In our last post, we mentioned that while advertising may hold more excitement than other forms of promotion, many organizations consider personal selling to be the most critical. However, one might raise the point that there are lots of organizations that do not field a sales force, so isn't selling only of concern to firms with salespeople?
Yes, it is true that many organizations are successful using other methods of promotion to get people interested in their product. For example, let's assume someone clicks on an Internet advertisement that directs them to an online retailer, such as Amazon.com. Once on Amazon, if they make a purchase they are doing so without a person selling to them. While it may be true that Amazon made a sale using an advertisement, it is important to realize that Amazon did not get to where it is today without engaging in personal selling. In its early days, Amazon (like many start-up companies) had to convince (i.e., sell) many others, such as venture capitalists, transportation companies, book distributors and even some authors, to believe in the company. In other words, selling should never be viewed as an activity that is only limited to getting customers to buy. There are other things individuals and companies must sell besides products or services. For instance, consider the following:
- Librarians face the challenge of getting customers to use their services as the Internet now offers access to numerous information sources previously only available in libraries.
- A writer, who has completed her first novel, must figure out how to reach a publisher and then convince the publisher to market the book.
- A parent may have to "sell" their teenager on putting down a video game and dressing in better clothing in order to go to grandma's house for dinner.
In each of these situations, something is being sold. Though it may seem far removed from what most people perceive as selling, the key is whether one person is persuading someone to do something. Whether it is making a purchase, obtaining a loan, accepting a point-of-view, changing attitudes or an infinite number of other behavioral decisions, it all comes down to mastering persuasive communication or selling. This is why we stated in our last post that all marketers (and even non-marketers) can benefit from understanding the skills that make a salesperson successful, including understanding the skills needed for persuasive communication.
LEARNING TO SELL
Since what many people in organizations and social situations do can be classified as selling, it makes sense to expand the learning of selling skills beyond sales professionals. For instance, university librarians may find that understanding selling skills could help to persuade students and other library customers to continue to rely on librarians for key service assistance.
But, how does someone, who is not part of a sales force, learn to sell? Fortunately, there is no shortage of sales training options. Essentially sales training is divided into two camps: 1) Self-Directed Training, where the trainee learns on their own; and 2) Professional-Directed Training, where someone teaches selling techniques.
Options for Self-Directed Training:
- Multimedia Training – There are many self-directed sales training programs available for purchase, including websites with online sales courses, that include multimedia content such as videos. A simple Internet search should produce many options.
- Books – A search on Amazon will reveal hundreds of trade books and textbooks on selling. Generally the best are those with the highest sales rankings or have been published in several editions over many years.
- Online Sources – Check out our Marketing Links section under Personal Selling and The Selling Process for links to other excellent Internet resources.
Options for Professional-Directed Training:
- Sales Trainers – The sales training industry, where an outside consultant offers on-site instruction, is huge. While more expensive than self-directed training, in-person training can be more effective since it can be customized to an organization's needs. Instructor-led training also offers trainees the opportunity to engage in role play situations to help develop their skills.
- Local Sales Professionals – Members of not-for-profit groups looking to learn more about selling techniques may want to tap into the knowledge and expertise of some of their local patrons or contributors who are sales professionals. These people may be happy to contribute their time to help with sales training.
Regardless of which training option is chosen, understanding basic selling techniques can help almost anyone perform better in business and social situations. Remember, everyone sells something, so why not learn to do it better.