What Is Selling?

Definition & Examples of Selling

Female financial advisor talking to client.
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Selling is a transaction where a good or service is being exchanged for money. It also refers to the process of persuading a person or organization to buy something.

Learn more about selling and how it works.

What Is Selling?

At its essence, selling is handing over something of value in exchange for money or another item of value. But to get to the point where someone is willing to part with their money to obtain an item or service often requires persuasion.

Not all sales transactions are equal. There is a huge difference between buying gas for your car and buying a car. In the first instance of buying gas because the tank is empty, there's no persuasion involved.

Buying a car, on the other hand, is often not an imminent need. It involves a larger investment to obtain and generally requires a salesperson to assist you.

How Selling Works

If you're selling a product or service, you need to focus your selling efforts on communicating the benefits to the buyer. People buy solutions or items they believe will make their lives better or happier or fulfill a specific need.

For example, if you're selling long-term care insurance, the potential buyer should understand the high costs of long-term care and the benefits of not having to worry about paying for those costs. The buyer needs to understand how the product or service will satisfy a need or improve their lives.

Another example is the hula hoop. Did anyone ever actually need a hula hoop? No. But they're fun and can be a form of exercise. Promoting the hula hoop as a form of fun fitness is an example of selling benefits.

Requirements for Selling

Selling is crucial to business success but is often a task many dread. Fortunately, sales can be learned and can be done without being smarmy or obnoxious. Here are a few traits and skills needed to be a successful salesperson:

  • The ability to build long-term relationships with customers one at a time: Most good salespeople think long-term about how they can leverage the current sale into more business in the future from the same customer or with referrals.
  • The ability to listen to the customer: Too many salespeople spend their time attempting to talk the prospective customer into buying without finding out what the customer actually wants. Customers buy solutions or things that make them feel good. You can't do that if you don't know what the customer needs or wants.
  • Tenacity: A good salesperson knows that it may take several attempts to make a sale and never gives up on a potential customer. Instead, they have a follow-up system to stay in touch with prospects. Somewhere down the line, an email or phone call reminder might close the deal.
  • Self-motivation: Successful salespeople have a high level of initiative. They constantly look for new opportunities and view setbacks as learning experiences. They hold themselves accountable for their performance and don't blame others or current economic conditions for lack of success.
  • Self-promotion: This might include handing out business cards and other promotional materials, developing and using an email list, creating a website, and using social media postings.
  • Investing in the community: Giving back to the community you work in by donating to charities, sponsoring community groups, and engaging in volunteer activities is not only good for the soul, but it's also good for business. Investing where you work increases the likelihood that customers will return the favor when they need your products or services.

Types of Selling

There are various sales tactics and systems, some of which are effective and some that should be avoided. Here are some of the most common approaches:

  1. High-pressure sales: Sales professionals are often told buyers are liars and that to get the sale, they need to push hard and not take "no" for an answer. Most buyers don't want to be pressured, though. High-pressure sales usually fail or lead to a buyer that regrets their purchase.
  2. Transactional selling: This approach focuses on making quick sales; there's no attempt to form a long-term relationship with the customer. While transactional selling tends to be looked down on, it does have its place. Looking at it from the customer's point of view, sometimes a simple transaction is all the customer wants or needs. For example, buying gas for a car or a new outfit.
  3. Consultative selling (relationship selling): This approach involves developing an on-going relationship with the customer. The salesperson's goal is to get to know the customer's needs and wants so they can do the best job of giving the customer what they want.
  4. Collaborative selling: This style takes relationship selling one step further in that the sales approach involves developing a partnership between buyer and seller. It involves a high level of trust from the buyer that the seller has their needs foremost in mind.

The approach you should use depends on your personality, industry, and customer. As a salesperson, you'll be more comfortable with some selling styles than others, and you'll probably be more successful with sales as a result.

Key Takeaways

  • Selling is a transaction where a good or service is being exchanged for money. It also refers to the process of persuading a person or organization to buy something.
  • If you're selling a product or service, you need to focus your selling efforts on communicating the benefits to the buyer. 
  • Successful salespeople have several traits, including the ability to build relationships and the ability to listen to customers. 
  • There are several sales techniques; some should be avoided, while others focus on building mutually beneficial relationships with customers. 
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