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Personal selling is an approach to selling that involves the individual efforts of a salesperson to establish and grow rapport with a specific customer. Sometimes referred to as personalized selling, the idea is to get to know the customer, assess his or her needs, then tailor the sales process so that the customer’s specific needs are addressed. The idea behind this approach is to present the sale as a means of helping the customer achieve his or her goals with the use of the products or services that the salesperson has to offer.
The process of personal selling is very different from attempting to achieve sales by other means, such as mass marketing. With this type of sales technique, contact with a prospective customer on a one-on-one basis is essential. Doing so creates a situation in which the customer has the chance to associate a face with the product. If he or she feels connected to that face, and has a sense that the salesperson genuinely wants to aid in choosing products that are needed and is not just making a sale, there is an increased possibility of the establishment of trust between the two parties. As a result, the salesperson can often gather valuable clues regarding what is important to the customer in terms of features and pricing, and focus on discussing products that provide what the customer really wants.
Often, the process of personal selling may lead to discovery on the part of both the salesperson and the consumer. While the discussion may begin with the consumer articulating what he or she thinks is needed to handle a certain task, the ongoing discussions may identify other factors that relate to the stated needs, and can also be met by product the salesperson has to offer. For example, when discussing conference call services with a prospective client, the salesperson may also discover that the customer could enhance the overall communication process by utilizing web conferencing along with the audio conferencing. Assuming the salesperson can show the customer how this can be done efficiently and at a cost that is well within the budget of the consumer, there is a good chance that the customer will try the product combination, and like it. Subsequently, the customer feels a stronger loyalty to the salesperson and the company providing those services, and is much more likely to ask more questions when and as other communication opportunities arise.
With personal selling, it is important to respect the boundaries set by each individual customer. Some are very open to a personable approach that is almost like talking with a friend. Others prefer an approach that is open and honest, but remains a little more formal. Breaching those boundaries, even in some little way such as calling a customer by a first name when he or she prefers to be addressed as Mr. or Ms., can weaken the building of a personal selling connection and thus limit the possibility of selling any good or service to that customer.
@SurfNTurf - I think that salespeople should use the customer’s name as often as they can. People like the sound of their name, and if the salesperson uses the customer’s name repeatedly, the customer will have a more enjoyable experience and the salesperson will probably be able to remember the customer’s name as a result.
I also think that following up with the customer after the purchase is made will help to create a lasting customer relationship. It will also make the customer want to return for more products or services.
In some service businesses the salesperson directly books the customer for a follow up appointment. This is a great way to get the customer to come back because
it is easier to get them to commit to another appointment date especially if they are happy with the service that they just received.
This happens a lot at hair salons. The stylist will often talk to the customer about scheduling a follow up appointment and normally arranges this step for their customer. It also happens in direct sales as well.
@Sunny27 - I could not agree more. I also wanted to say that personal selling techniques should also include a degree of summarization. The salesperson should be able to summarize the customer’s needs directly to them so that they are on the same page as to what the customer is looking for.
This is an important step in the personal selling process because too often salespeople don’t listen to what their prospects want and show them items that the customer will not be willing to buy.
This wastes the salesperson’s time as well as the prospect’s time. An example of this would be if the salesperson does not determine the price range that the customer is looking to buy within and starts to show more expensive items than the customer can afford.
Qualifying a customer’s needs also shows that the salesperson was listening to the customer and paying proper attention. This is an important personal selling objective.
I think that in the personal selling process the salesperson has to establish a rapport with the customer. This could be done by talking to the customer about things that are unrelated to the business transaction.
For example, talking about the weather or if they had trouble finding the location. This is an important step that many salespeople take for granted because they don’t see the value in establishing a rapport and they are only focusing on the end result of the sale.
But when you establish a sincere rapport with the customer they become more relaxed around you and tend to trust you more. They may even become more animated and conversational and as a
salesperson that is exactly what you want because you want to learn the needs and wants of the customer so that you can tailor your sales presentation directly to what they are looking for.
This is the one aspect in the personal selling process that takes time to develop the skills for but it is very worthwhile in the long run.
I know that if a salesperson takes the time to talk to me about other things then they are seeing me as a person and not as a prospect. A salesperson that goes directly to telling me about a product or service without warming up to me makes me think that this is another salesperson looking for a quick sale and not a long term customer relationship.