Personal selling is a promotional method in which one party (e.g., salesperson) uses skills and techniques to build personal relationships with another party (e.g., those involved in a purchase decision) that results in both parties obtaining value. In most cases the “value” for the salesperson is realized through the financial rewards of the sale while the customer’s “value” is realized from the benefits obtained from consuming the product. However, getting a customer to purchase a product is not always the objective of personal selling. For instance, selling may be used for the purpose of simply delivering information. Because selling involves personal contact, this promotional method often occurs through face-to-face meetings, telephone conversation, video conferencing, or online chat.
Among marketing jobs, more are employed in sales positions than any other marketing-related occupation. In the U.S. alone, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that over 14.5 million or about 10% of the overall labor force are directly involved in selling and sales-related positions. Worldwide this figure may be closer to 100 million. Yet these figures vastly under-estimate the number of people who are actively engaged in some aspect of selling as part of their normal job responsibilities. While millions of people can easily be seen as holding sales jobs, the promotional techniques used in selling are also part of the day-to-day activities of many who are usually not directly associated with selling. For instance, top corporate executives, whose job title is CEO or COO, are continually selling their company to major customers, stock investors, government officials, and many other stakeholders. The techniques they employ to gain benefits for their companies are the same used by the front-line salesperson to sell to a small customer. Consequently, our discussion of the promotional value of personal selling has implications beyond marketing and sales departments.