Personal Selling: A Comprehensive Guide for Businesses

Kevin McCann
What is personal selling?

What is personal selling?

Personal selling is a powerful way to engage and persuade customers. It can become the best tool in your arsenal to help close more deals and build stronger relationships with customers.

It’s about understanding what people want and then having the ability to communicate the value of your product or service to their specific needs.

The most primitive forms of selling would have used personal selling, where one person spoke face to face with another.

Throughout history, new selling techniques have emerged that were aimed at the masses.

This guide will help you understand personal selling in more detail, including how it can be used as a tool to grow your business.

Personal Selling Advantages

  • Customized Sales Message. In personal selling, the seller is in direct face-to-face contact with the customer. This means they can more easily identify what their needs are and tailor a sales pitch to fit those specific desires.
  • High-customer attention. You are only focused on one of your potential customers at a time, so you can give them the attention they deserve. It is more likely that they will remember their interaction with you and, in turn, return to purchase from your company.
  • Better Communication and Interactivity. You have more opportunities to interact with your customer and show them how your team is qualified to solve their specific problems.
  • Persuasive. Personal selling is more compelling because it is one-on-one, and the seller can tailor their message to fit the customer.
  • Develop Deeper Relationships. A sales representative can call and connect with customers on a personal level and form deeper relationships.
  • Easily Adaptable. Allows your sales team to answer questions, address concerns, and remove objections in a personalized way to ensure the customer knows they’ve been heard.

Personal Selling Disadvantages

  • Labor intensive. Personal selling a more labor-intensive form of selling because salespeople need to be available for many of the stages in a sales cycle.
  • Difficult to Scale. Personal sales is an individual skill set that will be unique to each sales representative. It is challenging to scale and replicate personal selling among salespeople in a company.
  • No standardization. Unlike a mass campaign with consistent communication, personal selling is harder to standardize because of its bespoke nature.
  • Patience required. It takes time to develop a relationship with your customer.
  • Salespeople are expensive. It can be challenging to find talented salespeople with strong personal selling skills, and if you do find one, they will probably demand higher wages.
  • Slow and Timely. It takes more effort to personalize a message for one customer than it would if you were marketing a product to the masses.

How can a sales representative focus on the right leads?

A salesperson’s time is limited, and personal selling is time-intensive. So how do you make sure the salesperson is focused on potential customers who are most likely to purchase your product?

By focusing on the “right” leads, a salesperson can increase their win rate.

Who are the right leads?

The right lead is someone who has a high likelihood of converting into your customer. The best way to identify the right leads is to create a buyer persona. 

A buyer persona is a fictionalized personification of your target customer. It helps personal selling because it gives the salesperson more background information on the potential customers they’re targeting to tailor their approach better.

When creating a buyer persona, you should answer questions such as: What is this person’s gender? How old are they? Do they have any children? Are there any other family members in their household or living with them for support (e.g., parents)? Where do these people live and work? How much money does this person make? What hobbies do they enjoy most outside of work/family life?”

Most sales representatives think they know their buyer persona and consider this exercise a waste of time. However, we’ve found over the years that it’s critical to complete this exercise. Salespeople who don’t will often spend time on unqualified prospects, resulting in a less-targeted approach and lower sales.

Preparation is Critical

57% of B2B prospects feel the salesperson is underprepared. To avoid being apart of this statistic your personal selling process should be well-documented. You should have a playbook to go through with your customers, detailing what you’re going to speak about and how much time you’ll spend on each topic – so when the customer says, “I don’t want to talk about that,” or they seem bored by it, you can say “okay let’s move on.”

The personal selling process should also be customized for each customer. You want to find out what their interests are and speak about those topics more than others. If the person is job-hunting or considering a career change, you’ll spend more time focusing on those needs in your conversation with them. In other cases, a prospective customer is already familiar with your industry, and you may not need to spend much time explaining your products and services.

You should also have a list of topics that are off-limits for personal selling conversations – these might be related to something they’ve mentioned or benefits that don’t apply to them.

Adding Value during a sales presentation

58% of buyers say their sales meetings aren’t valuable. When you’re meeting with prospects, be prepared to add value at every step of the selling process. That means being able to share additional benefits, statistics, and more during your face-to-face meetings. You’ll also want to do deep research in advance so that you can anticipate their needs: when they tell you about a specific problem or concern; when they mention what competitor offers; or if there’s an issue related to price point – all these are opportunities for to add additional value and make sure that your product provides a superior solution.

Personal selling statistic: 58% of prospects say sales meetings have no value.

How do you add additional value?

Researching your competitors, industry data, and statistics is a great way to build your knowledge in advance of meeting with prospects. The more you know, the better able you’ll be to add value by sharing information and facts that they may not have known or considered on their own.

For example, if a prospect tells you about a competitor’s product functionality or price point, mention how your budget-friendly option is just as effective while also being less expensive than the competition. Or if someone tells you what problem they’re facing – let’s say it’s an issue related to time management – share stats like “90% of business professionals feel overwhelmed” and offer them ways that your service could help solve their specific challenge.

A salesperson is on the same side of the table

It’s essential to make your prospects feel like you are on the same side of the table as them. This isn’t the case for most sales reps, because 87% of decision-makers believe salespeople don’t understand their needs. The sale shouldn’t feel like you vs. them. If you’re using personal selling, you should know what the prospect’s motivation is and understanding what they are trying to accomplish. Prepare yourself to ask deep questions about their business.

Be cautious when asking questions. Your prospects shouldn’t feel they are being interrogated or that you’re trying to manipulate them into a purchase. You want the prospect to leave feeling confident in their decision and reassured that it’s the right one for them – even if it means choosing another solution!

Selling with Stories

Only 5-10% of information is remembered when a salesperson communicates facts and features. That percentage jumps significantly to 65-70% of information retained when salespeople present the value of a product in the form of a story.

Salespeople frequently fall into the trap of only talking about features. For example: “Product X has this, that and the other thing.”

Instead of highlighting features, focus on how your product or service can help your prospects solve their problems. For instance: “You’re working hard to grow your business but are concerned about time management. Product X is designed for people like you who want more control over their schedule.”

Personal Selling - Share through Stories

The personal story resonates with customers in a way that salesperson-pitched feature lists never could. It’s also much easier to remember.

When people buy stories, they remember it better than anything else – even when those stories have little relevance to reality!

7 Steps of Personal Selling 

  1. Prospecting
  2. Pre-approach
  3. Approach
  4. Presentation
  5. Handling Objections
  6. Closing
  7. Follow Up
7 Steps of Personal Selling

1. Prospecting

The first step in personal sales is prospecting. Prospecting is the process of finding potential customers or sales leads. You can find prospects through social media, online research, inbound marketing, word-of-mouth referrals, or networking events.

The goal of prospecting is to provide the salesperson with a list of contacts to target. An essential part of prospecting is also setting your qualification criteria. Not everyone is going to be an excellent fit to be your customer. To avoid wasting your time, you should only use personal selling with people who are a good fit for your company.

2. Pre-Approach

The next step in personal selling is pre-approach. Pre-approach entails research, creating the sales pitch, and formulating the plan before contacting the prospect.

As part of this stage, you should conduct background checks on your prospects to ensure they are a good fit for your company’s product or service (i.e., need what you offer). You’ll also want to find out if there are any objections that may arise during a sales meeting with them because it would be best to know about these beforehand instead of when you’re pitching your proposal live.

The pre-approach should include preparing open-ended questions to ask the prospect, so they feel comfortable talking to you. This is important because if the prospective customer feels like you are only listening and not just trying to sell them, it will increase your chances of closing a deal.

3. Approach

The approach step is a critical step of personal selling because it’s the beginning of your relationship with the prospect. There are only a handful of ways to approach a prospect: a phone call, email, text, direct message, direct mail, advertisement, or in-person.

To make the approach as successful as possible, you need to tailor it for each prospect.

The first thing that you should do is identify what marketing tactic will work best for this specific person and their needs as a consumer.

4. Presentation

During the presentation, your team uses personal selling to present or demonstrates the value your product offers.

To have a winning presentation, you need to identify your company’s unique selling proposition (or USP). You can uncover your unique selling proposition by asking yourself, ‘what’s unique about our product that makes it stand out from our competition?”

5. Handling Objections

At this stage, you need to know how to handle objections. You can’t wait for objections either; you need to ask questions to extract objections.

Here are examples of questions you can use to get your prospects to reveal their objections:

  • When do you need to make a decision?
  • Is there any part of your problem that our solution doesn’t solve?
  • How do you feel about the solution we’ve presented?
  • Do you have any questions for us?
  • What do you see as the next steps?

The best way to address customer concerns when using personal selling is by answering their questions and presenting additional value.

6. Closing

Once the objections have been handled and the prospect is prepared to move forward, your sales team must close the deal. The goal of closing is to convert the prospect to a customer. Closing can be accomplished through a signature on a contract, the prospect creating an account, or receiving payment for the product.

7. Follow Up

Your job isn’t done after closing. Maintaining a relationship with your new customer is critical to reduce churn and leave opportunities open for upselling or cross-selling in the future. Touch base with your new customer regularly to increase customer satisfaction. Make sure they are happy and have everything they need from you!

Now that you know the process to successful personal sales, you can also implement

Personal Selling Strategies

Personal selling is hard. Salespeople have to be dynamic as information presents itself. As a result, you won’t have time for a well-thought-through response. To help you think on your feet, here are seven strategies high-performing salespeople use for personal sales.

Be Authentic

People are overwhelmed with messaging. A single person will see an average of 5,000 advertisements every day. We’ve all developed an ability to determine what messaging is authentic and what messaging isn’t. Have comfort in knowing that your prospects know when you’re authentic. It gives you the freedom to be transparent and genuine in your personal sales process.

The 80/20 Rule

What most salespeople do is try to dump a truckload of information onto the prospect. What happens is the salesperson spends 80% of the time talking, while the prospect speaks 20% of the time. You should aim to reverse this rule. Your prospect should be speaking 80% of the time, and you only 20%.

The best way to get your prospect to share more is to ask open-ended questions continually.

Personal Selling Strategies 80/20 Rule

Customize Your Response

The cardinal sin of personal selling is to read from a script. It’s recommended to customize your response for each prospect to maximize their engagement with you.

Ask for the Sale

After you’ve completed your presentation and handled any objections, you have to ask for the sale. Building relationships and understanding your prospect are just as important as asking for the sale when a sales representative executes the personal selling process.

Personal Selling Examples

Study these personal selling examples to learn how your sales team can improve their sales process.

B2B

A common example of personal selling is B2B sales. Products like heavy equipment, office suppliers, or anything else sold to large businesses will usually be sold using personal selling. Therefore, a sales representative will need to demonstrate deep product knowledge when selling to a prospective buyer.

Many B2B purchases aren’t frequent and are highly competitive because of the size of the deals. For those reasons, customizing your sales message using personal selling is usually the best approach for these types of sales.

Software

Software buyers may not be interested in searching for reviews or comparing different products and features on their own. Instead, these prospects want someone who understands their needs and how this particular product will best meet those requirements.

Software sales representatives should use personal selling to spend time asking prospects what they are trying to accomplish and how the software will help them meet their goals and demonstrate the value of the product.

Travel Personal

Travel sales reps use personal selling to sell prospects on the experience. Everyone travels for different reasons, and travel salespeople customize their message accordingly. For instance, people who are going on a business trip may be more interested in internet connectivity at their resort than those looking to travel to the same destination for the best beach.

Real Estate

Real estate agents use personal selling to sell prospects on their knowledge and expertise of the area. A real estate agent often follows a sales process and is prepared with detailed questions they ask buyers and sellers to find out what they’re looking for.

Start Personal Selling Today

In the digital age, it can be tempting to rely solely on marketing and advertising. But personal selling is an important tool for a salesperson to have, as well. Salespeople should practice the personal selling process to close more deals and build better relationships with their customers. Start using personal selling today!

What are some of your favorite ways to use personal selling? Please share them below!

Revenue Growth Mastery

✓  6 Week Training Program

✓  Step-by-Step Instructions

✓  Weekly Q&A Calls

✓ 14-Day 100% Money-Back Guarantee