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16.17: Reading: Personal Selling

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  • People Power

    A man in front of a computer talking on the phone.Personal selling uses in-person interaction to sell products and services. This type of communication is carried out by sales representatives, who are the personal connection between a buyer and a company or a company’s products or services. Salespeople not only inform potential customers about a company’s product or services, they also use their power of persuasion and remind customers of product characteristics, service agreements, prices, deals, and much more. In addition to enhancing customer relationships, this type of marketing communications tool can be a powerful source of customer feedback, as well. Later we’ll cover marketing alignment with the sales process in greater detail. This section focuses on personal selling as one possible tool in the promotional mix.


    Common Personal Selling Techniques

    • Sales presentations: in-person or virtual presentations to inform prospective customers about a product, service, or organization
    • Conversations: relationship-building dialogue with prospective buyers for the purposes of influencing or making sales
    • Demonstrations: demonstrating how a product or service works and the benefits it offers, highlighting advantageous features and how the offering solves problems the customer encounters
    • Addressing objections: identifying and addressing the concerns of prospective customers, to remove any perceived obstacles to making a purchase
    • Field selling: sales calls by a sales representative to connect with target customers in person or via phone
    • Retail selling: in-store assistance from a sales clerk to help customers find, select, and purchase products that meet their needs
    • Door-to-door selling: offering products for sale by going door-to-door in a neighborhood
    • Consultative selling: consultation with a prospective customer, where a sales representative (or consultant) learns about the problems the customer wants to solve and recommends solutions to the customer’s particular problem
    • Reference selling: using satisfied customers and their positive experiences to convince target customers to purchase a product or service

    When to Use Personal Selling


    • Product situation: Personal selling is relatively more effective and economical when a product is of a high unit value, when it is in the introductory stage of its life cycle, when it requires personal attention to match consumer needs, or when it requires product demonstration or after-sales services.
    • Market situation: Personal selling is effective when a firm serves a small number of large-size buyers or a small/local market. Also, it can be used effectively when an indirect channel of distribution is used for selling to agents or middlemen.
    • Company situation: Personal selling is best utilized when a firm is not in a good position to use impersonal communication media, or it cannot afford to have a large and regular advertising outlay.
    • Consumer behavior situation: Personal selling should be adopted by a company when purchases are valuable but infrequent, or when competition is at such a level that consumers require persuasion and follow-up.


    Advantages and Disadvantages of Personal Selling

    Two hands clasped in a handshakeThe most significant strength of personal selling is its flexibility. Salespeople can tailor their presentations to fit the needs, motives, and behavior of individual customers. A salesperson can gauge the customer’s reaction to a sales approach and immediately adjust the message to facilitate better understanding.

    How IMC Supports Personal Selling[4]

    Audi’s goal was to not have the relationship with the customer end after the sale was made. Operating on the assumption that the company’s best potential customers were also its existing customers, the company initiated an online program to maintain contact, while allowing its sales force to concentrate on selling. Based on its television campaign for the new A4 model, Audi offered a downloadable screensaver that frequently broadcasted updated news and information automatically to the consumers’ computers. After displaying the screensaver option on its Web site, Audi sent an email to owners and prospects offering them the opportunity to download it. More than 10,000 people took advantage of the offer. Audi then began to maintain a continuous dialog with the adopters by sending them newsletters and updates. Click-through rates ranged from 25 to 35 percent on various parts of the site—well exceeding the standard rates—and car sales were 25 percent higher than they were the previous year, even in a down economy.[5]

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