The Types of Selling Roles Tutorial

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 the following key selling roles:

As we will see, the objectives of each role are 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.

Order Getters – New Business Development

The role most synonymous with selling is a position in which the salesperson is actively engaged in using his/her skills to obtain orders from customers. One highly challenging, yet potentially lucrative, sales positions is one 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 company profits are generated primarily through 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 a large number supplies and services are needed. For instance, traditionally in the photocopier industry, business equipment salespeople focus on establishing new accounts. However, once a photocopier sale is made they pass along the account to other sales personnel, who then handle sales of supplies and maintenance contracts.


This category includes product sales over the phone, whether aimed at businesses or consumers. While in the U.S. some laws restrict unsolicited phone selling, the practice is still widely used in both the consumer and business markets.

Consumer Selling

Certain companies are extremely aggressive in their use of salespeople to sell products to consumers. These include: retailers selling certain high-priced consumer products, including furniture, electronics, and clothing; sellers of housing products, including real estate, security services, and 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.

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Order Getters – Account Management

Most people engaged in sales are not only involved in gaining the initial order, but work to build and maintain long-term relationships with their clients. 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 present several different items to their customers (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. Once this is accomplished, they help distributors sell their product by offering ideas for product advertising, in-store display, and sales promotions.

Order Takers

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 how order getters handle their role. 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 also have clerks to handle customer purchases. For instance, distributors of building products often operate a facility where contractors shop for supplies. The person handling these transactions would likely fit the order taker role.

Customer Service

Order taking is also handled in situations that are not face-to-face. Usually this occurs via phone conversation or through online chat with customer service personnel.

Order Supporters

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 customer for their product. Instead these salespeople concentrate on selling activity that targets those who influence purchases made by the final customer and include:


These salespeople are used in industries where customers make purchases based on the advice or requirements of others. In this role, the salesperson concentrates on selling activities that target those who influence purchases made by the final customer. 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 discuss textbooks with college professors (influencers) who then assign these to their students (final customer).

Controlled Word-of-Mouth Promotion

As we noted in the Types of Promotion Tutorial, another type of order supporter specializes in word-of-mouth promotion. This type of promotion, which also is known by such terms as buzz marketing and advocacy marketing, is similar to missionary selling as salespeople do not actively look to make a sale. However, it differs from missionary selling in that salespeople will talk to the eventual purchaser of the product. While still a fairly new approach to personal selling, marketers may one day view this as a standard personal selling option.

Sales Supporters

A final group involved in selling mostly assist with the selling activities of other sales professionals. These include:

Technical Specialists

When dealing with the sale of technical products, particularly in the business market, salespeople may need to draw on the expertise of others to assist with the process. This is particularly the case when the buying party consists of a buying center. In the Business Buying Behavior Tutorial, we indicated that, in business selling, many people from different functional areas may be involved in the purchase decision. If this buying center includes technical people, such as scientists and engineers, a salesperson may seek assistance from members of her/his own technical staff, who can help address specific questions.

Office Support

Salespeople also may receive assistance from their company’s office staff in the form of creating promotional materials, setting up sales appointments, finding sales leads, arranging meeting space, or organizing trade shows exhibits.


Types of Selling Roles Tutorial   (2023).   From Principles of Marketing Tutorials.   Retrieved   March 26, 2023  from
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