The Personal Selling Process
Prospecting starts with defining a narrow target market, identifying the customer’s wants, and then offering custom solutions.
Explain tools used in evaluating customer needs
- Where the potential market is very wide, there are significant advantages to limiting oneself to just one or two specialized market segments.
- To identify which particular market segment to aim for, a salesperson should analyze the profile of their existing customers, and secure a picture of what their “ideal customer” should look like. The profile should include psycho-demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, jobs, and interests.
- It is important to find out what customers really need, customize products to meet those needs, and make sure your products fit into the customer’s existing world.
- unique selling proposition: Any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects.
Prospecting for customers is the first step to selling. The entire object of any prospecting must be to find sales leads that can eventually be translated into sales turnover. Effective prospecting requires a systematic methodology. The essential rule is to prospect all the time, and not just when the list of potential people on whom to call runs out.
Narrowing the Target Market and Customer Field
Where the potential market is very wide, there are significant advantages to limiting oneself to just one or two specialized market segments. First, a salesperson does not have the time to make everyone his customer. Second, there may be some products in a salesperson’s product range that match up better to one industry or market segment than another. If they can tailor their products to secure a unique selling proposition in that particular market segment, they will meet less competition.
By focusing on a particular industry, a salesperson can gradually acquire technical knowledge of his customer’s industry, thus enabling them to develop empathy and talk on equal terms with their customers. To identify which particular market segment to aim for, a salesperson should analyze the profile of their existing customers, and secure a picture of what their “ideal customer” should look like. The profile should include psycho-demographic characteristics, such as age, sex, careers, and interests, since all will impact where or when they buy. If viable, the salesperson should also consider using mail shots and advertising to evaluate their potential market.
Having decided on a specific market, the salesperson should try to limit their prospecting to remain within that market. The ideal customer (i.e., the one who buys as soon as the salesperson talks to them) is probably non-existent, but the closer a salesperson’s prospect matches that ideal customer profile, the fewer sales objections will arise.
Identifying a Customer’s Wants
A process to determine the actual needs of consumers requires the identification of the market factors that produce them. In this process, companies should find real consumption motivators that eventually evolve into product offerings. Furthermore, a correct business definition leads to a natural market orientation; for instance, Charles Revson’s famous quote, “in the factory we make cosmetics; in the drug store we sell hope,” allowed the company to develop cosmetic products based on women’s hopes rather than product features.
Several potential pitfalls should be avoided:
- the natural tendency to impose a personal point of view when launching a new product or entering a new market.
- simple imitation about competitors ‘ moves.
- lack of sufficient research and market knowledge to produce market-proved ideas.
A framework has been proposed to align customer’s needs and wants with companies capabilities. This framework was introduced by Sherri Dorfman in her 2005 marketing article, entitled “What do Customers Really, Really Want”.
Three Step Process to Develop a Market Orientation
Step 1. Discovery: Finding out What Customer’s Need
Learn about customer needs and priorities to identify opportunities in the company to fulfill these needs, and to create new or enhanced product offerings. These ideas must be incorporated in a market research process involving customers and other clients and suppliers in the Value Chain.
Step 2. Definition: Customizing the Offering to Meet Customer Needs
In this step, Dorfman proposes prioritizing features and benefits identified by clients, suppliers, and customers. Different qualitative research techniques such as in-depth interviews, ethnographies, and focus group sessions permit the identification of the core market needs.
Step 3. Validation: Ensuring Offerings fit within Customer’s World
A salesperson must understand their products thoroughly, and ensure that there is a match between product, benefits, and customer needs. Further communication with consumers validate the final definition of a market-based product or service. This validation takes place as the prototypes are assessed by consumers to identify potential problems and to smooth out design issues.
All these models take into account the so-called end consumer perspective, which implies that consumers buying, using, or recommending the products are the driving force behind successful marketing efforts.
The preapproach is when you gather relevant information regarding the prospect in order to create a customized sales presentation.
Examine the elements of the sales pre-approach used in personal selling and sales promotion
- To create a customized presentation and sales pitch, a salesperson must spend time defining their goals, researching the client’s needs and problems, and asking what information the client needs before choosing to buy the offering.
- The salesperson must ask if the product meet’s the client’s needs, if the client has the finances to make a purchase, and if the audience of the presentation is the actual decision-maker.
- Through careful planning, salespeople can focus on important customer needs and communicate the relevant benefits to the buyer, address potential problem areas prior to the sales presentation, and enjoy the self-confidence that arises after thorough preparation.
- cold call: A sales call either by telephone or personal presence, made without a referral or without preparing the recipient of the call.
- preapproach: the stage of the selling process that consists of customer research and goal planning for the presentation
After the prospect has been qualified, the salesperson continues to gather information about the prospect. 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.
Researching the Client
To create a customized presentation and sales pitch, a salesperson must spend time defining their goals researching the client. Several factors including the following must be considered prior to approaching a customer:
- The objective or objectives of the presentation.
- What are the buyer’s needs? What is the buying situation? What is the buyer’s problem that can be solved with the salesperson’s offering?
- The type of presentation to be planned and delivered.
- What information will the prospect require before they will choose to buy my offering? The salesperson should know the requirements that a potential customer has set for his future, the priorities that he has decided, and in all probability, his financial resources. Failing to analyze a prospect is the main reason for a great deal of wasted prospecting spent on a customer who should have been promptly discarded after due research.
Gather Information from Printed Materials
A salesperson should read all he can about his market, using information that is readily and freely available in libraries, reference books, trade directories, newspapers, and magazines. Local newspapers are full of names, addresses, and occupations of many people in the community, who could use his services.
Gather Information from Contacts
A salesperson can use personal and previous business contacts to gather information on new clients and their preferences. Personal contacts can also be a great source for mining information. Aside from friends and family, there are also professionals a salesperson has dealt with in his own life such as neighbors, real estate agents, decorators, and fellow PTA members. By leveraging the established relationships a salesperson has with these contacts, he will find it easier than cold calling to get the inside track on a new customer.
Does Your Product Meet the Buyer’s Needs?
A salesman’s product must be relevant to his prospect. If no one’s requirements seem to match with what he is selling, then he is either moving in the wrong circles or selling the wrong product. The unfortunate truth is that many sales are attempted to prospects who could be eliminated as possibilities by a little research.
Does Your Prospect Have the Finances to Buy?
The salesman must establish on the outset whether the prospect can afford to buy. The information required can generally be established very early in a sales interview through a simple trial close such as, “If I can convince you that…, would you be prepared to consider…..? ‘” You are not asking for a decision, and the prospect, in answering, is merely saying, “You have not convinced me yet, but if you can, I would be prepared to…” Failing to establish this initial willingness or ability to invest will result in endless, unprofitable discussions.
Is Your Prospect the Decision Maker?
It is vital to know who the decision-maker is, so as to save a great deal of time in having to redo yet another sales presentation. It is sometimes necessary to disbelieve someone who says that he is the decision maker. It is possible that someone who does not have the authority may well be reluctant to say so, possibly to pre-screen the salesperson first, before allowing him to meet the actual decision-maker.
Benefits of Careful Planning & Research
Careful planning offers advantages for both the salesperson and the buyer. Through careful planning salespeople can:
- Focus on important customer needs and communicate the relevant benefits to the buyer.
- Address potential problem areas prior to the sales presentation.
- 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 his 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, and the challenge is in the task of distilling relevant facts from the total knowledge base.