The term, "sales", encompasses all activities involved in selling a product or service to a consumer or business. But "sales" means so much more for businesses.

Companies have entire sales organizations comprised of employees that are dedicated to selling their products and services.

According to the Gartner 2019 Chief Sales Officer poll, the top three priorities of sales organizations in the U.S. were account growth, improving manager effectiveness, and enhancing pipeline activities.

Many sales teams are held to monthly quotas or benchmarks for closing deals and converting leads to customers, and sales careers are often fast-paced due to this. For businesses and their sales organizations, the goal of sales is to source prospects, reach out and build a relationship with them, and provide a solution that will benefit the prospect. These efforts often lead to a sale, a satisfied customer, and revenue for the company.

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What Is Sales?

Sales is a term used to describe the activities that lead to the selling of goods or services. Businesses have sales organizations that are broken up into different teams. And these sales teams are often determined based on:

  • The region they're selling to
  • The product or service they're selling
  • The target customer

Salespeople reach out to contacts that might be interested in purchasing the product or service that their company is selling. And the contacts that demonstrate interest (e.g., visiting the company website, downloading a piece of content, interacting with your company on social media).

The goal is to reach out to leads who have shown interest or fit the description of their target customer, in hopes of providing them with a solution that results in them purchasing your product or service.

Marketing and Sales

Where can salespeople source leads and prospects? The campaigns and efforts of the marketing organization are one of the best ways to generate qualified leads. And the State of Inbound Report found that salespeople source 28% of their leads from marketing. While marketing and sales use different processes, both business functions impact lead generation and revenue.

So, how do sales teams sell? Let’s review the most common sale types.

1. Inside Sales

When sales teams engage with their prospects and customers remotely, often from an office alongside their team members, they follow an inside sales approach. This means they are selling from within their company. Organizations that use an inside sales approach often tend to have leaner, more automated processes and structured hours. 

2. Outside Sales

On teams where salespeople broker face-to-face deals with the prospect, they are following an outside sales approach. This implies that they are selling from outside their company — traditionally door-to-door or performing field sales. These teams tend to not have as regimented of processes, but do allow freedom and flexibility for reps to develop and implement their own sales strategies. 

3. B2B

This common acronym stands for “business-to-business” and describes companies that sell products and services to other businesses, instead of individual consumers. B2B sales tend to have a higher ticket value and more complex terms because the goods sold to other businesses typically play an essential role in how the buyer’s business operates. 

Within the realm of B2B, sellers can primarily support SMBs (small to medium businesses) or enterprise customers.

4. B2C

Unlike B2B sales, B2C (or business-to-consumer) sales revolve around transactions between a company and its individual consumers. These deals tend to be of lower price value and complexity than B2B sales and can involve multiple deals with a variety of customers.

5. Business Development

Thought business development doesn’t account for an entire sales transaction, it is an important aspect of the sales function for many companies. This role is typically held by business development managers, who are responsible for generating new business and qualifying leads for their company. Once the business development managers have qualified the new leads, their sales rep peers can take the leads through the sales process to close the deal.

6. Agency Sales

This type of sales involves generating and converting new leads to sign onto service packages from an agency. According to HubSpot’s 2019 State of Agency Selling, the average agency sales cycle is between 31 and 90 days, with most agencies bringing on one to three new clients each month. 

In the agency sales space, clients are typically signed either by project or on a retainer. For agencies that sign clients by project, they primarily focus on bringing in new business, selling service packages to new clients as their current projects wrap up. With a retainer model, agencies can engage with clients on an ongoing basis, allowing for predictable, recurring income with less dependence on bringing in a steady stream of new customers.  

7. Consultative Selling

Consultative selling is a style of selling that focuses on building trust with the customer to understand their needs before recommending a specific product or service. With consultative selling, sales reps focus on building a relationship with the buyer and leading the sale with how the offering will benefit the individual customer, instead of solely focusing on the features of the product to make the sale.

8. eCommerce

Does your company sell products exclusively online? Is your customer able to research your product, determine they want to buy it and make their purchase online all without needing to engage with someone from your company? If so, you’re following an eCommerce or online sales model.

Though this type of selling is more hands-off than other types, it can work well for lean companies who can’t staff a full sales department, or for companies who offer products that can be effectively sold through targeted digital marketing.

9. Direct Sales

With a direct selling model, individuals are able to sell directly to consumers outside of a traditional retail environment. With this method, sellers conduct the sale one-on-one with their customers, often earning a commission. This form of selling is commonly used by network marketing representatives and real estate professionals.

Common Sales Terms

Here are some of the common terms that are associated with sales and selling.

1. Salesperson

A salesperson is an individual who performs all the activities associated with selling a product or a service. Synonyms for salesperson include sales associate, seller, sales agent, and sales rep or representative.

2. Prospect

A prospect is a point of contact at a company that the salesperson would like to sell products or services to. The salesperson uses prospecting techniques like making warm calls, email outreach, and social selling. And if they're interested in the product or service, the sales rep can apply different sales closing strategies to turn the prospect into a customer.

3. Deal

A deal represents the product or service you'd like to sell and the price associated with it. Deals have multiple stages, which can vary depending on the business, its processes, products, and industry -- and deal performance can be tracked using a CRM. Salespeople can put together deal plans to make the selling process easier on the prospect and the sales rep.

4. Sales Pipeline

Sales pipeline is a term used to describe all the steps in your sales process. It gives salespeople a visual representation of where prospects are in the sales cycle.


Source: HubSpot

5. Sales Plan

The sales plan outlines the goals, objectives, and strategies for a sales organization. It includes details about target customers, market conditions, revenue targets, pricing, team structure, and more. And it lays out the tactics the sales teams will use to achieve their goals.

HubSpot Sales Plan TemplateSource: HubSpot

Types of Sales Methodologies

A sales process is key to running a successful sales organization. And the methods and processes that businesses their market, products and services, and position in their industry.

Here are some of the top sales methodologies businesses use.

  • Solution Selling: Solution selling is when the salesperson leads with the benefits a custom solution will give the prospect. This method acknowledges that prospects are informed and have done their research on the product or service before the sales rep reached out.
  • Inbound Selling: With this sales method, salespeople act as a consultant, meet the prospects where they are, and solve for prospects' pain points. Sales reps take four actions during the sales process: identity, connect, explore, and advise.
  • SPIN Selling: SPIN is used to describe the four types of questions salespeople should ask their clients: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-Payoff. The questions identify the prospect's pain points and help the salesperson build rapport with the buyer.
  • N.E.A.T. Selling: This is a framework that's used to qualify leads. N.E.A.T. stands for: core needs, economic impact, access to authority, and compelling event.
  • Conceptual Selling: Conceptual selling is a method where salespeople uncover the prospect’s concept of their product and seek to understand the prospect's decision process.
  • SNAP Selling: SNAP selling is an acronym for: Keep it Simple, be iNvaluable, always Align, and raise Priorities.
  • The Challenger Sale: The Challenger Sale follows a teach-tailor-take control process. Salespeople teach the prospect, tailor their communications, and take control of the sale.
  • The Sandler System: This system prioritizes building mutual trust between the sales rep and prospect. The salesperson acts as an advisor and asks questions to identify the prospect's challenges.
  • CustomerCentric Selling: With this method, the salesperson focuses on communicating with the key decision makers in the sale, and finding solutions to address their pain points or challenges.
  • MEDDIC: MEDDIC stands for: metrics, economic buyer, decision criteria, decision process, identify pain, champion. The salesperson asks questions about these topics to help move the prospect to move forward in the sales process.

The primary goals of sales are to create custom solutions for their prospects, which ultimately leads to sales and revenue for the business.

Looking for more? Learn about the difference between sales and marketing next.

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Originally published Apr 15, 2020 1:15:00 PM, updated February 26 2021


Sales Strategy