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Personal Selling

Peter Drucker explains marketing this way: “The aim of marketing is to make selling
superfluous. The aim is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or
service fits him or her and sells itself.” This is not to say that selling is unimportant. It is
the most important part of a larger "integrated marketing communications" that must be
orchestrated for maximum impact on the marketplace. The promotional mix (or
marketing communications mix) includes personal selling and non-personal selling
(advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and direct marketing). Personal selling is
a personal (face-to-face, telephone, or Internet chat) presentation for the purpose of
making sales and building relationships.

Relationship Marketing

The focus of marketing is to do such an excellent job of developing, pricing, promoting,

and distributing a product to customers that the product practically sells itself. In the
past, the focus of marketing was on finding new customers to make the sale.
Organizations have begun to realize that it is a lot cheaper to retain current customers
than to attract new ones. This has led to a focus on relationship marketing that involves
working closely with customers to build lasting relationships over time. Personal selling
is the essence of developing relationships because it is directed toward achieving
mutually satisfying results between buyer and seller, which sustain and enhance future

Relationships are built upon trust. According to Stephen X. Doyle and George Thomas
Roth (“Selling and Sales Management in Action: The Use of insight & Coaching to
improve Relationship Selling,” Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Winter
1992, p. 62) there are five characteristics of trust-building in salespeople.

• Customer Orientation means that the salesperson places as much emphasis on

the customer's interests as on the salesperson’s interests. Presentations balance
the pros and cons. The salesperson doesn’t push a product that the buyer doesn't
• Competence includes the salesperson’s ability, knowledge, and resources to meet
customer expectations. The salesperson displays technical command of products
and applications.
• Dependability is the predictability of the salesperson’s actions. His or her words
and actions are consistent with a professional image.
• Candor is the honesty of the spoken word. The proof used to support claims is
credible. Subsequent events prove the salesperson’s statements to be true.
• Likability is rooted in each party's perception of "having something in common"
with the other. This is an emotional factor, yet a powerful force in buyer and
seller relationships.
Communications Tool

Personal selling is unique because it involves personal contact. It is the two-way

marketing communications tool. It follows the AIDA model, which defines a good
message and the stages a receiver should go through. The steps in AIDA are to gain the
receiver’s attention, to create and hold the receiver’s interest, to arouse desire, and to
motivate a desired action (purchase). Marketers manage satisfaction by targeting the
customers who are most likely to appreciate the organization’s distinctive competence. A
personal sales call is expensive. It is most appropriately used in situations where the
target market is concentrated, where products are high in value or orders are large, when
the product is technically complex, or when the differential advantage is difficult to

Sales promotion, advertising, and publicity move the prospect toward an exchange
decision. Yet, personal selling is the tool that most often brings the buying decision
process to a satisfactory conclusion for both buyer and seller. The strength of personal
selling is that it is flexible and provides immediate feedback. The prospect can relate
concerns and the salesperson can address those concerns. The salesperson can ask
questions to determine the prospect’s level of interest and react quickly to the prospect's
wants. The sales presentation can be personalized based upon those wants. Many
customers don't know what they want, and part of the salesperson's responsibility is to
help them find out – to help them find out how the product can solve their problems or
satisfy their wants.

Types of Selling Jobs

A salesperson personally communicates with the prospect to make the sale and build a
relationship. The job of a salesperson ranges from order takers to order getters.

Order Takers

An order taker interacts with customers placing an order. Order takers include most
retail sales workers. These job titles include:

Counter and rental clerks
Insurance agents and brokers
Manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives
Real estate agents, brokers, and appraisers
Retail sales workers
Securities and financial services sales representatives
Services sales representatives

The following has been adapted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Outlook Handbook
Retail sales workers assist customers in finding what they are looking for and try to
interest them in the merchandise. They might describe a product’s features, demonstrate
its use, or show various models and colors. For some sales jobs, particularly those selling
expensive and complex items, special knowledge or skills are needed. For example,
workers who sell automobiles must be able to explain to customers the features of various
models, the meaning of manufacturers' specifications, and the types of options and
financing that are available. The largest employers of retail sales workers, however, are
department stores, clothing and accessories stores, furniture and home furnishing stores,
and motor vehicle dealers.

Retail Readiness Assessment is a National Assessment System to measure retail skill

standards for organizations interested in building a high-performance workplace. The
RRA is the first assessment to directly link to the industry-based skill standards
developed by retailers through the National Retail Federation.

Order Getters

An order getter engages in creative selling of products and is responsible for the entire
ordering and relationship-building process. Order takers include most manufacturers and
wholesale sales representatives. The following has been adapted from the Bureau of
Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook Manufacturers' and Wholesale Sales
Representatives. Depending on where they work, sales representatives have different job
titles. Many of those working directly for manufacturers are referred to as manufacturers'
representatives and those employed by wholesalers generally are called sales
representatives. In addition to those employed directly by firms, manufacturers' agents
are self-employed sales workers who contract their services to all types of companies.
Those selling technical products, for both manufacturers and wholesalers, are usually
called industrial sales workers or sales engineers. Many of these titles, however, are used

The following has been adapted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Outlook Handbook Manufacturers' and Wholesale Sales Representatives.
Manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to
and visiting with prospective buyers and current clients. During a sales call, they discuss
the customers' needs and suggest how their merchandise or services can meet those
needs. They may show samples or catalogs that describe items their company stocks and
inform customers about prices, availability, and how their products can save money and
improve productivity. Those selling consumer goods often suggest how and where their
merchandise should be displayed. Working with retailers, they may help arrange
promotional programs, store displays, and advertising.

The following has been adapted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Outlook Handbook Manufacturers' and Wholesale Sales Representatives. Sales
engineers, who are among the most highly trained sales workers, typically sell products
whose installation and optimal use require a great deal of technical expertise and support
—products such as material handling equipment, numerical-control machinery, and
computer systems. In addition to providing information on their firm's products, these
workers help prospective and current buyers with technical problems by recommending
improved materials and machinery for a firm's manufacturing process, drawing up plans
of proposed machinery layouts and estimating cost savings from the use of their
equipment. They present this information and negotiate the sale, a process that may take
several months.

Other Sales Jobs

A missionary salesperson provides information to and educating potential clients, but

does not actually solicit or take orders. Missionary selling is not so much selling a
specific product, but the company, its image, and its role in providing technical support.

An inside salesperson stays primarily inside the company’s buildings and interacts with
customers via the telephone, the Internet, and fax. These jobs are known as technical
support staff, sales assistants, telemarketers, and telesales professionals.

Team selling is the use of teams made up of people from different functional areas to
service large accounts. The following has been adapted from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook Manufacturers' and Wholesale Sales
Representatives. Increasingly, sales representatives who lack technical expertise work as
a team with a technical expert. In this arrangement, the duties of a sales representative are
to make the preliminary contact with customers, introduce the company's product, and
close the sale. The technical expert will attend the sales presentation to explain and
answer questions and concerns. In this way, the sales representative is able to spend more
time maintaining and soliciting accounts and less time acquiring technical knowledge.
After the sale, sales representatives may make frequent follow-up visits to ensure the
equipment is functioning properly and may even help train customers' employees to
operate and maintain new equipment.

Sales Automation

Many salespeople need to go to the prospective customer in order to demonstrate or

illustrate the particulars about the product. Technology makes salespeople more effective
and productive because it allows them to provide accurate and current information to
customers during sales presentations.

Sales automation (also known as customer asset management and total customer
management) implies that technology can be used to speed up previously inefficient
operations. The Internet and related technology have affected the personal selling
process. Product information on Web sites is available to customers and prospects. In the
past, salespeople delivered this information to the customer. The Internet frees
salespeople to focus on the most important aspects of their job (such as building long-
term relationships with customers and focusing on new accounts). Information is shared
among users in every department that touches the customer. Also, information sharing
promotes more effective channel partnership.
Salespeople use computers (with communications devices, contact management
programs, and email) to connect them (over the Internet) to their own company's
databases when they are out on sales calls. This gives them with the ability to provide the
customer with extensive, relevant information almost immediately. Salespeople have
access to current, relevant marketing materials, including data sheets, brochures,
multimedia presentations, and proposal templates, online or via CD-ROM.

Salespeople have access to dossiers on prospects, customer and prospect companies,

perceptions, loyalties and buying histories, personal interests, competition, etc. Online
access to the company's customer and prospect database gives the salesperson the ability
(and the responsibility) to update files from the field. In some cases, it makes sense to
create a dedicated (and more manageable) sales database for a special initiative, product,
or region. Salespeople become intelligence agents in the field when they feed that
information directly into the data resources shared by the rest of the sales force and the
company at large.

The Personal Selling Process

The personal selling process consists of creating new customers and maintaining existing
customers. Salespeople follow a series of steps in identifying prospects and turning them
into customers.

1. Prospecting is identifying potential qualified customers. Prospects may come as

referrals from existing customers, from suppliers, dealers, etc. Sometimes they come
from analysis of public sources such as directories, newspapers, or public activities of the
firm. Once prospects have been identified, they need to be qualified or screened to see if
they are good prospects.

2. Preapproach is planning the sales presentation to meet the customer’s wants or to

solve the customer’s problem. This involves gathering research about the prospect. The
salesperson must determine where the specific target market consumer is in the
purchasing process. In the approach, the salesperson meets and greets the buyer and puts
the buyer at ease. At this meeting, the salesperson asks some key questions to get some
essential information before getting the buyer’s attention and launching into the

3. Presentation is telling the product “story” to the prospect, showing how the product
will solve a problem for the product. The salesperson must build a case for how the
product can serve the needs of the buyer. A need-satisfaction approach involves carefully
listening to the buyer’s needs and then clearly explaining how the product can satisfy
those needs. Questioning and listening are more important than talking. Presentations
using Microsoft’s PowerPoint significantly enhance the professionalism of the

Features and Benefits

The information about features and benefits is adapted from SALES & MARKETING
STUDY GUIDE Prepared For The SME-I Accreditation Institute COPYRIGHT 1994 by
Sales & Marketing Executives-International and Thomas N. Ingram, CSE, Ph.D.

To do an adequate job in planning a presentation, salespeople must understand the

concepts of features, potential benefits, and confirmed benefits. Extensive research by
Learning International, a major sales training and consulting firm, concludes that stating
features and potential benefits may result in successful sales calls, or at least may lead to
a continuation of the sales dialogue on the next sales call. This same research, however,
concluded that a far more promising way to achieve sales call success is to seek customer
confirmation of potential benefits. According to Learning International, successful sales
calls have approximately five times as many confirmed benefit statements than for
unsuccessful sales calls.

A feature is a factual statement about a characteristic of the product or service being


Examples of features:

• Natural surface cohesiveness of ULTRAMID, a high-tech plastic golf club

• Bell-shaped nozzle on vacuum cleaner
• Daily delivery of Frito-Lay potato chips
• Technical support personnel for a computer system

A potential benefit describes how the product or service may meet a customer need that
is assumed to be important by the salesperson. When a customer acknowledges the
importance of a benefit to his or her buying situation, it is a confirmed benefit. In
selecting specific benefits to be stressed, salespeople should focus on any unique benefits
not offered by competition, as long as the benefits are of interest to the prospect. These
might include product benefits, along with non-product related benefits such as delivery,
extraordinary customer service, or additional sales support available to the customer.

Examples of corresponding benefits:

• Better launch angle

• More distance on shots
• Optimum airflow improves cleaning ability
• Retailer can reduce inventory costs
• Product freshness leads to customer satisfaction
• Assistance in installation, maintenance, and expansion

4. Handling Objections raised by the prospect takes a great deal of skill and training.
The salesperson must be able to identify the real reasons for an objection, respond to the
objection, and overcome it. Objections provide the salesperson with the opportunity to
learn more about the customer’s needs and provide information about the product to
satisfy those needs.

5. Closing the sale is asking the prospect for an order. The salesperson must be able to
recognize the signals that indicate the prospect is ready to close.

6. Follow-up is essential to building a relationship between the seller and the buyer. The
salesperson follows-up to ensure that the buyer received the right products in the right
condition at the right time. Any problems or concerns on the part of the buyer after the
sale are addressed immediately. The salesperson demonstrates continued interest in the
account and a desire to satisfy the buyer’s needs on an ongoing basis.


Compensation plans include (1) straight wages or salary, (2) straight commission, (3)
wages or salary plus bonus, and (4) wages or salary plus commission. Salespeople
receive hourly wages, a salary, commissions, or a combination of wages or salary and
commissions. Commissions are usually based on the amount of sales, whereas bonuses
may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all salespeople in the
group or district, or on the company's performance. Commissions offer salespeople the
opportunity to significantly increase their earnings, but they may find their earnings
depend on their ability to sell their product and the ups and downs of the economy.
Employers may use incentive programs such as awards, banquets, and profit-sharing
plans to promote teamwork among the sales staff.

Sales Managers

The following has been adapted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational
Outlook Handbook Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations Managers. Sales
managers direct the firm's sales program. They assign sales territories and goals and
establish training programs for their sales representatives. Managers advise their sales
representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large, multiproduct firms,
they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs. Sales managers maintain
contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics gathered by their staffs
to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and monitor the preferences of
customers. Such information is vital to develop products and maximize profits.
Substantial travel may be involved. For example, attendance at meetings sponsored by
associations or industries is often mandatory. Sales managers travel to national, regional,
and local offices and to various dealers and distributors.