What is Personal Selling? Definition, Advantages, Importance, Disadvantage

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What is Personal Selling?

Personal selling is a promotional method in which one party (e.g. salesperson) uses skills and techniques for building personal relationships with another party is personal selling, here both parties obtain value.

The salesperson obtains value by getting financial rewards of sale while the customer obtains value by getting the benefits obtained by consuming the product. Selling is sometimes simply use to deliver the information.

Personal selling involves a face to face interaction with the customers wherein there is quick response and personal confrontation. This allows for more specific adjustment of the message. The communication message can be adjusted as per the customer’s specific needs or wants.

The ultimate purpose of personal selling is to sell the goods to their ultimate buyers by bringing the right goods and services into contact with the right customers. Therefore, personal selling is said to be the “Backbone of Marketing“.

Definition of Personal Selling

Richard Buskirk defines it as Personal selling consists of contacting prospective buyers of product personally.

According to William J. Stanton – Personal selling consists in individual personal communication, in contrast to mass relatively impersonal communication of advertisings sales promotion and other promotional tools.

Oral presentation is a conversation with one or more prospective purchaser for the purpose of making sales. – American Marketing Association

Advantages of Personal Selling

Advantages of Personal Selling are:

  1. Allowing for two-way interaction
  2. Tailoring of Message
  3. Lack of Distraction
  4. Involvement in the Decision Process
  5. Source of Research Information

Allowing for two-way interaction

As it is two-way communication between the buyer and the promoter the queries whatever raised by the buyer can be unanimously solved. In case of mass communications this direct feedback is not available and such information cannot be obtained immediately.

Tailoring of Message

Due to direct interaction, messages can be customized to the receiver. This more precise message content lets the sender address the consumer’s specific concerns, problems, and needs. The sales representative can also determine when to move on to the next selling point, ask for the sale, or close the deal.

Lack of Distraction

In personal selling, one-to-one presentations are conducted, hence the chance of distractions is minimized and the buyer is generally paying close attention to the sales message.

Even when the presentation is made by a group of salespeople or more than one decision-maker is present, the setting is less distracting than those in which no personal mass media are used.

Involvement in the Decision Process

Through consultative selling and relationship marketing, the supplier becomes more of a partner in the buying decision process, acting in combination with the buyer to solve problems. This makes the buyer rely more on the sales representative and his or her products and services.

Source of Research Information

In personal selling the sales representatives can collect information on competitors’ products and services, promotions, pricing, and so on, personally. In addition, they can learn about the buying behaviour of customers and potential customers.

As you can see, the advantages of personal selling focus primarily on the dyadic communications process, the ability to alter the message, and the opportunity for direct feedback. Sometimes, however, these potential advantages are not always realized.In fact, they may become disadvantages.

Disadvantages of Personal Selling

  1. High cost-per-action (CPA)
  2. Training Costs
  3. Job Turnover
  4. Inconsistent Messages

High cost-per-action (CPA)

CPA can be an important measure of the success of promotion spending, the money spent to support a sales staff (i.e., salesforce) can be steep because it involves person-to-person contact.

Training Costs

Sales staff need to be extensively trained on product knowledge, industry information and selling skills. Training cost may include travel, hotel, meals and training equipment and their salaries.

Job Turnover

Job turnover in sales is often much higher than in other marketing positions. Mainly salespeople leave a job because of geographic territory. So the company has to recruit and train staff frequently.

Inconsistent Messages

We know that the ability to adapt the message to the receiver is a unique advantage of personal selling. But the lack of a standardized message can become a disadvantage.

The message to be communicated is generally designed by the marketing staff with a particular communications objective in mind.

Once this message has been determined, it is communicated to all receivers. But the salespeople may alter this message in ways the marketer did not mean. Thus, the marketing staff is at the compassion of the sales force with respect to what exactly is communicated.

Techniques of Personal Selling

Today, the work of the salesman is not just limited to sales but cultivation of relationships.

Process of Personal Selling include:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Pre Approach
  3. Approach
  4. Sales Presentation
  5. Handling of Customer Objections
  6. Closing the Deal
  7. Follow Up


The first requirement in personal selling is narrowing down the selling effort to the targeted customers. Prospecting involves developing and following all the leads to identify potential target customers and this requires hard work and proper time management.

Pre Approach

Once the salesperson identifies a set of prospects and customers, the salesperson should try to learn as much as possible about the individual or company needs.

In case of a company, the salesperson should collect as much information as possible about the company’s products, competition, market, potential sales volume, the purchase procedure, who is involved in influencing a purchase decision, who is the final authority for making a purchase decision, and their personal traits.


It is extremely important for the salesperson to determine how the customer should be greeted. The first impression is not just important but crucial to the success of a sales call. The salesperson must look and act like a professional.

A salesperson should select an approach that suits her/his personality and judgment about the specific sales situation. Homer B. Smith has recommended different approaches. Some proven techniques include:

  • Ask Questions: Questions should preferably be relevant to sales presentation.

  • Use a Referral: Preferably someone favourably known to the potential customer.

  • Offer a Benefit or Service: This can be quite effective if relevant to customer’s need.

  • Complement the Prospect: It is a good way to establish rapport if there is anything the prospect has achieved.

Sales Presentation

Salespersons can use different approaches to making a sales presentations. The oldest method is the stimulus-response theory of learning (sometimes called the canned presentation).

This approach reflects the belief that a customer will buy a product or service if exposed to the right stimuli, such as words, terms, pictures, and actions etc. The salesperson memorises the sales presentation, including when to do what, and with the customer after customer repeats it.

Handling of Customer Objections

All salespersons, encounter sales resistance and this resistance often takes the form of objections. Some of these objections may be rational, or may be purely psychological.

A salesperson should be prepared to face such objections. However, no matter how well-prepared a salesperson is, there is always a chance that a customer may raise some objection for which the salesperson has to come up with a solution immediately on his own.

The salesperson must possess a good degree of presence of mind. In most situations, a good product and competition knowledge, and an understanding of human behaviour are of considerable help to salespersons.

Closing the Deal

Closing refers to asking for the order. After making an effective sales presentation, the salesperson is ready to ask for the order. Closing is the sum total of all the sales presentation steps. It is the very reason for which the prospect was contacted.

Many salespeople, perhaps because they lack confidence, feel uneasy, fail to perceive the positive cues indicating the prospect’s readiness, and fail to take the step of asking for order.

Follow Up

Post-purchase follow up is very important in building customer confidence and long-term relationship with the company. The salesperson contacts customer to learn if there are any problems and answers any questions that the customer does.

He also contacts customers regularly to ascertain that they are happy with their purchase and offered services.

Objectives of Personal Selling

  1. Building Product Awareness
  2. Creating Interest
  3. Providing Information
  4. Stimulating Demand
  5. Reinforcing the Brand

Building Product Awareness

To educate customers on new product offerings is major task for salespeople. In fact, salespeople serve a major role at industry trades, where they discuss products with show attendees. However, building awareness is also important in consumer markets.

Creating Interest

The personal selling involves person-to-person communication, creating interest goes hand-in-hand with building product awareness as sales professionals can often accomplish both objectives during the first encounter with a potential customer.

Providing Information

salespeople receive large amount of sales support including brochures, research reports, computer programs and many other forms of informational material from organisation. Salespeople‘s conversation focus on product information.

Stimulating Demand

The main objective of personal selling is to convince customers to make a purchase.

Reinforcing the Brand

Regular and frequent meetings with customer help to build a long-term relationships. This requires regular communication with a customer, which again help customer to strengthen their knowledge about product.

Characteristics of Personal Selling

Personal selling occurs where an individual salesperson sells a product, service or solution to a client. Salespeople match the benefits of their offering to the specific needs of a client. Personal selling has the following features:

  • Feedback: As it is a face-to-face process the feedback from the clients are directly received by the sales personnel.

  • Persuasion: Clients or customers can be persuaded to buy the product or the salesman can convince them to buy the product.

  • Flexibility: The sales presentation can be adapted according to the situations or clients.

  • Builds Relationships: A bond is made between the company and the customer through personal selling. For example, marketing relationship is created between two persons.

  • Efficient Communicative Interchange: It is a two-fold communication where the message is conveyed and the reply is also received immediately.

  • Process: It is a set of activities and not a single activity. The process continues infinitely.

  • Mutual Benefit: It is a two-way process, both buyer and seller are benefited from this.

  • Supply of Information: The customers are made aware of the company’s product. For example, valuable information is supplied to the customers about the availability of the product, special features, uses, prices, offers, etc.

  • Promotes Sales: The end objective is achieved through this, i.e., promotion of sales is achieved.

  • Expensive: Recruiting, training, and development of the sales force is an

Importance of Personal Selling

Personal selling is an important element of promotion mix and an effective promotional tool. As you have already noted, personal selling is a process that offers mutual benefit, both to the customer and to the seller. Personal selling offers the following compensation.

  1. Flexible Tool
  2. Involves Minimum Wasted Effort
  3. Results in Actual Sale
  4. Provides Feedback
  5. Complements Advertising
  6. Educates Customers
  7. Assists the Society

Flexible Tool

Personal selling involves individual and personal communication as compared to the mass and impersonal communication of advertising and sales promotion. Therefore, personal selling is most flexible in operation.

A salesman can tailor his sales presentation to fit the needs, motives and attitudes of individual customers. He can observe the customer’s reaction to a particular sales approach and thus make necessary adjustments right on the spot. Face-to-face contact with customers is the most effective means of communication and persuasion.

Involves Minimum Wasted Effort

In personal selling, a salesman can select the target market and concentrate on the prospective customers. He need not communicate with the people who are not the real prospects. Therefore, personal selling involves minimum wastage of effort.

Results in Actual Sale

Advertising and sales promotion techniques can only attract attention and arouse desire. By themselves they cannot create an actual sale. Personal selling in most cases leads to actual sale.

A salesman can find prospective buyers, demonstrate the product, explain its operation, and convince customers to buy it, install it at the customer’s place and provide after-sales service. No other method of promotion can perform all these functions.

Therefore, personal selling does the entire job of selling. Personal selling is a complete promotional technique of keeping customers satisfied.

Provides Feedback

Personal selling involves two-way flow of communication between buyer and seller. It is a useful method of understanding the needs and behaviour of customers. It provides knowledge about the tastes, habits and attitudes of the prospective customers.

Complements Advertising

In most situations, there is a need for explaining the uses and price of the product. Salesmen can persuade the prospective customers to buy a product. Advertising attracts customers but their doubts and questions about the product are answered by salesmen.

In this way personal selling supports advertising. Salesmen educate the consumers about new products and about new and varied uses of existing products.

Educates Customers

Salesmanship is not simply a tool of convincing people to buy certain products. It assists customers in satisfying their wants. A salesman provides: information, education and guidance to customers. He handles their complaints and assists them in getting value for their money. He can clear their doubts on the spot.

Assists the Society

Salesmen help to increase aggregate sales and production in the country thereby increasing employment opportunities. They help to maintain equilibrium between demand and supply.


  • V. S. Ramaswamy, S. Namakumari; 2009; Marketing Management; MacMillan Publishers Pvt Ltd.
  • Kotler, Keller, Koshy, Jha; 2009; 13th Edition; Marketing Management: A South Asian Perspective.

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