To better understand the job of a salesperson and how it should be managed, the selling process can be broken into a series of steps. Each step in the process may not be required to make every sale, but the salesperson should become skilled in each area in case it is needed. The steps are shown in Figure 8.12.
Prospecting. Prospecting is defined as the seller's search for, and identification of, qualified potential buyers of the product or service. Prospecting can be thought of as a two stage process: (1) identifying the individuals and/or the organizations that might be prospects, and (2) screening potential prospects against evaluative qualifying criteria. Potential prospects that compare favorably to the evaluative criteria can then be classified as qualified prospects.
Preapproach. After the prospect has been qualified, the salesperson continues to gather information about the prospect. This process is called the preapproach. The preapproach can be defined as obtaining as much relevant information as possible regarding the prospect prior to making a sales presentation. The knowledge gained during the preapproach allows the tailoring of the sales presentation to the particular prospect. In many cases, salespeople make a preliminary call on the prospect for the purpose of conducting the preapproach. This is perfectly acceptable, and most professional buyers understand that such a call may be necessary before a presentation can be made.
Planning the presentation. Regardless of the sales situation, some planning should be done before the sales presentation is attempted. The amount of planning that will be necessary and the nature of the planning depend on many factors, including: (a) the objective or objectives of the presentation, (b) how much knowledge the salesperson has regarding the buyer, buyer needs, and the buying situation, (c) the type of presentation to be planned and delivered, and (d) the involvement of other people assisting the salesperson in the sales presentation. Careful planning offers advantages for both the salesperson and the buyer. By carefully planning the presentation, salespeople can: (a) focus on important customer needs and communicate the relevant benefits to the buyer, (b) address potential problem areas prior to the sales presentation, and (c) enjoy self-confidence, which generally increases with the amount of planning done by the salesperson. In planning the presentation, the salesperson must select the relevant parts of their knowledge base and integrate the selected parts into a unified sales message. For any given sales situation, some of the facts concerning the salesperson's company, product, and market will be irrelevant. The challenge to the salesperson is in the task of distilling relevant facts from the total knowledge base. The key question here is, "What informational will the prospect require before they will choose to buy my offering?"
Delivering the presentation. All sales presentations are not designed to secure an immediate sale. Whether the objective is an immediate sale or a future sale, the chances of getting a positive response from a prospect are increased when the salesperson: (a) makes the presentation in the proper climate, (b) establishes credibility with the prospect, (c) ensures clarity of content in the presentation, and (d) controls the presentation within reasonable bounds.
Handling objections. During the course of the sales presentation, the salesperson can expect the prospect to object to one or more points made by the salesperson. Sales objections raised by the prospect can be defined as statements or questions by the prospect which can indicate an unwillingness to buy. Salespeople can learn to handle customer's objections by becoming aware of the reasons for the objections. The objections of customers include objections to prices, products, service, the company, time, or competition. The reasons for objections include that customers have gotten into the habit of raising objections, customers have a desire for more information, and customers have no need for the product or service being marketed. Salespeople can overcome objections by following certain guidelines including viewing objections as selling tools, being aware of the benefits of their product, and creating a list of possible objections and the best answers to those objections.
Closing. To a large degree, the evaluation of salespeoples' performance is bases on their ability to close sales. Certainly, other factors are considered in evaluating performance, but the bottom line for most salespeople is their ability to consistently produce profitable sales volume. Individuals who perform as salespeople occupy a unique role: they are the only individuals in their companies who bring revenue into the company.
There may be several opportunities to attempt to close during a presentation, or opportunity may knock only once. In fact, sometimes opportunities to close may not present themselves at all and the salesperson must create an opportunity to close. Situations where a closing attempt is logical include:
- when a presentation has been completed without any objectives from the prospect;
- when the presentation has been completed and all objections and questions have been answered;
- when the buyer indicates an interest in the product by giving a closing signal, such as a nod of the head.
Follow-up. To ensure customer satisfaction and maximize long-term sales volume, salespeople often engage in sales follow-up activities and the provision for post-sale service. If a sale is not made, a follow-up may eventually lead to a sale.
- Personal selling involves the direct presentation of a product or service idea to a customer or potential customer by a representative of the company or organization.
- There are various types of selling: inside order taker, delivery salesperson, route-merchandise salesperson, missionary salesperson, technical salesperson, creative salesperson of tangibles, creative salesperson of intangibles, indirect salesperson, salesperson engaged in multiple sales.
- The selling process includes the following steps:
- planning for presentation
- delivering the presentation
- handling objectives