Possibly the biggest disadvantage of selling is the degree to which this promotional method is misunderstood. Most people have had some bad experiences with salespeople who they perceived were overly aggressive or even downright annoying. While there are certainly many salespeople who fall into this category, the truth is salespeople are most successful when they focus their efforts on satisfying customers over the long term and not focusing own their own selfish interests.
A second disadvantage of personal selling is the high cost in maintaining this type of promotional effort. Costs incurred in personal selling include:
- High cost-per-action (CPA) – As noted in the Promotion Decisions Tutorial, CPA can be an important measure of the success of promotion spending. Since personal selling involves person-to-person contact, the money spent to support a sales staff (i.e., sales force) can be steep. For instance, in some industries it costs well over (US) $300 each time a salesperson contacts a potential customer. This cost is incurred whether a sale is made or not! These costs include compensation (e.g., salary, commission, bonus), providing sales support materials, allowances for entertainment spending, office supplies, telecommunication and much more. With such high cost for maintaining a sales force, selling is often not a practical option for selling products that do not generate a large amount of revenue.
- Training Costs – Most forms of personal selling require the sales staff be extensively trained on product knowledge, industry information and selling skills. For companies that require their salespeople attend formal training programs, the cost of training can be quite high and include such expenses as travel, hotel, meals, and training equipment while also paying the trainees’ salaries while they attend.
A third disadvantage is that personal selling is not for everyone. Job turnover in sales is often much higher than other marketing positions. For companies that assign salespeople to handle certain customer groups (e.g., geographic territory), turnover may leave a company without representation in a customer group for an extended period of time while the company recruits and trains a replacement.