Personal Selling & Sales Management
Although there are many ways of marketing products and services to prospective customers, personal selling -- the process of communicating with the customer on a one-to-one basis with the intention of persuading him/her to purchase a product or service -- continues to represent a significant share of marketing activities. Although other marketing methods may reach more customers more cheaply, there are numerous advantages to personal selling. To optimize the effectiveness of the sales force, most organizations employ a system of sales management. This function is responsible for enabling and monitoring the sales force in the performance of its tasks. Although there are a number of automated tools available to ease the burden on sales representatives and sales managers alike, these are not a panacea and often do not bring sufficient return to justify their cost.
Business organizations use a number of different methods to try to sell their goods and services to consumers. A commercial on the television or radio may be supplemented by print advertisements in various newspapers, magazines, or other publications.
The organization may develop a sales promotion and send advertisements or coupons through the mail or generate publicity to raise the prospective customer's awareness of the organization and its products or services. Stores where a product is sold may position a display to catch the customer's eye and encourage a purchase. The salesperson in the retail store may help the customer make a selection, often stressing the advantages of one particular product over another. Each of these approaches is effective in given circumstances, and many organizations develop an integrated marketing sales campaign utilizing multiple sales techniques to impress the benefits of the product or service in the minds of potential consumers.
Although there are many ways to attempt to persuade a current or prospective customer to buy the business's products or services, many sales are done through personal selling. These are situations in which a sales representative or team communicates with the customer on a one-to-one basis with the intention of persuading him/her to purchase a product or service. Personal selling tasks include developing a relationship with the customer, collecting and analyzing data formally or informally to determine the customer's needs, determining the best match between the customer's needs and the business's products or services, and effectively communicating this information in an attempt to persuade the customer to make a purchase. Personal selling can occur in many different situations ranging from the sales clerk in the retail store who assists a customer in making a purchase to a team of sales representatives who market a document control system to a major corporation.
Personal selling is more than persuading the potential customer to buy a product or service. As shown in Figure 1, consistently effective personal selling requires that the salesperson work with the customer to determine what the customer actually needs in terms of technical capabilities, price, delivery time, and other relevant factors. Based on an analysis of these factors, the salesperson can then determine which combination of the organization's products or services will best meet these needs. The sales representative then demonstrates to the customer that his/her proposed solution will cost-effectively meet the customer's needs, and work with the customer to answer any questions and develop a mutually satisfactory solution to the customer's problem.
Even though at first glance it may not appear to be cost effective compared with other marketing techniques, personal selling is used in many marketing situations. For example, whereas a print advertisement in a magazine or newspaper may cost only pennies per person reached, the average cost of a sales call is hundreds of dollars. Personal selling persists, however, because it is effective. Because the process involves one-on-one communication with the potential customer, the sales representative can pay more attention to the needs of the customer and tailor the presentation to better demonstrate that the product or service meets those needs. In addition, in personal sales, not only does the sales representative present information, but the customer is allowed the opportunity to ask questions, thereby getting a better understanding of what the product or service does and how it meets the needs of the customer. Further, this two-way communication also gives the sales representative better feedback on how the sales presentation is being received by the potential customer. Nonverbal cues such as yawning, closed off body language, or an angry look can help the sales representative take a different tack in an attempt to salvage the sale.
Another advantage of personal sales is that it allows the organization to present a large amount of complex or technical information about its products, services, policies, and experience in the field. The personal sales approach also allows the sales representative to work with the customer to find ways to adapt the standard product or service to better fit the customer's needs, develop an integrative solution to the customer's problem, or answer customers' questions regarding the comparison of the organization's products to those of its competitors. Although to some extent such information can be conveyed through other media, it is more effectively and efficiently done through the one-on-one contact of personal sales.
Personal sales are usually accomplished by sales departments with a sales force that works either as individuals or as teams to reach current and prospective customers and persuade them to purchase the products or services of the organization. As with other functions in the organization, the sales function requires effective management in order to enable the sales force to do its job. Sales management is the process of efficiently and effectively making sales through the planning, coordination, and supervision of others. Effective sales management involves much more than performing administrative tasks to coordinate the activities of the sales force. To be successful, the good sales manager is involved in a wide range of activities, including planning; organizing, recruiting, and selecting sales personnel; enabling and motivating the sales force to sell (e.g., training, print materials or samples); supervising and coordinating sales efforts (e.g., assigning territories or routes); and controlling, and monitoring the sales force. Each of these functions is necessary for the successful operation of a sales function within the organization.
Like any other function within the organization, the sales department is not given unlimited resources to persuade customers to buy the organization's goods or services. Therefore, the sales manager must make the best use of both the human and financial resources available to sell the organization's goods and services to potential customers. To do this well requires planning. Sales managers must determine how to use the resources available in the best way to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales force as a whole. This requires understanding the qualifications, abilities, and experience of the sales force. For example, it would be imprudent to send an experienced sales...
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