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A complete guide to the different types of sales

A complete guide to the different types of sales

min read

All selling is about closing deals, right? But the way you sell varies drastically depending on the type of client and product. 

Selling enterprise-level SaaS products to executives requires a different approach than selling coffee to consumers, but both types of sales are important. Below, we’ll walk you through the maze of sales types, from the classic in-person pitch to the click-driven world of online selling.

16 different types of sales

Sales strategies are the backbone of revenue generation, each tailored to fit various consumer behaviors and market demands. From consultative selling to eCommerce-based approaches, closing deals looks a little different for everyone. Learning to use different sales techniques in different sales settings is crucial for tailoring your pitches and maximizing success.


So without further ado, here are sixteen of the most common types of sales:

1. B2B sales

The B2B sales category is a catch-all for business-to-business commerce. What differentiates it from B2C sales is the necessity for strategic relationship-building between not just people, but companies. B2B selling is about precision and fostering connections that bolster long-term business growth.

2. B2C sales

In B2C selling, you're engaging directly with the individual consumer. You might use retail and eCommerce platforms, create a rewards program to incentivize repeat customers, brainstorm creative promotion ideas, or make direct sales via a storefront.

3. Enterprise sales

In enterprise sales, you navigate complex negotiations aimed at securing deals with large organizations and high stakes. Unlike direct sales, you're dealing with extended sales cycles and multiple decision-makers, demanding a strategic, relationship-driven approach for success. Selling telematics technology to insurance companies is an example of this.

4. SaaS sales

If you’re selling software as a service (SaaS), your hope is to sell a software product for your clients to rely on. It takes finesse to get a lead to try a new solution, especially when selling software that will require the customer to migrate sensitive data. A polished approach to SaaS sales isn't just about closing deals — it's about providing solutions that evolve with customers over time.

5. Direct sales

In direct sales, companies sell products directly to consumers, bypassing traditional retail stores. Sales are typically conducted in-person or online, often through independent representatives who earn commissions. Mary Kay is a famous example. Some direct sales companies use a multi-level marketing strategy where reps are highly incentivized to create more and more reps.

6. Inside vs. outside sales

Inside sales involves engaging with customers primarily through phone calls, emails, and online platforms where the sales rep remains indoors. (It’s not to be confused with insider trading.) With outside sales, the sales rep meets the customer wherever they’re at, whether that’s at home, the office, a coffee shop, or concert. These reps may spend a lot of time on the road and are highly independent.

7. Consultative sales

You act as an advisor in consultative sales, focusing on the customer's needs through active listening and targeted questions. B2C examples include selling cars, appliances, or jewelry, while B2B examples include selling software and marketing solutions.

8. eCommerce sales

Who isn’t familiar with online sales at this point? With eCommerce sales, your website does much of the selling for you, though inside sales may play an important role in generating leads for higher ticket items.

9. Referral sales

In referral sales, you rely on existing customers to recommend your products to new potential buyers. By offering incentives, you can motivate your existing clientele to generate new qualified leads. This is the marketing backbone for many small businesses across the country.

10. Account-based sales

Account-based sales target high-value accounts with personalized marketing and sales efforts. The goal is to foster deeper relationships and align resources to convert key prospects. Salespeople own specific accounts and continually check in with the client’s needs.

11. Wholesale sales

Wholesale sales involve bulk transactions typically between businesses, allowing for cost savings and larger distribution networks. Think of the kinds of deals Sam’s Club and Costco do with their suppliers. This type of sale is crucial for a channel sales strategy, where you manage accounts throughout the distribution chain.

12. Retail sales

Retail sales cater to individual consumers, offering products in smaller quantities directly to the end user. Sales promotion plays a key role in retail, creating incentives for customers to make a purchase. It's the personal touch that often seals the deal in retail.

13. Social selling

Social selling can boost your sales strategy by engaging directly with potential customers on social media platforms they frequent. This sales type increases brand awareness and generates leads through ads, influencer marketing, and direct engagement. Be sure to pick the right platform — some brands do better on an informal platform like Instagram while others thrive in a professional space like LinkedIn.

14. Channel sales

Channel sales involve distributing products or services through third-party partners, such as resellers, distributors, or agents, to reach a wider market. Distribution agreements set the standard for pricing, discounts, and service across partners. For example, the watch company Tissot has a network of authorized dealers around the world that adhere to certain guidelines.

15. Outbound vs. inbound sales

In outbound sales, you proactively reach out to potential customers to initiate the sales process.

Your sales team structure should be geared towards outreach, with clear metrics to measure success. With inbound sales, the customer has already expressed interest in your product and has broken the ice first. Your job in this scenario is to follow-up and nurture that warm lead.

16. Insight sales

With this sales type, you leverage data and analytics to tailor your approach and provide customers with valuable insights that address their specific needs. You guide the prospect to an “aha!” moment that makes an impression.

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Different types of sales professionals

Sales professionals come in various forms too, each specializing in different industries and stages of the sales process. These include sales representatives, business development managers, account executives and managers, sales managers, and sales operations professionals.

Business development

A business development professional identifies growth opportunities, negotiates partnerships, and drives revenue through strategic alliances and new business avenues. Instead of selling products, they sell company partnerships.

Account manager

An account manager’s job isn't just about making sales; it's about crafting tailored presentations, understanding the client's needs, and navigating their hierarchy to solidify trust and drive long-term business growth.

Sales manager

Leadership is essential in guiding a sales team. Sales managers are responsible for steering a group of sales reps toward their targets across various sectors and client types. They help each sales professional in their charge thrive and perform within the team's dynamic ecosystem.

Sales representative

Sales reps are the team members who close deals. They use insights from marketing and business development teams to generate leads and sell. You’ll find them spending a lot of time in their CRM.

Sales operations

Sales operations professionals are a diverse group of individuals, each with specialized roles that support the sales process and make it run more smoothly. Common job titles include promotion strategists, data analysts, and digital operations specialists.

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How sales methodologies should guide sales

No matter what type of sale you or your business makes, remember this: You don’t have to start from scratch with each lead. Many companies use sales methodologies as frameworks that guide people through different deal stages.

A simple example is solution selling, where reps sell the solution, not the product. Another example is gap selling, where sales reps empathize with the gap between the client’s current state and where they want to be.

According to Hubspot, a few additional popular methodologies include:

  • The SPIN selling system (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need)
  • SNAP selling (Simple, INvaluable, Align, Priority)
  • NEAT selling (Need, Economic impact, Access to authority, Timeline)
  • Conceptual selling
  • MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Identify pain, Champion)

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What are some emerging trends in sales?

From AI-driven analytics to social selling, the field of sales continues to modernize and evolve with each passing day. Here are some trends to watch in 2024 and beyond:

  • Remote and virtual selling: Sales teams are increasingly using video calls, virtual demos, and digital collaboration tools to engage with clients and close deals.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): Teams are using AI and ML to analyze customer data, predict buying behavior, personalize sales pitches, and optimize pricing strategies. This new tech is also automating repetitive tasks, which frees up sales professionals to focus on more strategic activities.
  • Subscription and service-based models: Many businesses are transitioning from one-time sales to subscription models, emphasizing long-term customer relationships and recurring revenue.
  • Personalization at scale: Advances in technology are enabling sales teams to personalize communications and sales collateral at scale, using customer data to tailor interactions without losing efficiency.
  • Sustainability: With the growing concern for the environment, savvy sales teams are increasingly incorporating sustainability into their value proposition, aligning with consumer demand for eco-friendly products and practices.

These trends are likely to evolve as new technologies emerge and the global business landscape continues to change.

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How to choose the right sales approach for your business

Selecting the right sales approach for your business hinges on several key factors. These include your target market, product type, and the customer experience you aim to deliver.

Consider your audience's preferences above all else when you’re building a new sales approach. Do they value personal interaction, or do they prefer digital convenience?

Align your product's complexity with your sales strategy. For complex solutions, a consultative, relationship-based approach is non-negotiable. But for a more transactional sale, a high-volume outbound strategy might be better. Always aim for a seamless, positive customer journey that reflects your brand's values.

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Use Streak to manage customer relationships and track sales in Gmail

Selling is significantly more enjoyable with Streak. Streak’s free Chrome-based extension lets you track leads, conversations, calls, and more right from your Gmail inbox. 

Whether you use the SNAP selling technique or do consultative sales, you can stay organized and proactive in your follow-ups. Streak AI also works inside of the platform to suggest call questions based on past interactions with prospects. Overall, Streak is a good fit for a range of sales team structures, from solopreneurs to large teams managing different customer segments in multiple stages of the funnel.

Try it today — it’s free! 

Track your sales with customizable pipelines in Gmail. Start a free 14-day trial and import your data in minutes.

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