Personal selling - Personal presentation by the firm’s sales force for the purpose of making sales and building customer relationships. Personal selling is paid personal communication that attempts to inform customers and persuade them to purchase products or services.
Undoubtedly by now you've figured out that marketing enables both individuals and organizations to sell products and services to other people to help them satisfy their needs and wants. At some point in the selling process, personal selling usually becomes involved.
It is the personal selling process that allows marketers the greatest freedom to adjust a message to satisfy customers' information needs. Personal selling allows the marketer or seller to communicate directly with the prospect or customer and listen to his or her concerns, answer specific questions, provide additional information, inform, persuade, and possibly even recommend other products or services.
The personal selling process consists of the following steps:
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 and in-house databases, website registrations, public records, referrals, directories and a wide variety of other sources. Prospecting activities should be structured so that they identify only potential clients who fit the profile and are able, willing and authorized to buy the product or service.
This activity is greatly enhanced today using websites with specially-coded pages optimized with key words so that prospects may easily find you when they search the web for certain key words related to your offering. Once prospecting is underway, it then is up to the sales professional to qualify those prospects to further identify likely customers and screen out poor leads. Modern websites can go along way in not only identifying potential prospects but also starting this qualification process.
Before engaging in the actual personal selling process, sales professionals first analyze all the information they have available to them about a prospect to understand as much about the prospect as possible. During the Pre-approach phase of the personal selling process, sales professionals try to understand the prospect's current needs, current use of brands and feelings about all available brands, as well as identify key decision makers, review account histories (if any), assess product needs, plan/create a sales presentation to address the identified and likely concerns of the prospect, and set call objectives. The sales professional also develops a preliminary overall strategy for the sales process during this phase, keeping in mind that the strategy may have to be refined as he or she learns more about the prospect.
The approach is the actual contact the sales professional has with the prospect. This is the point of the selling process where the sales professional meets and greets the prospect, provides an introduction, establishes rapport that sets the foundation of the relationship, and asks open-ended questions to learn more about the prospect and his or her needs.
4) Making the Presentation
During the presentation portion of the selling process, the sales professional tells that product "story" in a way that speaks directly to the identified needs and wants of the prospect. A highly customized presentation is the key component of this step. At this point in the process, prospects are often allowed to hold and/or inspect the product and the sales professional may also actually demonstrate the product. Audio visual presentations and/or slide presentations may be incorporated at this stage and this is usually when sales brochures or booklets are presented to the prospect. Sales professionals should strive to let the prospect do most of the talking during the presentation and address the needs of the prospect as fully as possible by showing that he or she truly understands and cares about the needs of the prospect.
5) Overcoming Objections
Professional sales people seek out prospects' objections in order to try to address and overcome them. When prospects offer objections, it often signals that they need and want to hear more in order to make a fully-informed decision. If objections are not uncovered and identified, then sales professionals cannot effectively manage them. Uncovering objections, asking clarifying questions, and overcoming objections is a critical part of training for professional sellers and is a skill area that must be continually developed because there will always be objections. Trust me when I tell you that as soon as a sales professional finds a way to successfully handle "all" his or her prospects' objections, some prospect will find a new, unanticipated objection-- if for no other reason than to test the mettle of the sales person.
6) Closing the Sale
Although technically "closing" a sale happens when products or services are delivered to the customer's satisfaction and payment is received, for the purposes of our discussion I will define closing as asking for the order and adequately addressing any final objections or obstacles. There are many closing techniques as well as many ways to ask trial closing questions. A trail question might take the form of, "Now that I've addressed your concerns, what other questions do you have that might impact your decision to purchase?" Closing does not always mean that the sales professional literally asks for the order, it could be asking the prospect how many they would like, what color they would prefer, when they would like to take delivery, etc. Too many sales professions are either weak or too aggressive when it comes to closing. If you are closing a sale, be sure to ask for the order. If the prospect gives an answer other than "yes", it may be a good opportunity to identify new objections and continue selling.
Follow-up is an often overlooked but important part of the selling process. After an order is received, it is in the best interest of everyone involved for the sales person to follow-up with the prospect to make sure the product was received in the proper condition, at the right time, installed properly, proper training delivered, and that the entire process was acceptable to the customer. This is a critical step in creating customer satisfaction and building long-term relationships with customers. If the customer experienced any problems whatsoever, the sales professional can intervene and become a customer advocate to ensure 100% satisfaction. Diligent follow-up can also lead to uncovering new needs, additional purchases, and also referrals and testimonials which can be used as sales tools.
Managing the sales process is typically the job of the Sales Manager. Good sales managers usually exhibit the characteristics of: organization, a good personal sales record, enthusiasm, ambition, product knowledge, trustworthiness, mentoring skills, and somebody who is respected by others.
While an in-depth discussion of sales management is beyond the scope of this crash-course, I'll mention one tool often used by sales managers to manage the sales process. This is called the Sales Funnel or Sales Pipeline Report.
The Sales Funnel (or Sales Pipeline)
A sales funnel report presents a "snapshot" of your sales function at any given point in time. For conceptual purposes, the sales process is often compared to a funnel where new leads coming into the system (i.e. prospects) are initially placed into the top of the funnel (the widest part) and then worked through the system by informing, persuading, overcoming objections, providing information, demonstrating, providing free samples, etc., etc. until at the narrow part of the funnel, an order is placed and a sales is closed when payment from the customer is received.
The funnel framework works fairly well because for all new leads that are generated by marketing, there is a closing rate that represents the sales that ultimately result. The number of resulting sales is usually significantly less than the number of total leads generated hence it is useful to think that as leads work their way further down the funnel there will be less and less of them until they come out the narrow end of the funnel as sales.
One important thing to note is that organizations define each phase in the sales process (or, part of the funnel) differently. Each step working through the funnel should have clearly defined criteria that go along with it so at each part of the funnel, there is specific knowledge about all the leads at that stage. In other words, leads become more and more qualified as they work their way through the funnel and at each step, you will know exactly what that specific level of qualification is. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the funnel is a great way to track and forecast sales, as well as, gauge marketing activities.
By running a Sales Funnel Report, the sales manager can visually see how many leads are at each step, if there are any "bottlenecks", or if there are an insufficient number of leads at any stage. Armed with that knowledge, then the sales manager may instruct his or her sales force where they should focus more attention to keep sales at the desired level. He or she can then also work closely with the marketing manager to ensure they are generating enough leads to hit sales goals, whether the leads are of high enough quality, or what further needs to be done to hit sales goals.
In short, the funnel can clearly point out what adjustments need to be made within the sales function to hit sales goals. That might mean that marketing activities need to be adjusted, that addition sales training is needed, or that sales personnel need to focus their efforts and activities on certain parts of the sales pipeline to keep the entire process on balance and running smoothly. The sales funnel also helps sales and marketing work closely together to meet organizational sales objectives. It is a wonderful management tool.Sales tips:
I think success in sales depends upon some basics. I can humbly share a few pointers that I think have allowed me to enjoy success in sales:
1) Be sincere with people. Too many sales people act in a manner that seems artificial or they only feign interest in their prospects' problems and concerns. People are smart and see right through such insincerity. If you are not sincere and honest with everyone you meet then you should not be in sales.
2) Sell products or services that you believe in and that have customers you gravitate toward naturally or that you inherently like and want to be around and learn more about. If you do not have a passion for the product and the customers then you will not be happy--or very successful.
3) It is vitally important to constantly hone your sales and communications skills. Continuous growth and training in formal professional selling techniques is also very important. Take training classes, listen to professional development audio podcasts and seminars, read all the professional development material you can get your hands on, and start a program of self-study and development in sales today if you haven't already.
4) First listen to your customer, understand his or her wants and needs, and only then try to determine whether or not you can deliver the product or services to meet those wants and needs. If you approach a prospect with a solution before understanding the problem you are likely to be wrong about the solution.
5) The best sales people ask a lot of questions and genuinely listen to the answers before speaking again.
6) Your prospects and customers are all different so you should treat them differently.
7) The best sales people listen much more than they talk.
8) Find out what your prospects want and then give it to them.
9) If you cannot give your prospects what they want tell them so and help them find what they are looking for elsewhere...or at least point them in the right direction. You'll help them and learn more about your own market in the process.
10) If you think that you cannot make it in sales as a profession then you probably should not even try.
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