The Internet has been used to provide product information, generate leads, screen prospects, and build and market from databases. While many marketing managers see the Internet taking business away from channel members and direct sales, few are ready to relinquish their sales forces. Even though at least one study predicts that 98 percent of all large companies would be on the Internet by 2002, and that the ROI for direct sales on the Web is five times that for traditional direct marketing, most companies still see the sales force as an integral part of the IMC process— particularly for relationship building.19 Many managers feel that the Web will be used to fulfill the more mundane tasks of order fulfillment and providing information. This in turn will allow the sales force to be more effective in closing orders, doing close selling, and focusing more attention on high-value and/or new customers. Future salespeople will do what is more profitable for the future—that is, sell and develop relationships, not take orders.
A rapidly growing use of the Internet is that of conducting online meetings in which the sales force and/or clients and potential clients participate. Some companies have found that they can save both time and money by conducting their sales meetings online rather than at a central location. More involved presentations—often referred to as “webinars”—may include a variety of purposes, from conducting job training for employees to making presentations and providing in-depth product information to existing and potential customers.
It is important that the elements of the promotional program work together, as each has its specific advantages and disadvantages. While personal selling is valuable in accomplishing certain objectives and supporting other promotional tools, it must be supported by the other elements. Ads, sales promotions, and the like may be targeted to the ultimate user, resellers, or the organization’s sales force. IMC Perspective provides a few examples of companies that have successfully integrated personal selling and other IMC elements.