Personal selling is an important marketing tool for small businesses, particularly those that sell complex or high-value products and services to other businesses, rather than consumers. Companies can undertake personal selling by hiring sales representatives who visit customers or by contacting customers by telephone. Companies selling to consumers may find it uneconomical to deal with individual customers, unless they are selling face-to-face in a mall, marketing high-value products such as cars or selling products that require demonstration, such as smartphones or computers.
Sales representatives use their personal selling skills to increase the chances of a successful sale. They aim to understand a prospect’s needs and offer a solution to those needs in the form of a product or service that provides strong benefits and represents value for money. If prospects pose objections, sales representatives use their powers of persuasion to overcome the objections and convince prospects that they are making the right choice by buying a product or service.
Selling Complex Products
Companies that sell complex products must be able to demonstrate or explain products to potential customers and deal with questions or queries. Sales representatives can present products in a logical way, focusing on the benefits that are relevant to different decision-makers, such as technical managers, purchasing officers or finance executives. Representatives use their experience to gauge a prospect’s response to their sales pitch and adjust their presentation to individual prospects’ levels of understanding or interest.
Managing the Sales Cycle
Personal selling is important to companies marketing products that require a long sales cycle. In business-to-business marketing, prospects move through a buying process that involves a number of stages, including identification of a need, development of a specification, selection of potential suppliers, evaluation of suppliers’ offerings and a final purchasing decision. Sales representatives can influence each stage of the process by ensuring that prospects are fully aware of a supplier’s capability and product benefits. They also ensure that prospects receive the product, pricing and technical information they need to make a decision, and they maintain contact with the important decision-makers throughout the sales cycle.
Developing Customer Relationships
To build long-term revenue for the future, representatives use personal selling skills to develop strong relationships with customers. By contacting customers after they make a purchase, for example, representatives can demonstrate that their company offers high levels of customer care. They also maintain contact between sales to ensure that customers consider their company when they are planning their next purchase.
Marketing Strategies for Personal Selling
Personal selling is a strategy that salespeople use to convince customers to purchase a product. The salesperson uses a personalized approach, tailored to meet the individual needs of the customer, to demonstrate the ways that the product will benefit him. The customer is given the opportunity to ask questions, and the salesperson addresses any concerns he has about the product.
When trying to sell a product to a customer, you need to know why she is interested in the product or service. Find out if she is currently a customer of one of your competitors. If so, ask why she is unsatisfied with its products or services, making her consider switching to yours. Inquire as to who the key decision-makers in her company are and see if she has a timeline for making a final decision on the product. Gathering this type of information from her will help you to know what she’s looking to gain from your company, so you are better able to meet her needs with your sales pitch.
Ask the customer to share any concerns he has about your product or service with you. If you are able to address these issues, you can increase your chances of easing his mind and convincing him to bring his business to your company. It is always better to know any potential concerns that a client has with your company, so you have a chance to diffuse them. Sometimes the customer just needs a little more information about your product or service to feel comfortable making a decision.
Ask for the Sale
Your job is not done after you have finished your sales presentation. It is important to ask the customer for the sale. You can directly ask if she has decided to buy your product or service, or you can do it in an indirect manner such as asking when she would like to start receiving the services or how many of the specific product she would like to order. This will help you to know where you stand with the customer. If she hesitates, ask what’s holding her back from the sale. If you are able to address her concerns, you are more likely to get the sale.
A good salesperson always follows up with both prospects and clients after making a presentation. If a prospective customer is still unsure of the benefits of your product or service, this is another chance to address his concerns. If he has already decided to purchase your product or service, it’s important to check in and make sure he is satisfied with it.
Importance of Sales Management
Even if you have a knack for closing deals or have effective brochures, advertising and website pages for generating individual sales, that’s often not enough to maximize your profits. Using a variety of sales management techniques to reach that extra 5 percent to 10 percent of your potential can mean the difference between keeping your head above water and generating profits that fund your continued growth and expansion.
Sales management includes more than tracking the business you book and providing support for your sales team. It starts with helping develop the right products, setting the right prices and distributing in the right places, and continues with marketing messaging, customer service and other selling efforts. All of these efforts must be coordinated so one doesn’t interfere any of the others. Setting plans, monitoring them and tracking results lets you continue to adapt, eliminate weaknesses and take advantage of opportunities.
Improves Product Development
A sales management program includes having your sales staff keep in close touch with customers and watching the competition to determine if your product line is as relevant as it can be. Adding a new product to your line, changing or eliminating features or dropping items from your product mix can all help you maximize your sales and profits. Conduct regular reviews of what you sell to make sure you offer the optimal product or service to generate high sales volumes and profit margins.
Sales reports not only provide you with information about what’s selling and how much you’re selling, but where you are making your sales. A sales management program evaluates your distribution methods and maximizes their use. For example, if your online sales are strong but your retail volumes are lagging, you might find this is because customers get more information when they shop online, helping them buy with confidence. To improve retail sales, you might provide better retailer training, more in-store promotions and change your product packaging.
Better Financial Decisions
Some of your best-selling products, in terms of volume, might provide your lowest profit margins, causing a burden on your production and administration departments. Detailed sales reports provide you with information on your overhead and production costs, cost-of-sales expenses and profit margins. A low-margin item with high sales volumes might provide a nice profit margin, making it a no-brainer item to keep in your line. If you can eliminate this item, causing a corresponding increase in higher-margin item sales, you might want to discontinue selling it. Sales management looks at the profit contribution, opportunity cost and impact of carrying each product on your operations.
Improves Staff Quality
A sales plan is only as good as the people who use it, and a key part of any sales management program is recruiting, training and managing sales staff. This includes developing their product knowledge, coaching them on calls, improving writing and presentation skills and helping them work their territories effectively.