Selling comprises all those personal and impersonal activities involved in finding, securing and developing a demand for a given product or service. In the words of William J. Stanton Selling is informing and persuading a market about a product or service. It is a function of promotion.
” In the words of Still, Cundiff and Govoni, “Selling in its broad sense, is not only the making of sales, that is, effecting ownership transfers; but also is identifying prospective consumers, stimulating demands and providing information and service to buyers.”
Theodore Levit writes, “Selling is as basic to our society as metabolism is to life.” It is a fact that sales function is similar to life blood in an economy.
It is through selling that employment opportunity, income and savings, and investment are generated. It is through selling that all business activities are based.
Meaning of Selling 2. Characteristics of Selling 3. Functions 4. Types 5. Steps Involved in the Process 6. Prerequisites 7. Role in a Planned Economy 8. Arguments in Favour of Accepting Selling as a Career 9. Future Trends.
Selling – Meaning, Nature, Characteristics, Functions, Principles, Types, Steps, Prerequisites and Other Details
Selling – Meaning
Selling comprises all those personal and impersonal activities involved in finding, securing and developing a demand for a given product or service. In the words of William J. Stanton “Selling is informing and persuading a market about a product or service. It is a function of promotion.” In the words of Still, Cundiff and Govoni, “Selling in its broad sense, is not only the making of sales, that is, effecting ownership transfers; but also is identifying prospective consumers, stimulating demands and providing information and service to buyers.”
It is, therefore, clear that selling is defined not only the transfer of ownership but also a promotional function, involving locating prospective buyers, creation of demands and providing marketing information and services, etc. In modern times, selling is considered in its wider scope.
Selling is studied as the cumulative experience of salespersons and advertising professionals. It distills knowledge from practice, and psychology learned through experience. It teaches how all this can be put into practice. We must remember that people like to buy but don’t like being sold to. The emphasis is, on ‘how to’ rather than ‘why.’ Empirical evidence is considered more valuable than a systematic body of knowledge. But such knowledge can never be full-proof.
Following are the objectives of selling:
(a) To sell goods to consumers.
(b) To “service” existing accounts, that is maintain contracts with the existing consumer.
(c) To search for new customers,
(d) To secure consumers’ cooperation in stocking and promoting the product line.
(e) To keep customers informed about the changes in the existing product line and firm’s marketing strategy.
(f) To provide technical advice and assistance to customers regarding use of complicated and technical product.
Selling – Top 8 Characteristics
1. Core of marketing – It is the central point of marketing. The main object of marketing is the creation of customers and satisfying the wants of people, which would be possible through selling only.
2. Basis of exchange – Selling is the source for establishing relations between a seller and a buyer and it is the exchange of goods for a value.
3. Centres around salesmanship – There are many selling techniques. Salesmanship is one of them. The salesmanship is the process under which the desires and wants of customers are identified, created and efforts are made to satisfy the wants for mutual interests.
4. Means of promotion – In the words of Stanton, salesmanship is one of the forms of sales promotion. Personal selling sales promotion, advertising and publicity are specific parts of salesmanship. In the words of Kirkpatrick, “Promotion is a persuasive communication.”
5. Creative function – Selling generates new needs and desires, new demands, newer products and markets. It is the selling which enable to explore new markets.
6. Social character – Selling is a form of social behaviour and action. It is a combination of various practices, activities and motives. In the words of Edmond Spencer, “Selling is the means of social cultivation and growth.”
7. Ingredient of marketing programme – The scope of marketing is too wider, which includes pricing, development of product, distribution channels and promotional activities. Sales promotion is the basis for formulating marketing politics and programme.
8. Perpetual function – Selling is a continuous and regular function of a business. It is basis of all other functions of business. The success of selling is therefore, the basis for all other functions of an enterprise.
9. Productive function – It is through selling the source of income and profits are made available. It is a wealth producing activity. The operational and other expenses of an enterprise are met out from the income generated by selling.
Selling – 5 Main Functions of Selling
The function of selling involves the following sub-functions:
Function # 1. Product Planning and Development:
No marketing effort can be successful if the product itself is unsatisfactory. Hence it would not be wrong if we say that the success of any selling organisation depends upon the planning and development of the right type and kind of products.
While planning the manufacture of the right kind of products, the manufacturer should take into account the requirements and needs of the final consumer in terms of quantity, quality, time, price, place etc. This information can be obtained through market research.
Karl H. Tietjen defines product planning as “The act of marketing out and supervising the search, screening, development and commercialisation of new products; the modification of existing lines; and the discontinuance of marginal and unprofitable items.”
On the other hand, product development means supplying or making available to the consumer only such goods as are needed and demanded by them. Product development refers to activities of product research, engineering and design. The products developed and offered by a business enterprise may be industrial products, consumer products or agricultural products.
Function # 2. Creation of Demand:
Once the right product has been produced it will result in profit only if it is demanded. Thus an important aspect of selling is the creation of demand. The seller must inform the buyer about the availability of his products. He usually does this by resorting to activities like advertising and sales promotion. All activities undertaken by a seller to keep his customers informed and updated about his products through the different means available to him can be called as demand creation.
Function # 3. Establishing Contact with the Buyers:
Buyers are many and scattered over a vast area. After creating a demand for the product it is essential to establish contact with the buyers. The marketing personnel have to find out the places where the buyers exist, establish contacts with them and maintain cordial relations with them. Establishing contacts with the buyers is an ongoing process and has to be undertaken continuously.
Function # 4. Negotiations:
Once contact with the buyer is established the seller has to enter into discussions with the prospective buyers to finalise the terms relating to the quantity, quality, and price of the product, the time mode of transport, risk coverage etc. At this stage, offers and counter offers are made till a final agreement is reached. This process of reaching some point of common understanding through offers and counter offers can be called negotiations.
Function # 5. Entering into a Contract:
When the terms and conditions of sale are finalised the buyers and sellers enter in a contract to buy and sell so that the ownership of the goods passes legally from the seller to the buyer.
Even though buying and selling functions of marketing have been studied and analysed as two different functions, they are in actual practice complimentary to each other. After all, there cannot be selling without buying and buying without selling. They are the two sides of the exchange transaction and one cannot exist without the other.
The type of selling varies across customers, situations, and the nature of commodity dealt in, i.e., product or service, and the resources and objectives of the company. When customers are end users of the products, the products are sold through retail markets. For industrial products, the salespeople of a company or distributors are appointed to deal with customers. These customers may be direct consumers, retailers or agents.
Again, selling situations might also vary according to the involvement of the customers with the products. For high involvement buying situations where products are high on unit value and technically complex, e.g., electronic equipments, computing machines, etc., generally a company does business with customers engaging technically qualified salespeople.
For low involvement situations, a company appoints dealers or retailers who are entrusted in reselling the products based on commissions or profit margins. For mass consumption items, selling through marketing intermediaries is a common place. For shopping goods, like fashion shoes or designer shirts, selling through independent or franchised retailers are effective.
In situations, where purchase is deliberative in character and potential customers need enough product information, specification compliance, and the need to consider selling terms and conditions; direct selling through company hired salespeople or experienced distributors are given the responsibility to handle the customers. Again, selling a product is different from selling a service.
But one common feature of both product and service is sale ability. Both should be of value to the customers and both should satisfy customer demands. Besides, service has some specific characteristics like intangibility, inseparability, variability, and non-storability. So, services cannot be seen, touched or smelt but can be felt and consumed.
Ownership of service can never be transferred from service provider to customers. It has a high degree of heterogeneity and its variability is more complex than products. Services cannot be stored or warehoused unlike products. Most importantly, service creation and its utilization take place simultaneously. Finally, a company’s financial strength, manpower, relationship with intermediaries, desire for market control and legal compulsions affect the type of selling emphatically.
Based on the discussion so far, selling can be categorized into the following types:
1. Industrial selling.
2. Service selling.
3. Retail selling.
Under industrial selling, marketing transactions take place between at least two companies, both of which seek to generate favours from the business. That is why industrial selling is also termed as business-to-business selling. Industrial selling is more complex and time consuming because a sales-person has to negotiate with a number of individuals representing the buying organization, particularly in large firms. Needless to mention, goods that are dealt in this selling are industrial in nature.
In large industrial units, buying decision may not be entrusted with a single individual but with a number of individuals who take the buying decision jointly. But in some cases, each of them may want to satisfy their personalized needs. For example, a purchase manager of a firm may be more interested in price, distribution scheme, credit terms, etc., as compared to the manufacturer or the research and development manager who would focus more on the quality of the product.
The production manager veers on the uninterrupted supply of the product. So, when these three constitute the decision making body of the firm for buying, a salesperson often faces difficulty to satisfy all the three parties. Price may not be an important criteria in industrial buying, rather vendor reliability, quality of the product, periods of warranty, and after-sales service form the major criteria in industrial buying. For installations, importance is given to lifecycle costing constituting purchase cost; startup cost, and post- purchase cost.
Moreover, buying strategies of the firm influence the selling mechanisms of the industrial firms. Morris (1992) illustrated three types of buying strategies, namely – speculative buying, forward buying, and hand to mouth buying. In speculative buying, an organization purchases quantities of goods in excess of its projected or foreseeable requirements. Forward buying involves purchasing in excess an amount of material of what is currently required but not beyond anticipated future requirements.
Under hand- to-mouth buying, a buyer purchases a product or service in quantities that would just satisfy their immediate operating requirements. Different buying strategies demand different logistical operations and sellers must accommodate effectively and efficiently to inventory policies, material handling, production scheduling, and support services of the customers to ensure continuity of business.
Both central and state government departments, government undertakings and agencies (e.g., railway, telecommunication department, etc.,) are bulk purchasers of industrial goods where the scope of industrial selling is enormous. But, procedural complexity of buying in government firms is immense and involves huge formalities. For example, a seller has to be registered with the government firms before it can take part in the selling process.
Tendering is a popular method of buying from government firms. Tendering is the usual process where the government unit invites registered sellers to submit quotations where it applies bidding process and supplies the desired product to the party who quotes the lowest price of a particular commodity.
Institutional buying is a special category of industrial buying. Public and private institutions such as – colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons, etc., deemed as institutional customers have their own buying policies.
An industrial salesperson should rigidly follow the selling guidelines as determined by the buying procedures of these firms to be effective in institutional selling. One common problem of industrial selling is that often the salesperson tends to involve in overselling to the buying organization. They overpromise the customer about product qualities, options for life which are often difficult for these selling firms to attain.
Service selling has some distinctive properties vis-a-vis product selling. One major characteristic feature of service selling is that of service creation, where selling takes place simultaneously. In product selling these two are separate incidents. A doctor or a lawyer advices and suggests remedies to their clients simultaneously. An insurance agent selling insurance products to a customer persuades him to purchase and only then sells it. This is because service is more of an activity or performance designed to evolve and solve specific problems of customers.
Selling service encompasses a number of features and customer satisfaction depends on getting the expected results in performance of all these features. For instance, a transport company can satisfy a customer only by packaging, labelling, delivering, risk taking, insuring, and offering various logistical services. Service selling involves a lot of variability and needs careful manoeuvering of each selling operation. A courier firm provides multiple services like dispatching letters, money orders, delivering parcels, managing cargo operations, etc.
Colleges, universities, hospitals, insurance companies, tourism companies, hotels, etc. are major service organizations. Each renders specific type of service and the selling mechanism for each is unique. Increase in competition in this sector has increased the need for differentiation in service attributes and quality improvements to win and hold customers for a longer time. As service cannot be displayed or demonstrated, need for promotion before selling is very crucial.
However, once a set of satisfied customers is created, word of mouth communication takes a lead role in spreading the information of a service to potential customers. Excellent customer relationship also plays a catalytic role in ingraining a sense of trust amongst present customers. Experiences and credentials of service providers encourage potential customers to buy services and ease selling efforts.
Today, the service sector has achieved a thrust in the economy as it has contributed much more to the national income and employment of our country than a product sector. In this respect, service selling has gained importance because of a large customer base and competitive clout. Here, customer satisfaction is not only determined by service quality or functionalities but also by human centric or emotional value addition in selling and servicing.
Indeed, service quality is judged both by the technicalities of service and human factors in relation to selling. For example, a patient in a hospital expects reliability in service, assurance from doctors and nurses, personal care, cleanliness of environment, hygienic ambience in addition to quality treatment. Selling a satisfying health care service has a long drawn impact on the image of the organization.
In insurance or tourism selling, creating awareness and interest among potential buyers and converting them to customers depend a lot on the communication skill, conceptual clarity, and the ability of the seller to infuse conviction among the customers. At the same time, monitoring service quality and measuring service satisfaction should be a continuous process also.
Retail selling, popularly known as retailing, involves activities both in selling goods as well as services. Thus, it aims to deliver the finished goods to the consumers for personal or business use. Retailing is the last stage of distribution. It facilitates the adoption process of products/services by consumers and aids in creating value-addition to the merchandise to make it more attractive and acceptable to the consumers.
Retail selling may take the form of store retailing or non-store retailing. In store retailing, selling takes place from a physical location in a market whereas non-store retailing is based on door-to-door selling, mail order selling, telephonic selling or selling through the Internet. Some of the common services attached to retail selling involve procuring needed items, arranging transportation, storing and assorting the goods, grading and packaging, labelling, risk taking, selling, servicing, financing, complaints, and returns handling.
Retail selling includes the total bundle of benefits offered to consumers in terms of locational advantage of the store, parking facilities, retail ambience, in stock position, shelf spacing given to brands, product availability, product quality, imparting adequate information to consumers, product customization, logistics support to customers, building customer relationship, and after-sales service where needed.
Direct selling is a kind of non-store retailing. It is an interactive system of selling that uses one or more ways to arouse the demands and encourage the customers to contact sellers to buy.
These ways vary from marketing through sending catalogues or sales letters, flyers, foldouts, etc., to prospective buyers, soliciting the prospective customers to buy products or services contacting them over the phone or subsequent face-to-face interaction, web conferencing, hawking the product on radio or television (teleshopping), web-based selling, or multi-level marketing nr network marketing or multi-tiered marketing where selling of products on the people in the network.
Selling – 7 Steps Involved in the Process of Selling
Authorities on sales are in agreement over the basics of selling. Amongst the first basic of selling comes prospecting or who should we call on? Prospecting and qualifying go hand-in-hand. Is it not waste of effort to talk to the wrong people? Qualifying involves spending time on the right people – those who take positive decisions. It is necessary to know more and more about the prospects – a kind of pre-approach.
Once these preliminaries are over, and a salesman comes in contact with the prospect, the actual approach begins. The overall conduct of the salesmen matters a lot here. The actual selling is done by presentation and demonstration. Here, the prospect may raise certain objections, which are to be handled effectively.
The final basic is the closing of a sale, which according to Tom Hopkins has both, elements of ‘art and science.’ Marketing practitioners advise us to continue our valuable services to the prospects even after the physical sale – it is called follow-up and maintenance. Selling is not an event, but a process.
A salesman has to prepare himself first. He has to be up-to-date on product knowledge. He is aware of the market conditions. He knows about the competition. He has mastered the technique of selling. Once prepared, he has to locate the customers. For this, he has to decide the profile of his ideal prospect. He has been assisted in identifying the prospects by the organisation which provides him the leads. Moreover, the salesman himself develops his own leads.
He can get references from the existing customers, suppliers, distributors and dealers, other salespeople and trade associations. A salesman can enroll for organizations of which the prospects are the members. He writes and speaks for audiences of which the prospect may be a part. He consults various sources like directories, press, etc. He calls on various organizations in the hope of getting prospects.
Prospecting involves spending time. We have to be careful about calls made to the prospect per unit of time. Out of prospecting calls, we are able to succeed to get some appointments. Out of these appointments, we are able to generate sales in a few cases. Over a period of time, we have to take care of the hours we worked and the business generated. The time lag between prospecting calls made and the income in future is to be carefully noted. This delay may be a month, or two months or three months or longer.
When prospects are referred, the referral cases have more chances of generating sales than the non-referral cases. A card referral system can be used when a card is used to get down –
(i) Reference name, address, phone no.
(ii) Qualifying questions.
(iii) Call and appointment by the referring party.
(iv) If they are reluctant to do so, permission to use their name while contacting the referral.
Poor leads must be eliminated skilfully. What is needed is qualification. Prospects are qualified on the basis of some important factors – their employment, marital status, number of dependents, the products they use now. The salesman may make a phone call or write a preliminary letter before actually calling on them. Leads can be hot leads, warm leads or cool leads.
When there is no referral, it means they are not prequalified. A prequalified lead gives us, a picture of emotional and logical requirements for benefiting from our product.
Before actually visiting the prospects, salespeople must know as much as possible about the prospects. It is possible to know their present consumption and usage. If it is a corporate organisation, we can use stock exchange records about the company. A salesman has to set call objectives. There should also be some attempt to choose between several methods of approach – a written communication, a telephone call or a personal visit. The sales strategy is decided as a part of pre-approach. We have to take into consideration the calling time also.
This is the third step in the selling process. When the salesman comes in actual contact with the prospect, the next stage approach is reached. The face to face contact with the prospect is termed as approach. It involves use of different methods for seeking an access to the prospect so that the product or service may be presented to him. Face to face conversation, know how to greet the prospect, cordial start, follow-up conversation.
When we are face-to-face with the buyer, we must know how to greet him. The interview must have a cordial start. Much depends upon the personal appearance of the salesman, his opening remarks, and his follow-up conversation. All this should be on a positive note, e.g., we should do everything possible to help you and your company.
When a salesperson calls on a prospect uninvited often for the first time, it is called cold canvassing.
The crucial task of selling is communicating the product story to the buyer. A typical sales presentation follows the AIDA approach – attract the attention of the buyer, create an interest in the product, so that the buyer desires to possess the product, which ultimately results in buying action.
To invite the attention of the buyer, the salesman may greet him and tell him what he is selling. Sometimes, the talk starts by quoting a reference who sent the salesman. Product benefit may be stated by making a startling statement. A compelling question can be put to the buyer. An innovation is put in the hands of the buyer for inspection. While the buyer feels the product, the sales talk can start.
Once the buyer’s attention is attracted, the communication has to create interest in the product and generate a desire in the buyer to have the product. Product benefits are emphasized. Product features are related to product benefits.
Sales presentation can be a ‘canned’ sales talk. This talk is memorized and rehearsed a number of times. It is useful to sell door-to-door and in telephone selling. Formulated approach of sales presentation is based on stimulus-response thinking. A discussion elicits buyer needs and reveals his attitudes. The salesman has to relate the product to these needs. A consultant type approach expects the customer to talk more about his needs. The salesman acts as a consultant after listening to the buyer carefully.
Usually, in the sales presentation there is demonstration. Some demonstration aids are cassettes, samples, charts, slides, brochures, booklets, etc. The common mistake committed by the salesman is to do all the demo himself. He expects the buyer to watch. But when the buyer watches, his mind switches off. He does not remain involved with the product. His mind may wander off to his wife’s illness or his son’s poor score at school.
Instead, the salesman should allow the buyer to work with the product. Let the buyer handle the product. While he is doing so, the salesman has to pass encouraging remarks. Each capability of the product must be proved to the buyer. Buyer participation is very necessary to sell a product. Even when a service is being sold, give the buyer an opportunity to calculate the benefits himself by providing him some data.
Sales talk need not be one-way. It also need not be no-preparation unplanned talk. It should be an organized involvement interview. The product and the buyer must be involved with each other. All questions likely to be asked by the buyer must be anticipated. All benefits of the products must be emphasized by a participative demonstration. The salesman must have a flexible and adaptive attitude.
Successful salespeople do consider sales presentation a very important step in selling, but they never devote 80-90 per cent of their time to it. They divide their time in 40:60 ratio between presentation and other steps of selling. It is needless to point out that proper prospecting, qualifying and pre-approach work help us to reduce the time devoted to presentation, and make our presentation effective enough to generate better results.
A well-prepared salesman is ever ready to clarify the objections raised by the prospect. A successful presentation has a brief introduction, a detailed coverage of the product benefits and its relation to prospect’s needs and wants, and a short summary that draws conclusions. Several repetitions give enough confidence to a salesman, but he should not take the understanding of the prospects for granted. By phrasing the communication differently, he can continue to enjoy the session.
It should be noted that an effective presentation though important is not an end by itself but is a preparatory step for closing the sale.
During the course of a sales presentation or at the time of closing the sale, a salesman may encounter objections from the prospect. Just because the prospect voices his objection, the salesman should not become unduly disturbed. Objections are welcome because they indicate the buying intention of the prospect and give him what is clue to the close of the sale. An objection is just a statement.
Its aim is to seek more information before taking a buying decision. Objections could be psychological, say for example, preference for established and reputed brands or logical, say for example, the .poor performance of the product supplied in the past. Minor objections are just a type of defensive behaviour. Before making commitment, the prospect wants an assurance that he is taking a right decision.
A good salesman has to judge between a condition and an objection. An objection can be overcome, but a condition is just a block to the sale. A person who cannot afford a product, and is not qualified for a loan is a condition. If we qualify prospects properly, we can anticipate such conditions. Conditions may make sale impossible, and it is better to terminate sales talk. During the sales talk, sometimes it is not easy to see a condition. First it can be treated like an objection. It is handled by attempting to break it down. If this is not successful, we know for sure it is a condition.
In the absence of conditions, the sale must come to a close. Or else it is the fault of the salesman.
This is the most important step in the selling process. Closing the sale results into an order for the product or service. It is a climax of the whole game of selling. Several salesmen falter in closing. They consider selling as a communication task only. They should sniff a closing situation. Some customers are sold faster, and some take time. If the customer is ready for close, it is not advisable to prolong the sales talk. Many salesmen cannot resist the temptation of continuing the sales talk because they have not said it all. We have to strike the iron while it is hot.
A salesman must have his closing material ready at all times and at all places. We might close the sale at many unimaginable places like a race course, a restaurant, a swimming pool or a golf course. It is better to keep the closing material like the order form handy, lest the opportunity to close slips out of our hand. A salesman must at the right moment pull out the ordering material, and fill it up quickly. If he takes time in doing so the prospect gets a chance to change his mind.
An order form must be neat and clean. A soiled dog-eared form reflects the shabbiness with which an order is likely to be treated. It reflects adversely on the organisation. The prospect is likely to apprehend a mistake in calculations. You must master the selling arithmetic and must have a calculator handy. Proof letters are great motivators to close the sale.
These days’ salesmen keep a small hand-held device like a palm top which carries an order book and a lot of other data like retail inventory, promotional deals, and re-order requirements of the retailer.
Before the close we can have trial closes which are some particular questions. The answers to these questions reflect the level of interest in the product. The salesman may assume that the prospect is going to buy. He can ask when you would like to have this delivered. Or which colour will suit you? Or should we put the charge on your credit card? He may offer alternative choices while asking such questions, e.g., would you like to have this delivered this week or next week?
Another way to have a trial close is to seek minor details and have them jotted down on the order. While stating the delivery date, the salesman may state purposely a wrong date. He expects the prospect to correct it. The corrected date is then jotted on the order. There is still one more method of a test or trial close.
A question from the prospect is thrown back to him. ‘Can I get a black lycra gown?’ ‘Would you like it in black lycra?’ A positive answer from the prospect confirms his buying intention? While closing, a buyer must be kept engaged. A salesman keeps him busy. A spell of silence might be dangerous to close.
Closing ultimately is a process that facilitates the prospect to be decisive. And these decisions should be in the interest of the buyer. If a salesman forces a prospect to buy which is not in his interest, he is not selling, he is just cheating.
A salesman sometimes acts as a guide to the prospect. He helps the prospect to overcome his indecision. A salesman has to keep in mind the likings of the prospect. He should not impose his own likings on the prospect. Each sales is successful if it is made from the would-be buyer’s point of view.
Sales are not an end in itself; post sale activities lay the foundation of future business and contribute a great deal to the goodwill of the firm. The post-sale service may involve installation, proper instruction for use and operation, proper servicing should be provided in this stage. The buyer is constantly worried about the correctness of his buying decision.
It is the last step but equally important steps of selling process. The salesman properly observed the order and executed. Follow-up is also necessary to collect information from the customer regarding product use problems. Salesman tries to ensure feedback and encourages repeat purchases.
Selling – 5 Prerequisites of Effective Selling
There are six prerequisites of effective selling:
(1) Know your company,
(2) Know your product,
(3) Know your competitors and their products,
(4) Know your customers,
(5) Know the process of selling, and
1. Knowledge of Your Company:
Most products, especially a costly and complicated products, are not judged on their own merits. They are judged by the name of the company that manufactures them. Hence, salesmen must be company-oriented. A salesman is the company to most buyers- He is regarded as a representative of the whole company.
Therefore, he should learn everything about his company. The facts about the company must be at his finger-tips. Prospects may wish to know about policies, procedure, service facilities, discounts, guarantees, and so on. As a sales representative, you must satisfy all queries of prospects about your firm so that they may decide to do business with your firm.
2. Knowledge of Your Product:
A salesman should know all about his product:
(a) Materials from which it is made,
(b) How it is used and how it is maintained,
(c) Product features,
(d) Customer benefits,
(e) Selling points of the product in relation to its rivals, and so on.
Without adequate knowledge of the product, a salesman cannot convince the prospect and convert him into a customer.
3. Knowledge of Competition:
A salesman should constantly study the products offered by his competitors and determine their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to his own products. Awareness of competition enables a salesman, if necessary, to compare his product with that of the rival on those points in which the buyer seems most interested.
Competition should be brought up only when a buyer insists on comparison. Thorough knowledge of the company, its products and its competition constitutes the solid background of essential information for effective selling. Buyers have faith in well-informed salesmen. Then again knowledge gives salesmen confidence in themselves.
4. Knowledge of Your Customers:
A salesman must have adequate knowledge about both the customer’s wants and desires, and the products offered by the firm to satisfy customers. The matching of supply with demand is impossible without knowledge of your customers representing the demand side of the match. A salesman must find out as much as possible about the customer’s wants. Product can be tailored to those specific requirements.
The sales presentation should be closely related to the consumer’s buying process. Buyer behaviour involves perception, motivation and learning processes. Salesman must have know the reasons customers might have for buying his products. Hence, he must have adequate knowledge of buying motives – rational, emotional and patronage motives. Sales presentation cannot be effective unless a salesman knows socio-psychological factors influencing buyer behaviour.
5. Knowledge of Selling Process:
Selling process runs closely parallel to the consumer’s buying process. To move the customer through the stages in the buying process (perceived want, search for information, purchase, use and evaluation) the salesman undertakes the stages in the selling process, viz., prospecting, preparation, presentation and post-sale activities. Prospecting is similar to seeking function of marketing.
Salesman identifies buyers who have both ability to buy (purchasing power) and willingness to buy (motivation). Preparation is similar to the matching function of marketing-matching the supply with demand. The sales presentation is closely related to the buying process of consumers.
The salesman uses AIDAS formula — Attention, Interest, Desire, Action and Satisfaction. Post-sale activities are order writing, arranging for its execution, and facilitating grant of credit, if necessary. The customer should be reassured on his wise purchase decision. Post-sale contacts reduce customer dissonance or dissatisfaction and assure repeat orders.
Selling – Top 12 Roles of Selling in a Planned Economy
Theodore Levit writes, “Selling is as basic to our society as metabolism is to life.” It is a fact that sales function is similar to life blood in an economy. It is through selling that employment opportunity, income and savings, and investment are generated. It is through selling that all business activities are based.
This is why it said, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” Therefore, the “something” that creates in an economy is based on the selling activities. Selling creates consumption needs and given basis to production and investments.
When the wheels of production and investment come to halt, employment opportunities, income, economic activities, innovations, national development, scientific discoveries and inventories all that will come to an end. Therefore, it is clear that selling is the essence of all business operation and growth of the economy. In the words of Theodore Levit, “It is the salesmen who keep the selling system beautiful and in good shape. The wheels of industry are made to him, income is generated and standards are raised.”
Ernest and Davall observe, “Selling plays an important role in our economy, and it has been helpful for us to lead a standard of living that we enjoy now. It is through the efforts of hundreds and thousands of our salesmen that we enjoy the benefits of new goods and services.”
The role of selling in a planned economy can be described under the following points:
1. Selling is an essential activity – Some may argue that selling is a supplementary function, and not so essential to our economy. The goods and services produced in a factory or in the agricultural fields, can be reached to the buyers by selling only. In a competitive business environment, it is the performance of salesmen that create more wants and satisfy wants.
2. Selling is a productive activity – Selling is an important want creating activity. In reality, economic exchange is the central point of every economy. The total consumption of the society is based on buying and selling. It is the seller who creates time, palace and possession utilities.
3. Basis of production – It is the selling which forms the basis of further production. W. S. Thompson observes that “much of the goods sold by salesmen would never be sold at all through other means.” In personal selling, a salesman maintains a regular contact with the consumers and establishes good relations.
4. Creates better business – It is through sales that demands are created which leads to larger production. It is a force by which the seller influences the buyer decisions to purchase. W. S. Thompson observes that in our economy, importance of selling is to create demands and make practicable, by sales of goods and services.
5. Provides satisfaction – Selling provides satisfaction to customers. The salesman identifies the actual needs of people and provides with good that satisfy the needs. He helps to solve even the difficult problems of customers.
6. Promotes to product new products – The changes or modifications frequently to be made in products require new machines and equipments to replace the traditional or obsolesce machines and equipments. It is through market research, advertising and publicity that new products and services are reached to the people by creating product awareness among them.
7. Promotes better utilization better utilization of national resources – Selling facilities maximum utilization of resources by producing and selling in domestic and international markets, by optimum use of raw material, capital and labour.
8. Raises standard of living – Thompson observes that the higher standard of living that we enjoy is the result of selling. Selling is not only limited to the sale of goods and services, but to advice the customers for profitable buying of new goods and services at the reasonable prices.
9. Additional employment opportunities – Increase in demands for goods and services production which may ultimately create added employment opportunities. The functions associated with sales and other business functions, provide more requirements of personnel.
10. Selling is a proudful job – Selling is a proudful job for those who accepts it as a way of life. Salesmen have good image and respect in the society. Charles Kirkpatric says, “Selling is a proudful business activity.”
11. Increase in national income – Optimum utilization of national resources, larger employment opportunities for the people, higher productivity, higher per capita income, etc. are the ways to increase the national income of the country.
12. Helps in economic growth – In the business world of today, where selling has an important place, create larger demands for new and improved products. The selling function encourages for large scale production and higher investments which are essential for growth of the company.
Selling – Arguments in Favour of Accepting Selling as a Career
The salesmen’s job has become so important. Increasing population growth with high expectations of life, social and cultural development in almost all the economies of the world, consumer awareness, cyclical fluctuations in business conditions, acute competition, complexity of business operations etc. have created challenging opportunity to people to join this profession.
Kirpatric writes “Although selling is a difficult and competitive function, those who likes this profession has an interesting job. Salesmen deal in people and in their motivations. They work for human values and individual satisfaction.” Earnest and Davall observe, “Those who dream a challenging career, can obtain a marketing job.” They are presented here in the form of arguments in favour and against.
Arguments in favour of accepting “selling as a career”:
1. Higher Earnings:
The supporters show a view? to believe that the persons working in the selling field have physical and mental qualities. This is the reason that they have been provided with higher remuneration. In addition to regular salary they are paid with commission on the basis of increased volume of sales. Their incomes are in direct proportion to the time, energy and thoughts devoted by them to their jobs.
2. Opportunity for Advancement:
Opportunity for advancement in the sales job provides with opportunity in career, such as merit-wise promotion as sales supervisor, branch manager, divisional sales manager, Asstt. Sales manager, Dy. Sales director, etc.
3. Personal Satisfaction:
Everyone needs psychic income too. Selling provides personal satisfaction also. Salesman earns his satisfaction through customer satisfaction by solving customer problems. In the words of Kirkpatric, “salesmen earn happiness because they make buyers happy; they sell satisfaction and in return find their own satisfaction.”
Certain people believe that salesmanship is a job involving risk and uncertainty. At times of cyclical changes or during trade depressions much challengers are attached with their jobs. They may even face a situation of retrenchment. If they are able to create and maintain the demands even during the seasonal variations, they will have job security. Kirkpatric writes “no machine is going to replace or make obsolete the salesmen, whose judgment is sound, whose tact and direction are outstanding, whose thinking is keen.”
5. Sense of Proud:
Salesmen represent the producer, the society and the business world as a whole. They feel sense of proud and social prestige. H. M. Taylor writes, “The social position of a salesman depends on his personality, functions and achievements. No salesman should feel inferiority in his job.”
6. Freedom and Guidance:
Salesman has his own control on his timings of selling duties. He has freedom in functioning and decision making upto certain limits. He has freedom to deal with his customers in his selling territory and the products that he deals with. He himself is the administrator and guide for his functions in the field.
7. Pleasure of Traveling:
The main functions of a traveling salesman are to contact the customers in his territory and gets the sales orders for the producer. Traveling salesman travels throughout the country and his gives him an opportunity to visit and see different places, meeting with various people of different cultures, languages, and traditions. Traveling also provides him opportunity to make new friends and new relationships.
8. Development of Personality and Responsibility:
Selling develops various challenges before a salesman. In a changing situation, he has to deal with different people. This will help in his mental development and maturity of personality. In addition to this, he becomes self-disciplined and responsible as he gets the knowledge for self-decision-making and initiatives.
Selling – Future Trends of Selling
When thinking of salespeople, there is a general image of company car, lunch allowance, stopping at good hotels, in fact a good life. But in practice the car doubles as an office, the lunch is often a rushed sandwich between calls and hotels are just boring. But selling can be a good life for those who enjoy meeting people. The problem is that much time is spent doing administration, driving, waiting and sorting out problems caused elsewhere in your organisation.
Three trends need to be considered for selling:
1. Can new technology be used to make salespeople more effective in their profession?
2. Are there situations where direct personal selling is no longer cost-effective, and what happens in this case?
3. Are there changes in the structure of industries that mean the sales role must be redefined?
Selling is about meeting people, establishing relationships and communication. This cannot be replaced by modern technology but it can be helped by such developments. The aim is to improve effectiveness. For instance, car phones can keep a salesperson in contact from his office (car).
Entering orders into a portable computer is faster than writ-ing an order. The orders can be downloaded automatically via telephone lines and the order directly input into the delivery schedule with minimal delay. Word processors can produce standard quotations twice as fast.
Direct marketing databases can store much more information than a hand-written record card, and the information in the database can be analysed to help a salesperson target a customer more precisely.
So many uses are being made of modern technology to improve preparation and the following up of sales calls. Even during the call a salesperson could show a video or use a small printer to print a personalised quotation. But there is a point when the use of such devices will get in the way of the personal contact and if this is the case they must be rejected.
A direct call by a salesperson could be replaced by a telephone call. This could save 90 per cent of the cost of the direct call. The loss of contact might not be critical, although there is evidence of both a reduction in sales received and more especially of information required for the future.
Sometimes a successful hybrid system can be used, combining fewer sales visits with regular telesales contact. Another development is direct computer-to-computer reordering links between customer and supplier. These can again be supplemented with infrequent direct sales contact.
In some organisations, and in some industries, suppliers have decided that the cost of sales staff is greater than the benefits. These are areas where the supplier lets customers choose for themselves. In the past this has happened with self-service retail stores replac-ing traditional service, self-service petrol-stations, cash and carry wholesalers replacing delivered wholesalers, and direct (mail order) insurance companies challenging tradi-tional insurance brokers.
The sensible rule is to continually reassess the investment in a sales force against the benefits received. Remember the alternatives available to reach and communicate with potential customers.
In some industries it is the customers and their needs that are changing. Not many years ago sales forces for major food manufacturers had several hundred people, each calling on a number of outlets. Now buying is centralised and a team approach is used with perhaps a senior sales account manager meeting a buying director, then account managers liaising with regional managers who control a number of stores, and, finally, maybe a part-time merchandiser visiting an individual outlet.
In this situation there is a need to ensure excellent team work. Good communications between the various mem-bers of the sales team and an appropriate contact with the customer are essential.
The major sales force may not be used, but the senior account manager could have a role to negotiate sales. The account manager might ensure orders are placed and influ-ence deliveries either direct to stores or to the retailer’s central warehouse. The merchandiser is not a salesperson but efforts to improve product displays can ensure the product sells through the intermediary on to the eventual consumer.
This type of multi-level contact can build very strong relationships, each at a relevant level. It is an example of assessing the task and answering the question, ‘What is appropriate for the task?’ The answer should cover all elements of marketing, but there is no reason that it must require a direct sales organisation.