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Personal selling is the marketing task that involves face-to-face contact with a customer. Unlike advertising, promotion, sponsorship and other forms of non-personal communication, personal selling permits a direct interaction between buyer and seller. This two-way communication means that the seller can identify the specific needs and problems of the buyer and tailor the sales presentation in the light of this knowledge. The particular concerns of the buyer can also be dealt with on a one-to-one basis. This flexibility comes only at a cost. The cost of a car, travel expenses and sales office overheads can mean that the total annual bill for a field salesperson is often twice the level of their salary. In business-to-business marketing, over 70 per cent of the marketing budget is usually spent on the salesforce. This is because of the technical nature of the products being sold, and the need to maintain close personal relationships between the selling and buying organizations. However, the nature of the personal selling function is changing. Organizations are reducing the size of their salesforces in the face of greater buyer concentration, moves towards centralized buying, and recognition of the high costs of maintaining a field sales team. The concentration of buying power into fewer hands has also fuelled the move towards relationship management, often through key account selling. This involves the use of dedicated sales teams that service the accounts of major buyers. As the commercial director of HP Foods said: Twenty years ago we had between 70 and 100 salespeople. The change in the retail environment from small retailers to central warehouses and supermarkets has meant a big change in the way we communicate with our customers. Instead of sending salespeople out on the road, we now collect a large proportion of our sales by telephone or computer. We have replaced the traditional salesforce with 12 business development executives, who each have a small...
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