What Is a Selling Concept?

Updated December 27, 2022

The selling concept is a part of marketing management and one of several concepts that make up a marketing strategy. A sales concept analyzes buying and selling effects to place the focus primarily on generating sales transactions. Selling concepts place emphasis on goods the consumer may not ordinarily buy or necessarily need. In this article, we explain what a selling concept is, how it relates to marketing and examples of how to design a selling concept.

What is a selling concept?

The selling concept came into practice following the Great Depression era when goods were not in great supply. Once the depression ended, companies with an abundance of products needed to move their inventories and the selling concept followed shortly thereafter. Today's selling concept has evolved to assume the customer will buy the product without regret or, if they do, their feelings won't linger and the customer will buy the product again at a future date.

Unlike the marketing concept, which seeks to understand consumer needs, the selling concept seeks prospects and sells the product's benefits. While marketing concepts might focus on developing new products, the selling concept assumes the product won't sell without a significant sales effort.

Marketing strategies work in tandem with sales concepts by first assessing consumer needs and conducting research and development to set prices and determine distribution. Selling concepts attempt to influence customers through sales techniques. When marketing plans are well crafted, selling the product comes easier. Marketing management employs five philosophies to sell a product:

  • Marketing concept

  • Production concept

  • Product concept

  • Societal marketing concept

  • Sales concept

To fully understand the sales concept, consider a company that sells chocolate candies. The product has few health benefits so advertising focuses on the taste and texture of chocolate and the indulgence of the special treat. This influences the customer to purchase the candy even when it isn't a necessity.

Sales concepts work for companies that have an inventory overstock, or when selling products the customer doesn't typically purchase, known as unsought goods, such as:

  • Nonprofits

  • Fundraisers

  • College admissions

  • Political campaigns

  • Timeshares

  • Insurance plans

  • Blood donations

  • Funeral plots

Related: What Is a Sales Cycle? Understanding and Managing the Sales Cycle

Pros and cons of a selling concept

The selling concept comes with strategies that make it effective in some areas, and ineffective in others:

Pros of a selling concept

Here are four primary pros realized from employing selling concepts:

  1. Places focus on the sale. Selling concepts work to sell a product whether it is overstock or an unsought good. Rather than considering how the consumer guides the product, sales concepts attempt to guide the consumer. This can lead to repeat buying and brand loyalty.

  2. Guides advertising efforts. Advertising efforts direct the customer to the benefits of the product and why the customer should purchase the product. Sales concepts guide advertising by creating clear goals for how to sell an item or increase product exposure to potential consumers.

  3. Clear inventory. Companies employ selling concepts when they have too much of a product or want to reduce inventory. Year-end selling concepts are common in industries such as automobile sales.

  4. Increase market share. Selling concepts expose customers to products they might not normally consider for purchase. Attracting new customers is a typical result of selling concepts and may significantly increase the company's market share through concentrated sales efforts.

Cons of a selling concept

Here are three primary cons of selling concepts:

  1. Ignores customer needs. The sale is the central goal of selling concepts. While marketing concepts take customer needs into consideration, the interest of sales concepts leans toward moving the product.

  2. Ignores customer feedback. Just as selling concepts disregard customer needs, they also disregard consumer wants. Selling concepts do not take customer feedback into consideration, instead, they influence the buying decision. This strategy is risky because it ignores negative feedback as well, which might result in poor reviews from one consumer to another.

  3. Short-term strategy. Selling concepts may be difficult to sustain and work best in the short-term. Customers might become numb to advertising techniques or turn their attention elsewhere if the selling concept goes on for too long or is overly aggressive.

Related: 6 Sales Forecasting Methods To Help Predict Future Sales

Tips and examples of selling concepts

Selling concepts focus on the benefit of a product, usually told through a relatable story that influences the customer's decision. Below is a list of examples of how a selling concept is designed to move the product from business to consumer:

Re-imagine the details

Rather than emphasizing the technical details of a product, selling concepts stir emotions by describing a product in a way that lets the customers see themselves using it.


Typical ad: Available: 734 square foot apartment on 4th street.

Selling concept: Move into a charming apartment close to downtown, just minutes from boutique shopping, public transportation and beautiful art districts.

Related: 14 Effective Selling Strategies

Emphasize function or capability

Place the focus on how the customer benefits from the product and why they can't live without it.


Typical ad: Office chair comes with five settings for height adjustment, casters for easy movement and wide arms for comfort.

Selling concept: Ergonomic office chair promises to ease back pain by encouraging better posture, complete with alarm that reminds you to take regular breaks.

Explain risks of not purchasing product

Whether it's health or safety, let customers know what they might miss by not making the purchase.


Typical ad: Speak with one of our representatives to discuss your insurance needs today.

Selling concept: Your insurance should cover all of life's contingencies, talk to us to ensure your insurance supports your lifestyle, whether you're close to home or halfway around the world.

Related: What Is Persuasion Selling? (With Tips)

Focus on performance

Tell the customer how the product serves a purpose they didn't know they needed.


Typical ad: Sale on 2020 SUV model overstock, ready for purchase. Come in for a test drive today!

Selling concept: Summer is coming! Shop our current inventory and conquer a mountain, enjoy a drive along the beach or explore the backcountry in one of our popular SUVs.

Define how the product saves time

Focus on how the product saves time because it's faster, newer or more efficient.


Typical ad: Shop our wide selection of treadmills and start your spring fitness routine today!

Selling concept: Shop our wide selection of treadmills designed to improve your workout with personalized programs you can set up on the machine or via the app --- your workout is ready when you are!

Rely on status symbols

Customers respond to influences such as product endorsements and might be prone to buy if someone they know or respect uses the product.


Typical ad: Our line of professional ski equipment includes, boots, bindings and poles.

Selling concept: The US Olympic ski team routinely wins gold medals with our line of professional ski equipment. Our 20% off sale on official skis, boots, bindings and poles starts just in time for ski season.


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