Everything you need to know about the process and steps of personal selling. Personal selling begins with identifying customers and ends with ensuring satisfaction to them.
The series of steps that are followed in between the two are diverse, complex, and knowledge-based. The personal selling process is a consecutive series of activities conducted by the salesperson, the lead to a prospect taking the desired action of buying a product or service and finish with a follow-up contact to ensure purchase satisfaction.
Selling process involves different steps, one by one so as to persuade the consumer to buy his product that will give him satisfaction.
In this article we will discuss about the process and steps followed for personal selling.
Learn about:- 1. Pre-Sale Preparation 2. Prospecting 3. Approaching 4. Sales Presentation 5. Handling Queries and Objections 6. The Trial Close 7. Post Sale Activities and Services 8. Follow-Up.
The actual selling is done by presentation and demonstrations. Here, the prospect may raise certain objections, which are to be handled effectively.
The final basic is the closing of a sale, which according to Tom Hopkins has both elements of ‘art and science’. Marketing practitioners advise us to continue our valuable services to the prospects even after the physical sale — it is called follow-up and maintenance.
How to do Personal Selling: Step by Step Process
Personal Selling Process – Pre-Sale Preparation, Prospecting, Approaching, Presentation, Handling Queries, Closing the Sale and Post Sale Activity
The essence of personal selling is a sales communication between a salesperson and a prospect through which the salesperson endeavours to convert the prospect into a customer.
The process of personal selling involves the following steps:
(i) Pre-sale preparation.
(ii) Prospecting or canvassing.
(iv) Presentation and Demonstration.
(v) Handling queries and objections.
(vi) Closing the sale.
(vii) Post sale activity.
Now, we shall describe these steps.
(i) Pre-Sale Preparation:
The first step in personal selling is the preparation of salespersons. The salespersons must be properly selected, trained and motivated for this job. They must be well acquainted with the product, the market and the techniques of selling. They should have the knowledge about the motives of the people whom they are going to meet for the purpose of selling their products.
(ii) Prospecting or Identifying the Potential Buyers:
The salesperson must locate the potential buyers and satisfactorily screen them to make sure that sales efforts will not be wasted. It should always be remembered that everyone is not a prospect or would-be customer.
A salesperson should approach the customer properly to gain his attention. He should greet the customer and make him feel comfortable. He should assure the customer that he will get undivided attention from the salesperson.
If the salesperson is busy with some other customer, he should assure the new customer that he would be attended soon. Before making the presentation, the salesperson should try to understand the nature, need and spending capacity of the customer.
(iv) Presentation and Demonstration:
The actual presentation of the salesperson starts with an attempt to attract the prospect’s attention. The presentation should be such that the prospect takes continuous interest in the product during the presentation. The salesperson should demonstrate the product and describe the features and price of the product. He should also suggest the needs of the customer which will be satisfied by the particular product.
(v) Handling Queries and Objections:
After demonstrating the product and explaining its features, price and benefits, the salesman should entertain queries from the prospect. Handling queries or objections should not be considered to be an unpleasant task.
A good salesman should realise that it is the golden opportunity to convince and persuade the prospect. This also gives him a chance to give additional information about the superiority of the product over the competitive products in the market.
(vi) Closing the Sale:
A salesman has to act with patience and intelligence to close the sale. He may periodically venture a trial close in order to sense the prospect’s willingness to buy. He may ask some ‘either-or’ questions from the prospect for this purpose.
The trial close might bring out the buyer’s queries and objections. This would help the salesman to change his sales approach quickly He can bring out the additional benefits and features of the product or re-emphasise the previous stated points.
After he is convinced that the customer has made up his mind to buy the product, he should close the sale by asking such questions as “What colour would you like to have?”, “Would you want this gift wrapped?” or “What else would you like to buy?” The sale should be closed in a cordial manner and the customer should be made to feel that he has made the right choice.
(vii) Post-Sale Activity:
After a sale has been concluded, the salesperson may persuade the customer to buy some more related products. For instance, a customer who has purchased a shirt may be persuaded to buy a pair of trousers or jeans, belt, tie, pair of socks, etc. Post sale activity is also called additional selling.
Selling process involves different steps, one by one so as to persuade the consumer to buy his product that will give him satisfaction. These steps are known as stages of selling process.
The various steps in personal selling process are as follows:
Step-1 – Prospecting:
Prospecting refers to identifying and developing a list of potential clients. Sales people can seek the names of prospects from a variety of sources including trade shows, commercially- available databases or mail lists, company sales records.
Step-2 – Pre-Approach:
(i) Finding and analyzing information about prospects.
(ii) Evaluating a prospect’s potential.
Step-3 – Approach:
Under this step the salesman contact with target audience through telephone or mail. The initial face-to-face contact stars with prospect during which first impressions are formed.
Step-4 – Sales Presentation:
Presentation of how the product fills a need or solves a problem for the prospect. Using Persuasive communication tell the product’s story.
(i) Hold Attention
(ii) Stimulate Interest
The prospective customer provides feedback and salesperson attempts to further tailor the presentation for the prospect’s needs.
Under this step the salesperson asks the prospect to buy.
Following up Includes:
(i) Commitments meet
(iv) Satisfied customers re-buy and recommend
Personal Selling Process – Steps of Personal Selling – 8 Step Process Conducted by the Salesperson
The personal selling process is a consecutive series of activities conducted by the salesperson, the lead to a prospect taking the desired action of buying a product or service and finish with a follow-up contact to ensure purchase satisfaction.
First Step – Prospecting:
The process of looking for and checking leads is called prospecting or determining which firms or individuals could become customers. A steadily growing list of qualified prospects is important for reaching the sales targets.
Qualifying a prospect – A lead is a name on a list. It only becomes a prospect if it is determined that the person or company can benefit from the service or product offered. A qualified prospect has a need, can benefit from the product and has the authority to make the decision.
Second Step – The Pre-Approach:
This stage involves the collecting of as much relevant information as possible prior to the sales presentation. The pre-approach investigation is carried out on new customers but also on regular customers. Systematic collection of information requires a decision about applicability, usefulness and how to organise the information for easy access and effective use.
Third Step – The Approach:
The salesperson should always focus on the benefits for the customer. This is done by using the product’s features and advantages. This is known as the FAB technique (Features, Advantages and Benefits).
a. Features – Refers to the physical characteristics such as size, taste etc.
b. Advantages – Refers to the performance provided by the physical characteristics e.g. it does not stain.
c. Benefits – Refers to the benefits for the prospect. Eg. Saves you 20% on replacement cost.
Fourth Step – The Sales Presentation:
After the prospects interest has been grasped, the sales presentation is delivered. This involves a “persuasive vocal and visual explanation of a business proposition”. It should be done in a relaxed atmosphere to encourage the prospect to share information in order to establish requirements.
Fifth Step – The Trial Close:
The trial close is a part of the presentation and is an important step in the selling process. It is known as a temperature question – technique used to establish the attitude of the prospect towards the presentation and the product.
Sixth Step – Handling Objections:
Objections are often indications of interest by the prospect and should not be viewed with misgiving by salespeople. The prospect is in fact requesting additional information to help him to justify a decision to buy. The prospect may not be fully convinced and the issues raised are thus very important. It also assists the salesperson to establish exactly what is on the prospect’s mind.
Seventh Step – Closing the Sale:
This is the last part of the presentation. Many salespeople fear the closing of a sale. Closing a sale is only the confirmation of an understanding. Fear will disappear if the salesperson truly believes that the prospect will enjoy benefits after the purchase of the product.
Eighth Step – The Follow-Up:
The sale does not complete the selling process. Follow-up activities are very important and are useful for the establishment of long-term business relationships. It is important to check if the products have been received in good condition, to establish the customer is satisfied etc.
Process in Personal Selling – Prospecting and Pre-approach
Authorities on sales are in agreement over the basics of selling. Amongst the first basic of selling comes prospecting or who should we call on. Prospecting and qualifying go hand-in-hand. Is it not waste of effort to talk to the wrong people? Qualifying involves a pending time on the right people – those who take positive decisions.
It is necessary to know more and more about the prospects – a kind of pre-approach. Once these preliminaries are over, and a salesman comes in contact with the prospect, the actual approach begins. The overall conduct of the salesman matters a lot here.
The actual selling is done by presentation and demonstrations. Here, the prospect may raise certain objections, which are to be handled effectively. The final basic is the closing of a sale, which according to Tom Hopkins has both elements of ‘art and science’. Marketing practitioners advise us to continue our valuable services to the prospects even after the physical sale — it is called follow-up and maintenance.
A salesman has to prepare himself first. He has to be up to date on product knowledge. He is aware of the market conditions. He knows about the competition. He has mastered the technique of selling. Once prepared, he has to locate the customers.
For this, he has to decide the profile of his ideal prospect. He has been assisted in identifying the prospects by the organisation which provides him the leads. Moreover, the salesman himself develops his own leads.
He can get references from the existing customers, suppliers, distributors and dealers, other salespeople and trade associations. A salesman can enroll for organisations of which the prospects are the members.
He writes and speaks for audiences of which the prospect may be a part. He consults various sources like directories, press, etc. He calls on various organisations in the hope of getting prospects.
Prospecting involves spending time. We have to be careful about calls made to the prospect per unit of time. Out of prospecting calls, we are able to succeed to get some appointments. Out of these appointments, we are able to generate sales in a few cases.
Over a period of time, we have to take care of the hours we worked and the business generated. The time lag between prospecting calls made and the income in future is to be carefully noted. This delay may be a month, or two months or longer.
When prospects are referred, the referral cases have more chances of generating sales than the non-referral cases. A card referral system can be used when a card is used to get down.
(i) Reference name, address, phone no.
(ii) Qualifying questions.
(iii) Call and appointment by the referring party.
(iv) If they are reluctant to do so, permission to use their name while contacting the referral.
Poor leads must be eliminated skillfully. What is needed is qualification. Prospects are dependents and the products they use now. The salesman may make a phone call or write a preliminary letter before actually calling on them. Leads can be hot leads, warm leads or cool leads.
When there is no referral, it means they are not prequalified. A prequalified lead gives us a picture of emotional and logical requirements for benefiting from our product.
Even when there is no referral, we can make use of several prospecting techniques. The foremost is to top the replacement demand. People always tend to replace a product after using it for some time — the reason could be anything.
Perhaps, they have become fed up with the product. Perhaps, due to wear-and-tear, the product is not 100 p.c. functionally perfect. Maybe, it has become obsolete. Salespeople try to assess the replacement cycles for the product they sell.
It may be different for different products and may show place variations. While considering the replacement orders, we have to time the sales activity properly. Even the personality of the buyer matters most — impatient type buyers tend to replace earlier than sober types.
Another way of prospecting is to service those who have been our customer but have been left un-serviced because the previous salesman who used to service them has left. While contacting them, though we can write to them or phone them up, it is advisable to call on them personally as they find it difficult to dismiss a personal visit by a new representative.
Whenever an innovation has been introduced, we can contact all our old customers with details of the improvements made. Local newspapers and social clubs are a good source to get leads. Salespeople of non-competing products swap leads amongst themselves. The after-sales service department records also provide us with good leads.
A salesman shows certain consideration for this clients. He is generous in sending thank-you notes, sorts out their problems, and keeps up his promises. He returns the calls and keeps in touch — by phoning them, meeting them in person and sending them things. Perhaps, a periodical newsletter is what the client would appreciate most. Even personal letters can be sent.
Prospecting is the bed-rock on which selling stands. The better you do it, the dazzling are the results.
One of the most useful tools for prospecting is the telephone. Telephone prospecting should not be just a ritual. We have got to be sincere about it and an intense desire to succeed. Just making it a performance goal would not work. Though telephone prospecting might disturb the prospect, you can show the courtesy by being apologetic about it. There should not be a feeling that by intruding on them, we have made the lives of the prospects miserable.
We have to call at reasonable hours. We must have a good offer to make. The unproductive calls can be brought to an end politely and the mind should be shut-off to such unproductive talk.
There should not be any hangover over the next call. Most executives have someone to screen the incoming calls, generally a private secretary. If she is convinced that the executive would be interested in talking to the salesperson, she puts him through. It is harder for the strangers to reach the executive.
A salesman should not lie by assuming some other identity such as ‘being a family doctor’ or a ‘lawyer’. It later on generates a hostile reaction. A ‘personal friend’ ploy may not work, if the superior tells the secretary that he has not heard the name.
It is important to speak with confidence to get past the screeners. It is necessary to identify oneself, and the organisation one represents, and has to request to put the concerned executive on the line. The obvious query would be whether the executive knows the caller.
The answer could be that though we have not met, the executive knows about my company and would be interested in listening to what the caller has got to say. A reference could be given of a third party who knows the executive.
The standard excuse of ‘being in the meeting’, is offered. A message must be left to give the executive a feeling that the matter to be discussed is of some importance. He might return the call. If he does not, one can call again.
The secretary can be addressed by her name. She can be told that since the executive and the caller both are busy, she must suggest sometime that is best to call, thus extracting a commitment. She may still be evasive, but one should give up. Persistence pays.
Some executives start work so early that their secretaries have not turned up. This is the time when they may take up the call themselves. Some executives work late. The secretaries are no longer there to screen the calls. Security people may put you through as they are not trained to screen the calls.
A call after business hours may work only if the caller knows the executive socially, or the deal is such that furthers the private interest of the executive.
In a telephonic conversation, it is pleasant to talk to someone name. We can precede the call to a personal visit. The caller has to introduce himself and the company. A brief conversation about the possession and use of the product can take place. The selling points of the present offer are introduced.
At the end, the prospect is asked if he is interested to have more details. Take down the name and address if the prospect shows interest. We have to request the prospect to make the queries that he might have during suggested hours. If a personal appointment is taken, a sales presentation can quickly lead to the closing of a sale.
When a company puts ads or sends mailers, it is likely to be flooded with incoming enquiry calls. Though much money is spent on promotion, very little thought is given to attending the telephone calls. Whenever a call is received, it is answered neither too early nor too late.
The person who answers the call must be specially trained. Their voice must be lively and cheerful. We have to allow the person at the other end to have his say, and acknowledge it with interest.
The caller may be put on hold for getting the needed information. But it should not be a long hold. We have to thank him for holding on. A careful phone attendant should try to know the name of the calling party. ‘May I know who is calling please?’ is a good question. Perhaps, the caller can be invited to our showroom.
Otherwise, we have to depute our representative to him. While giving an appointment, allow the calling person to jot down the details. An appointment may have to be changed. In that case, we should know where to call the party.
Telephone and courtesy are inseparable. A person who takes the phone must know how to take messages — complete and clear. It helps a great deal. Sometimes, the caller creates a wall around himself.
He wants information but does not want to allow the salesmen near him. But once the ice is thawed, these people are the easiest to deal with. On meeting them we might be surprised to close the sale very quickly.
Before actually visiting the prospects, salespeople must know as much as possible about the prospects. It is possible to know their present consumption and usage. If it is a corporate organisation, we can use stock exchange records about the company.
A salesman has to set call objectives. There should also be some attempt to choose between several methods of approach — a written communication, a telephone call or a personal visit.
The sales strategy is decided as a part of preapproach. We have to take into consideration the calling time also.
When we are face-to-face with the buyer, we must know how to greet him. The interview must have a cordial start. Much depends upon the personal appearance of the salesman, his opening remarks and his follow-up conversation. All this should be on a positive note, e.g., we should do everything possible to help you and your company.
Process of Personal Selling – Pre-Sales Preparation, Prospecting, Approaching, Presentation, Handle Objections, Closing the Sale and After Sales Service
1. Pre-Sales Preparation:
The first step is to prepare the salespersons for their personal selling experience. They have to be educated about the products they would be dealing in, and should be made familiar with all the features, benefits and usage methods related to the product.
They should also be given knowledge about consumer behaviour and the competitor’s sales strategies. Personal selling requires much hard work and the salespersons should be well trained to face the challenges.
It refers to searching for prospective buyers who might be interested in the products. Some companies maintain databases of existing customers and contacts of potential customers can be obtained from them or from other referral sources like business associates, suppliers, employees, etc.
The salesman should approach the prospect in a polite and dignified manner. He should introduce himself and his product to the customer. In order to customise his sales message, the salesperson should have a basic understanding about the nature, needs, and purchasing power of the customer. He should adopt a very decent behaviour towards the customer and avoid aggressive marketing strategies.
After introducing himself to the customer, the salesperson should present his product, explain its features and demonstrate its usage. Displaying and demonstrating the product helps the potential buyer to understand its features and benefits in a thorough manner. The salesman should elaborate the unique qualities of the product by relating them to the customer’s needs.
He should follow the AIDA approach:
(i) A- Attention- Grab the customer’s attention.
(ii) I- Interest- Create interest in his mind.
(iii) D- Desire- Convince customer that he desires this product.
(iv) A- Action- Move him to take action of purchasing it.
5. Handle Objections:
The customer may be interested in the product, but he may have some objections or doubts in his mind. The salesman should encourage free flow of communication and clear the queries of the customer. He should convince the buyer that the product offers him the best value for his money. The customer’s objections should be dealt with patiently and the salesperson should answer his questions with clarity.
6. Closing the Sale:
The main objective of personal selling is to make a sale. Once the customer has taken his decision to buy the product, the salesman should help him in closing the deal successfully. The customer may also be informed about some other related products that might interest him.
Some concessions in price may be provided to customer to finalise the sale. The sales-personnel should deal with the buyer in the same cordial and polite manner even after making the sale. The purchased product should be handed to the customer in a neat package and he should be sent off with a smile.
7. After-Sales Services:
The salesperson should remain in contact with the customer to check that he is satisfied with the product. Proper after-sales services like help in installation, regular maintenance, etc. should be provided to ensure creation of goodwill and repeat purchases.
Process of Personal Selling
1. Presale Preparation:
i. The salesman should know and be trained appropriately.
ii. He should be aware of the functional and technical aspects of the product.
iii. He should know how the product compares with a competitive brand.
iv. He should be aware of the strategies of the competitors.
i. A list of prospective customers must be prepared, i.e. people who have the need and willingness to buy the product.
ii. Locating can be done by:
a. Those who bought the product in past
b. Competitors customers
d. Reference from present customers
e. Data bases from banks etc.
i. Helps him plan his strategy.
ii. Information like age, gender, number of children, educational status, occupation, hobbies, attitude towards product etc. may be sought.
i. Approach will determine how much attention the salesman gets from his customers.
ii. There are various approaches to initial interaction in the personal selling process:
(a) Introduction Approach:
i. Direct approach.
ii. Useful for first time call.
iii. Consists of greeting, introduction and statement of reason for calling.
iv. Simple approach.
v. Not very effective in immediately attracting attention and arousing interest.
vi. Lacks an element of novelty.
(b) Referral Approach:
i. The salesman opens by telling the prospect about the person who referred them to him.
ii. Because the customer knows the referee he entertains the salesman.
iii. Makes the visit more personal and evolves greater attention and interest.
(c) Product Approach:
i. Hands over his product to the prospect with little or no introduction.
ii. The salesman can understand how much attention he has got.
iii. It is most effective when the product is attractive and unique.
iv. It is however abrupt.
(d) Customer Benefit Approach:
Customer gets interested in the product if he feels that it will satisfy his needs.
i. After the salesman has established his first contact with the customer and has got his attention he must motivate him to buy the product.
ii. The salesman tells about the functions of the product, benefits to be received, its unique features etc.
iii. He may demonstrate the product.
iv. He may prepare a speech.
Following presentation approaches may be used:
(i) Canned approach – Memorised or scripted talk covering the main points. It is not good for industrial goods.
(ii) Formula approach – The sales person first identifies the buyer’s needs, attitudes and buying style. Then the sales person moves into a formula presentation that how the product will satisfy that buyer’s needs. It follows a general plan.
(iii) Need satisfaction approach – It starts with a search for customers’ needs by getting the customer to do some talking. This approach calls for good listening and problem solving skills.
The salesman must answer any questions asked during his sales presentation.
i. During the course of his presentation a salesman should periodically try to close the sale at suitable opportunities.
ii. Such trial close permits the salesman to take stock of the situation, evaluate the extent to which he has successfully communicated with the prospect.
iii. It also lets customer ask question etc.
8. Closing the Sales:
i. Booking sales order.
ii. Salesman may use his social abilities and last moment persuasion to get the deal.
9. Post Sale Activities and Services:
Removing cognitive dissonance i.e. doubt about:
i. If he has made the right decision
ii. If the product is really needed
iii. If the price paid was right
iv. If he should have bought competitors brand.
Removal can be done through:
ii. Telling them the unique features again
iii. Telling them the benefits again
iv. The salesman must seek feedback from customers
v. Help in installation
vi. Claims of damage etc. if any must be settled immediately.
Process of Personal Selling – From Pre-Sale Preparation to Follow-Up
The sales person may utilise a large number of distinctive sales processes. Some of these, however, are more significant than the others. These processes are pre-sale preparation, prospecting, pre-approach, approach, sales presentation, objections and closing the sale. The technique may vary in accordance with the needs and psychology of the customers affected by the sales process.
Pre-sale preparation involves getting ready for the selling process. The salesman has to serve the customer by identifying the customer’s problem and prescribing a solution for it He has to be familiar with the product, the market, the techniques of selling and organisation.
He would be successful if he is aware of the unsatisfied needs and problems of the customers. He should prepare himself by knowing himself and his company, the buying motives and behaviour of customers or prospects, competition and market environment.
The potential customer is known as a prospect and the method of finding the potential customer is known as prospecting. The prospect has the unsatisfied need, the ability to purchase and a willingness to buy the product. The salesman can locate potential customers by analysing the telephone directory, cold canvassing method and other suitable methods of prospecting.
They should approach only those prospects who need the product, and who have the purchasing power and willingness to buy, as well as the authority to purchase the goods and services. Prospecting involves a significant amount of time, effort and money. The salesman can find prospects through current customers, by cultivating referral sources, joining organisations, and examining data sources and other effective methods of prospecting.
Pre-approach involves finding out the needs, problems, preferences, habits, attitudes, nature and interests of the prospects. Sometimes, specific information is collected about the prospect from different sources. The success of prospecting depends on the knowledge of the prospects’ needs and attitudes. Sales presentation is organised on the basis of the needs and purchasing power of the prospects. The methods of approach and sales presentation are determined at this stage.
The initial few minutes of the sales talk are known as the “approach” to the prospect. The purpose of the talk is to arouse and sustain the customer’s attention. Before the talk, the salesman should introduce himself by using the telephone, by obtaining introduction from a customer and by handing his business card.
In the first contact, he should attract the attention of the customers and get them interested in the talk. Some of the popular techniques for this purpose are reference approach, benefit approach, sample approach, and mutual approach. The reference approach involves reference of the product by the friends of the prospects.
The benefit approach indicates the benefits of the product. The sample approach involves giving the sample to the prospect. The mutual approach considers the prospect supreme. The first approach is very critical because it makes a lasting impression on the customer. The main consideration is that the customers should feel interested in the talk and message communicated by the sales person.
The term “sales presentation” refers to the presentation of the product to the customer or prospect, and is closely related to the buying process. Sales presentation involves the presentation of the product and a demonstration of its features and benefits to the prospect, and shows how the product meets the customers’ needs.
It attempts to increase the desire for the product and arouses the willingness of the prospect to purchase the product. Different strategies may be employed to motivate the prospects to buy the product. The salesman recognises the prospect unsatisfied or unrecognised needs, and brings home the awareness of these to the prospects.
When he has made them recognise their needs, he impresses upon them the fact that the product demonstrated satisfies their needs in a better manner than other products are capable of doing. He assures them that the product will be delivered in accordance with their instructions. He justifies the price of the product.
He may also suggest alternative methods of payment, e.g., by way of installments, lease, rental and so on. The need for immediate purchase may be stressed on the ground of shortage of supplies or enhancement in price. The salesman tries to procure an order from the prospect at the earliest possible time.
The modern technique of sales presentation is based on Attention, Interest, Desire, Action and satisfaction (AIDAS). Attention is attracted through a proper approach. Many devices are used to arouse and increase interest in a product. This is done through an effective sales interview.
Desire is created by pinpointing the unrecognised needs for the product. The product’s characteristics and expected benefits are brought to the knowledge of the customers. The action to purchase the product is taken by the prospect or customer when he is satisfied with the product’s attributes. The salesman should be competent enough to remove the objections and adverse reactions of the prospect.
The salesman generally uses three approaches to sales presentation, i.e., canned approach, formulated approach and need-satisfaction approach. The canned approach is the memorised sales talk covering the main points based on stimulus-response thinking. The prospect is passive and can be moved to purchase the product by use of the right stimulus – words, pictures, actions, etc.
The formulated approach identifies the buyer’s needs and buying styles. The sales person draws the buyer into a discussion bearing on the buyer’s needs and attitudes, and shows him how the product will satisfy his needs.
The need satisfaction approach uncovers the needs of the customer by encouraging him to listen and by the exercise of his problem-solving skills. He demonstrates the product through such aids as booklets, slides, movies, product samples, charts, etc. He adopts five influence strategies, namely, legitimacy, expertise, referent power, ingratiation and impression management.
Sometimes, customers raise some objections to the product. The objections or resistance may be psychological or logical. Psychological resistance relates to interference, preference for established products or habits and traditions. The customer may be reluctant to give up the old product and adopt the new product.
He may have unpleasant associations with other persons. Logical resistance or objections may pertain to price, product, transport, payment systems of the company. The salesman has to answer these objections and overcome the customer’s resistance. He should break down the customer’s objections. Experience and training would enable him to deal with the objections satisfactorily.
The sales person should try to close the presentation at the earliest possible moment to avoid the emergence of any reaction to the product. He should be expert enough to close the sales talk at the right moment and ask for the order. He should know the closing signal, including physical actions, statements or comments.
He can ask for the order, help the customer to select a particular product and offer special inducements to close the sale.
Follow-up action begins when the prospect signs the order and asks for delivery. The salesman arranges for the despatch and delivery of the product, facilitates grant of credit, reassures the buyer about the wisdom of his decision and minimises the dissatisfaction he might feel. He tries to remove any post-purchase problems.
After-sales service is a good example of follow-up action. The sale is complete when the buyer is satisfied. It is a well-known saying that the sale is made not in the mind of the salesman, nor over the product’s place but in the mind of the buyer.
The sale is final because the customer is motivated to buy the product to solve his problem or meet his needs. The follow-up action also provides feedback to the salesman because it gives him a chance to evaluate his actions and persuasions.
Process of Personal Selling – Step by Step Process
Personal selling begins with identifying customers and ends with ensuring satisfaction to them. The series of steps that are followed in between the two are diverse, complex, and knowledge-based. Salespeople need to learn and understand the objectives, importance, and intricacies of each step before taking a stride to perform the task of personal selling. Keeping in view the need for understanding the procedural formalities and complexities, let us discuss the steps of personal selling in detail.
Prospecting is the first stage of the process of personal selling that involves searching for a potential customer, also known as a prospect, and making him qualified for the product. A qualified prospect is a person who has an unsatisfied need, an ability to pay, and a willingness to buy. A person before being classified as a prospect is known as a ‘lead’ to a salesperson.
It is the task of the salespeople to generate leads. These can be developed from various sources such as – company given leads, current customers, referral sources like distributors, suppliers, commercially available databases, yellow pages, telephone directories, trade associations, trade shows, websites, etc. Advertisement with coupon or toll free telephone numbers are also used to identify contact prospects.
Leads are qualified to be either hot or warm, having a long-term potential or no potential. Hot leads are the ones who are highly prospective and intend to buy immediately. Warm leads take some time to take a decision before purchasing the product. Long-term potentials have no plan to purchase within the foreseeable time period but have all the potential to be buyers. No potential is a category of buyers who cannot be buy at all, whatsoever the product or buying situation.
So, one can say that prospecting is a process of locating or identifying and qualifying prospects. The usual qualification criteria used for identifying prospects are location, accessibility, volume of business, time period of purchase, time period of payment, continuity of business, etc.
Since, this is the first step of the process, it is very important for salespeople to develop skills for prospecting. They should also have the ability to work hard and manage time.
Once the salespeople have identified a group of potential customers, they should learn as much as possible about these prospects along with their names and contact details. In case these prospects are organizations, details of the organizational demographics such as – location, type of organization, organizational size, business activities, and their marketing information such as – sales volumes, market shares, market position, present suppliers, the final authority in the organization to take a decision to buy, and their personal traits need to be acquired.
Having collected all such information, a salesperson should seek appointments with these prospects and formulate a plan with the best procedure, place, and time to meet them.
After fixing an appointment with the prospect in the pre-approach, a salesperson gets a chance to prepare himself with how to introduce himself and the product to the client. It also enables him to carry a useful and interesting discussion, which would be vital to establish an initial connection. Here, the appearance, attire, communication, and gestures of a salesperson are important to attract the willingness of a prospect to witness the presentation.
The objective here is to gain the attention of the prospects, arouse their interest, and stimulate a desire that encourages them to take part in the sales presentation. Therefore, creating a first-hand impression on the client is critical for the salesperson to be able to build an interactive environment. This prompts the prospect to start a working relationship with the salesperson.
Once the salespeople get an approval through verbal or non-verbal cues from the prospects, they can begin with the presentation of the product. In general, a salesperson follows a conventional selling model, AIDA (gaining attention, arousing interest, instilling desire, and prompting action) as a presentation technique to influence the prospective customer.
A comprehensive and precise explanation about the features and benefits of the product should be given to the prospects. The language used in the presentation should be simple and comprehensible. During the conversation, a salesperson should always try to establish a link between the product and the needs of the prospect. This can further be used to highlight the importance of the product in satisfying the prospect’s need.
Generally, a sales presentation is planned beforehand. A planned sales presentation is a standardized sales talk with little or no modification made by the salesperson. In most situations, tailored presentation is recommended where a salesperson is prepared to make a customized presentation in case of discussion on the specific needs of the prospect. The presentation should be managed keeping in mind the prospect’s interest on the offer being presented and the time schedule for the presentation.
After its completion, the salesperson goes for a product demonstration which consolidates the points of presentation. In case of small products, showing a sample is not a problem. For larger products, visual aids can be used for display. To avoid confusion and disinterest, the points of demonstration should be consistent with that of the presentation.
Salespeople may face objections from potential customers during the presentation. These objections are viewed as resistance to selling. But objections are welcome in selling because these are clear indications of the interest of the prospects on the offer and their intent to know more about the offer. Objections may be rational or psychological. Rational objections are raised on product features, price, quality, delivery schedule, etc., whereas psychological objections are preference for competing brands, indifference to sales persons, affinity to distract from the discussion, etc.
Salespeople should not be perturbed by objections; rather, they should be mentally prepared to accept them. They should stay positive and ask the prospects to clarify their objections by asking questions. The objective is to know whether the prospect has an actual interest to listen to the message of the salesperson or wants to avoid citing pretext. If objections are genuine, the salesperson should answer them carefully, if otherwise, i.e., objections have no real basis, they can negate the objections supplementing adequate reasons and references.
Salespeople need an in-depth training to handle customer objections. Adequate knowledge about the products being presented, along with information about the company and its past history can help them counter objections confidently. Salespeople should be familiar about the industries manufacturing these products, competitors’ products, prevailing price and distribution policy of the competitors, etc.
During this stage, the salesperson attempts to close the sale by asking for an order. A nice presentation and deft objection handling leads to a successful closing of the sale; otherwise all efforts are futile. The salesperson should learn various closing techniques.
For example, either a salesperson can recapitulate the points of discussion or may help the prospective customer in taking a buying decision or offer few alternatives to help the prospect to choose from. A salesperson can also offer company-sponsored incentives, say discounts or gifts to persuade the prospect in taking a buying decision. A sale finally closes when a salesperson acquires an order and makes the delivery.
Sales do not end with closing; rather, this is the starting point of future sales with the same customers. A salesperson should make arrangements to complete all the formalities of delivering the product and related facilities like user’s guide, manuals, supportive literature, etc. This stage is important for further continuation of business with that customer.
Enquiring about a customer’s feedback, i.e., due delivery of the product, proper installation of products, customer instruction, servicing, any hazard(s) of product handling, level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction are the major objectives of follow-up calls, which should be made every now and then.
Repeated follow-ups help the salespeople to know experience of the customer with their product and if the functioning of the product is to their expectation. The salesperson should take proper measures to remove all sorts of post-purchase problems of the customers. In fact, he should prepare a follow-up schedule after the initial order is procured. This boosts the customer confidence and moral, and aids in building long-term relationship of the customer and the salesperson, as well as, between the buying and selling firms.