Advantages and disadvantages of personal selling
This is a detailed article on the advantages and disadvantages of personal selling. It identifies some of the main advantages that organisations should enjoy if they used personal selling and the potential challenges that could be associated with it. It also explores related issues such as definition of personal selling, skills, abilities, and qualities of salespeople, and objectives of personal selling.
Definition of personal selling
According to BPP Publishing Media (2000) personal selling is the use of salespeople to sell and supply goods. It is also sometimes called direct selling.
According to Baron et al. (1991) personal selling is the presentation of products and associated persuasive communication to potential clients, employed by the supplying organisation. It is the most direct and longest established means of promotion within the promotional mix.
To sum up the two definitions above, it can be said that personal selling is two-way communication tool. As it is interactive in nature, it is very useful to understand consumers’ immediate reactions and build their trust.
Advantages of personal selling
Personal selling is heavily used by many companies around the world. It offers a great deal of customised and contextualised communications and interactions with potential customers. It can be uniquely powerful and persuasive at times. Personal sales force provides customers with detailed information that may be very useful for them to make a positive purchase decision.
Personal selling is sometimes necessary. For instance, products with relatively high costs or complex information are better presented to customers by personal sales forces. Cars, houses, services such as gas and electricity, and many other industrial products can be considered in this regard. If products/services are of good quality, then promoting them with an experienced sales force should yield good results for companies.
Consumers often need reassurance, particularly when it comes to buying new products/services. Personal sales force can provide them with that reassurance by addressing any concerns they have directly. They can also do so by demonstrating that the customers are with qualified and knowledgeable staff who are there to help them in the buying process and afterwards if needed.
Personal selling could be very useful to support other elements in the promotional mix such as advertising and sales promotion. Once a product/service is advertised, the sales force can reinforce the message with their product knowledge while meeting the prospective clients. Likewise, they can also remind customers of the sales promotions such as buy one get one free, and 50% reduction/discount.
If immediate feedback from customers is required, then personal selling can be a useful tool. Salespeople can not only assess the immediate reactions of the customers, but also assess whether the customers are interested or have any intention to buy at the end of sales visits/calls.
Disadvantages of personal selling
Maintaining a large sales force can be very costly sometimes. In addition to paying a basic salary, companies often need to offer sales executives commissions on sales to inspire them and make them more productive and generate more sales.
Though personal sales executives can often persuade customers to buy something, their aggressive and pressurised approach (if adopted) may turn out to be a cause to put many customers off. This aggressive approach does not pay in the long term.
Some sales executives may have over confidence and think that customers will believe everything they say. However, customers may have their own theories and may not accept their claims at all.
In B2C contexts, personal sales forces are often perceived negatively and indeed unwanted by customers. Therefore, the initial part of the communication is often clouded with customers’ lack of interest and even scepticism.
High employee turnover (i.e. the rate of employees leaving their jobs) is high in the sales industry. It costs companies badly to hire new staff now and then and train them from the scratch.
Skills, abilities, and qualities of salespeople
According to Mayer and Greenberg (2006), a good salesman must have two fundamental qualities i.e. empathy and ego drive.
According to Cambridge Dictionary (2021) empathy refers to the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation. Indeed, it is a very important quality that all salespeople must possess. Otherwise, there is a risk of aggressive and pressurised techniques being used by them during sales calls/visits.
Salespeople must have ego drives. They must feel that they must make sales and the customers are there to help them achieve their personal goals.
According to Jobber and Lancaster (2000) sales executives need to have a number of skills and abilities e.g., communications skills, personality, determination, motivation, product knowledge, confidence, good appearance, integrity, ambition, self-discipline, empathy, persuasiveness, and ambition.
Objectives of personal selling
Companies may use personal salesforce to achieve a number of objectives. For example:
To identify new customers
To create awareness of their products/services
To convince customers to purchase their products/services.
We hope the article ‘Advantages and disadvantages of personal selling’ has been helpful. You may also like reading Personal selling – definition and examples. Other relevant articles for you are:
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Last update: 23 March 2021
Baron, S., Davies, B., and SwindLey, D. (1991) Macmillan Dictionary of Retailing, London: Palgrave Macmillan
BPP Publishing Limited (2000) CIM Study Text: International Marketing Strategy, 2nd edition, London: BPP Publishing Limited
Cambridge Dictionary (2021) Empathy, available at: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/empathy (accessed 22 March 2021)
Jobber, D. and Lancaster, G. (2000) Selling and Sales Management, 5th Edition, Pearson Education Limited
Mayer, D., and Greenberg, H. (2006) What makes a good salesman? Available at: https://hbr.org/2006/07/what-makes-a-good-salesman (accessed 22 March 2021)
Author: Joe David
Joe David has years of experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality and tourism management.