There are various activities that are carried out by companies to inform their potential buyers about the benefits of their products. These are referred to as the promotional mix of the company, and include different tools like advertising, personal selling, public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing and corporate image.

In this article, personal selling and sales promotion will be defined in detail, and the differences between the two will be discussed.


Personal Selling

Personal selling is the promotional activity carried out by companies or sellers in which they present their product or service to a prospective customer and explain to them the benefits and advantages of it. This is usually carried out by a sales representative whose goal is to persuade the customers to buy their product.

Personal selling involves a direct contact between the company’s representative and the potential customer so as to bring about two-way communication between them. The customers are usually shown the product, and its attributes, quality and benefits are explained to them. In addition, the representative responds to the questions of the customers, if they have any, and also informs them about the price and any discounts that may be applicable.  The customer gets the opportunity to actually check the product and can determine if it is working as specified and can fulfill their requirements.

Personal selling is usually carried out for those products that are of a high value, for example, cars, high-value machinery, electronic items, cosmetics, etc.

Sales Promotion

Sales promotion refers to the use of promotions, offers and incentives in the short term to bring about an increase in sales. It is an instrument used to motivate customers to buy a product. Sales promotion is carried out with the intention of increasing sales in a short duration of time, bringing about greater usage or encouraging customers to try a product.

Sales promotion usually provides an incentive to customers for making a purchase. This can be in the form of discounts, loyalty points, vouchers, free gifts, samples, etc. These offers and schemes are valid for a certain time period, and not all throughout the year. This creates a feeling of urgency among the buyers to purchase the product before the offer expires.

Companies may carry out sales promotion activities during festivals or on special occasions. Such offers manage to attract customers and bring about increased sales. It also helps companies in clearing off their extra stock.

Difference between personal selling and sales promotion

The main points of difference between personal selling and sales promotion are discussed below:

1. Meaning

Personal selling involves an interaction between the buyer and the seller, in which the product features and benefits are explained to the customer directly by the company representative. On the other hand, in sales promotion, a company provides incentives to customers in the short run to purchase a product. This may include discounts, vouchers, buy one get one free offers, and so on.

2. Objective

The objective of personal selling is to make customers aware about a product and to develop an association with them for the long term, which will bring about an eventual increase in sales of the company. In addition, personnel selling also aims to convince customers to try a new product. The objective of sales promotion is to generate higher sales for the company and to clear their stock in a short time period.

3. Interaction

In personal selling, there is direct contact between the buyer and the seller, where the customer is provided information regarding the products. However, there is no direct contact between customers and sellers in sales promotion, which concentrates on the provision of offers and incentives to bring about sales.

4. Target market

Personal selling is carried out in those markets where there limited number of possible customers, but those who have high purchasing power. On the other hand, sales promotion is carried out where there are a large number of customers; hence, the target market for sales promotion is much greater.

5. Cost incurred

A greater cost is incurred in personal selling as it requires a dedicated sales force that needs to be provided adequate training to communicate in an appropriate manner with the customers. On the other hand, sales promotion incurs a lower cost in comparison to personal selling.

6. Tools used

Sales promotion relies on offering incentives and discounts to bring about sales, whereas the use of such tools is absent in personal selling.

7. Type of product

Personal selling is used when the value of the product is high, and when the product is complex to use or is made exclusively for certain customers. On the other hand, sales promotion is carried out on standardized products that are of relatively low value and can be used without any problems.

Personal selling vs sales promotion – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of personal selling and sales promotion is given below:

Personal selling vs Sales promotion
A promotional activity carried out in which a company representative directly explains the attributes of a product to a potential customer to persuade them to buy their product A promotional activity carried out by a company to increase sales in the short run by offering incentives to potential customers
Increase customer awareness about a product; develop long-term relationships Generate greater sales; clear the stock in a short time period
Direct contact between buyer and seller Indirect contact between buyer and seller
Target market
Few potential customers with high purchasing power Greater number of potential customers
Cost incurred
High Low
Tools used
Two-way communication Offers and incentives
Type of product
High value, complex to use, customized Low value, easy to use, uniform

Conclusion – personal selling vs sales promotion

The differences between personal selling and sales promotion are based on the objective they fulfill and the process they adopt. However, despite their distinctions, both of them are effective instruments that are used as part of integrated marketing communications. Companies use these methods as promotional tools to present a message that they have created regarding their products to the target market so as to explain to them the different features and advantages of the product. Their eventual goal is to bring about a greater number of sales.  Hence, both the tools are vital for an organization seeking an increase in sales.