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 Wisdom to Win
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Personal sellingPersonal selling


Personal selling is...

Face to face selling to customers, carried out by the organization’s salespeople or sales force.


Where is it used?

Personal selling is particularly important for:

  • business customers.
  • pharmaceutical drugs.
  • financial services (e.g. insurance).


Why is it useful?

It is expensive but creates close relationships with customers who can ask questions.

The salesperson can ask for an order and negotiate on price.

Telephone selling is cheaper but more impersonal and irritating.


What is the  Pareto 80/20 rule? 

 80% of sales (or profits) come from 20% of products (or people).


How to sell well (AIDA)

Personal selling

AIDA summarizes the four key points of successful selling: attention, interest, desire and action.

We shall now look at these in more detail.


1. Attention

First impressions should grab the potential buyer’s attention, so:

  • Make every word count (first impressions are made in the first five seconds, so the opening statement is vital).
  • Smile and enjoy it!
  • Meet at a convenient time.
  • Look and act like a professional (be smart and appear knowledgeable – salespeople must be well trained and motivated e.g. through commission).
  • Come prepared with detailed information about customers and product benefits, ready to deliver a short, persuasive sales presentation, if necessary.

 Personal selling

2. Interest

A salesperson has around 15 seconds to create some interest by emphasizing the product’s unique perceived benefit (UPB) that competitors can’t offer.

People only buy benefits i.e. the difference the product will make to their organization and them personally.

Such benefits will come from its features and advantages (these three things that buyers look for are called FAB’s).

For example, the iPhone's (pictured right)  FAB's are: Personal selling

  • Features: phone, Internet, iPod, camera, e-mail, iTunes.
  • Advantages: style, reputation of the Apple brand, mobile Internet access with telephone.
  • Benefits: time saving, mobility, style.
  • UPB: technical excellence with Apple’s style and brand.


3. Desire

Customers will desire a product, if its benefits are perceived as valuable and unique (i.e. better than competitors).

So a salesperson must:

  • Understand customers' point of view and never make them feel inferior (e.g. through using technical jargon).
  • Listen and respond to their needs and problems. Personal selling 
  • Realize what’s important is what people actually hear (which isn’t necessarily what’s said).
  • Create rapport and trust (avoiding criticism and arguments).
  • Clearly and concisely communicate product benefits.
  • Have patient persistence – the customer mustn’t be rushed or deterred by rejection.


4. ActionPersonal selling

This is the decision to buy (perhaps after negotiation e.g. over price) leading to the completion of the sale (called closure).

The buyer will need little or no encouragement to do so, if the salesperson has done his (or her) job properly.

Closure shouldn’t be seen as the end but the start of a long-term customer relationship that delivers repeat purchases.



Key quotes explained


Personal selling

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself”

- Peter Drucker , American management writer (pictured right)

Great products sell themselves, because they provide benefits to customers including intangibles like image and psychological well-being.

“In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope”, said Charles Revson, founder of Revlon cosmetics.



Personal selling

“The successful salesperson cares first for the customers, second for the products”

- Philip Kotler, American marketing professor (pictured right)

How salespeople talk to customers is vital. “A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger”, the Bible’s Book of Proverbs says.



Personal selling

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners”

- James Stewart , American film star (pictured right)

Customers must be treated as equal partners and persuaded to buy with integrity and mutual trust and respect.

But there is a fine line between persuasion and manipulation.

The founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, said, “The definition of salesmanship is the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way”.


Best books


Personal selling

Dale Carnegie (pictured right) , How To Win Friends and Influence People (1936)

The only way to influence people is to talk enthusiastically about what they want and show them how they can do it.

So be friendly (don’t criticize) and understand their needs and point of view.

(For more detail see How To Win Friends and Influence People in the Business Books section).



Personal selling

Robert Miller (pictured right) and Stephen Heiman , The New Strategic Selling (1985)

Salespeople should concentrate on not only the most likely customers (the “best few”) but also potential customers in the “sales funnel” who have been contacted and are listening to what you’ve got to say.

Don’t focus on competitors but customer benefits.



Personal selling

Robert Cialdini (pictured right) , Influence (1984)

There are six ways to persuade people to buy:

  • Do what they ask (reciprocity).
  • Follow their past purchases based on their attitudes and beliefs (commitment and consistency).
  • Make sure they like you (liking).
  • Sell something they want but is scarce e.g. limited offers (scarcity).
  • Talk with authority.
  • Point out that other people are buying it (social proof).



Personal selling

Jack Mitchell (pictured right) , Hug Your Customers (2003)

Make your customers special e.g. by sending personal letters to big customers.

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