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The Six Steps of Personal Selling
Personal selling is an age-old method in the marketing of products or services. It is an integral branch of the traditional marketing channel and is mixed today even with the digital marketing channels to have a blasting marketing mix. Personal selling is the process through which the sales representative of the company interacts with potential consumers in the market and tries to persuade them to purchase the product or services of the company. It also helps the company create brand awareness. It is effective for the company −
In converting the non-users into users of the product or service.
in maintaining good relationships with the existing consumers of the company.
It also aids the brand in converting competitors' customers into company customers.
Hence, in this article, along with a basic understanding of personal selling, we will take a deep dive into the six-step process of personal selling and how companies can exploit the same for their benefit.
The crucial six steps of personal selling
Personal selling is a method of marketing at the moment. Though it can be classified into the following steps so that a newbie can understand it better and even companies can understand where they are lacking instead of just making a broad statement that it is not working out. The steps of personal selling are −
Prospecting and qualifying lead − This is the step in which the company decides whom they are going to connect with. Since personal selling is an expensive method because it involves human interactions, there is a limit to how much time they can devote to it. A company needs to have quality leads; they can just approach anyone and everyone. Many companies rely on third parties to get a set of qualified leads or prospects.
These companies are masters at their job; they combine various data sets and use permutations and combinations based on the actions and reactions of consumers to produce the list of qualifying customers for the company. IBM, a renowned company, uses the Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline (BANT) method to qualify leads. Many different companies have altogether a different team known as presales, where they create leads for the company so that the sales team can focus on their job, which is to convince the customers to purchase. Good qualifying leads ensure that time is invested fruitfully.
Per-approach − After the leads have been generated by the company, it is important for them to understand their customers. The salesperson has to pinch on the right nerve to ensure sales, and the higher the amount of transaction goes, the more information they need. Companies here gather information like what the company is currently struggling with, what is generally the buying process of the company, who makes the buying decisions in the company, what is the structure of the company, and what is the attitude or buying style of the person who makes the buying decision.
Companies also have to make important calls regarding their approach to communication. Are they going to pay a personal visit, make a phone call, send an email, or what? The more time the company invests in pre-approach and learning about its customers, the less time there is going to be for buying.
Presentation and demonstration of the product offering − this is the stage where the salesperson connects with the buyer and seller. At this point, the sales representative gives the customer a demo of their product, service, and company profile. Here, the salesperson should answer the major questions, like why should the company invest in the product if they do have to invest, and why they should invest in their company and not the myriad other companies out there. If they are trying to make the customers switch brands, then they should explain why their brand is better than the one they are using currently. Here, the customer will need direct facts but not too many facts.
Visual representation and colors will be great in this case. However, the salesperson cannot just memorize one speech and use it for all their pitches. They have to keep reading the room while demonstrating and adjusting to the needs of the customers. Every buyer has different pain points that the sales representative has to understand and address. Some buyers will only focus on the utilitarian benefits, while others will also want the hedonistic benefits.
Overcoming objections − It is not going to be a smooth journey. Consumers are going to have many psychological objections as well as monetary objections. Psychological objections include reasons like why to change, preference for the established source of the brand, unpleasant associations with the sales representative, resistance to change, unwanted documentation, dislike for making decisions, and others. This is where the salesperson must shine. He is suggested to ask the customer questions that are going to make them believe in the product of the company, help them in answering their own questions, or deny the validity of the objection.
The sales representative has to stand strong on their foot but make the audience feel like he is on their side. One mantra for the sales representative at this stage of personal selling could be that they have to "sell the price" rather than the "sell-through price".
Closing the deal − This is the most sought-after stage in the personal selling journey. This is where all the efforts of the presales team, as well as the sales representative, come to salvation. This is the stage where the customer signs the deal or purchases the product. The sales representative has to be on their toes more than ever at this stage because a slightly negative comment or change in mood or attitude will either cancel the deal or prolong it. Sales representatives should focus on maintaining a positive atmosphere and not seem to need or be desperate, but at the same time provide all the assistance to the customers.
Follow-up and maintenance from the clients − This stage of selling is what distinguishes traditional marketing from relationship marketing. For transactional marketers, the work is done on stage 5, but relationship marketers have to walk the extra mile to ensure that customers come back to the brand. Salespeople should ensure that they are in touch with their clients and are providing them with support whenever needed. This will ensure that the customer comes back to the company and also spreads positive word of mouth. Simple calls, messages, or emails can do wonders in this case.
Sales representatives have to understand that this is not the chronology that they will face in every sale that they close. They might skip certain steps by jumping from one to another multiple times before closing the deal. It all depends on the industry, product type, and product range.
Drawbacks of personal selling as a method of the marketing mix
Personal selling is a costly proposition since the companies have to employ manpower and keep them motivated and trained to do the job.
For humans, there is a limit to the number of customers that they can reach on a particular day. Hence limited reach.
Not all customers are receptive and open-armed toward the salespeople. Consumers nowadays prefer knowing about things when they want to, not when they are forced to.
In spite of the negatives of personal selling mentioned above, personal selling is a very effective method to close deals. It requires a lot of effort, as discussed above, but is effective and impactful as well. It is very much preferred in the case of B2B companies, technological products, and others. Companies should include personal selling in their digital marketing mix.
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