In the language of marketing and sales, “personal selling” highlights those situations where a real human is attempting to sell to another.
In the past, it was a bit more literal in that the definition typically included face-to-face interactions. However, with advances in technology as well as the ability to connect across so many mediums, the term personal selling has expanded beyond face-to-face interactions to a method that simply humanizes and personalizes the selling process.
It’s about making a connection and resolving challenges with your service or product instead of simply going in for the sale. Naturally, personal selling is a bit more challenging and time-consuming. It’s not appropriate for low-cost items or low-competition products and services since you likely wouldn’t get a good return on investment for your time spent.
However, personal selling is excellent for upscale retail products, high-end SaaS products, life insurance, real estate, retirement living, and pretty much anything in a highly competitive market that requires a personal touch.
With that in mind, here’s how you can get the most out of personal selling:
The Psychological Advantage of Personal Selling
Having a great product only goes so far unless you can tie specific features of your product to fixing your prospects’ problems or helping them achieve their goals. Selling benefits over features is the key to success because features are logical, whereas benefits are emotional.
When it comes to selling high-dollar items, complex products, or highly-competitive services, it’s imperative that you start by gaining your prospects’ trust. The most important elements of a positive sales experience, according to buyers, are a sales representative who listens to their needs, isn’t pushy, and provides relevant information.
To figure out what’s relevant, you have to start with relationship building. Get your foot in the door, start asking questions, and keep asking why until you figure out their biggest pain points and goals.
Personal Selling Strategies
When it comes to personal selling, there are two possible routes to choose from: inside or outside sales.
Outside sales fits the traditional definition of personal selling in that you’re spending the majority of your time dropping by for an office visit or going to pre-scheduled appointments. You’ll use inside sales techniques and tools as follow-ups, but the primary purpose is to meet face-to-face so you can shake hands and create a deeper connection through brief conversations or giving product demonstrations.
With inside sales, on the other hand, you’ll primarily interact over the phone, via email, and – where possible – with video conferencing tools. Although you lose the natural connection that comes with face-to-face interactions, you definitely gain the advantage of scalability.
Tools like DiscoverOrg and LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you find prospects to contact, and using a tool like VoilaNorbert allows you to plug in their information and find anyone’s email address – along with personal selling must-haves like their social media profiles. From there, you can dig around for similar interests and possible connections you can leverage to personalize your outreach campaign.
A whopping 58% of buyers state that sales meetings aren’t valuable and that there should be a greater focus on the value you can deliver. As discussed above, relationship building and focusing on establishing trust and likeability will take you far in your personal selling journey, but only if you focus on providing prospects value with every interaction.
One way to get there is by creating and leveraging buyer personas. That initial research will provide key data points from the average client’s age and location to income level and buying behavior. It will help you identify common customer pain points, goals, and common objections that you can prepare talk tracks for that really showcase your product’s total value to them.
Now that you’re better equipped for the sales call, it’s important to remember to deploy the Socratic method and ask better questions. Asking the right questions takes just as much skill as providing the right answers, and the more information you extract, the better your chances are of closing the deal.
Keep asking why and saying “tell me more about that” until you get to the underlying issue. Every prospect has a story they are dying to tell, but it’s up to you to get out of your own way and truly listen.
Finally, when it comes to personal selling, you won’t get what you ask for if you don’t ask for the sale and follow up. It sounds simple enough, but many sales reps miss these important points. Follow up often, switch up your cadence, and keep searching for ways to establish rapport and provide them value. With enough persistence, you’ll earn the right to ask for the sale.
Potential Drawbacks Of Personal Selling
There are many benefits to personal selling, but it’s not a great fit for every organization. For starters, it can be expensive. Paying your sales staff to spend extra time researching each prospect and getting to know them on a personal level before going for the sale requires a hefty budget.
It’s also time-consuming and requires serious persistence, which are qualities better suited to specific industries and products. Finally, it’s a difficult model to scale. As your company grows, you’ll need to invest more in training sales reps to deploy personal selling tactics so they can bring value to your organization sooner.
Don’t let that discourage you from deploying a personal selling strategy, because done correctly, it can reap tremendous rewards for both the sales rep and their organization. The trust and rapport built from personal selling creates happier clients that feel more invested in their purchase, will promote the company to their friends, and likely be more open to additional products and services you offer.
What about personal selling do you find most challenging? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below: