Personal selling can be defined as a business activity involving a person-to-person communication process during which a salesperson uncovers and satisfies the needs of a buyer to the mutual, long-term benefit of both parties.
The sales people role can vary from company to company depending on whether he or she is selling goods or services, the type of market and its characteristics and the location of the customer in the channel of distribution.
Some of the roles of salespersons especially for SMEs include:
- Providing solutions to customers problems
- Helping customers with a wide range of services e.g handling complaints, providing samples, developing promotion ideas etc.
- Getting new customers because opening new relationships is the “lifeblood” of business.
- Obtaining reorders and selling new products to existing customers.
- Assisting customers to use products after making purchase.
- Gathering market information for the business.
Personal selling process
There are several steps involved in the selling process. For most businesses, the essential ones are:
For success to be guaranteed in today’s competitive environment of business a company must constantly find new customers. The two basic steps in successful prospecting include:
- Generating leads i.e. identifying potentials customers
- Qualifying the potentials customers, in terms of who is most likely to buy.
Identifying Leads can be achieved through the following:
. Referrals from existing customers. Statistics have it that this method provides nearly 70% of most leads.
. Referrals from external referral agencies
. Published directories – the yellow pages, trade associations, the government, chambers of commerce etc.
. Networking by the sales person e.g. Friends, relatives, church members, clubs and associations.
. Cold calling – This is unannounced call on potential business that may need the product or services by sales person.
In order to qualify a prospect the sales person must ensure that the prospect satisfies three conditions:
1) There is a need for the product by the customer
2) The customer can afford to buy the product
3) The customer is receptive to being called upon by the sales person.
This is the planning and information gathering stage. At this stage the salesperson will have to learn relevant facts about the prospects and their needs and such information to plan their sales presentation. The two major activities involved in the pre-approach:
. Customer Research: It is important that the salesperson learn everything possible about the business of the prospective customer – its size, location, names of key staff that will make the buying decision and those who will influence the purchase.
- Planning the Sales Presentation: The salesperson will define the objective or goal for the particular call. As we know that the goal is not necessarily to close the sale on each call.
The salesperson will have to make an appointment to see the buyer at this stage. A good approach will make a favourable impression on the buyer and establishes some degree of rapport between the salesperson and the buyer.
This is the stage in which the salesperson must discover, clarify and understand the buyer’s needs. The best way to uncover and understand needs is by asking questions. It has been established over time that the more questions salespersons ask, the more likely it is that they will be successful.
This is mainly a discussion of the product or service features, advantages and benefits which the customer has indicated as being important to him. The presentation may include written proposals and supporting materials as well as visual aids. The aim of the presentation is for salespeople to convince their customers that their company’s products or service will satisfy their needs better than those of a competitor.
The salesperson should anticipate objection at every presentation. Objection indicates the prospect has some interest in the proposition. The following important techniques should be used in responding to a prospect objection:
- Listen to the buyer
- Clarify the objection
- Respect the buyer’s concern
- Respond to the objection
Closing The Sale
After handling the buyer’s objections, the salesperson must close the sale. This is getting commitment from the buyer to purchase the product or service. The salesperson in doing this can ask for the order or offer to help write up the order.
The salesperson must learn that the sale is not over when they get the order. Follow-up is necessary to build customer loyalty and ensure repeat purchase. Satisfied customers voluntarily provide more business.