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What Is Selling?
W hat would happen to the business you work for if it had no
sales? It probably wouldn’t stay open for very long! If no one ever
bought dinner at the restaurant down the street, it would likely
close pretty quickly. And if no one bought the goods a factory
produced, its days would be numbered. This is one thing every
business has in common—goods and services must be sold in
order for businesses to exist.

What does selling have to do with you? If no one needed or wanted to buy a good or service, there
would be no need to produce it. For example, if no one needed
“Nothing,” you might think. “I don’t sell
or wanted to buy cars, cars would no longer be produced. If no
anything, and I rarely deal with sales-
one ever went to the movies, the theaters would go out of busi-
people.” But if you stop to think about
ness. Goods and services must be sold for them to continue
it, you’ll discover that selling has a lot to
being produced.
do with your life! Have you ever tried to
persuade a teacher to extend the deadline
for your research paper? You were trying
to sell him or her on the idea. Or have you
tried to convince your parents to let you
go to a certain party? That’s selling, too!
Selling is an extremely important part
of our economy. Goods and services must
be sold for businesses to exist and private
enterprise to thrive. Millions of people
work in a variety of sales careers, and
selling skills are also essential in most
marketing positions. Anyone going into a
business-related field should have a basic
knowledge of the nature and scope of the
selling function. Read on to learn more!
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

If a business doesn’t sell any goods or services, it won’t

stay open for long. What would happen to movie theaters
if no one went to the movies?

Selling defined
Selling is a marketing function that involves determining client
Objectives needs and wants and responding through planned, personalized
communication that influences purchase decisions and enhances
A Explain the nature of selling. future business opportunities. Because selling is planned and per-
sonalized, it goes beyond mere order-taking or customer service.
Explain personal characteristics
B of successful salespeople.
Let’s look at several key words in the definition of selling:
• Selling is planned communication. Planned com-
munication doesn’t mean you’re reading off of a script.
Instead, it means you’ve spent some time learning about

2 LAP-SE-117-CS © 2014, MBA Research and Curriculum Center® Sell Away

• Adds utility. Selling adds utility, or usefulness, to
products. Through selling, products can be “in the right
place at the right time.” Skilled salespeople aid in develop-
ing utility for their products by creating customer desire.
They may attempt to sell not only a suit but also the ac-
cessories to go with it, for instance. They may have the
customer try on a shirt and tie that match the suit—while iStockphoto/Thinkstock

pointing out the features and benefits of buying all three.

1. Define selling.
• Helps customers determine needs. By providing op-
portunities for two-way communication between custom- 2. Identify three reasons that goods and services are sold.
ers and salespeople, selling enables customers to receive 3. Distinguish between tangible and intangible products.
help with their buying problems. In this way, customers 4. Where does selling occur?
can determine their needs and can select products that
are right for them. 5. How are products sold?

• Creates desire for products. Skilled salespeople 6. How does selling keep our economy moving?
can create desire for new or established products. They 7. In what way does selling promote competition?
do this by determining clients’ needs, wants, and buying
8. Explain how selling affects employment.
motives. Then, salespeople explain product features and
benefits to clients and heighten their desire through the 9. In what way does selling add utility to goods and services?
use of demonstrations. For example, if you know a busi- 10. How does selling help customers determine their needs?
ness is looking for a software program that will help its
11. How can selling create desire for products?
accounting department manage data and save time, you
could talk about how your company’s easy-to-use soft-
ware will make the accounting staff’s lives easier. Since
you understand the company’s buying motives, you
would be sure to focus on the time-saving features
of your product in your sales presentation.

Selling is determining client needs and wants and responding
through planned, personalized communication that influences Sam recently began working at an electronics store, and
purchase decisions and enhances future business opportuni- a good portion of his pay comes through the commission
ties. Goods and services are sold for ultimate consumption, structure. That is, the more he sells, the more money he
for resale, or for use in the operation of a business. Every earns. Sam is saving for college, so his goal is to make
business has something to sell—either tangible products or as much as possible at his new job.
intangible services. Selling can occur wherever person-to- Today, Sam was helping a customer who was looking
person contact is made, either directly to the consumer or at a certain digital camera. One of Sam’s main selling
indirectly through the use of intermediaries. Selling plays an points in his presentation was that the camera was cur-
important role in our society and economy. Effects of selling rently on sale for 15 percent off. The customer still
include keeping our economy moving, promoting competi- seemed unsure.
tion, affecting employment, adding utility, helping customers Sam really wanted to make the sale, so he told the cus-
determine needs, and creating a desire for products. tomer that the sale price might not be available tomorrow
—if he wanted to buy it for this price, he’d better do it
today. Sam wasn’t sure when the sale would end. He told
himself, “It could  end tomorrow, for all I know. The sales
we run here do tend to be for very short periods of time.”
What do you think? Is it ethical for a salesperson to
“push” a customer to buy based on a possible end to a sale?

6 LAP-SE-117-CS © 2014, MBA Research and Curriculum Center® Sell Away

• Selling skills. There are specific selling techniques • Personal appearance. You only have one shot to make
that have been proven over time to be effective. As you a first impression. Customers judge you (and your com-
become more skilled and advanced in selling, you will pany!) by the way you dress and groom yourself. If you
learn how to: present yourself as disheveled and sloppy, customers will
• Determine clients’ assume your company does business in the same manner.
• Suggest additional
needs, wants, and or substitute items Think about it this way—would you be more likely to buy
buying motives something from a salesperson in sweatpants or a sales-
• Demonstrate products
• Open and close sales person in a suit? Pay attention to appearance standards
• Follow up on sales in your industry and dress appropriately.
• Question clients
• Handle customer objections
There are several characteristics that are needed to become a
• Belief in selling as a service. Simply put, selling is a
successful salesperson. They include education and training,
service. Your focus should be on the customer and what s/he
self-motivation, self-confidence, product knowledge, customer
wants. What can you offer the customer? How can you help
knowledge, ethics, persistence and patience, selling skills, belief
him/her? You aren’t there to make a quick buck or “strong-
in selling as a service, communication skills, creativity, and
arm” a customer into buying something s/he doesn’t really
personal appearance.
need. Your job is to assist customers by giving them the
accurate product information they need to make intelligent
buying decisions. Think of yourself as the go-between for
your business and your customers. By meeting the needs
of your customers, you will be helping your company grow
and prosper.

• Communication skills. Good communication skills are

handy in every industry, but they are especially important 1. Briefly explain how each of the following characteristics
in sales careers. You must be able to express yourself contributes to sales success:
clearly and simply so that clients understand how your
products will benefit them and meet their needs. Some- a. Education and training h. Selling skills
times, you may need to use technical terms and be pre- b. Self-motivation i. Belief in selling
pared to explain them in a way the client can understand. c. Self-confidence as a service
Remember that good communication isn’t a one-way d. Product knowledge j. Communication
street—be sure to pause for breath once in a while and e. Customer knowledge skills
actively listen to your client! f. Ethics k. Creativity
• Creativity. Successful salespeople don’t rely on the same g. Persistence and l. Personal
patience appearance
old tricks every time they interact with a customer. Use your
imagination and look for new or improved uses for your
products! Listen carefully to your customers, and person-
alize your sales presentation based on their needs. For
example, maybe you typically try to sell office supplies to businesses by emphasizing the supplies’ great prices. But if you
know a certain business values quality over all else, you might change your presentation around to focus on the reliability of
the products. Good salespeople are able to think on their feet.

You may already be a successful salesperson without even realizing it.

Every time you convince your friends to see a certain movie, persuade
your teacher to give you an extra day on your homework assignment, or obtain your parents’ permission to
stay out an hour later, you are selling something. Think back to the interactions you’ve had in the past week.
What did you “sell” to someone? Does thinking about this change your perception of your “sales” ability?

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