Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Personal selling

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Personal selling

Personal selling process refers to a process that occurs when a sales representative meets with a potential client for the purpose of transacting a sale. Many sales representatives rely on a sequential sales process that typically includes nine steps. Some sales representatives develop scripts for all or part of the sales process. The sales process can be used in face-to-face encounters and in telemarketing.


Types of selling roles

Sales activity can occur in the field by representatives who call on clients, in a retail or wholesale environment where sales personnel attend to customers by processing orders or in a telemarketing environment where the sales person makes telephone calls to prospects. Different types of sales roles can be identified:

  • Order takers refers to selling that occurs primarily at the wholesale or retail levels. Order processing involves determining the customer needs, pointing to inventory that meets the customer needs and completing the order.
  • Order getters refers to the in-field sales activity where a sales representative travels to the client's home or work place to makes a sales presentation in order to win new business or to maintain relations with existing clients.
  • Missionary Selling is often seen as a sales support role. The missionary sales person distributes information about products or services, describes product attributes and leaves materials but does not normally close the sale. The missionary sales person often prepares the way for a field sales person. For example, a pharmaceutical sales representative may call on doctors and leave samples, manufacturer information such as results of clinical trials, copies of relevant journal articles etc. in an effort to persuade doctors to prescribe a medication or course of treatment.
  • Cold calling refers to a situation when a sales representative telephones or visits a customer without a prior appointment. Cold calling is often considered to be the most challenging of the sales activities. In a cold calling situation, the sales representative is likely to be more conscious of the client's time, and may seek to condense the sales process by combining the approach and the sales presentation into a single step.
  • Relationship selling (also known as consultative selling) refers to a sales practice that involves building and maintaining interactions with customers in order to enhance long term relationships. Relationship selling often involves a problem solving approach where the sales representative acts in a consultative role and becomes a partner in the client's problem-solving exercise. Relationship selling is often found in high-tech selling environments.
  • The nine step sales process

    See also Lead generation; Lead management; Sales presentation; Sales promotion

    The first text to outline the steps in the selling process was published in 1918 by Norval Watkins. The basic steps, which have changed only a little since Watkins first proposed them, are: prospecting, qualifying leads, preapproach, approach, need assessment, presentation, meeting objections, closing the sale and following up.

    Prospecting Identifying prospects or prospecting occurs when the sales person seeks to identify leads or prospects (i.e., people who are likely to be in the market for the offer). To identify prospects, sales representatives might use a variety of sources such as business directories (for corporate clients), commercial databases or mailing lists or simply look at internal records such as lists of lapsed customers. The aim of prospecting is to increase the likelihood that sales staff spend time with potential clients who have an interest in the product or service.

    Qualifying leads After identifying potential customers, the sales team must determine whether prospects represent genuine potential customers. This part of the process is known as qualifying leads, or leads who are likely to buy. Qualified leads are those who have a need for the product, a capacity to pay and a willingness to pay for the product, and are willing to be contacted by the salesperson.

    Pre-approach refers to the process of preparing for the presentation. This consists of customer research, goal planning, scheduling an appointment and any other tasks necessary to prepare for the sales presentation.

    Approach refers to the stage when the salesperson initially meets with the customer. Since first contact leaves an impression on the buyer, professional conduct, including attire, a handshake, and eye contact, is advised.

    Need assessment An important component of the sales presentation is the assessment of the customer's needs. Salespeople should evaluate the customer based on the need for the product. Sales representatives typically ask questions designed to reveal the prospective client's current situation, the source of any problems, the impact of the problems, the benefits of the solution, the client's prior experience with the brand or the categpory, the prospect's general level of interest and readiness to purchase. In the case of corporate clients, it may be necessary to ascertain any limitations on the prospect's authority to make a purchase (e.g. financial restrictions).

    Sales presentation Once the salesperson knows the needs, he or she is ready for the presentation. Sales representatives often follow the AIDA model, which allows them to lead the prospect through the standard stages of the purchase decision process. The steps in the AIDA process are to grab the customer’s Attention, ignite Interest, create Desire, and inspire Action (AIDA). The salesperson can do this through product demonstrations and presentations that show the features, advantages and benefits of the product.

    Handling objections After the presentation, the sales person must be ready to handle any objections. Customers who are interested will voice their concerns, usually in one of four ways. They might question the price or value of the product, dismiss the product/service as inadequate, avoid making a commitment to buy, or refuse because of an unknown factor. Salespeople should do their best to anticipate objections and respectfully respond to them.

    Closing When the sales person feels that the prospect is ready, they will seek to gain commitment and close the sale. If the sales person is unsure about the prospect's readiness to buy, they might consider using a 'trial close.' The salesperson can use several different techniques to close the sale; including the ‘alternative close’, the ‘assumptive close’, the ‘summary close’, or the ‘special-offer close’, among others.

    Follow-up Finally, the salesperson must remember to follow up. Following up will ensure customer satisfaction and help establish a relationship with the customer.

    Sales scripts

    The use of tightly written sales scripts has been known for hundreds of years. Itinerant medicine salesmen were known to use sales scripts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Experienced sales representatives soon recognise that specific words and phrases have the capacity to elicit desirable behaviours on the part of the prospect. Research studies can also be carried out to determine the most effective words/phrases or the optimal sequence of words/phrases for use in effective sales scripts. A number of research studies have focussed on the types of the use of verbal persausive techniques that can be used to convince prospects such as information exchange, the use of recommendations, requests, promises, or ingratiation. Other research has focused on influence techniques employed. Well-known examples include the:

    Door-In-The-Face technique (DITF): where the target request is presented as a concession to an unreasonably large initial request Disrupt-Then-Reframe technique (DTR): where a conventional sales script is interrupted by a subtle, odd element (i.e., a disruptive element) and then followed by a persuasive phrase that

    concludes the script (i.e., “reframing”)

    Once identified, these words, phrases and techniques can be used to build highly effective sales scripts that are known to work. The most effective sales scripts can codified and used by other sales persons or in sales training.

    Many sales scripts are designed to move the prospect sequentially through the cognitive, affective and behavioural stages of the purchase decision process and are designed around the [AIDA (marketing)|AIDA model] (attention →interest →desire →action]. Most sales representatives include a greeting, closing and call to action in their scripts. A call to action (CTA) is simply an instruction to the prospect designed to prompt an immediate response. It often involves the use of an imperative verb such as "try it now" or "find out more." Other types of calls-to-action might provide consumers with strong reasons for purchasing immediately such an offer that is only available for a limited time, e.g. 'Limited stocks available' or a special deal usually accompanied by a time constraint, e.g. 'Order before midnight to receive a free gift with your order'. The key to a powerful call-to-action is to provide consumers with compelling reasons to purchase promptly rather than defer purchase decisions.

    Sales representatives also learn to recognise specific verbal and non-verbal cues that potentially signal the prospect's readiness to buy. For instance, if a prospect begins to handle the merchandise, this may indicate a state of buyer interest. Clients also tend to employ different types of questions throughout the sales process. General questions such as, "Does it come in any other colours (or styles)? indicate only a moderate level of interest. However, when clients begin to ask specific questions, such as "Do you have this model in black?" then this indicates that the prospect is approaching readiness to buy. When the sales person believes that the prospective buyer is ready to make the purchase, a trial close might be used to test the waters. A trial close is simply any attempt to confirm the buyer's interest in finalising the sale. An example of a trial close, is "Would you be requiring our team to install the unit for you?" or "Would you be available to take delivery next Thursday?"

    Sales scripts are used for both inbound and outbound sales. Sales scripts are commonly used in cold calling, especially phone-based cold calling such as telemarketing (outbound selling) and can also be found in chat-based customer care centres (inbound calling). In such cases, the sales script might be confined to a simple list of talking points that the sales person uses as a reference during their conversation with the prospect.

    Types of sales scripts

    Some sales pitches are entirely scripted while others are only partially scripted allowing the individual sales representatives the flexibility to vary the presentation according to their assessment of the client's needs and interests. However, most effective sales representatives develop scripts for handling common objections and almost always have a number of different trial closes at hand.

    There are three broad types of sales script:

    Prescribed scripts Prescribed scripts are highly detailed scripts which specify precise phrases to be used in given situations. Prescribed scripts are widely used in a variety of contexts including direct selling, market research, fast food service.

    The main advantages of prescribed scripts are:

  • can enable speedy transactions
  • provides uniform uniform delivery.
  • The main disadvanages of a prescribed script are:

  • tendency for the delivery to become robotic and lacking in authenticity
  • Goal-Driven Scripts Goal driven scripts are more flexible. This type of script defines the goals for each type of transaction and allow employees to use their own phrases during the encounter. Provided that employees have a clear picture of the goals and purpose, goal-driven scripts can appear more natural and authentic. However the use of goal-driven scripts requires employees with well developed communication skills.

    Hybrid Approach The hybrid approach offers a choice within a range of scripts. This approach is neither prescribed nor totally flexible. It provides a range of scripts from which employees select an option with which they feel comfortable.


    Personal selling Wikipedia

    Similar Topics