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What is the difference between Sales (Personal selling) and Direct marketing?

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Personal selling is a face-to-face communication between seller and buyer to make a sale. Simply put, Personal selling is selling personally. A personal presentation or demo is given by the seller to the potential buyer.

In Direct marketing too, an individual or group of prospects are targeted but it doesn’t involves a face-to-face interaction, and the sales efforts are not as forceful or intense as compared to Personal selling. Direct marketing allows a business to engage in one-way communication with its customers. It helps organisations inform the prospective buyers about product announcements, special promotions, etc.Examples: direct mail, e-mail, apps, telephone calls (telemarketing), catalogues, fliers, promotional letters,` etc.

We will discuss Personal selling and Direct marketing in detail along with their advantages and disadvantages.


Sales (Personal selling) –

It is a direct presentation of a product to a potential customer by a representative of an organisation selling the product. Personal selling is an important arm of business-to-business promotion activity as the buyers need detailed demo of the product. The products are generally expensive and complex in their functioning. For example, generators, rotary encoders, PLC machine, and the likes.

This mode helps the seller to come in direct contact with the buyer. It is carried out by the sales people or agents of the seller and can have one or more prospect buyers. It is a personal conversation and may not result in sales but the organisation is greatly benefitted by getting first-hand information from the customers (interested or not, feedback, expectations, etc.).

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For example, sales representatives from an organisation personally meeting potential buyers by visiting their offices or homes.

There are basically 4 types of salesmen-Manufacturer’s salesmen, Wholesaler’s salesmen, Retail salesmen, Speciality salesmen.

Advantages of Sales (Personal selling)-

  • As it involves face-to-face interaction, quite possibly the most valuable advantage of personal selling is that it establishes a real relationship between the buyer and seller.
  • A presentation can be tailor made for individual customer. As per the situation the presentation can be altered.
  • All the doubts of the customer can be answered.
  • A salesperson can gauge the situation and can plan the meeting basis the customer’s requirement.
  • A salesperson can give information or make a sales pitch even in an informal meet that was not pre-planned.
  • Less of no technological investments required.

Disadvantages of Sales (Personal selling)

  • It involves high costs as compared to other promotion tools. The sales personnel have individual salary, travel expenses, etc.
  • If an organisation needs to reach a large population via personal selling, it need to employ more sales personnel which raises the costs.
  • Attitude of the population is most of the time negative towards sales people. In the past decades, an average person is bombarded with offers and promotions from different organisations. So they mostly avoid a meet with sales people. For example, an average person in developed or developing country receives calls for credit card offers from different banks all the time.

Direct Marketing
Direct Marketing involves communicating directly with buyers about their products via different channels. The individual buyer is the target in direct marketing and not the masses. Examples: direct mail, e-mail, apps, telephone calls (telemarketing), catalogues, fliers, promotional letters, etc.The goal is to generate sales or leads for sales representatives to pursue. If the customer is interested, he/ she can directly contact the concerned department or person on the telephone number of address given with the message. Direct marketing allows a business to engage in one-way communication with its customers. It helps organisations inform the prospective buyers about product announcements, special promotions, etc.

People in today’s times prefer at-home shopping rather than travelling to different outlets. Marketers take this opportunity to reach out to the customer directly with all the information about the product, special promotions, etc. in order to generate sales. The marketer’s ensure that customers have easy access to them via toll-free numbers, chat tools, email, etc. at any time of day or night throughout the week to justify their credibility and commitment towards customers.

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New age Direct Marketing – Organisations used to reach the buyers through catalogue, direct mailers, and telemarketing. The telephone numbers were kept in the data base and tele callers called potential buyers. Recently, the marketing media has evolved immensely through the increased use of internet, data base technologies, electronic media (fax, mobile phones, and email), etc. This has given opportunity for the marketers to tap on these tools for reaching the customers. If we say that the marketers don’t have a choice and need to reach the buyers through these new age direct marketing tools to survive and stay ahead of competition in the target market. Direct marketing is considered by some experts as combination of the Distribution function (Direct distribution to buyers) as well as the communication function (reaching the customers directly).

Advantages of Direct marketing-

  • Powerful tool for customer relationship building.
  • Accurate selection of buyers and messages, and targeting them individually. Marketers target customers who are likely to buy the product.
  • Customers can be reached at a certain time. For example, special promotions on the company website, home, office, or store on certain days.
  • Tailor made message for the target customer. There is greater accuracy in meeting the requirements of the customer.
  • Competitors are kept unaware about the message sent to potential buyers.
  • Lot of tools or medium given to customers for any queries or placing orders – email, telephone, mobile, personal computer, etc.
  • Convenient to shop from the comfort of home. Customers can ask for queries, place orders or request a demo at home.
  • Easy comparison as most of the details are made available to the customer. The customer can easily compare the features and benefits with competitor products on the internet or with retailers, etc.
  • Easy to go through all the company products and substitutes with the information provided through catalogues, email, etc.
  • Lot of tools or medium given at customer’s disposal for any queries or placing orders – email, telephone, mobile, personal computer, etc.

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Disadvantages of Direct marketing –

  • Reaching a thousand customers through this channel is relatively expensive than other promotion tools as each potential customer is to be reached individually.
  • The customers also are disinterested many times because of the junk mail, number of telemarketing calls from different sellers, junk emails, etc.
  • Customers do not appreciate their privacy intrusion. Most of the time customers call the organisations to remove their address and phone number from their mailing list or calling list. There are government laws in place in US, etc. protecting the privacy of the people, and the sellers are bound to remove the contact details on a person’s request.
  • The organisation needs to constantly invest in new technology to reach customers through the most effective and latest tools. They also need to update their database regularly to ensure they have details of right customers.
  • Selection of right direct marketing tool is imperative to marketers. A customer may throw away a direct mail as junk but may explore the email with the same message.
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