Personal Selling

  • Post last modified:6 December 2020
  • Reading time:7 mins read

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“.

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.

Definition of Personal Selling

Personal selling consists of contacting prospective buyers of product personallyRichard Buskirk
Personal selling consists in individual personal communication, in contrast to mass relatively impersonal communication of advertisings sales promotion and other promotional toolsWilliam J. Stanton
Oral presentation is a conversation with one or more prospective purchaser for the purpose of making salesAmerican Marketing Association

Advantages of Personal Selling

Advantages of Personal Selling are:

  1. Allowing for two-way interaction
  2. Tailoring of the message
  3. Lack of distraction
  4. Involvement in the decision process
  5. Source of research information

Allowing for two-way interaction: As it is a 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 suchinformation cannot be obtained immediately.

Tailoring of the 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 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
  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 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.

The selling and relationship building techniques 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 sales presentation. The oldest method is the stimulus-response theory of learning (sometimes called 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 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 is 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.


  • 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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