12 August 2019

Sales process

Sales process
Author/Compiled by
Urs Heierli (Antenna Foundation)
Fanny Boulloud (Antenna Foundation)
Raphael Graser (Antenna Foundation)
Reviewed by
Jeske Verhoeven (IRC)
Astrid Agthoven (Aqua for All)

Executive Summary

Sales Process

A sales process entails all aspects that are related to selling a product or service. The process starts with the identification of potential customers, defining how to approach them, how to sell the product, closing the deal and following-up after selling. Important for a coherent sales process is the combination of a finalized product, a consistently implemented marketing strategy, a well-trained sales force and a thoroughly applied after-sales strategy. The sales process factsheet provides you with necessary instruments to identify and determine a suitable sales process for your company and specifically focuses on recruiting sales people and how to develop and execute a sales speech.

The case study of the Cambodian social enterprise Hydrologic presents how its sales process has evolved over time and how the aspect of a determined and well-trained salesforce became key to its successful business model.

What are sales processes all about?

Factsheet Block Body

The sales process comprises of various steps. From identifying potential customers (see factsheet on business development for more information), to approach them, sell the product, close the deal and follow-up (see factsheet on after-sales process) (OAKES, 1990). How these steps are executed is referred to as sales methodology (DAVIES, 2017). Based on this definition this factsheet’s focus lies on identifying and training sales people, and implementing a coherent sales speech in practice.

Keep in mind: The sales methodology has to adapt context and product or services to customer needs and varies according to geographic conditions. But the most important aspect is always the high dependence on the performance of the sales people as such (KUMAR, SUNDER & LEONE, 2014; DOMBROWSKI & MALORNY, 2016).

Why are sales processes important to look at for an enterprise?

Factsheet Block Body

Having your business model and the appropriate product and/or service ready, created through the identification of customer needs (see factsheet on human centred design), a safe water company has to start the sales process in order to create revenues. Though even the best-designed product or service will not be sold without efforts. Successfully selling safe water or household water treatment solutions (HWTS) to BoP customers require a combination of a thoroughly developed and executed marketing strategy (see factsheet on social marketing) and well-trained and motivated sales people. This is especially important in a market, where people have to be convinced to treat their water and burdens of last mile delivery have to be successfully overcome. If your safe water enterprise has chosen to sell its product through a retailer network (see factsheet on distribution process), the aspect of briefing the sales force for the product introduction is vital and aspects of warranty and after-sales processes are key for stable brand recognition and success.

For whom is the factsheet sales process useful?

Factsheet Block Body

Sales processes are important for safe water entrepreneurs, NGOs and individuals that start sales of HWTS or safe water. If an enterprise is already more advanced and has incorporated different specific job profiles, this factsheet will help the person in charge of sales/marketing to broaden its view on how to better reach BoP customers.

How can a sales process be conceptualized and/or improved?

Factsheet Block Body

Subsequently measures and criteria on how to reflect on sales processes are provided in order to fine-tune the sales process and specifically the training of your sales force.

A company’s sales process will always depend on the distribution process. As sales can be performed by a company itself or it can be externalized if working together with external distributors, kiosks etc.

Conducting direct sales internally, a company’s staff is responsible for selling products/services directly. To holistically add value to a product a sound sales speech or sales pitch on how to approach and convince potential customers is essential. Accordingly it is inevitable to train the salesforce on a methodologically sound sales speech. Additionally an adequate after-sales and warranty model has to be chosen in order to keep the customer base happy, to increase the market share through good reputation and word of mouth promotion.

Note: Throughout the sales process one needs to collect information to understand customers better (market behaviour, aspirations, what convinces people to purchase Point-of-Use solutions e.g. improved health, economic savings, etc.). Such information can be gathered through customer surveys (compare factsheet on human centred design). The gathered information allows you to fine-tune the sales speech accordingly.

The following 5 steps are key to successfully sell a product/service:

  • Step 1: Identify the sales force

Recruiting the best suited people for the sales team is crucial. It is highly recommended to invest enough time in the recruiting process, as training the future sales force is a resource-intensive process (money and time). It is important to get to know the expectations and intentions of the interviewed people. If motivation and skills are aligned with the mutual expectations, it will be easier in the future to steer the performance of the sales team (HELMRICH, 2014; MORGAN, 2014).

Essential characteristics of sales people are:

  • People have a desire to provide safe water or HWTS (solutions) to their community and a motivation to make money
  • Willingness to travel to remote areas
  • Positive attitude, confidence, and a friendly personality
  • Energetic and motivated
  • Good communication and presentation skills
  • Able to work independently
  • Learning ability and eager to improve personal skills
  • Organized and committed
  • Able to take responsibility and trustworthy
  • Fluent in local language and/or dialect
  • Ability to travel to their sales territory every working day
    (compare PATH, 2016)


Having successfully recruited a suitable sales force, it is time to make them familiar with the product or service and master a convincing sales speech.

  • Step 2: Creating a convenient and convincing sales speech or how to approach your customer

A company’s sales speech is a hands-on strategy that lays out how the sales agent shall approach potential customers to sell your product or service. The key message should focus on the value that the product or service creates for the customer. It is usually good to start the discussion not with the product but with the problems and concerns of the customer and then only get to the point where the product may offer a solution. As said in the mentioned webinar mentioned in the sales process case study, selling is not so much about talking but a lot about listening to the customer, to understand their needs and offer the suitable solution (ONFRONTIERS, 2017). The style of a sales speech depends highly on the specific product and service and on the targeted customer segments. Sales speeches can range from very simple step argumentation to a complex step-by-step manual.

  • Step 3: Ongoing training for success

Training the sales representatives is essential. They have to become familiar with the product and get to know the customers’ needs and desires they are selling to (ROY, 2010). “People want more than just a product or service. They want you to be concerned about their needs; they want you to inspire with confidence and trust and to communicate that you are strongly committed to their welfare.” (MILLER, 1986, p.15). To do so a variety of sales methods exist.  To train your salesforce the following methodologies are recommended (FAYAD, 2015):

  • Present your product and allow your sales representative to experience its handling and use.
  • Discuss and develop sales arguments and complete it by the already prepared concept.
  • Deliver training techniques (potentially with the companies own sales manual) but keep it concise (too much information is difficult to keep in mind and will be forgotten in the mid-term).
  • Organize role-plays to train the learnt techniques.
  • Organize field-training sessions after the in-house training has been successfully completed and discuss the experiences and provide detailed feedback. Ongoing learning will be important also after the training is completed to bring the sales skills to its perfection.
  • Reward the team if they exceed the expectations – it will boost their enthusiasm positively.
  • Share success stories of sales agents to learn from senior people and to encourage your new staff.
  • Step 4: Incentives for good sales

To increase the motivation of the direct sales force, it is important to design the right incentives like commissions, awards for the best sales people (e.g. election of “agent of the month”. – combined with rewards) special trainings or the option on getting promoted.

  • Step 5: Developing and fostering brand recognition

Brand recognition is very important to build trust among customers and increase the reach of products and services as such. Over time, the relationship with the customers will create a base of trust and thus a brand recognition, if the product and the embedded service is good. Obviously, this works also the other way around: if the product and the after-sales services are bad, the brand recognition won’t improve and the reputation decrease. It is usually time-consuming and costly to create trust and a brand recognition – but also quick and easy to destroy such a reputation (see factsheet on after-sales).

Stay up to date about water entrepreneurship!

Subscribe here to the new Sanitation and Water Entrepreneurship Pact (SWEP) newsletter. SWEP is a network of organizations joining hands to help entrepreneurs design and develop lasting water and sanitation businesses. 

What makes a sales process successful?

Factsheet Block Body

There is a lot of information available on social enterprises but very little about the sales process of social enterprises, although sales are at the core of any social undertaking. It is almost as if people were ashamed to talk about sales and as if it was unethical. The consultancy firm Whitten & Roy Partnership has worked a lot on improvements of the sales process and have thorough insights into sales processes especially at the Base of the Pyramid (D-LAB, 2015).

It is not possible to reproduce the broad knowhow of WRP, but it is important to know about the RACE™ model they have developed as a theoretical and practical framework (ROY & WHITTEN, 2016).

The case study of Hydrologic shows how a safe water enterprise producing and selling ceramic water filters in Cambodia developed its sales speech and is training and incentivizing its sales forces.

Library References

The sales process and the paradoxes of trust

This essay explores a major ethical variable in personal sales: trust. By analyzing data drawn from life insurance sales, the essay supports the thesis that the role of the agent and the exigencies of personal sales create certain antinomies of trust that compromise the sales process.

OAKES, G. (1990): The sales process and the paradoxes of trust. In: Journal of Business Ethics: Volume 9 , 671-679. URL [Accessed: 16.04.2018]
Further Readings

The role of services

LOW, P. World Trade Organization Publications World (ed. by D.K. Elms and P. Low) (2013): The role of services. In: ELMS, D.K. and LOW, P. (2013): Global Value Chains in a Changing World. Geneva: 61-82. URL [Accessed: 16.04.2018]

Sustainability and Scale-up of Household Water Treatment and safe Storage Practices: Enablers and Barriers to effective Implementation

This paper provides insights from the ground on scaling up sales of household water treatment products (HWTS). The data collected is based on interviews carried out in over 25 countries. 47 enabling factors as well as barriers were identified to sustaining and scaling up HWTS. The findings were clustered as: user guidance on HWTS products; resource availability; standards, certification and regulations; integration and collaboration; user preferences; and market strategies.

OJOMO, E. et al. (2015): Sustainability and Scale-up of Household Water Treatment and safe Storage Practices: Enablers and Barriers to effective Implementation. In: International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health: Volume 218 , 704–713. URL [Accessed: 23.07.2018] PDF

A Study on the Effects of Dimensions of Service Quality on Customer Satisfaction in the Indian IT Hardware Industry with Special Emphasis on Medium Size B2B Sector

The study conducted among the information technology users in business organizations in Delhi and NCR, addressed the issues of service quality and its impact on long-term customer satisfaction from an interaction approach and relationship marketing perspective in the medium size B2B sector.

RAYCHAUDHURI, P.S. and FAROOQI, R. (2013): A Study on the Effects of Dimensions of Service Quality on Customer Satisfaction in the Indian IT Hardware Industry with Special Emphasis on Medium Size B2B Sector. In: Global Business Review: Volume 14 Issue 3, 507-527. URL [Accessed: 16.04.2018]

Measuring and Managing a Salesperson’s Future Value to the Firm

This paper proposes instruments to evaluate and demonstrate the effects of training type and incentive type on a salesperson’s future value and provide recommendations on training and incentive schemes.

KUMAR, V. et al. (2014): Measuring and Managing a Salesperson’s Future Value to the Firm. In: Journal of Marketing Research: Volume 51 Issue 5, 591-608. URL [Accessed: 16.04.2018]

Alternative Versions to