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The Ultimate Guide to Personal Selling

As a business owner, entrepreneur, or manager (or all the above), you know how important sales is to the success of your business. Salespeople make critical prospect connections, communicate the value of your product or service, and directly impact your bottom line.

However, it’s also no secret that salespeople can sometimes get a bad rap — ever see a comic strip or a meme poking fun at the stereotypical pushy, tactless nature of the traditional salesperson?

In situations where these stereotypes are true, sales can actually hurt your business and brand.

So, how can your business leverage sales in a way that positively impacts your business?

This is where personal selling comes into play. Personal selling is the key to a well-balanced sales organization, and, in this guide, we’re going to explain why that’s the case.

Personal selling is most commonly used for business-to-business (B2B) selling, although it’s also used in retail and trade selling, too.

Personal selling is highly effective for a few reasons:

  • It allows for detailed, personalized communication between your business potential customers.
  • It gives your sales team the chance to individually address any questions, concerns, or objections potential customers may have and move them closer to purchase.
  • It provides a personal, one-on-one connection between your organization and your potential customers.

Personal selling is effective; however, it’s also expensive. For that reason, organizations that invest in this selling approach should detail a personal selling process for their team to follow. A streamlined sales process helps sales teams know how to approach prospects, allocate resources, and identify gaps.

The personal selling process is comprised of seven equally-important steps. Each of these steps allows your sales team to better understand and serve your prospects and customers — ultimately leading to higher close rates and customer satisfaction.

Download these 101 questions to ask contacts when qualifying, closing, negotiating, and upselling.

1. Prospecting

The first step of the personal selling process is seeking out potential customers called prospects or leads. Prospecting can be done by cold calling, in-person networking, or online research.

An important part of the prospecting stage is lead qualification. Remember, personal selling is all about finding solutions for your customers, but, naturally, not everyone is fit to be a customer or find a solution using your product or service. Therefore, you must qualify your leads to avoid spending precious time and resources on prospects who have little to no chance of becoming customers — and minimize customer churn.

Check out our free Sales Enablement course on how to develop a lead qualification framework for your sales and marketing teams.

2. Pre-Approach

During the pre-approach stage, your sales team should prepare to make initial contact with any leads they’ve discovered while prospecting. Pre-approach typically involves extensive online research about the prospect, the market, and his or her business. This stage also includes building and practicing a sales presentation tailored to the prospect.

3. Approach

Next is one of the most important steps — the approach. In this stage, your sales team should make initial contact with a prospect by reaching out, introducing themselves, and starting a conversation. This might happen via a phone call, video call, email, or even in-person.

The ultimate goal of the approach stage is to better understand the prospect and know their wants, needs, and problems — anything that your product or service can help satisfy or solve. For this reason, your sales team should focus on mainly asking questions in this stage to know if and how your product or service can solve their challenges and pain points.

4. Presentation

The next stage is the sales presentation. This stage is when your sales team finally presents and potentially demonstrates your product or service. Throughout the presentation, your sales team should focus on how your product or service benefits the prospect, using information gathered in the pre-approach and approach stages.

Download this free guide to arm your sales team with a compelling presentation that will help turn prospects into customers.

5. Handling Objections

At this point in the personal sales process, after the presentation, is when a prospect will likely have questions and objections. It’s the job of your sales team to correct any misconceptions, handle any objections, and answer any questions — without seeming pushy or losing the trust of the prospect. The purpose of this stage isn’t to change a prospect’s mind or force them to buy; it’s simply to learn more about how to best help the prospect reach a solution.

6. Closing

After any objections and barriers to the sale have been removed, your sales team should prepare to ask for the sale — otherwise known as “closing” the deal. This stage refers to settling any negotiations, payments, invoices, contracts, or paperwork that finalizes the sale.

7. Follow-Up

The final stage of the personal selling process is the follow-up, which is when your sales team contacts the customer after a sale to ensure satisfaction and successful onboarding. This stage is important because it allows your sales team to maintain customer relationships as well as provide a direct connection to your customer service team if a customer isn’t happy — and happy customers become advocates, which can support your marketing and sales down the line.

Personal selling can be a complicated job, especially dealing with the unpredictability of human preference and behavior. Here are some personal selling strategies to help diversify the way your team approaches selling to various customers.

Be natural and personable.

The first thing your sales team is selling is themselves. If someone doesn’t like a salesperson, they likely won’t trust anything they say. Encourage your team to tell stories of current customers to help your prospects relate to your product or service.

Remember your buyer personas.

As your team prospects and qualifies leads, ensure they remember your organization’s buyer personas (or target audience). If your company typically targets customers with a certain budget or team size, don’t waste time working with leads outside of those specifications. Salespeople often make the mistake of trying to sell to anyone and everyone; by focusing on good-fit leads, they’re much more likely to make the sale.

Ask the customer plenty of questions.

Your team should listen more than they talk. They won’t know how to help and sell to customers if they don’t know their questions or concerns. Also, encourage them not to forget to ask questions about what motivates your prospects as this will tell them how to relate your product or service to their needs.

Focus on end benefits, not product features.

Once your team learns what your prospect needs and what motivates them, have them focus on how they can benefit from your product or service. Make sure they don’t waste time on features that may or may not connect with them or serve any relevance.

Personally address any customer concerns.

As your team works with potential customers, they should consider themselves personal advocates. If prospects have any concerns or questions, they should do their best to personally address them. This will allow them to build trust with prospects and move them closer to purchase.

Ask for the sale.

Prospects know that your team is reaching out to them with the intention of selling, but it’s always wise to pointedly ask for the sale. Your team can do this after the sales presentation and after addressing any questions, concerns, or objections. Research and test various closing phrases to see what comes natural to your sales team.

Follow-up after the presentation.

Give prospects some time to consider the sale after the sales presentation, but remind your team that they should always follow-up via phone or email. Prospects may have more questions about your product or service or perhaps another nudge toward purchase.

Follow-up after a purchase.

Your relationship with your customers doesn’t end once they buy your product or service. Following up with customers (via phone, email, or in-person) keeps the relationship alive, which not only gives you your sales team the opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling but also allows you to check in on their satisfaction. Happy customers are your best marketers.

Consider using email tracking software.

Personal selling focuses on the express interest of leads and prospects. Email tracking software can alert your team to when potential customers open their emails so that their know who is interested and who they can follow up with to stay top-of-mind.

Conclusion

There are many different ways to execute the personal selling method. What should remain consistent, though, is how your sales team approaches a potential customer.

Personal selling centers around a genuine interest in helping customers solve their problems using your product or service — not pushing or forcing a sale for the sake of quotas or the bottom line. Encourage your sales team to use these strategies to build and maintain successful, authentic relationships with your customers, and hopefully help your customers become strong advocates for your brand.

Originally published Oct 11, 2019 10:35:34 AM, updated October 11 2019



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