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.

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