Theories of Selling: | Sales | Mental Processes


Selling is considered an art by some and a science by others and has produced two contrasting approaches to the theory of selling. The first approach distilled the experiences of successful salespeople and to a lesser extent, advertising professionals. Many such persons succeeded because of their grasp of practical, or learned through experience psychology and their ability to apply it in sales situations. These selling theories emphasize the “what to do” and “how to do” rather than the “why”. These theories, based on experiential knowledge accumulated from years of “living in the market” rather than on a systematic, fundamental body of knowledge. The second approach borrowed findings from the behavioral sciences. John A. Howard of Columbia Graduate School of Business was in the forefront of those who adapted the findings of behavioral science to analysis of buying behavior; his “behavioral equation” attempts to develop a unified theory of buying and selling. There are four theories, the first two, the “AIDAS” theory and the “right set of circumstances” theory, are seller oriented. The third, the “buying – formula” theory of selling, is buyer oriented. The fourth, the behavioral equation, emphasizes the buyer’s decision process but also takes the salesperson’s influence process into account.


AIDAS Theory of Selling

The theory- popularly known as the AIDAS theory, after initials of the five words express it (attention, interest, desire, action and satisfaction) is the basis for many sales training programs are organized. According to the theory, the prospect’s mind passes through five successive mental states: attention, interest, desire, action, and satisfaction so the sales presentation must lead the prospect through them in the right sequence if a sale is to result. The psychological writings of William James support this theory. Its construct is based upon experimental knowledge. It was in existence as early as 1898. According to this theory during the successful selling interview the prospect's

mind consciously passes through five successive mental states : attention, interest, desire, action and satisfaction. The sales presentation must lead the prospect through steps in the right sequence if a sale is to result. (i) Securing attention: In order to put the prospect into a receptive state of mind, the first few minutes of the interview are crucial. The sales person has to have a reason, or an excuse for conducting the interview. If he has previously made an appointment, this phase presents no problem, though experienced sales personnel say that even with an appointment, a sales person must possess considerable mental alertness; and be a skilled conversationalist, to survive the start of the interview. As the prospect realizes the caller is bent on selling something, the sales person must establish good support at once. He needs an ample supply of "Conversation Openness". Among other things, favorable first impressions are assured proper attire, neatness, friendliness, amid a genuine smile just before the interview. Skill sales personnel often decide up on conversation openness so that those remarks are about the prospects if they are favorable comments about the prospect's business. A good conversation opens causes the prospect to relax and sets the stage for total presentation. (ii) Gaining Interest: Many techniques are used to intensify the prospect's attention so that it evolves into strong interest. Some sales people develop contagious enthusiasm for the product or a sample. Sales portfolios, flip charts, or other visual aids serve the same purpose when the product is bulky or technical. One should search out the selling appeal that is most likely to be effective. Sometimes the prospect drops hints, which the sales person then uses in selecting the best approach. Some sales person stratagems to elicit revealing questions to encourage hints by the prospects. Others are the prospect question designed to clarify attitudes and feelings towards the product. Bug before identifying the strongest appeal even experienced sale person do considerable probing, usually of

the question - and - answer variety. The prospect's interests are affected by basic motivations, closeness of the interview subject to the current problems, its timeliness, and their receptive, skeptical or hostile mood. In selecting the appeal to emphasize the sales person must take all these into account. (iii) Kindling Desire: The sales person must keep the conversation running along the main line toward the sale to kindle the prospect's desire to ready - to - buy point. The development of sales obstacles the prospects objections, external interruptions, and digressive remarks may sidetrack the presentation during this phase. Obstacles must be faced and ways found to get around them. Objections need answering to the prospects satisfaction. Time is saved, and the chance of making a sale improved if objections are anticipated and answered before the prospects raises them. Good sales people summarize what has been said earlier before continuing. Digressive should be disposed of fact fully, with finesse, but sometimes distracting depression is best handled bluntly for example " well: that's all very interesting but to get back to the subject...". (iv) Inducting Action: If the presentation has been perfect, the prospect is ready to buy. However, buying must be induced. Experienced sales personnel do not close until the prospect is fully convinced of the merits of the proposition. The trial close, the close on a minor point, and the trick close are used to test the prospect's free action. For fear of getting "No" from which they think there is no retreat some sales personnel never ask for definite "yes" or "No”. But it is better to ask for the order straight forwardly. (v) Building Satisfaction: The sales person should reassure the customer that his buying decision is correct and that sales person merely helped in deciding. The order is the climax of the selling situation. Building satisfaction means thanking the customer for the order,

and attending to such matter as making certain that the order is filled as written, and following upon promises made. For exampleSecuring attention –Telling about RO water purifier and its quality to purify water Gaining Interest – by showing flipcharts, presentations and brochures and also focusing on purity and health of the family members. Kindling Desire – to make them use the RO water purifier for their use Induction – consumer purchase the product due to its effectiveness in providing pure and germ free water Building Satisfaction – appreciate the customer by saying that he has made the good purchase by relating its health factor .

This theory sometimes is also called “Situation Response theory”, had its psychological origin in experiments with animals and holds that the particular circumstances prevailing in a given selling situation cause the prospect to respond in a predictable way. If the sales person succeeds in securing the attention and gaining the interest of the prospect, and if the salesperson presents the proper stimuli or appeals, the desired response will result. Furthermore the more skilled the salesperson is in handling the set of circumstances, the more predictable is the response. The set of circumstances includes factors external and internal to the prospect. To use a simplified example, Suppose a salesperson sales to the prospect, “Let’s go out for lunch”. The salesperson and the remarks are the external factors. But at least 4 factors internal to the prospect affect the response. These are the presence or the absence of desires (1) First to go out for lunch (2) To have it now

(3) To go out (4) To go out with salesperson

Proponents of this theory tend to stress external factors and at the expense of internal factors. They seek selling appeals that evoke desired responses. Sales personnel who try to apply the theory experience difficulty traceable to internal factors in many selling situations, but the internal factors are not readily manipulated. This is a seller oriented theory: it stresses the importance of the salesperson controlling the situation, does not handle the problem of influencing the factors internal to the prospect, and fails to assign appropriate weight to the response side of the situation response interaction. For example Suppose you provide a Paying guest accommodation as well as provide Tiffin services to those living in PG as well as to others and charge for it.

(3) “Buying Formula” theory of selling :
This theory emphasizes the buyer’s side of the buyer’s seller dyad. The buyers need or problem receives major attention and the sales person role is to help buyer find solutions. This theory purports: what thinking process goes on mind that causes the decision to buy or not to buy? The buying formula is a schematic representation of a group of responses arranged in a psychological sequence .The formula theory emphasizes the prospects responses and deemphasizes the external factors ,on the assumption that the salesperson, being naturally conscious of the external factors will not overlook them. The mental involved in the purchase are Need solution purchase

Because the outcome of the purchase affects the chance that a continuing relation will develop between the buyer and the seller and because nearly all sales organizations are interested in continuing relationship. It is necessary to add a fourth element the fourth elements then are Need solution purchase satisfaction

Whenever a need is felt or problem recognized, the individual is conscious of a deficiency of satisfaction. When definite buying habit has been established the buying formula is Need product service and or trade name dissatisfaction purchase satisfaction/

To ensure purchase the product or service and the trade name must be considered adequate, and the buyer must experience a feeling of anticipated satisfaction when thinking of the product and service and the trade name. In many cases, an item viewed as adequate is also liked, and vice versa, but this is not always so. Some products and services that are quite adequate are not liked and bought that are admittedly not as good as competing items. Similar reasoning applies to trade names. Some sources of supply are both adequate and liked, others are adequate but not liked, and still others are liked but patronized even though they are inadequate to competing sources. With adequacy and pleasant feelings included, the buying formula becomes Adequacy Adequacy


product and/ or trade name Service



Pleasant feelings

Pleasant feelings

When a buying habit is being established, the buyer should know why product or service is an adequate solution to the need or problem, and why trade name is the

best name to buy. The buyers must also have a pleasant feeling toward the product or service and the trade name. Then, whenever the buyer’s habit is challenged by a friend’s mark, a competing salesperson’s presentation, or a competitor’s advertisement, the buyer needs reasons to defend the purchase, and, in addition, he or she needs a pleasant feeling toward both the product or service and the trade name. The primary elements in a well established buying habit are those connected by solid lines, on the central line of the formula. Most purchases are made with scarcely a thought as to why, and with a minimum of feeling. And it should be the constant aim of the sales person and advertiser to form such direct associations. Reasons (adequacy of solution) and pleasant feelings constitute the elements of defense in the buying habit. As long as they are present, repeat buying occurs. The answer to each selling problem is implied in the buying formula, and differences among answers are differences in emphasis upon the elements in the formula. It may be said that (1)If the prospect does not feel a need or recognize a problem that can be satisfied by the product or service, the need or problem should be emphasized.

(2)If the prospect does not think of the product or service when he or she feels the need or recognizes the problem, the association between need or problem and product or service should be emphasized.

(3)If the prospect does not think of the trade name when he or she thinks of the product or service, the association between the product or service or trade name should be emphasized. (4)If need or problem, product or service and trade name are well associative, emphasis should be put upon facilitating purchase and use. (5)If competition is felt, emphasis should be put upon establishing in the prospects’ minds the adequacy of the trade name product or service, and pleasant feelings towards it. For example:

Suppose a salesperson goes to a lady and wants to sell a water purifier. He will tell about the effectiveness of the purifier in cleaning water and making it purer and safer. He will place the water purifier as the solution for pure and germ free water. When the lady purchases the water purifier it depends on her whether she gets satisfied or not. It is not possible that the water purifier provides the same adequacy and pleasant feeling to all. The water purifier may give adequate and pleasant feeling and the lady may purchase it and it will provide her satisfaction. There may be other products in the market that can provide more adequacy and feeling.

(4) Behavioral Equation Theory: Using stimuli – response model, this theory has developed. Four essential elements required in learning process to explain buying behavior and purchasing decision process. Drive – a strong internal stimulus that impel the buyer’s response (i) Innate drive (psychological)

Learned drive (status/social)

For example: innate drive –you are hungry Learned drive – you want to have burger Cues – Weak stimuli when the buyer’s respond (i)Triggering cue – activates decision process for a given product and evokes you to buy a product. For example : you are hungry and want to have burger (ii) Non – triggering cue – influences the decision process but not activate. It can be of two types for the product which helps to make opinion for decision process and the information which you get from advertisements, sales promotion etc. For example :You believe Mcdonalds provides the cheap and the best burger with quickest service time.

(iii) Specific product / information – also functions as triggering cue. For example special offers/discounts on cold drink and French fries with the burger. Response: What buyer does? Example buyer can purchase or not Reinforcement – event that strengthens buyer’s tendency of response. Example: convenience, time saving and money factor also. B=P*D*K*V B=Response P= Predisposition/ inward response tendency habit D= Present drive level K= incentive potential i.e. value, product/potential satisfaction of the buyer Example if predisposition is positive then automatically K is active V= intensity of all customer Example here P and K is positive the customer are more loyal towards the products and sales increases.

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