Whatever happened to the term salesman or sales person? It would appear that somehow, the term salesman or sales person has had to be replaced by other more acceptable terms such as sales engineer or marketing executive, as if to be actually involved in making sales was demeaning and had to be
disguised in some way. However, selling is the only action that actually achieves the income, and unless the salesperson completes the sale, all other activities such as brand development or social media promotion are wasted effort.
The prime purpose of every business is to make money for the benefit of the owners and the workforce, regardless of whether it is a business for manufacturing, retail or professional services. Businesses make money by producing goods and services which customers want to buy. Commercial managers have the responsibility of managing resources to produce profitable income from sales, by anticipating and satisfying customer requirements. Whatever a business makes or type of service it provides, money is only produced when the goods or services are actually sold to a customer. However good the product, service and brand image may be, it is only from the act of selling that income is derived for the business in question, thus the ability to “sell” is crucial to the success of every commercial business.
While the ability to sell is fundamental to business success, businesses frequently refer to “marketing” goods and services when they actually mean advertising and selling, as though there were something wrong with the action of selling. Articles in the business press would also suggest that many marketers seem confused about their role, appearing to have objectives confined to the highly specialized disciplines of social media, communications and brand image, but having little or nothing to do with selling.
Traditionally, selling to the customer has been done on a personal basis by trained sales personnel. There are now many businesses that do not use personal selling to provide their income, but rely on other impersonal means, such as through the internet, direct mail, catalogue or social media.
Considering that successful selling is fundamental to the producing of profitable income, it is important for commercial managers of such businesses, to understand which activities are involved in generating customer interest and its conversion to income producing sales, in order that the process is effectively managed.
The process of making a sale may be broken down into four principle actions
- Engaging the attention of the potential customer.
- Establishing the customer’s interest.
- Developing the customer’s desire for the product or service.
- Guiding the customer to easily complete the purchase.
These actions form the basis of every professional sales person’s approach to making and completing a sale with a customer.
However, the principles of this process still apply when selling through the internet, direct mail, catalogue or social media. In all these cases, the message to the customer is conveyed by the words of a copywriter and the presentation of a designer. Whereas a salesman can adapt their personal selling approach to the circumstances of the interaction with the customer, this is not possible when selling via the internet, direct mail, catalogue or social media. While interactive media may allow the selling message to be “personalised” to some extent, there still has to be a process that engages the prospective customer’s interest and guides them to completing a purchase. That success is entirely dependent on the words of the copywriter to effectively convey the sales message and the brochure or web-designer to direct and hold the interest of the potential customer.
If the objective of web-site pages, direct sales brochures, catalogues or social media sites is to sell products or services, then the process must be simple, clear and easy for the potential customer to use. If the process becomes complicated, it can impede the sales message to the potential customer and potentially lose the sale.
For the sales person involved with direct selling to the customer, whether an individual consumer or a commercial buyer, the ability to successfully close the sale is all important. Experience shows that there are a number of principles which collectively help to achieve a successful sales closure which are as follows:
- Depending on the product or service being offered, a sale may come after a single meeting or it may come after a series of meetings and negotiations. “Closing” should be treated as a process as in many cases, it means moving the sales process to the next step, which requires patience.
- Before meeting with a customer, understand all the steps and processes that are necessary in order to complete the sale and set specific objectives that can be achieved at each meeting in the process to closing the sale and writing the order .
- Ask questions that clarify the situation and confirm that what you’re selling matches what the customer needs. Examples: "How does that sound to you?" "What do you think about that?" "What timeframe would you need for delivery?"
- If the dialog has been productive and you’ve checked to be sure that the customer is ready to buy, then ask for the order. Do not let a fear of losing the sale prevent the making of the sale.
Being a professional salesperson may not be socially fashionable in the eyes of many. While Market research, product development, Brand, image promotion and communication are all important, only the ability to successfully close a sale will produce the income on which the business survives