What Is Selling? Definition, Meaning, Nature, and Types

What is Selling?

Selling is the process of persuading potential customers to buy some goods or services or ideas so that certain interests of buyers can be satisfied and the seller gets paid.

Usually, selling means giving something such as any products in exchange for money. For selling to be selling there must be an exchange of money between buyer and seller. If the exchange of money is not made between them such transactions are other than selling.

Many renowned authors have defined selling, let’s see the definition given by them and the meaning.

Ferdinand F. Mauser – Selling is the process of inducting and assisting a prospective customer to buy goods or services or act favorably on an idea that has commercial significance for the seller.

In this definition of Mauser, “inducting” means “providing general knowledge of activities that the seller has.” Similarly “assisting” means ” “helping” and “prospective customer” means “a person who can buy and who possesses buying decision-making capacity”. And, the words “commercial significance” means “profit”.

Similarly, Frank H. Beach, Frederick H. Russell, and Richard H. Buskirk – Selling is the act of persuading another person to do something when you do not have, or can not exert, direct power to force the person to do it”.

The meaning of this definition by Beach, Russell, and Buskirk is “persuading” means “insisting/encouraging”, “another person” means “prospective buyer”, “to do something” means “to buy something”, and “exert” means “bring into use”. This definition also tells selling is persuading prospective customers to buy something but the seller can not use his power to make the prospective customer buy his product.

Nature of Selling

Business firm’s sales ratio increases or decreases depending upon the influencing ability of its salesperson and intelligence and also the strategies of the firms in the implementation of the sales programs.

Despite these realities, the nature of the selling largely depends upon the types of the products and sales place. Types of the products may be consumer products, re-seller products, and industrial products. In addition, types may be technical and non-technical products.

And, sales place refers to the location of customers or where the delivery of the products is made. The table below shows some examples of the nature of selling.

ProductsPlace For BuyingActivities
A jacket.A clothing store.Permitting wear.
A packet of tea.A relative’s house.Having a taste.
A motorcycle.A bike store.Demonstrating a ride.
An overhead projector.A project store/a buyer house.Demonstrating transparency.
Candies.A candy store.Permitting to have a taste.
A new drug.A doctor’s clinic/ chemist’s store.Requesting recommendation.
A new Boeing.The Boeing Company/ the buying
Presentation of flight.
Nature of Selling

In the above table, the first five examples show that selling activities are directed toward consumers and the next two examples indicate that selling activities deal with professional and industrial consumers. So it indicates, sales people’s duties and responsibilities differ among the different consumer groups.

The nature of selling may be interactive, adaptive, dependent on the complex argument, personal relationships, dependent on existing opportunities to close a sale, based on expensive sales calls, and sales person’s ability and skills.

Based on the above discussion and examples, we may come up with the following points regarding the nature of selling.

Individual and Institutional Activity

Selling is both individual and institutional activity. Depending upon the situation an individual is involved in persuading another persona and also an institutional body is involved in such an activity.

Inducting and Insisting Prospects

In the selling process, sellers involved try to give knowledge and information about the products to the prospects. This helps buyers to know and compare between competing products which one is best to buy and which one is not.

Sellers also help prospects when later are in confusion to making decisions. They provide assurance about the particular product/ service’s quality at their risk. It makes prospects easy to have on-the-spot buying.

Science and Art Activity

It is a science since it consists of going through observations & experiments, respecting business ethics, and applying different selling theories.

It is also an art because to make a sale, attractive presentation, dramatization, counseling, tactful handling of objections and compliments are to be exercised.

Professionalized Activity

Selling is a professional activity because it requires sales specialists and experts who can help sell units by,

  • Providing formal sales education and training,
  • Providing knowledge of the code of ethics,
  • Teaching sell principles, helping in standardized quotas for different sales territories, and
  • Suggesting suitable motivational instruments.

Commercial Significance

Selling always has commercial significance. It works in terms of the exchange of money by providing services. It ends with customer satisfaction thereby earning some reasonable profit.

Correlated With Management Concept

It is correlated with the management concept. Here, it is better to know the distinct meaning of three interrelated words – selling, sales management, and sales.

Selling is a set of activities that consist of prospecting, pre-approaching, approaching, making presentations, handling objects & complaints, closing sales, and making a follow-up.

The sales management concept consists of planning, implementation, and control of these activities by using different tools and techniques. And, sales is a monitor or unit amount that results due to selling and sales management correlated efforts.

Types of Selling

The most important types of selling/sales jobs are three types – industrial, trade, and service selling.

Industrial Selling

It requires four different types of salespeople who are of specialized category. As we know, the industry is the composite of manufacturers, industrial salespeople working in one manufacturer may sell to other manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, or directly to consumers.

The specialized category of industrial sellers includes manufacturing sales representatives. They are,

An Accountant Representative. This representative asks customers for the order by making calls on already established customers, not new ones. The nature of products, for example, sold through this industrial representative are food, textiles, apparel, etc.

A Detailed Sales Representative. This representative convolved in promotional activities of the manufacturer’s product and introducing it to the market. The representative does not take orders.

For E.g. a medical sales representative consults doctors and persuades them to recommend medicines by showing and presenting a pharmaceutical company’s trademark specification of medical products. In this example, doctors are indirect customers. The actual sales are made through wholesalers or retailers on the basis of the doctor’s recommendation.

A Sales Engineer As Sales Representative. Those manufacturers producing the technical nature of products, use this type of specialized sales representative. The nature of the product demands technical know-how and an ability to discuss technical aspects of the product.

If needed, one works as an expert to identify, analyze and solve customers’ problems which is very much critical. Machinery, heavy equipment, and chemical producing industries sell their products with the help of technical experts/sales engineers.

Non-Technical Industrial Sales Representative. These salespeople sell tangible products to industrial buyers. They do not require a high degree of technical knowledge. For example,

  • Packaging materials manufacturers sales representatives.
  • Office equipment sales representatives.

Trade Selling

The trade salespeople do not seek new customers but they call on the already existing ones. However, their aim is to increase sales volume among the existing territorial customers.

For this purpose, they promote services to wholesalers and retailers, so that they may try to give more service to their existing customers.

Trade salespeople generally secure full distribution of products, maintain adequate in-store inventory, ensure correct pricing, obtain the best shelf position, build displays, obtain advertising support, know customer accounts, suggest the size of the order, etc.

Service Selling

Service selling is a little bit different and more difficult than tangible products selling.

The basic reasons for it are intangible features, quality dimensions, types of services, quality assurance, the role of boundary spanners, service cascade, customers behavior & their expectation level, time, equipment & facilities, service encounter, along with salesmanship of salespeople.

Traditional Vs. Modern Selling Approaches

Throughout history, different studies, practices, and research have been done in selling. The early definitions and concepts have led to the born new one.

To make it more clear, what is traditional selling approach and modern selling, let’s make it clear as below,

Traditional Approach

i. Concept. Personal communication of information to persuade a prospective customer to buy something goods, services, ideas, and so on.

ii. Scope. Its scope is comparatively narrower because it only talks of personal selling and it does not mention the process concept.

iii. Assumptions. It assumes money as the main motivator of salespersons.

iv. Attribute of Results. In it, salespeople attribute results to personal efforts with ego drive.

v. Activities. In it, salespeople perform these activities.

  • Provide information to prospects with the self-interest of money-making.
  • Provide after-the-sale service to ensure long-term satisfaction.
  • Do what they think they can get away with guided by self-interest than the interests of prospects.
  • No use of modern selling aids while presenting.

Modern Approach

i.Concept. Personal and/or impersonal communication processes that unselfishly persuade a prospective customer to buy something (goods or services).

ii. Scope. Its scope is comparatively wider than traditional because it talks of both personal and impersonal concept and clearly mention the concert of process.

iii. Assumptions. It assumes customers value creation and delivery is the prime motive, and money is the second one for both salesperson and the firm.

iv. Attribute of Results. In it, salespeople attribute results to the prospects, personal efforts, employer, economy, etc.

v. Activities. In it, salespeople perform these activities,

  • Conduct research to find out the prospect’s expectation level to satisfy.
  • Insist prospects with empathy.
  • Act favorably with customers that constitute commercial significance to the firms.
  • Use modern selling aids while presenting and demonstrating.
  • Constitute dynamic relations with prospects and do the right thing they are legally required to do.
  • Apply database, knowledge management, and problem-solving approach in addition to selling approach.
  • Always willing to share and try to enhance recognition.

4 thoughts on “What Is Selling? Definition, Meaning, Nature, and Types”

  1. I wish to cite your work in my book tittle “modern selling principles for tertiary institution”

    Ndagi Hussaini
    lecturer department of marketing The Federal Polytechnic, bida. Niger state. Nigeria.

    I’m asking for permissions to use your materials


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