9 Tips for Personal Selling that Guarantee Success in 2023
Don’t get me wrong—I love email and phone as tools for sales communication. But there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation with your prospects. That’s what personal selling is all about.
In years past, doing a sales pitch in person was about going door-to-door or office-to-office to sell your products or services to new leads. Now, face-to-face selling has taken on new technologies, using Zoom and other video conference apps to “meet” customers and prospects.
So, why is personal selling still so important for sales? Let’s talk about how this process works, plus personal selling advantages and disadvantages.
What is Personal Selling?
Personal selling is the act of doing a sales pitch with the prospect face-to-face.
This can be done by sales consultants sent by companies to promote their products to a prospective customer at the customer’s location, also known as a missionary salesperson, or done on-site on the sales rep’s own turf, such as in a retail store or demo center.
There is also a third type, where sales representatives arrange a meeting with the prospective buyer at a third “neutral” location and pitch the product or service through a presentation.
The most common type of personal selling is the one done on-site—you see it with car dealerships, realtor agents, home improvement solutions, and much more. When the purchase is substantial, the client often needs to go on-site to decide, allowing the salesperson to promote the product or service directly to the prospect.
Why is the Personal Selling Process Important?
Today's prospective buyers are intelligent, well-informed people who try to make smart decisions with their investments. But, unfortunately, they’re also overwhelmed with choices—the market is extremely competitive, so it's not as hard to find an alternative as it once was.
This is where you can see the importance of personal selling—making long-lasting connections and being there for the customer. Person-to-person communication during a sales pitch allows the agent to answer any concerns and form a meaningful relationship.
No matter how much money you put into marketing and public relations, nothing can sell your product better than a sales expert.
Tip: If your sales team might not be up to the task, consider hiring a sales consultant to help you!
Pros & Cons of Personal Selling
No sales tactic is perfect, and personal selling is no exception to this rule. So here we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of this personal selling sales process.
Advantages of the Personal Selling Process
As we focus on the pros of personal selling, consider that face-to-face selling involves significant preparation. Be sure to roleplay potential scenarios with your fellow sales team members and managers who are experienced in handling objections, and be prepared to deal with a fast round of questions. When in doubt, you can always consult our curated list of sales consultant tips to get you started.
Personalize Sales Messages
Because those face-to-face meetings are individual, they can be adjusted according to the potential buyer's interests and motivations.
The sales representative will see people’s specific pain points and target them accordingly. The tone of voice and language used is also adjusted so that the salesperson can promote the company's products in the best light possible.
Demonstrate the Product
Direct contact also allows for a sales presentation and demonstrations of the service or product, which can be hard to do on a sales call or via email.
The prospect can see how this product can help them specifically, whether it's an individual buyer or a company representative.
Answer Questions On The Spot
During this presentation, questions can arise, and who better to answer them than a skillful sales representative?
Yes, your website might offer a section with frequently asked questions, but the chances are that it doesn't cover all the potential topics a customer might care about.
Another specific is that often, certain questions will not arise until the prospect sees the product or service in action, especially when we're talking about a more complex idea.
Focus on Qualified Leads Only
Personal selling is a very targeted technique, and you don't go meeting every potential customer.
I previously talked about different types of personal selling: on-site and arranged meetings.
With on-site selling, prospective customers come to you and seek out your company's product. Therefore, they are already aware of its main characteristics and, most importantly, are interested in purchasing. Spend time asking the right questions and addressing the prospect’s objections and pain points.
When heading out to an arranged meeting, you should have thoroughly researched the prospective customer and reviewed their lead generation data thoroughly. For example, where did they find out about your product? Were they a referral from someone else? Did they respond to a specific sales promotion? Are they long-time customers to whom you are upselling a new product? These bits of information are helpful when executing an effective sales strategy.
The ability to perform targeted selling is also the main feature that makes the personal selling process so successful and important in business, and while it can seem time-consuming, the targeted nature means higher returns on investment.
Form Better Customer Relationships
Technology is great, but nothing compares to face-to-face interaction. During a real-life sales meeting, your representative has the chance to forge long-lasting, high-quality relationships and increase the number of loyal clients. First, build trust and rapport with the prospects, so they remember you when they make a “yes” purchase decision. Then, follow up with them, ensure they are happy with their purchase, and ask for referrals.
Disadvantages of Personal Selling
While personal selling has some great advantages, there are a few considerations to account for before diving into such a program.
Training is Expensive
Personal selling is not an easy process. Sometimes, even experienced salespeople will have difficulty closing a deal in person, especially if they are used to online or over-the-phone communication with their qualified prospects.
To get an effective team of personal sales experts, you'll likely have to hire a trainer or invest in a sales training program for your team.
The main problem, however, is that you won't know whether a specific sales representative is good or not at door-to-door or business-to-business selling until you send them out into the field, and there will be a few failures before success. Of course, this is true in every business area, but the situation is a bit different in personal selling.
You can do a lot of experiments in marketing, SEO, and even sales when it's done through cold calling or email, and it doesn't cost that much. However, you only have one chance when selling products and services in person, and it’s unlikely to happen in the first few tries. This is what makes hiring the right salespeople in the first place so important.
Sales Rep Turnover is High
Because it is such a demanding and challenging job, stress levels are much higher for your employees that depend on in-person interaction to close a deal. So naturally, even when a lot of money is involved, face-to-face selling agents are usually the ones to quit first when they feel too much pressurе.
After someone leaves, the company has to immediately find someone to replace them and continue the work as soon as possible.
Costs Per Sale are Elevated
Every deal requires the company to provide specific supplies and cover the costs of the sales rep, and in the end, you can spend only a certain amount of money on selling a deal.
The overall promotional costs include but are not limited to: travel expenses, commission, salary, supporting material, office supplies, product guides and brochures, telecommunication, bonuses, and more.
All of that puts even more pressure on the sales rep to close the deal and be successful, which can lead to high sales rep turnover.
Added Sales Administration Tasks
With digital communication and behind-the-desk sales, a CRM system is convenient. Updating notes, logging phone calls and emails, and reviewing updates is often automated. However, you need to take special care towards documentation when you're on the road. While cloud-based software goes a long way in solving the problem, it’s difficult to actively take notes on your CRM while you’re in the middle of a face-to-face sales pitch.
Instead, some sales reps will record their presentations with voice memos, then transcribe them the next time they get a free minute to themselves ... but many do not. Poor data leads to poor reporting, leading to poor sales strategy decision-making.
Examples of Personal Selling
Now, let’s look at some examples of face-to-face sales and the personal selling techniques that make them successful.
As new products and technologies emerge, and general wear and tear occur, businesses will need to replace or upgrade their current office equipment on a rolling basis. From desks to chairs to computers to photocopiers, an office equipment supply company may get a lead from an office manager who filled out a coupon request on their website or called for a quote.
First, the salesperson might want to visit the customer to see the prospect’s place of business to get a better overview of the equipment and supplies that may be opportunities for a sale. Then, the salesperson can invite the buyer (and any other decision makers they want to bring along) to test out equipment first-hand at the supplier’s showroom.
Techniques Used: In-person research, showroom demonstration
Car salespeople spend hours upon hours training on each model car before they hit the sales floor. They know buyers do their homework and have different brand impressions and loyalties. Therefore, they spend a tremendous amount of time preparing their sales pitches. The general flow of car sales is pretty standard — choose a model, do a walk-around, test-drive, and negotiate. Sales consultant training is used by automotive companies to specifically train each brand to the company’s standards (ex. Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Jeep, Ford, etc.) and how to sell upsells such as gap insurance, tire, and roadside coverage, etc.
During these other hands-on activities, the prospect will ask their key questions, describe pain points, and present objections. Again, the salesperson is there to answer questions in a friendly, confident manner while building rapport with the customer.
Techniques Used: Expert training in FAQs, sales consultant training, and established sales process/flow.
Travel is another industry that uses personal selling due to its many complexities and options. A travel advisor must be able to explain each travel experience in detail, ask an entire litany of questions (interests, scheduling, airline preferences, hotel brand preferences, dining options) and assemble a proposal that works. They use various databases and computer systems, attend training, become certified ambassadors for different brands, etc. They also learn the profit structure around each area of travel, as there are some travel pieces (such as domestic airfare) that pay no commission to travel agents. Travel agents/advisors typically spend a lot of time in industry groups on social media, LinkedIn, and travel websites, learning the latest from peers.
As travel providers release different packages and pricing, a travel agent must follow many plans, which is why it can be worth it for the customer to pay an agent to take care of these time-consuming tasks. When using personal selling, the agent typically will put together a photo-intense presentation or video series to present to the prospect. They even may use modern 3D virtual reality technologies for an immersive experience.
Techniques Used: Ongoing training, industry trade groups, photographic and video presentations, virtual reality
9 Personal Selling Strategies For 2022
Now that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of personal selling, let’s break down some helpful strategies you can use when employing this method.
1. Use Personal Selling Only When Necessary
This sales method will not work for everyone, so you must ensure you can benefit from it. Personal selling is best suited:
- When you’re selling custom, technical, or expensive equipment such as high-ticket software and real estate
- When your product needs a real-life demonstration before it can be purchased
- When you’re looking to introduce a new series of products or services
- When you have infrequent but valuable purchases
- When you have a small number of very high-value clients
There are exceptions to every rule, but these are the main reasons you want to opt for a personal selling strategy instead of other tactics.
2. Optimize Your Lead Qualifying Process
Qualifying prospects is a vital part of personal selling. You can’t engage with every single lead and hope for the best. The best strategy is to carefully select prospects such as those on your existing email list, with the most significant potential of turning into clients.
To do that, you’d have to optimize the entire process of qualifying leads:
- Create an ideal customer profile and use this persona as your target prospective customer when developing your sales pitch
- For high dollar purchases, use wealth screening to determine purchase habits
- Try to define their needs and pain points
- Fully understand their decision-making process
- Research the competition
3. Gather Enough Information About The Prospect
When you have the main customer profile ready, try to gather information about the prospect—little things that show you pay attention and you’ve done your research can make a significant difference during the pre-approach phase of sales.
Understand how they communicate with people—very professional and formal, or witty and casual. This will help you set the tone for the entire meeting, presentation, and how you conduct the pitch.
What ultimately matters the most is that you clearly understand (and can articulate) how you can help your prospects overcome their most crucial problems or achieve their objectives.
4. Establish a Connection Beforehand
Unless you work on-site, you’ll have to first communicate over the phone, by email, or using social media like LinkedIn to arrange a meeting in person.
Be friendly and build rapport before you see each other face to face. This will give you an advantage when the actual pitch starts because there will be a feeling of familiarity, removing some of the stress you might feel before a presentation.
A great way of also doing this is by sending personalized videos.
5. Organize and Plan With an All-In-One CRM Tool
Every sales force needs a powerful tool to optimize the sales process—otherwise, they risk losing important clients.
With a CRM, you can put all of the prospective customers in one place, sort them by probability, update what you've already done to prepare yourself for the pitch, and so much more.
For example, with Close, you can directly email prospective customers, create a list of tasks for each, keep all your contacts in one place, call them, and build sales sequences that allow you to scale your personalized sales outreach.
The personal selling process is creative and requires a lot of planning, so don't waste your time with administrative tasks or using multiple tools to schedule and prepare yourself for a meeting.
Start automating your sales process with Close instead for a seamless and easy experience.
6. Prepare Your Presentation and Rehearse
Rehearse your pitch multiple times. Then, show it to colleagues, your spouse, your mom, and anyone who will listen. The idea is to get used to talking about the product or service confidently, without mishaps. Ask them to pretend to be customers and ask genuine questions they may have. Then, adjust your pitch to clarify those areas if you keep getting the same questions.
7. Be Prepared for All Types of Questions
You can’t predict the future, but you can try to predict the most plausible questions the prospective customer might ask. You don't need to create the ultimate sales guide for your team—even getting started with a minimum viable version of sales documentation is better than showing up unprepared.
Listen carefully and take notes if needed. Knowing what you’re trying to sell is essential while being honest and transparent. Make it personal and give examples relevant to their business to show how they can benefit from this deal.
8. Choose The Best Meeting Place
The best idea would be to have a private meeting, especially if you have an entire presentation or a product demonstration. Invite the prospect and use a presentable meeting room if you have an office.
If you don’t have one available, you can always hire a conference room in a third location or offer to come to their office if you’re pitching to a business.
9. Ask for Feedback and Follow Up
The sales process does not end with the final word of your pitch. At the end of your sales conversation, when all the questions are over, calculate your chances based on the interaction and try to close the deal.
Whatever the outcome is, make sure to ask for feedback and always follow up even after the meeting is over and you go your separate ways. If the answer is no, remember that customer needs change, and establishing a long-term relationship with the prospect and occasional check-ins can result in future opportunities for doing business together.
Ready to Make an Impact?
In personal selling, it's essential to be prepared for anything to make the best impression on your prospect. By following the tips above, you'll be able to qualify leads, build a personal connection with your prospective customers, and present your product or service in the most effective way possible.
And remember, there is nothing more valuable than experience—take notes, keep improving, and you can take over the world of personal selling!
Want to learn how to better prep and pitch better? Get the sales pitch guide from Close: