The selling process is a set of activities undertaken to successfully obtain an order and begin building long-term customer relations. While the activities we discuss apply to all forms of selling and can be adapted to most selling situations (including non-product selling such as selling an idea), we will mainly concentrate on the activities carried out by professional salespeople. For our purposes, we define professional salespeople as those whose principle occupation involves selling products (i.e., goods and services) to buyers and do so for organizations that appreciate and support sellers who are well-trained and ethically responsible.
The selling activities undertaken by professional salespeople include:
- Generating Sales Leads
- Qualifying Leads
- Preparing for the Sales Meeting
- Making Initial Contact
- The Sales Meeting
- Handling Buyer Resistance
- Closing the Sale
- Account Maintenance
It should be noted that while we present these activities in an order that is suggestive of a step-by-step approach (i.e., one activity must be carried out before the next), in many selling situations this will not be the case. For example, a buyer for a large retailer may have observed a salesperson's product being used while visiting a competitor’s store. The buyer, anxious to obtain the product for use in her own stores, contacts the salesperson immediately upon returning to the office. After addressing a few questions from the salesperson confirming the buyer’s status at the retail company and without much prodding by the salesperson, the buyer places an order and agrees to meet the salesperson for lunch the next day. In our example, only activities #2 – Qualifying the Lead, #7 – Closing the Sale and #8 – Account Maintenance are carried out in order to obtain the sale and to begin building a long-term relationship.
Additionally, salespeople often find circumstances in which all activities are required but the order these are carried out may be disrupted. For instance, salespeople are often confronted with a buyer who is resistant to making a purchase even before the salesperson has made a presentation (e.g., "I don’t think I'm interested in what you’re selling"). This will likely force the salesperson to adjust his or her selling process. In this example it will require the salesperson address the buyer’s resistance before beginning to present the product.