Sales vs. Sales Process – What’s the difference?

Sales vs. Sales Process – What’s the difference?

Selling is an action.  Sales process is a structure.

Sales:  it’s both an art and a science.  Lots of folks are good at selling; others would rather have oral surgery than be responsible for closing a deal.

What makes a sales person great?  Customers want to buy solutions to their problems, and they want value.  The best sales professionals identify pain points and articulate solutions that solve problems; they become trusted advisors.  People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy!*

Sales techniques vary widely from one person to another; there is clearly no one way to sell.  Just like we all have a unique fingerprint, we all have our personal style when influencing or selling.  After all, we all sell our ideas – even if we don’t get paid to do so.

Lots of books, web sites and courses give advice on how to be more effective at selling.  One of the most notable is Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness.  How to make sales FOREVER (  In his book and on his web site, we are reminded of the need for discipline and follow-up, networking and relationship-building, differentiating and removing risk.  The tips are great and, no doubt, many sales professionals have raised their game by following Jeffrey’s tips and integrating his advice into their daily work plan.

Sales process is not the same as being great at selling.  “In simple terms, a sales process is a systematic approach involving a series of steps that enables a sales force to close more deals, ” states the National Association of Sales Professionals.  A sales process provides the structure that guides a team of diverse sales people to accomplish similar steps and record consistent data, so that results are more predictable. It does not take away their ability to express their individuality.  What it does is provide structure, so that key requirements are met in a systematic manner and in an order that advances the sale with increasing confidence.

According to the Sales Executive Council, 90% of sales organizations that follow a structured sales process demonstrate improved overall results.  Benefits of a sales process may include:

  • More sales
  • Higher margins
  • Predictable outcomes
  • Repeatable activities
  • Tangible results

A sales process need not be complex to be impactful.  It may be as simple as four stages:

  • Qualify
  • Develop
  • Propose
  • Close

Within each stage may be a series of steps, milestones or triggers.  Some requirements may be mandatory; others may be optional.  Probabilities may be assigned to each stage to enable forecasting confidence. The structure should be as simple as possible to be effective.  Creating a complex onerous process will repel the sales team and ensure lack of engagement.

A sales process does not require automation, but there are many benefits to using a sales automation or customer relationship management system.  To learn more, attend one of our upcoming webinars or contact us at

*Jeffrey Gitomer,

About the Author
Melanie R. Varin is Chief Operating Officer and consultant for TopLine Results Corporation.  Melanie specializes in business process consulting for organizations across many industries. With more than 30 years of business expertise, Melanie focuses on providing clients with winning strategies for improving their sales, marketing and overall business processes from assessment to implementation.

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