One of the most ancient techniques of marketing, personal selling was widely used when large scale production was unknown and the market size was limited. But even today, personal selling could an effective tool for companies to target individual prospects more specifically.
The American Marketing Association defines personal selling as an “oral presentation in a conversation with one or more prospective purchasers for the purpose of making sales”. Unlike advertising, it involves a one-to-one relationship with a customer. It is the oral presentation of a tangible and intangible product by a seller to a prospect for the purpose of completing an exchange.
What is the benefit of personal selling? it allows the salespersons to judge the reaction of customers to their sales presentations and thus, give an opportunity to vary the message for better understanding.
With the increase in competition at domestic market and due to increasing number of foreign players, the importance of salespersons has multiplied in the marketing effort of a firm. Combining it with other promotional mix tools, particularly with advertising, personal selling can be used tactically to intensify the marketing effort.
However, personal selling is relatively costly, and therefore its economic efficiency needs to be thoroughly evaluated while applying for marketing. In certain marketing situations, personal selling can provide efficient solution to firm’s selling problems.
* Product situation: Personal selling is relatively more effective and economical when a product is of a high unit value, when it is in the introductory stage of its life cycle, when it requires personal attention to match specific consumer needs, or when it requires product demonstration or after-sales services.
* Market situation: Personal selling is effective when a firm serves a small number of large-size buyers, or a small-local market. Also, it can be used effectively when an indirect channel of distribution is used for selling to agents or middlemen.
* Company situation: Personal selling situation can be best utilised when a firm is not in a suitable position to use non-personal communication media, or it cannot afford to have a large and regular advertising outlay
* Consumer behaviour situation: Personal selling should be adopted by a company when purchases are valuable but infrequent, or when competition is at such a level that consumers require persuasion and follow-up.
It must be kept in mind that a company must put in place an effective salesforce management system to reap the benefits of personal selling. Today personal selling has become a challenging profession with a significant change in the role of salespersons from being a simple order taker to that of an order motivator or consultant to the buyers. They are the major link in the total marketing strategy for the company.
Personal selling is an integral part of a company’s strategy marketing communication, which is a continuing dialogue between marketers and buyers with the objectives to inform, remind and persuade the latter to buy the product. In this effort, personal selling, along with other tools such as advertising, publicity, sales promotions, and packaging, could be very effective.
To garner the benefits of personal selling, it is also important to put in place an effective salesforce management system with a proper size, structure, and design of salesforce. Recruitment, selection, training, supervision, and evaluation of the salesforce also play a crucial role in this process.