Advertising versus Personal Selling, Which is Best?

In business to business markets, I am often asked which is best to focus on, advertising or personal (relationship) selling.

Before I answer the question, let’s look at what functions each perform and then draw a conclusion.

Assuming your enterprise has a direct sales force, it performs many functions such as; relationships, promoting your company, finding customers, closing orders, etc. An additional function that is performed by sales people is creating a personalized awareness with their customers.  Two major issues a sales team cannot do effectively is create wide-spread awareness and be the most cost effective.

Advertising can be used for different objectives. The primary objectives of advertising are creating awareness, branding, and providing information about your company and /or products.  It has been proven that advertising increases sales efficiency by providing awareness or helping turn a cold call into a warm sales call.  On the other side of the equation, advertising is not a substitute for personal selling or creating product preference.  These require a sales person to be “real time” and demonstrate or explain the value propositions to a potential customer.

So which is best?  The answer is not which channel is the best but that advertising and personal selling support each other and thus, picking the correct mix and integrating from a marketing communication strategy is really the key.  Of course the mix will contain more than just personal selling and advertising but other marketing tools as well.  The real challenge is developing a complete marketing plan that maximizes the  communication tools, supports the overall goals and falls within the marketing budget.

So the keys are: 

-Develop an overall marketing strategy and implementation plan

-Structure the mix to include your sales team

-Make sure things like messaging and value propositions are in sync between advertising and the sales force.

-Establish the budget that supports the overall game plan

RHL 7/27/10

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