Personal selling – definition and examples

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Definition of personal selling

Personal selling is one of the major elements of promotional mix. It is a face-to-face activity which takes place between the sales force of a company and the customers. According to Lancaster, & Reynolds (2004), it  is about personal communication of information with a view to persuading customers to purchase, so it is a major communications tool.

Examples of personal selling

Personal selling is of different types. For example, many companies send their sales executives to make sales presentations at prospective customers’ homes or businesses on a face-to-face basis. This type of selling is sometimes called door-to-door selling. Personal selling can also be conducted in retail and some wholesale locations in which customers come to the seller’ place of business. This type of selling is also called over-the-counter selling.

Advantages of personal selling

Personal selling is very useful when a detailed explanation or demonstration of product is required. For example, energy companies often send their sales advisors door to door to explain a variety of gas and electricity tariffs to their customers. This helps customers to make an informed decision.

As personal selling is a face-to-face activity, customers can therefore obtain a relatively high degree of personal attention. The sales advisors can address customers’ concerns on the spot and can use personal persuasion to make a sale.

The sales advisors can customize the sales messages to fit the needs of each prospective customer. They can also demonstrate products where required. Meetings between sales force and customers provide an opportunity to build good long-term relationships which is very important for a company to increase its customer retention rate.

Disadvantages of personal selling

Personal selling may sometimes be very expensive from a company’s perspective. For example, sales farces are usually paid a basic salary and commissions on the sales made. Companies may also provide them with some other benefits e.g. travel expenses. When everything is put together, maintaining a sales force may become costly.

Conflict is another issue to consider. Sales are always target-driven. Management may sometimes set targets that the sales force may consider very difficult (if not impossible) to achieve. This may create a conflict between managers and their sales advisors. In addition, customers in general do not like aggressive techniques used by some sales executives to make a sale.

In a nutshell, personal selling can play an important role in the marketing communications of a company. Putting disadvantages aside,  selling with personal attention and detail is sometimes necessary when demonstration of products to customers is required. For example, a customer would like to see a sofa in DFS before buying it. A Salesperson in DFS can show it to the customer and address any questions from the latter. It should be noted that personal selling alone may not be effective sometimes. Therefore, it may be necessary for companies to use it in conjunction with other promotional mix elements e.g. advertising and sales promotion.

The article publication date: 14th February 2017

Further reading/references

Lancaster, G. & Reynolds, P. (2004) Marketing, 1st Edition, Palgrave Macmillan

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Author: Joe David

Joe David has years of teaching 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. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.