objection is due to high price of the product. That objection can be answered when the salesperson has the knowledge of the competitor’s products as well.

Also, in many cases, the prospects do not understand the technical aspects and are misinformed. The salesperson should provide additional information in this case.

Now we can conclude that the objection can be resolved by providing an alternative product to the prospects.

Closing the Sale

After answering the objections made by prospects, the salesperson asks for the prospect to order the product. If the prospect does not agree to buy the product, the entire effort gets waste. The following are some effective techniques to close the sale −

Gift Close

In this technique, the customers get an incentive for immediate buying action. The salesperson informs regarding the benefits of the product to the prospects.

Example − A company provides an option to the prospect that if the bill exceeds Rs.3000, he can buy a bed sheet worth 2000 for just Rs.200.

Here, if the customer has made a purchase of Rs.2500, he will check out to buy something else to reach 3000. This helps the company to sell two extra products — one for Rs.500 or more to reach 3000 and another, bed sheet for Rs.200.

Direct Close

This is one of the simplest techniques to close the sales. This happens when the buyer has positive approach to buy a product. The salesperson summarizes the important points that were made prior to sale.

Example − A prospect needs beauty cream and steps into a shop. The salesperson offers the products; if required, shows the demo. Once the prospect is satisfied, he/she will buy it.

If the salesperson is experienced, he/she will try to close it as early as possible because he/she would understand if the prospect is inclined to buy the product. A good salesperson makes sure that he has completed all the steps during sales process.

Thus, closing is an important step in sales process. The other steps are meaningless without closing.

Follow-up

After making the sale, the salesperson has to follow up with the prospects. After sales activities are important parts of the selling process. This helps in reducing any doubt by the customer regarding the product or service. There is also a chance that the buyer with buy again in future.

There are specific policies by a company for after sales activities. Even though the company provides good products, there will be few complaints from customers. The complaints should be taken seriously and the company should try to resolve. This helps the company to improve in terms of product or service.

An experienced salesperson tries to provide the best service to its customers. As a part of handling complaints, they also keep the prospect informed regarding the latest products or services and also provide other types of assistance. The salesperson should build good rapport with the customer. This helps to get more customers because the existing customer will refer to his friends and relatives.

The salesperson should thank the customer for the business and offer small gifts.

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