Diversity of Personal-Selling Situations

Considerable diversity exists among personal-selling situations, and it is helpful to distinguish between service and developmental selling. Service selling aims to obtain sales from existing customers whose habits and patterns of thought are already conducive to such sales. Developmental selling aims to convert prospects into customers. Developmental selling, in other words, seeks to create customers out of people who do not currently view the salesperson’s company favorably, and who likely are resistant to changing present sources of supply.

Different sales positions require different amounts and kinds of ser­vice and developmental selling. McMurry and Arnold classify positions on a spectrum ranging from the very simple to the highly complex. They cate­gorize sales positions into three mutually exclusive groups each containing subgroups, a total of nine subgroups in all:

Group A (service selling)

  1. Inside Order Taker—“waits on” customers; for example, the sales clerk behind the neckwear counter in a men’s store.
  2. Delivery Salesperson—mainly engages in delivering the product; for example, persons delivering milk, bread, or fuel oil.
  3. Route or Merchandising Salesperson—operates as an order taker but works in the field—the soap or spice salesperson calling on retailers is typical.
  4. Missionary—aims only to build goodwill or to educate the actual or potential user, and is not expected to take an order; for exam­ple, the distiller’s “missionary” and the pharmaceutical company’s “detail” person.
  5. Technical Salesperson—emphasizes technical knowledge; for ex­ample, the engineering salesperson, who is primarily a consultant to “client” companies.

Group B (developmental selling)

  1. Creative Salesperson of Tangibles—for example, salespersons selling vacuum cleaners, automobiles, water purifiers, and encyclopedias.
  2. Creative Salesperson of Intangibles—for example, salespersons selling insurance, advertising services, and educational programs.

Group C (basically developmental selling, but requiring unusual creativity)

  1. “Political, ” “Indirect, ” or “Back-Door” Salesperson—sells big-ticket items, particularly commodities or items with no truly compet­itive features. Sales are consummated through rendering highly personalized services (which have little or no connection with the product) to key decision makers in customers’ organizations; for example, the salesperson who lands large orders for flour from baking companies by catering to key buyers’ interests in fishing, golfing, blondes, or the like.
  2. Salesperson Engaged in Multiple Sales—involves sales of big-ticket items where the salesperson must make presentations to several in­dividuals in the customer’s organization, usually a committee, only one of which can say “yes,” but all of whom can say “no”; for exam­ple, the account executive of an advertising agency who makes pre­sentations to the “agency selection committees” of advertisers—even after the account is obtained, the salesperson has to work to retain it.

The more developmental selling required in a particular sales job and the more complex it is, the harder it is to make sales. The amount and kind of developmental selling depends upon the natures of prospects and customers, on the one hand, and the nature of products, on the other hand. The easiest sales are self-service sales: customers know their needs, know the products capable of satisfying these needs, sell themselves, and go through the checkout line. The most difficult sales require developmental selling and creativity—where sometimes the sales must be made on some­thing other than the product’s merit, or “multiple” sales are necessary to get the order, and where continual effort is required to keep the account.

Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.

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