Personal Selling Tutorial

In the past few tutorials, we saw how marketers can use advertising, sales promotion, and public relations to reach a large number of customers. Unfortunately, advertising and sales promotion each share one significant disadvantage: these are primarily non-personal forms of communication. While public relations contains elements of personal communication with the use of social media and email, it often lacks the advantages found when communicating face-to-face with a potential customer. And whether an organization is in retailing or manufacturing, sells goods or services, is a large multi-national or a local startup, is out to make a profit or is a not-for-profit, in all probability at some point they will need to rely on personal contact with customers. In other words, they will need to promote using personal selling.

Unfortunately, personal selling is widely misunderstood. For instance, many customers think salespeople possess traits that include being manipulative, arrogant, aggressive, and greedy. And some marketers believe salespeople are only out to make a quick sale intended to increase their income and that they often do this by making unscrupulous deals undermining the marketer’s attempt to build strong brands.

While there certainly are some salespeople that fit these descriptions, today the most successful salespeople are those who work hard to understand their customers’ needs with the ultimate goal of ensuring that customer’s needs are satisfied at a high level. And, more importantly, personal selling holds a key role in the promotional activities of a large number of organizations. In fact, in the business market, where one company sells products to another company, money spent to support the selling function far exceeds spending on advertising.

In this part of our highly detailed Principles of Marketing Tutorials, we begin a three-part look at personal selling. We will continue our coverage of personal selling in the next two tutorials when we discuss Types of Selling Roles and The Selling Process used to obtain a customer order.

What is Personal Selling?