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Personal Selling and Customer Focus

Scenario:

Cavalier Products sells office equipment though out the state. Its many customers include government offices, non-profit institutions, schools and businesses. There is a lot of competition for copiers, printers, scanners, monitors and computer systems. Today, Cavalier employs 100+ people which include four sales teams of 10 salespeople each, service teams, several customer trainers, supply salespeople and office administrative support personnel. Some of the larger companies such as Nabisco, Best Buy, LandAmerica, Ameritrade, Exxon, and Ford are among their customers. At times some of the service support work is outsourced for geographically spread companies. Cavalier has been in business for over 10 years and is known for its expertise and good customer service.

Many times salespeople and act as equipment trainers and sell supplies, which may take them away from bringing in new business. This has been a frustration for the sales people. They are paid sales commissions, but are not paid for other activities. The trainers and supply people also get frustrated when this happens, because they end up receiving direction from a sales person instead of their manager.

To expand, the company's business, the owners decided to improve sales. You, as an experienced senior salesperson, will continue your duties of prospecting for new business and closing deals. More emphasis is to be put on keeping existing clients informed of new products and listening to their feedback--generating more repeat business. Company salespeople will also participate in cold-calling programs, including networking at business and trade events, to generate more prospects for new business opportunities. In addition, four new salespeople are going to be hired. As an experienced salesperson and long-time employee, you will provide some mentoring and training.

Problem:

Cavalier Product's sales force makes multiple calls on general business, small and large; to find new prospects, make presentations, even product demonstrations. B2B selling is a process rather than simply order-taking.

- What suggestions do you have to improve the selling process?
- How does the buying-decision process compare with the steps the seller goes through?

Solution Preview

Improving the Selling Process

Personal selling involves the two-way flow of communication between a buyer and seller, often in a face-to-face encounter, designed to influence a person or group's purchase decision. However, with advances in telecommunications, personal selling also takes place over the telephone, through video teleconferencing and Internet-enabled links between buyers and sellers.

Personal selling remains a highly human-intensive activity despite the use of technology.
Accordingly, the people involved must be managed. Sales management involves planning the selling program and implementing and controlling the personal selling effort of the firm. The tasks involved in managing personal selling include setting objectives; organizing the sales force; recruiting, selecting, training, and compensating salespeople; and evaluating the performance of individual salespeople.

THE MANY FORMS OF PERSONAL SELLING
Personal selling assumes many forms based on the amount of selling done and the amount of creativity required to perform the sales task. Broadly speaking, three types of personal selling exist: order taking, order getting, and customer sales support activities. While some firms use only one of these types of personal selling, others use a combination of all three.

Order Taking
Typically, an order taker processes routine orders or reorders for products that were already sold by the company. The primary responsibility of order takers is to preserve an ongoing relationship with existing customers and maintain sales. Two types of order takers exist. Outside order takers visit customers and replenish inventory stocks of resellers, such as retailers or wholesalers. In addition, outside order takers often provide assistance in arranging displays. Inside order takers, also called order clerks or salesclerks, typically answer simple questions; take orders, and complete transactions with customers. Many retail clerks are inside order takers. Inside order companies that use inbound telemarketing, the use of toll-free telephone numbers that customers can call to obtain information about products or services and make purchases, often employ takers. In business-to-business settings, order taking arises in straight rebuy situations.

Order takers generally do little selling in a conventional sense and engage in only modest problem solving with customers. They often represent products that have few options, highly standardized industrial products. Inbound telemarketing is also an essential selling activity for more "customer service" driven firms. At these companies, order takers undergo extensive training so that they can better assist callers with their purchase decisions.

Order Getting
An order getter sells in a conventional sense and identifies prospective customers, provides customers with information, persuades customers to buy, closes sales, and follows up on customers' use of a product or service. Like order takers, order getters can be inside or outside. Order getting involves a high degree of creativity and customer empathy and is typically required for selling complex or technical products with many options; so considerable product knowledge and sales training are necessary. In modified rebuy or new-buy purchase situations in business-to-business selling, an order getter acts as a problem solver who identifies how a particular product may satisfy a customer's need. Similarly, in the purchase of a service, such as insurance, a Metropolitan Life insurance agent can provide a mix of plans to satisfy a buyer's needs depending on income, stage of the family's life cycle, and investment objectives.

Order getting is not a 40-hour-per-week job. Industry research indicates that outside order getters, or field service representatives, work about 51 hours per week. 53 percent of their time is spent selling and another 13 percent is devoted to customer service calls. Getting to customers and performing numerous administrative tasks occupy the remainder of their work.

Order getting by outside salespeople is also expensive. It is estimated that the average cost of a single field sales call on a business customer is about $350, factoring in salespeople compensation, benefits, and travel-and-entertainment expenses. This cost illustrates why outbound telemarketing is popular. Outbound telemarketing is the practice of using the telephone rather than personal visits to contact current and prospective customers. A significantly lower cost per sales call (in the range of $20 to $25) and little or no field expense accounts for its widespread appeal. More than 100 million outbound telemarketing calls are made to homes and businesses each year in the United States.

Customer Sales Support Personnel
Customer sales support personnel augment the selling effort of order getters by performing a variety of services. For example, missionary salespeople do not directly solicit orders but rather concentrate on performing promotional activities and introducing new products. A sales engineer is a salesperson who specializes in identifying, analyzing, and solving customer problems and brings know-how and technical expertise to the selling situation but often does not actually sell products and services. In many situations firms engage in cross-functional team selling, the practice of using an entire team of professionals in selling to and servicing major customers.

Team selling is used when specialized knowledge is needed to satisfy the different interests of individuals in a customer's buying center. For example, a selling team might consist of a salesperson, a sales engineer, a service representative, and a financial executive, each of whom would deal with a counterpart in the customer's firm. Selling teams have grown in popularity due to partnering and take different forms.

Prospecting

Prospecting is one process buying-decision compares with the steps the seller goes through. Personal selling/buying begins with prospecting—the search for and qualification of potential customers/vendors. For some products that are onetime purchases continual prospecting is necessary to maintain sales. There are three types of prospects. A lead is the name of a person who may be a possible customer/vendor. A prospect is a customer who wants or needs the product. If an individual wants the product, can afford to buy it, and is the decision maker, this individual is a qualified prospect.

Leads and prospects are generated using several sources. For example, advertising may contain a coupon or a toll-free number to generate leads. Some companies use exhibits at trade shows, professional meetings, and conferences to generate leads or prospects. Staffed by salespeople, these exhibits are used to attract the attention of prospective buyers and disseminate information. Others utilize the Internet for generating leads and prospects. Today, salespeople are using websites, e-mail, bulletin boards, and newsgroups to connect to individuals and companies that may be interested in their products or services. Another approach for generating leads is through cold canvassing in person or by telephone. This approach simply means that a salesperson may open a directory, pick a name, and contact that individual or business. Although the refusal rate is high with cold canvassing, this approach can be successful.

Cold canvassing is often criticized by U.S. consumers and is now regulated. A recent survey reported that 75 percent of ...

Solution Summary

The solution examines personal selling the customer focus. The suggestions to improve the selling process is given. How the buying-decision process compares with the steps the seller goes through is given.

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