The Personal Selling Process

selling process The steps that the salesperson follows when selling, which include prospecting uiul qualifying, preapprouch, approach, pre sentatkm and demonstration, handling objections, closing a nd follow-up.

prospecting

The step in the selling process in which the salesperson identifies qualified potential customers.

Companies spend a huge amount of money on seminars, books, cassettes and other materials to teach salespeople the 'art' of selling. Millions of books on selling are purchased every year, with tantalizing titles such as How to Sei! Anything to Anybody, How / Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling, The Four-Minute Sell, Tlie Best Seller, The Power of Enthusiastic Selling, Where Do You Go from No. 1 ? and Winning Through Intimidation. One of the most enduring books on selling is Dale Carnegie's II(w> to Win Friends and Influence People, which is marketed all over the world.

Effective companies take a customer-oriented approach to personal selling. They train salespeople to identify customer needs and to find solutions. This approach assumes that customer needs provide sales opportunities, that customers appreciate good suggestions and that customers will be loyal to salespeople who have their long-term interests at heart — salespeople who do their homework, uncover customer needs and present convincing arguments of mutual benefits for both organizations. By contrast, those companies that use a sales-oriented approach rely on high-pressure selling techniques. They assume that the customers will not buy except under pressure, that they are influenced by a slick presentation and that they will not be sorry after signing the order (and that, even if they are, it no longer matters). The problem-solver salesperson fits better with the marketing concept than does the hard-sell salesperson. Buyers today want solutions, not smiles; results, not razzle-dazzle. They want salespeople who listen to their concerns, understand their needs and respond with the right products and services. A recent study showed that the qualities that purchasing agents dislike most in salespeople include being pushy, late and unprepared or disorganized. The qualities they value most include empathy, honesty, dependability, thoroughness and follow-through.14

Steps in the Selling Process

Most training programmes view the selling proeess as consisting of several steps that the salesperson must master (sec Figure 20.2). These steps focus on the goal of getting new customers and ohtaining orders from them. However, many salespeople spend much of their time maintaining existing accounts and building long-term customer relationships. More discussion of the relationship aspect of the personal selling proeess will be found in the final section of this chapter. For a fuller discussion of key account management and its importance in sustaining customer relationships, see Chapter 11.

• Prospecting and Qualifying

The first step in the selling process is prospecting - identifying qualified potential customers. The salesperson must approach many prospects to get just a few sales.

Steps Effective Selling
Figure 20.2

Primary steps in effective selling

Although the company supplies some leads, salespeople need skill in finding their own. They can ask current customers for the names of prospects. They can build referral sources, such as suppliers, dealers, non-competing salespeople and bankers. They ean join organizations to which prospects belong, or can engage in speaking and writing aetivities that will draw attention. They can search for names in newsletters or directories and use the telephone and post to track down leads. Or they ean drop in unannounced on various offices (a practice known as 'cold calling'). Cold calling, however, may not always be appropriate, as in the case of German or Japanese organizations, where third-party introduction is the norm.

Salespeople need to know how to qualify leads: that is, how to identify the good ones and screen out the poor ones. Prospects can be qualified by looking at their financial ability, volume of business, special needs, location and possibilities for sales growth.

Preapproach

Before calling on a prospect, the salesperson should learn as much as possible about the organization (what it needs, who is involved in the buying) and its buyers (their characteristics and buying styles). This step is known as the pre-approach. The salesperson can consult standard business direetories or information sources (e.g. Moody's, Standard & Poor's, Dun & Bradstreet), acquaintances and others to learn about the company. The salesperson should set call objectives, which may be to qualify the prospect, to gather information or to make an immediate sale. Another task is to decide on the best approach, which might be a personal visit, a phone call or a letter. The best timing should be considered, carefully because many prospects are busiest at certain times. Finally, the salesperson should give thought to an overall sales strategy for the account.

preapproach

The step in the selling process in which the salesperson learns as much as possible about a prospective customer before making a sales call.

Approach

During the approach step, the salesperson should know how to meet and greet the buyer, and get the relationship off to a good start. The salesperson's appearance, his or her opening lines and the follow-up remarks have a great deal of impact on relationship building in this early phase of the sales process. The opening lines should be positive: "Mr Johnson, I am Chris Henderson from the All tech Company. My company and I appreciate your willingness to see me. I will do my best to make this visit profitable and worthwhile for you and your company.' This opening might be followed by some key questions to learn more about the customer's needs, or the showing of a display or sample to attract the buyer's attention and curiosity.

approach

The step in the selling process in which the salesperson meets and greets the buyer to get the relationship off to a good start.

Presentation and Demonstration presentation

The step in the selling process in which the salesperson tells the produce 'story Co the buyer, showing how the product will make or save money for the buyer.

The presentation is that step in the selling process where the salesperson tells the product 'story' to the buyer, showing how the product will make or save money. The salesperson describes the product features, but concentrates on presenting cits turner benefits.

Companies may use three styles of sales presentation: the canned approach; the formula approach; or the need-satisfaction approach. The canned approach is the oldest type and consists of a memorized or scripted talk covering the seller's main points. This approach has limited usefulness in industrial selling, but scripted presentations can be effective in some telephone-selling situations. A properly prepared and rehearsed script should sound natural and move the salesperson smoothly through the presentation. With electronic scripting, computers can lead the salesperson through a sequence of selling messages tailored on the spot to the prospect's responses.

Using the formula approach, the salesperson first identifies the buyer's needs, attitudes and buying style. The salesperson then moves into a formula presentation that shows how the product will satisfy that buyer's needs. Although not canned, the presentation follows a general plan.

The need-satisfaction approach starts with a search for the customer's needs by getting the customer to do most of the talking. This approach calls for good listening and problem-solving skills. One marketing director describes the approach this way;

[High-performing salespeople] make it a point to understand customer needs and goals before they pull anything out of their product bag ... Such salespeople spend the time needed to get an in-depth knowledge of the customer's business, asking questions that will lead to solutions our systems can address.15

Sales presentations can be improved with demonstration aids, such as booklets, flip charts, slides, videotapes or videodiscs, and product samples. If buyers can see or handle the product, they will better remember its features and benefits.

handling objections

The step in the selling process in ichich the salesperson necks out, clarifies and overcomes customer objections m buying.

dosing

The step in the selling process in which the salesperson aska the customer for an order.

• Handling Objections

Customers almost always have objections during the presentation or when asked to place an order. The problem can be either logical or psychological, and objections are often unspoken. In handling objections, the salesperson should use a positive approach, seek out "hidden objections, ask the buyer to clarify any objections, take objections as opportunities to provide more information, and turn the objections into reasons for buying. Every salesperson should be trained in the skills of handling objections.

After handling the prospect's objections, the salesperson now tries to close the sale. Some salespeople do not get around to closing or do not handle it well. They may lack confidence, feel guilty about asking for the order or fail to recognize the right moment to close the sale. Salespeople should know how to spot closing signals from the buyer, including physical actions, comments and <|uestions. For example, the customer might sit forward and nod approvingly or ask about prices and credit terras. Salespeople can use one of several closing techniques. They can ask for the order, review points of agreement, offer to help write up the order, ask

Selling to the United Slates, Japan and China: Some Guidelines for European Businesses

Personal selling is the least easily controlled part of International marketing. Businesspeople selling abroad must adopt selling styles

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