The acid test of the appropriateness of personal-selling strategy comes when particular salespeople interact with particular customers. From the composite of all such interactions evolves the company’s achievement of its personalselling objectives. Management makes its first key decision on personalselling strategy when it determines the kind of salesperson needed. It makes its second key decision when it determines the size of the company sales force. But after these decisions are implemented—after the desired number of the desired kind of sales personnel have been recruited, trained, and assigned to the field—each salesperson must individualize his or her own dealings with each customer. The job, when boiled down to its essentials, is to influence customer behavior in ways that both benefit the customer and contribute to the achievement of the company’s personal-selling objectives.
Regardless of whether the salesperson’s major role is that of order getter or order taker and regardless of the “basic selling style,” the extent of the salesperson’s success depends on the outcome of interactions with the customers. Each time the salesperson comes into contact with a customer, the salesperson says certain things, does certain things, and behaves and reacts in certain ways to what the customer says and does. What the salesperson says and does and how the salesperson behaves and reacts to the customers’ behavior should, and generally does, vary from one sales call to the next.
The nature of the variation in the salesperson’s approach to each customer, of course, is a matter of selling skill. This skill is a function of both how good the salesperson’s preplanning of each sales call has been and performance on the call itself. In doing the preplanning, the skilled salesperson analyzes a great deal of information about the customer and the nature of its business. What are its key objectives and problems? Who in the customer’s organization makes and influences buying decisions, and what are their aspirations, needs, motives, fears, anxieties, drives, and the like? What rival sales personnel from what companies compete for the account’s orders, and what are they like?
After analyzing these and similar items of information, the skilled salesperson sets definite goals to accomplish on each call. Next, the skilled salesperson plots the selling strategy to use on each successive call in an effort to achieve these definite goals, that is, what the salesperson plans to do and when. Then the salesperson makes the scheduled sales calls. If all goes according to plan, the salesperson achieves the goals set for each call, and thus the salesperson contributes to the achievement of the company’s overall personal-selling objectives.
While the individual members of the sales force ultimately determine the success or failure of the company’s overall personal-selling strategy, sales management has the important responsibility for helping them develop and improve their selling skills. How effectively salespeople perform their assigned tasks is closely related to sales management’s effectiveness in providing them with instruction on sales techniques.
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.