What is sales orientation? The essential guide

Sales Orientation
What is sales orientation?
What are the traits of a sales-oriented business?
Sales orientation vs. market orientation vs. product orientation
4 industries that follow a sales-oriented approach
Do sales-oriented businesses have a future?
How you can use a CRM to hit revenue goals
Final thoughts

A sales orientation business model is popular in industries with undifferentiated, high-supply products, like cars and insurance.

However, many salespeople in these industries wonder if this model can succeed in today’s customer-centric market.

In this article, we explore the traits of sales-oriented companies and how they function. We also explain how to apply sales orientation while keeping the customer in mind.

What is sales orientation?

“Sales orientation” definition

Sales orientation is a business approach that centers around selling products and services. It focuses on proactive selling and promotional activities instead of prioritizing market needs or product innovation.

Industries that don’t rely on long-term customer relationships and instead focus on sales metrics like sales volume often use this approach.

For example, the automotive industry often doesn’t need to establish long-term relationships with car buyers as cars tend to be long-term purchases.

A used car dealership may frequently run discounts with a highly motivated sales team that strives to meet short-term revenue targets. As the dealership doesn’t manufacture the car in-house, salespeople don’t focus on creating a high-spec product like they might in a product-oriented business.

Its salespeople also focus on closing deals with customers who walk onto their lot or search for local used cars online. As this could be anyone in the community looking for a used car, they don’t spend as much time surveying their market or building buyer personas as other business models.

A car dealership is one example of how a sales-oriented company can operate, but many different types of sales-focused companies exist. We’ll cover some popular industries in a moment.

Being a sales-oriented business doesn’t mean completely neglecting the marketing or product side. Often, these aspects can work together, but a company with a sales focus will prioritize sales activities over relationship building and product development.

What does a sales orientation mean for marketing? Sales orientation in marketing can involve creating promotional activities to drive sales specifically. Marketing is still involved in getting business through the door, but it focuses less on the value of the brand or product and more on promotions and offers.

A sales-oriented strategy aims to impact revenue with an intensive sales focus. What does that look like from a tactical point of view?

What are the traits of a sales-oriented business?

All sales-oriented companies have unique products and services, but there are some typical characteristics many share when selling them.

Here are four traits of a sales-oriented business approach and when they’re appropriate in today’s market.

Aggressive selling

Sales-oriented businesses are typically associated with aggressive sales tactics. The term “aggressive” can sound harsh, but it means that a business will funnel most of its resources into sales activities that drive volume and close deals, such as promotions, ads and big end-of-period events.

Take this year-end sale from Freedom Auto Sales as an example:

Sales orientation: How sales-oriented businesses are typically associated with aggressive sales tactics

Other tactics may include high-pressure selling, such as time-sensitive deals and creating a high demand for one item (e.g., holding an open house where multiple viewers may place an offer in one event). It can also involve multiple follow-ups and special discounts for the buyer to close deals.

When done right, a proactive process can help a salesperson reach ambitious goals and drive revenue for the company.

Short-term focus

Sales-oriented businesses often aim to hit short-term sales and revenue goals. Companies may need to generate this cash quickly to meet operational expenses, pay off debts or reinvest (e.g., startup companies). Sometimes, the purpose is to capitalize on seasonal demand or make room for new stock.

Short-term planning like this is often at the expense of building long-term customer relationships.

A strategy like this can be successful for industries that sell based on market prices (e.g., commodities like gas and oil) or seasonality, convenience and availability (e.g., travel tickets).

In these cases, potential customers often choose providers offering the best deals instead of trying to unearth their deeper wants and pain points.

Limited market research

Sales-oriented companies rely on their team’s sales skills to convince customers to buy rather than trying to understand customer needs and market conditions.

In industries where customer preferences and market conditions are well-known and stable (e.g., household staples), extensive market research may not be necessary. Companies can instead rely on historical data and existing knowledge to guide their sales strategies.

Imagine a small local business that renovates homes. A sales rep for the company may focus on door-to-door selling in nearby neighborhoods. Rather than spending time and resources drawing up buyer personas and working on an inbound content marketing strategy, the local business focuses on direct selling.

Transactional selling approach

Sales orientation tends to view customer interactions as transactions. Transactional approaches can be a time-saver for both sides for low-cost, low-risk products where customers don’t need extensive support or interaction (e.g., basic office supplies).

Specific industries may also focus on immediate sales at different times. For example, retailers may focus on sales-oriented promotions and discounts during peak shopping seasons to drive any type of purchase, including one-off transactions.

Sales orientation vs. market orientation vs. product orientation

Sales-oriented companies focus on high sales volume (e.g., closing deals quickly through persuasive techniques), but it’s not the only model.

Two other popular approaches a company might take when designing a successful sales strategy are market orientation and product orientation.

Market-oriented businesses prioritize understanding and meeting customers’ needs and wants. They focus on delivering superior value by deeply understanding their target audience and market.

Crucial metrics for determining loyalty in these cases can include customer lifetime value (CLV) and Net Promoter Score (NPS).

For example, the work management platform Asana runs a business-to-business sales model. As B2B sales provide a long-term solution for customers, it’s helpful to build lasting relationships to encourage them to keep purchasing.

In addition to demonstrating with its marketing how it provides value to users, Asana uses its customer forum to inform its product roadmap.

Voting for product features

This category is a place for you to provide feedback about the Asana product and vote on your favorite feature requests.Please vote on the ideas that you’d like to see implemented. Note that we will read comments to help us understand the context of your requests, but we will specifically use votes to prioritize your feature requests. Vote by clicking the “vote” button at the top left of each thread.

Users can submit feedback and vote on ideas they want the company to implement. Asana then prioritizes the ideas with the most votes.

Product-oriented companies believe a high-quality product or service will naturally attract customers. They focus on developing and improving their services or products’ capabilities over consumer needs or market trends.

Crucial performance metrics for these companies can include defect rate (including physical products and digital glitches during assessment) to assess quality and revenue from new products to judge the success of innovations.

For instance, luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe often takes years to develop and perfect each product. Rather than focus on high-volume sales or extensive marketing campaigns, the brand concentrates on the quality and exclusivity of its watches.

The dedication to superior craft attracts customers who value quality and will pay a premium. Instead of using revenue just as a sales metric, it helps the company gauge the success of new, innovative designs.

Here’s how the three types of selling models differ:

Sales-oriented companies
  • Prioritize closing deals
  • Motivate and incentivize sales reps to achieve and exceed targets
  • Emphasize short-term sales to generate immediate revenue
Market-oriented companies
  • Research their target market to understand customer wants and preferences deeply

  • Quickly adapt to market trends and consumer demand to stay relevant and competitive

  • Focus on building lasting relationships with customers and meeting their ever-changing needs

Product-oriented companies
  • Strive to create the best product or service to stand out

  • Heavily invest in research and product development to create superior offerings

  • Focus primarily on technology advancements and direct customer feedback

Even if you may have always been a sales-oriented business, the model you follow doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can still prioritize sales but shift to adopt market and product-led traits too.

4 industries that follow a sales-oriented approach

Some industries suit a transactional selling approach over creating high-spec products or personalizing services for specific buyers.

Here are four examples of sales orientation from traditional industries.

1. Real estate

Real estate agents and companies often make one-time transactions when selling or leasing properties. Many homeowners don’t frequently buy or sell residential properties and may stay in one for decades before considering another move.

The nature of the real estate industry usually means firms aim to close deals quickly, driven by commission-based compensation plans and competition with other local businesses.

Example: Elite Realty Group hosts weekly open houses and sends daily follow-up emails to potential buyers, pushing hard to close and earn commissions.

Residential real estate is often sales-oriented, but long-term leases in the commercial sector can provide stable, ongoing income for real estate professionals. In these cases, agents must work to maintain and manage relationships with customers over time and prioritize other tactics, like marketing.

2. Automotive

The automotive industry is often sales-driven, especially in second-hand dealerships and lots with a mix of vehicles. Owners and leaders set sales targets, bonuses and incentives to spur progress toward short-term goals (i.e., selling existing stock).

Sales reps may also use aggressive sales techniques (e.g., creating a sense of urgency with limited-time offers) to convince people to buy now.

Example: Speedy Motors runs month-end clearance promotions, offering significant discounts and special financing options to meet their monthly sales quotas.

Some dealers focus on one-time transactions, while others value after-sales services to help foster ongoing relationships with buyers. For example, Lexus drives repeat business by offering an extended warranty to customers who revisit them for services.

Sales orientation: Why Lexus offers perks to foster customer loyalty

Including perks like these can motivate customer loyalty and encourage people to return when they need a new vehicle.

3. Insurance

Insurance companies rely on agents and brokers to sell policies through various channels, including sales referrals and direct marketing efforts (e.g., emailing individual leads). The industry often emphasizes closing sales quickly to hit revenue goals and attaining new customers over retaining existing ones.

Example: SecureLife trains its brokers to pursue leads, using frequent cold calls and policy pitches to hit their targets.

The landscape is changing as customers become more informed about their insurance choices. Increasingly, companies recognize the value of retention and building trust and long-term relationships.

Personalized policies and ongoing customer support are becoming essential to a sustainable insurance sales strategy.

4. Travel and tourism

Specific segments of the tourism industry, such as airline or bus ticket sales, tend to be more transactional. Customers often choose providers based on price, convenience and availability rather than long-term loyalty.

Example: Wanderlust Travel’s sales force regularly launches flash sales and limited-time promotions to create urgency and encourage quick bookings.

Although one-off transactions are common, agents and sites may now offer personalized travel packages, exceptional customer service and loyalty programs to encourage repeat business with travelers.

For example, travel site Expedia offers discounted membership pricing.

Sales orientation: How Expedia offers discounted membership pricing to attract customers from rivals

Providing additional value to members means Expedia can attract customers away from rival platforms and incentivize them to book their travel consistently through the site.

9 steps to creating the perfect sales strategy (with free template)

In this handbook, we’ll walk you through what your sales strategy needs, plus there’s a free strategy template to get you started!

Do sales-oriented businesses have a future?

Some industries are naturally more sales-oriented because they have always been. However, companies must keep up with the shift in people’s expectations of customer experience.

Over the years, big brands have moved away from “sales rep” as a job title. For example, Apple rebranded its reps as “Geniuses”, while Lululemon refers to its team as “Educators”.

Nowadays, a blend of all models may be more realistic for any business hoping to remain competitive. You can still be a sales-first organization. However, incorporating market and product-led strategies can help you stay competitive in an increasingly demanding, customer-focused market.

For example, Lemonade is now a top-rated insurer thanks to its unique, customer-centric business model. Whereas traditional insurance companies keep excess premiums as profit, Lemonade takes a flat fee and then donates the rest to nonprofits its customers choose.

Sales orientation: How Lemonade became a top-rated insurer thanks to its unique, customer-centric business model

The company uses sales and marketing strategies to attract customers but focuses on social good and transparency to create trust and retention. Listening to market insights (a market-oriented strategy) has also helped the company respond to known customer frustrations within the industry.

According to NielsenIQ research, 78% of consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important. Around a third are also more likely to purchase products with sustainable credentials.

Using this mind shift, Lemonade appeals to those who want to be more socially conscious – even when buying insurance.

In the automotive sector, used car dealership Texas Motorcars also promises “no high-pressure tactics and no pushy salesmen” on its homepage.

Sales orientation: How Texas Motorcars refuses high-pressure sales tactics to win customers

Customers will likely experience these values first-hand, but the dealership still ensures they’re front and center on its site. Doing so aims to handle the objections of those who may not want to visit due to the stereotypical, pop-culture representation of car salespeople.

The company also uses its Facebook page to share happy customer reviews that back up the website’s claims.

Sales orientation: Why Texas Motorcars shares customer feedback on social media

These marketing decisions convey that this traditional sales-oriented company also funnels resources into other business approaches.

Businesses like Lemonade and Texas Motorcars are shifting their respective traditional industries, meaning this type of CX will soon become the norm. Aligning your business with the experience customers expect can help you stay competitive.

How you can use a CRM to hit revenue goals

Using customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can still leverage sales orientation’s strengths to drive purchases while remaining product- and market-focused.

You can use these cloud-based platforms to access tools and capabilities that support and streamline the entire sales process.

Here’s what your customizable sales dashboard could look like using Pipedrive.

Sales orientation: Pipedrive's sales dashboard overview

You can use this collection of reports to create and display the metrics that are important to you (e.g., deal progress or revenue forecast).

Pipedrive can help your sales, product and marketing teams:

  • Monitor sales activities, conversion rates and other metrics

  • Track the effectiveness of sales promotions and tactics

  • Measure product performance and gather feedback on features and quality

  • Collect data on how customers use different products

  • Supplement detailed user insights with purchasing behaviors

  • Analyze market trends and segment customers according to their needs

CRM systems can help businesses better understand their customers’ needs, deliver personalized service and create more engaging experiences. Over time, this can lead to higher customer satisfaction, driving purchases and boosting revenue.

Final thoughts

Sales orientation can still work for large and small businesses. However, you must evolve to align with modern customer preferences and behaviors.

Understanding the needs and expectations of today’s consumers helps you drive sales while fostering customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Striking a balance between being sales-focused and building long-term relationships is critical. As you adapt your tactics to be more customer-centric, use a CRM like Pipedrive to track results and stay competitive.

Driving business growth