Selling Definition: What Is Selling?

Define Selling and You Define What It Takes to Be a Good Salesperson

Sales Handshake
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Selling Definition:

Selling is first and foremost a transaction between the seller and the prospective buyer or buyers (the target market) where money (or something considered to have monetary value) is exchanged for goods or services. So the best way to define selling is to focus on the sales skills that are necessary to make that transaction happen. Defining selling as the art of closing the deal encapsulates selling's essence.

Refining the Definition of Selling

However, that being said, there is a huge difference between a basic sales exchange such as buying gas at a gas station for your car and buying a car.

In the first instance, the exchange is built on simple need. Your car's gas tank is empty; you need to fill it with gas. There may not be (and probably isn't) even a salesperson involved.

In the second, the exchange is built on manufactured need (created through marketing). You think you need a new car because you have been persuaded to believe that. Enter the salesperson to direct and meet your need.

So sales is actually a spectrum and most selling consists of performing the art of persuading the consumer that buying the product or service will benefit him or her.

Some people excel at directing and persuading; these are the super salespeople that truly are worth their weight in gold.

How Do You Sell Something?

Whatever product or service you're selling, then, you need to focus your selling efforts on communicating the benefits of your product or service to the consumer. The benefits may be tangible or intangible, but unless the individual consumer is convinced that he or she will personally experience the benefits, your product or service won't sell.

Think about it. Why do women smear color on their eyelids? Did anyone in the entire world ever actually need a hula hoop? That's the art of selling.

From Selling Definition to the Art of Selling: What Makes a Successful Salesperson?

  • The ability to build long-term relationships with customers one at a time. Most good salespeople think long-term and how they can leverage the current sale into more business in future from the same customer or via referrals.
  • The ability to listen and stay in tune with the needs of the customer. Too many salespeople spend all their time attempting to talk the prospective customer into purchasing the sale or service in question, without finding out what it is the customer actually wants. The customer may not be interested in the product you are selling but he/she may have a need for another product or service that you can fulfill now or in the future. Learn how to become an active listener.
  • Not promising what they can't deliver. Nothing turns off a customer faster than broken sales promises.
  • Tenacity. A good salesperson knows that it may take several attempts to make a sale and never gives up on a potential customer. Somewhere down the line an email or phone call reminder might close the deal. A good salesperson also knows where to draw the line between pursuing a potential sale and pestering the customer.
  • Self-motivation and a positive attitude. Successful salespeople have a high level of initiative and don't need micromanagment. 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.
  • Constantly looking for ways to promote products and services by handing out business cards and other promotional materials to get the word out. This includes the use of emails, website updates, and social media postings so customers can be kept up to date with the latest product or service offerings via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. (See How to Create a Social Media Plan.)
  • Investing in his/her community. Giving back to the community you live in by donating to charities, sponsoring community groups, and engaging in volunteer activities is not only good for the soul, it is good for business. Investing where you live increases the likelihood that customers will return the favor when they have a need for your products or services.

Types of Selling Definitions

If you're interested in improving your sales skills, you'll find that there are supposedly many kinds of selling that you should use or should avoid. Here are some of the most common approaches:

1) Aggressive Selling a.k.a. high-pressure sales: The bottom line in this type of selling is that if the prospect walks, the sale is lost. The style is hard driving; this is the salesperson who won't take "no" for an answer.

2) Transactional Selling: This approach focuses on making quick sales; there is no attempt to form a long-term relationship with the customer. While transactional selling tends to be looked down on today, it does have its place. Looking at it from the customer's point of view, sometimes a simple transaction is all the customer wants.

3) Consultative Selling a.k.a. relationship selling: Consultative selling depends on developing a long-term relationship with the customer. The salesperson's goal is to get to know the customer's needs and wants so he or she can do the best job of giving the customer what they want.

4) Collaborative Selling: Collaborative selling takes relationship selling one step further; this sales approach depends on a partnership mentality between buyer and seller. Learn more about the difference between consultative and collaborative selling.

In truth, the type of selling approach you should use depends on your personality, your industry and your customer. As a salesperson, you will be more comfortable with some styles of selling rather than others, and probably more successful with that type of sales as a result. And while there is a kernel of truth in the axiom that a good salesperson can sell anything, particular approaches have become synonymous with particular industries. Used car salespeople, for example, are infamous for using aggressive selling techniques. The best selling approach though, is the one that results in a sale which is why the best salespeople are able to successfully use different types of selling depending on who their customer is.

Read more about selling:

How to Create a Unique Selling Proposition

6 Secrets for Selling More at Trade Shows and Craft Fairs

The Top Sales Blunders and How to Avoid Sales Mistakes