Theories of Selling

Theories of Selling

Various theories of selling have been developed overtime.  There has been a lot of research by behavioural scientists regarding selling as an art or a science. As a result, different theories have been proposed. Some of these theories of selling include, AIDAS, the right situation theory and the buying formula, to name a few.

Table Of Contents

What are theories of selling

The process of influencing others to buy any product or service may be seen from different angles. Theories of selling are the basic strategies that can be applied by salespeople to attract potential customers to their products and services.

AIDAS Theory of selling

According to this theory, a potential buyer’s mind passes through 5 stages: attention, interest, desire, action and satisfaction. Those words make up the acronym ‘AIDAS’. Based on that theory the salesperson needs to take the potential customer through all those stages effectively for a sale to take place.

  • Attention

Securing attention is the first phase. In this phase the salesperson needs to be dressed appropriately and behave in a friendly manner. Also, the salesperson needs to be alert and be skilled in making conversations. A good conversation helps both parties relax and set the stage for a presentation.

  • Interest

This is the second stage of the AIDAS theory of selling. At this stage the salesperson seeks to draw interest from the potential buyer after getting his/her attention. Many techniques can be applied to change a potential customer’s attention into interest. Some salespersons develop a contagious enthusiasm, whilst others use demonstrations or present samples of the product for the potential customer. The use of catalogues, portfolios and other visual aids will also help in obtaining potential customers’ interest in the product. It is important to note that the potential customers’ interest is influenced by their level of motivation, mood and degree of scepticism so it is important for the salesperson to consider all those factors. Also, the potential buyer can give out hints through questions that the salesperson can use to get the potential buyer interested. Since every individual is unique, one should search out the most appropriate way to appeal to the potential customer.

  • Desire

The third phase of the AIDAS theory of selling is stirring desire. After the salesperson has drawn the attention of a potential buyer and got him/her interested in the product, s/he needs to make sure that the potential customer develops a desire for the product. In order to do this the conversation should be kept on the product. Any distractions, obstacles and/or interruptions may side-track the conversation. Any obstacles should be addressed and ways around them should be developed. It is best to anticipate any objections that the customer may have beforehand, that way the salesperson can address them before the customer can raise them. This way time is saved and the chances of closing the sale increase.

  • Action

After the 3 phases have been completed action on the part of the potential customer should take place. At this stage of the AIDAS theory of selling, the potential customer should be encouraged or induced to buy the product. If the presentation is done well the customer should be ready to buy the product. The customer should be convinced about the merits and value of the product in order to buy it. Some sales personnel may ask directly if the customer is interested in buying the product. Some do not bother for fear of getting negative feedback, but it is always advisable to know the position of the buyer at this stage.

  • Satisfaction

The last stage of the AIDAS theory of selling is the satisfaction phase. At this stage, the salesperson should reassure the customer of his/her decision to buy. If the customer is not yet convinced the salesperson can use samples or demonstrations to convince the potential buyer of the benefits of the product. The salesperson, at this stage, should thank the customer and attend to any other queries that the customer may have after placing the order. This last stage may be seen as the climax of the sale.

The Right Situation Theory of selling

The second theory of selling, also known as the right set of circumstances theory, is the ‘right situation theory of selling’. This theory was developed through experimentations on animals. According to this theory, the surrounding circumstances may cause potential customers to respond in a predictable way. For example, if the salesperson succeeds in gaining the interest of a potential buyer the resulting action can be predicted or if the salesperson presents the right stimuli the desired response can be guaranteed. Experienced sales personnel who are skilled in handling both internal and external circumstances can easily create the desired environment to get the potential buyer’s interest in obtaining the product. This theory stresses the importance of manipulating the environment in order to get the desired response from the potential buyers.

The Buying Formula Theory of Selling


According to this theory of selling, the salesperson focuses on providing a solution to the customer through a product or service. This buying formula is a schematic representation of possible responses arranged in a sequence like the one above. Thus, a need or problem is identified, which the salesperson focuses on and provides a solution to through the product or service. That way, whenever a potential customer experiences the problem or need s/he will automatically think of a given product brand or service. The customer can be convinced about a given product or brand being the best solution for his/her need or problem. If customers do not see a need or problem at all, then the salesperson should emphasize on the existing problem. When customers do not associate the product or brand with a solution to their needs then the salesperson must emphasize on the relationship between the product/service and the solution it provides to those needs. The purchase can only take place if the potential buyer has been convinced that his/her needs can be solved by a given product or service. Due to the various competing products, the brand of a particular product’s superiority should be emphasised.

Some important aspects that salespersons should consider in solving a customer’s needs or problems are:

  • Innate drivers (Innate drivers such as hunger or pain)
  • Learned drivers (Social driven needs and feelings that may have to do with social status and acceptance)
  • The buyer’s response can then be determined by a formula;
  • Where; B is the buyer’s response

D is drive

K is Incentive Potential

V is intensity of triggers

All the variables are multiplicative so if any of them is zero, the buyer will not purchase the product.

Other Theories of Selling

  • SELL Model

According to this theory of selling, the letters represent:

S – Selling the product features

E – Explaining the advantages

L – Leading into the product benefits

L – Letting the potential customers ask questions

  • SPIN Theory of selling

The SPIN theory of selling is similar to the buying formula theory, according to this theory of selling the letters represent;

S – Situation (A potential customer’s situation is analysed that way a problem or need is determined)

P – Problem, (The customer’s problems are assessed)

I – Implications (The implications of the problems that were solved are assessed)

N – Need payoff (The solutions brought about by the product are assessed)

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