Types of Selling Roles Tutorial

As we saw in the Personal Selling tutorial, there are several different roles that can be served by those engaged in selling.  In this tutorial we outline four key selling roles:

  • Order Getters
  • Order Takers
  • Order Influencers
  • Sales Support

As we will see, the objectives of each role is different.  In fact, some roles do not even involve direct selling to customers! It should be noted that these roles are not mutually exclusive and that a salesperson can perform more than one and possibly all activities.

The role most synonymous with selling is a position in which the salesperson is actively engaged in using their skills to obtain orders from customers. One highly challenging yet potentially lucrative example of this are sales positions where the main objective is to find new customers. Sales jobs in this category are often in fields that are very competitive, but offer high rewards for those that are successful. The key distinguishing factor of these positions is that once a sale is made new business salespeople pass customers on to others in their organization who handle account maintenance. These positions include:

  • Business Equipment Sales - These salespeople are often found in industries where a company’s main profits come from the sale of supplies and services that come after an initial equipment purchase. The key objective of business equipment salespeople is to get buyers to purchase the main piece of equipment for which supplies and service are needed in order for the equipment to function. For instance, in the photocopier industry certain salespeople only seek out new accounts and once a photocopier sale is made they pass along the account to other sales personnel who handle the sales of maintenance and supply products.
  • Telemarketing – This category includes product sales over the phone, whether aimed at business or consumer. While in the US laws restrict unsolicited phone selling, the practice is still widely used in the business market.
  • Consumer Selling – Certain companies are very aggressive in their use of salespeople to build new consumer business. These include: retailers selling certain high priced consumer products including furniture, electronics and clothing; housing products including real estate, security services, building replacement products (e.g., windows); and in-home product sellers including those selling door-to-door and products sold at "home party" events such as cosmetics, kitchenware and decorative products.

Selling does not always require a salesperson use methods designed to encourage customers to make a purchase. In fact, the greatest number of people engaged in selling are not order getters, rather they are considered order takers. In this role, salespeople primarily assist customers with a purchase in ways that are much less assertive than order getters. As might be expected, compensation for order takers is generally lower than that of order getters. Among those serving an order taker role are:

  • Retail Clerks – While some retail salespeople are involved in new business selling, the vast majority of retail employees handle order taking tasks, which range from directing customers to products to handling customer checkout.
  • Industrial Distributor Clerks – Industrial purchase situations, such as distributors of building products, will also have clerks to handle customer purchases.
  • Customer Service – Order taking is also handled in non face-to-face ways through customer service personnel. Usually this occurs via phone conversations, though newer technologies are allowing for these tasks to be handled through electronic means such as online chat.

Most people engaged in sales are not only involved in gaining the initial order, but work to build and maintain relationships with clients that are intended to last a long time. Salespeople involved in account management are found across a broad range of industries. Their responsibilities involve all aspects of building customer relationships from initial sale to follow-up account servicing. These include:

  • Business-to-Business Selling – These salespeople sell products for business use with an emphasis on follow-up sales. In many cases, business-to-business salespeople have many different items available for sale (i.e., broad and/or deep product line) rather than a single product. So while the initial sale may only result in the buyer purchasing a few products, the potential exists for the buyer to purchase many other products as the buyer-seller relationship grows.
  • Trade Selling – Sales professionals working for consumer products companies normally do not sell to the final user (i.e., consumer). Instead their role is focused on first getting distributors, such wholesalers and retailers, to handle their products and once this is accomplished, helping distributors sell their product by offering ideas for product advertising, in-store display and sales promotions.

Some salespeople are not engaged in direct selling activities at all. That is, they do not sell directly to the person who is the ultimate purchaser for their product. Instead these salespeople concentrate on selling activity that targets those who influence purchases made by the final customer and include:

  • Missionary - The primary example of an order influencer is the missionary salesperson.  These salespeople are used in industries where customers make purchases based on the advice or requirements of others. Two industries in which missionary selling is commonly found are pharmaceuticals, where salespeople, known as product detailers, discuss products with doctors (influencers) who then write prescriptions for their patients (final customer) and higher education, where salespeople call on college professors (influencers) who make requirements to students (final customer) for specific textbooks.
  • Word-of-Mouth Promotion - As we noted in the Types of Promotion tutorial, a new form of personal selling relies on real people to help spread the word about a product.  Dubbed buzz marketing, this promotion method is similar to missionary selling in that the promoter does not actually sell the product but it differs from missionary selling as the promoter talks directly to the customer.  Additionally, those selling are often not employees of either the product marketer or the company who is running the word-of-mouth campaign. Instead, they may be real people who are recruited and offered an incentive (e.g., free product) to help spread the word.