In many marketing situations the challenge is to fit personal sales into a strategy where other different channels are used as well to stimulate the relationship (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Personal sales is a very important channel to build the commercial one-to-one relationship with customers. Although personal sales is often regarded as costly the costs only become an issue when the sales process itself is transactional and little value is added by the sales agent.
Since not every customer would like to purchase their airline tickets online or through a travel agent, personal selling is still an important sales approach for airlines. In the airline industry most airlines still use transactional sales. In transactional sales the customer is basically already aware of what they have purchased and how it is used and their only interest is getting a good deal for the product or service they purchased (Peelen & Beltman, 2013). Because of the fact that transactional sales are short-term sales, where the customer gives little thought about future purchases it would be wise for airlines who wish to incorporate a customer engagement strategy into their organisation, to take it upon themselves to use the consultative sales approach instead.
With consultative selling the airline’s sales agents must first develop an understanding of the customer’s needs, and then create a solution to help the customer achieve their objectives. This is usually service or solution-based (Tabita, 2012). The consulting itself becomes valuable to the customer and the sales agent becomes the customer’s partner, helping him to buy, rather than just selling the product without adding any extra value or emotion. The airlines sales agent uses a personalised approach, tailored to meet the individual needs of the customer and to inform them of the ways the product will benefit him. The customer is given the opportunity to ask questions, and the salesperson addresses any concerns he has about the product. In the figure below there is a clear overview of the three different sales approaches and the value each approach has for the customers.
(Peelen & Beltman, 2013)
When a sales agent has understood the customers needs and concerns and personally guided the customer through the buying process not only does the customer begin to feel emotionally connected to the product and the company but the company gains the trust of that customer and in turn receives personal information about the customer for their customer data system. For those customers who want that one-to-one approach and the ability to express their concerns, needs, wants and ask questions to which they get an immediate and direct response personal selling will always be the number one option in which the consultative approach would be the approach for airlines to provide the most value to the customer while building a relationship with them.
Peelen, E. & Beltman, R. (2013). Customer Relationship Management (Second Edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Tabita, J. (2012). Transactional vs. Consultative Selling: Knowing the Difference Makes All the Difference. Retrieved 8 October 2016, from https://www.sitepoint.com/transactional-vs-consultative-selling-knowing-the-difference-makes-all-the-difference/