Personal Selling in Industrial Marketing

Personal selling is one of the oldest forms of promotion. It involves the use of a sales force who orally communicates about the company’s products or services to the potential buyers with an intention to make a sale. Personal selling is the primary demand stimulating force in the industrial marketer’s promotional mix. Its role is very dominant in industrial markets because of less number of potential customers present compared to the consumer markets and the large amount of money purchases involved. As the cost per sale through personal selling is too high, industrial marketers have to carefully manage and integrate personal selling into organization’s marketing mix. This will also lead to maximize its effectiveness and efficiency. The job of personal selling starts after determining the target segment in the organization’s market. The sales force in most of the industrial organizations follow the “systems selling” approach where they recognize the entire problems faced by their buyers and offer them total solutions rather than just selling the product. This is advantageous to the industrial buyers as all their problems are solved in a single go by one party who would take the responsibility if anything goes wrong. The industrial marketers too have competitive advantage by adopting this strategy.

Personal Selling Process

There are different steps that are involved in a selling process and the salesperson has a significant role to play in each of the steps. It is the role of the salesperson that helps the organization to increase its sale and reach its objectives. It therefore becomes important to understand their role during each of the steps in order to further enhance their performance and clinch any deal successfully.

  1. Prospecting: Prospecting is the first step in the sales process that refers to identifying a list of potential organizational buyers. There are various sources from which salespeople get the list of prospective buyers. Some of the sources include referrals, directories, commercially-available databases or mail lists, company sales records and in-house databases, public records, trade shows, and a wide variety of other sources. The salespeople have to systematically structure the prospecting activities in order to identify only those potential customers who fit the profile and have genuine interest to buy the product or service.
  2. Communicating: This step involves the sales professionals communicating with the organizational buyers and trying to understand their current needs, their current use of products, identifying key decision makers among the buyers, planning and creating a sales presentation to address the identified and likely concerns of the prospect, and setting call objectives. During this phase, the sales people also develop a preliminary overall strategy for the sales process keeping in mind that the strategy may have to be refined as they learn more about their prospects.
  3. Handling Objections: The course of objection handling includes the prospective buyers holding, inspecting or testing the product directly. The product is demonstrated by the sales people by means of audio visual presentations such as slide presentations or product videos. It should be the endeavor of the sales person to let the prospect do most of the talking during the presentation. Their responsibility should be restricted to address the needs of the organizational buyers as far as possible. They should have the ability to convince them by showing that they truly understand them and care about their needs.
  4. Selling: Selling is the process of delivering the products or services to the customer’s satisfaction and receiving the payment after adequately addressing any of their final objections or obstacles. Many sales people are weak and hesitate or lack the confidence to ask for the order. They should know that closing does not involve literally asking for order. They can ask some related questions like what color the buyers like, which model or size they would prefer, when they would like the delivery to happen or what they would lose if they do not place the order now. Depending upon the situation, the salesperson also offers discounts, credit facility to induce the buyer.
  5. Servicing: The industrial marketers should provide their customers with efficient service from the point of sale till the goods are delivered and also after the post-sale. Many of the salespeople often overlook the servicing/follow-up aspect which is a very important part of the selling process. It helps to maintain a good and long term relationship with customers and gives supplementary revenue to the organization. After an order is received, it is in the best interest of everyone involved that the salesperson should follow up with the prospect. This ensures that the product was received by the customer in good condition, at right time, with proper installation and at the place as required by the customer. It also ensures whether adequate training on product usage was given to the customer before they handle the delivered product/equipment. The salesperson should confirm through the follow-up whether the entire process was acceptable to the customer. This is a critical step in creating customer satisfaction and building long-term relationships with customers.

If the customer experiences any problems during the process, the sales professionals should take the responsibility to intervene and become the advocate of customers to ensure their satisfaction. This has the probability of leading to new needs, additional purchases, and also referrals and testimonials which can be used as sales tools.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Personal Selling

There are various advantages of personal selling that help an organization to promote the products effectively and increase the sales. Some of the advantages are:

  • Personal selling is a one-to-one activity where customers get personal attention. This gives an opportunity to understand the customer needs better and make an effective sale
  • The marketing manager can customize the sales message accordingly depending upon the needs and types of customers
  • As there is two-way communication process in personal selling, the sales team has a good opportunity to respond directly and promptly to any of the customer’s queries and concerns
  • Personal selling helps in passing on large amounts of technical data or other complex product information to the customers. This indirectly educates the customers and updates them on latest happenings on the industry, company and new products.
  • Personal selling gives the sales force a chance to demonstrate the product effectively and clarify any doubts on the spot
  • Frequent meetings between sales force and customers provide an opportunity to build long-term relationships.

There are certain disadvantages of personal selling like the cost of employing a sales force (recruiting and maintaining) is expensive. In addition to the basic pay package, they need to be offered incentives in order to achieve sales. Other supplementary support to make sales calls like car, travel, mobile phone etc. also adds on to the cost. In addition, a sales person can meet only one customer at a time that makes it a costly affair of reaching a large audience.