Salesmanship or Personal Selling is the oldest and most common form of promotion. It involves direct selling by the manufacturer to the prospective buyer. It is a face to face and oral communication with the potential customer for the purpose of persuading the buyer to buy a particular product or service. It is an important method of understanding the needs, nature and behaviour of the prospective customers and giving them full information about the product in question. The information so obtained helps the entrepreneur to manufacture the product according to the demand of customers. Being personal in nature, it is an indispensable technique of promotion. A firm undertakes personal selling with the following objectives:-
- To introduce new product or service with personal touch.
- To create demand for the products such that it precedes supply.
- To clarify the doubts of customers personally.
- To create effective selling at least cost and secure repeated sales.
- To provide valuable feedback to the managers.
Salesmen may be classified into the following categories on the basis of their employers:-
- Manufacturer's salesmen:- are employed to sell products either directly to consumers or to the wholesalers or retailers. They have specialised knowledge about the products of their employers. They may be either creative salesman or dealer-servicing salesman. The former are engaged in creating outlets for a new product and contact the dealers to persuade them to handle the product. While the latter, provide services to the dealers of their employer's products.
- Speciality salesmen:- deal in high value goods like computers, automobiles, machines, television sets, etc. They meet the potential customers and explain the usefulness of their product. They also help in the installation of the product at the customer's place.
- Wholesaler's salesmen:- generally calls on the retailer's and book orders. They provide information about the availability of the product to the retailers and help them in getting the supplies.
- Retailer's salesmen:- deal directly with the consumers. They may be either counter salesmen or outdoor salesmen. The former attends the customers who call at the store. While the latter, visits the prospective customers by carrying samples of goods to persuade them to buy goods from them.
Success of personal selling depends upon the skills of the salesman, the framework in which he works, as well as his knowledge and experience. An effective salesman should be completely aware of the product and should be able to convince the prospective buyer. He should also know well about the company/firm he is representing and be able to answer all the queries of the customer's. To be effective, a salesman should have the knowledge of the following types:-
- Knowledge of self :- He should be able to make the best use of his personality by continuously assessing himself and analysing his qualities in the light of the requirements of his job.This will help him to improve upon his strengths and overcome his weaknesses through training and experience.
- Knowledge of firm :- He should be fully conversant with the history of the firm. He should have a thorough knowledge of the objectives, policies, standing and organizational structure of his firm. Such knowledge will help him to utilize the strong points of the firm in personal selling.
- Knowledge of product :- He should be able to convince customers about the features and utility of the product by removing their doubts and objections. Thus, he should have full knowledge about the nature of the product, manufacturing details, terms and conditions of sale, distribution channels used and promotional activities.
- Knowledge of competitors :- In order to prove the superiority of his product, he must have full knowledge about the competitive products, their positive and negative features. Knowledge of competitors' sales policies, their brands and prices, etc, is also helpful.
- Knowledge of customers :- In order to be successful, he must use the right appeal and approach. He should be able to understand the prospects correctly and quickly and to motivate and win them permanently. He should, therefore, have complete knowledge of the nature and type of customers (their age, location, sex, income, education, etc.) and their buying motives (low price, convenience, prestige, fashion, etc).
- Knowledge of selling techniques :- Above all, he should be well-versed in the principles and techniques of salesmanship. He should pay undivided attention to the customer, be courteous and sympathetic towards customers, never loose patience, consider customer as the king, aim to build permanent customers and goodwill, serve the customer in the best possible manner, etc.
Personal selling has the advantage of being more flexible in operation in contrast to mass or impersonal selling through advertising. Salesmen can tailor their sales presentation to fit the needs, motives and behaviour of individual customers. They can observe the customer's reaction to a particular sales approach and then make necessary adjustment on the spot. The seller can select the target market for its product and concentrate only on the prospective customers. Personal selling is more effective as compared to other tools of promotion because it leads to actual sales.