Personal Selling, relationship building and sales management Personal selling, unlike advertising or sale promotion, involves direct relationships between the seller and the prospect or customer. In a forma sense, personal selling can be defined as a two-way flow of communication between a potential buyer and a salesperson that is designed to accomplish at least three tasks: (1) identify the potential buyer’s needs; (2) match those needs to one or more of the firm’s products or services; (3) on the basis of this match, convince the buyer to purchase the product.
Finally, it is a complex communication process, one still not fully understood by marketers.
Importance of personal selling The importance of the personal selling function depends partially on the nature of the product. As a general rule, goods that are new and different, technically complex or expensive require more personal selling effort. The salesperson plays a key role in providing the consumer with information about such products to reduce the risks involved in purchase and use.
Insurance, for example, is a complex and technical product that often needs significant amounts of personal selling. It is important to remember that for many companies the salesperson represents the customer’s main link to the firm. In fact, the salesperson is the company. Therefore it is imperative that the company take advantage of this unique link. Through the efforts of the successful salesperson, a company can build relationships with customers that continue long. Personal selling is an integral of the marketing system, fulfilling two vital duties: one for customers and one for companies.
Lacking relevant information, customers are likely to make poor buying decisions. For example: Doctors would have difficulty finding out about new drugs and procedures were it not for pharmaceutical salespeople. Second, salespeople act as a source of marketing intelligence for management. Marketing success depends on satisfying customers needs. If present products don’t fulfill customer needs then profitable opportunities may exist for new or improved products. If problems with a company’s products exist, then management must be quickly apprised of the fact.
In either situation, salespeople are in the best position to act as the intermediary through which valuable information can be passed back and forth between product providers and buyers. The sales process Personal selling is as much an art as it is a science. The word art is used to describe that portion of the selling process that is highly creative in nature and difficult to explain. Before management selects and trains salespeople, it should have an understanding of the sales process. Obviously, the sales process will differ according to the size of the company, the nature of the product, the market and so forth.
Sales objectives: 1. Information provision: Especially in case of new products or customers, the salesperson needs to fully explain all attributes of the product or service, answer any questions and probe for additional questions. 2. Persuasion. Once the initial product or service information is provided, the salesperson needs to focus on the following objectives: – Clearly distinguish attributes of the firm’s products or services from those of competitors. – Maximize the number of sales as a percent of presentations. Convert undecided customers into first-time buyers. – Convert first-time customers into repeat purchasers. – Sell additional or complementary items to repeat customers. – Tend to the needs of dissatisfied customers. 3. After-sake service. Whether the sale represents a first-time or repeat purchase, the salesperson needs to ensure the following objectives are met: – Delivery or installation of the product or service that meets or exceeds customer expectations. – Immediate follow-up calls and visits to address unresolved or new concerns. Reassurance of products or service super priority through demonstrable actions. The Sales Relationship-Building process For many years the traditional approach to selling emphasized the first-time sale of a product or service as the culmination of the sales process. Marketing concept and accompanying approach to personal selling view the initial sale as merely the first step in a long-term relationship-building process, not as the end goal. The relationship-building process which is designed to meet the objectives contains six sequential stages.
These stages are (1) prospecting, (2) planning the sales call, (3) presentation, (4) responding to objections, (5) obtaining commitment/closing the sale and (6) building a long-term relationship. When a buyer and a salesperson have a close personal relationship, they both begin to rely on each other and communicate honestly. When each has a problem, they work together to solve it. Such market relationships are known as functional relationships. A person may have such a relationship with along-term medical or dental practitioner or hair-cutter.
When organizations move beyond functional relationships, they develop strategic partnerships or strategic alliances. These are long-term, formal relationships in which both parties make significant commitments and investments in each other in order to pursue mutual goals and to improve the profitability of each other. Marketing managers and sales managers must make some very important decisions regarding how the sales fore should be organized. Most companies organize their sales efforts either by geography, product or customer.
There are two obvious reasons why it is critical that the sales force be properly controlled. First, personal selling can be the largest marketing expense component in the final price of the product. Second, unless the sales force is somehow directed, motivated and audited on continual basis, it is likely to be less efficient than it is capable of being. Controlling the sales force involves four key functions: (1) forecasting sales; (2) establishing sales territories and quotas, (3) analyzing expenses and (4) motivating and compensating performance.
Conclusion We attempted to outline and explain the personal selling aspect of the promotion mix. An emphasis was placed on describing the importance of the relationship-building aspect of the personal selling process. For organizations that wish to continue to grow and prosper, personal selling plays an integral part in the marketing of products and services. As long as production continues to expand through the development of new and highly technical products, personal selling will continue to be an important part of marketing strategy.