Types of selling

When it comes to selling your product or service, there are a number of different approaches. You can take the traditional retail route, whether that means selling your product online, through the post, or via physical premises such as a stop or stall. But there are other ways too that might be better suited to your product – for example wholesale, if you’re producing high volumes, or direct selling if your product is something new and innovative that would benefit from live demonstrations (and you’re a people-person with the gift of the gab). Here’s our rundown of the three main ways of selling.



Retail is one of the most common ways of selling. It involves selling to customers through a variety of different channels – whether in a fixed premises, online, or mail order – and the goods are for use or consumption, rather than resale. The retailer is at the end of the supply chain, with manufacturers and wholesalers in the middle (more on wholesales shortly). This way of selling suits most businesses, and you don’t even need physical premises, as you can sell online.


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Direct selling

If you’ve ever attended a Tupperware party, bought cosmetics from an Avon representative, or bought something from a stranger at your front door, you’ve experienced direct selling. It’s the act of selling away from a fixed retail spot, such as a shop or stall, and is based mainly on personal contact with the customer.

You can either sell your own product, or sell on behalf of another business, receiving a commission.

If you’re selling direct, you need to ensure you’re complying with the rules and code of ethics of the Direct Selling Association (DSA) If selling your own product, you should look into joining the DSA, as it protects consumers and gives them confidence in your product. Under UK law you’re required to offer cancellation rights, and if people are direct selling on behalf of your business you also need to offer contracts to them and the opportunity to buy back unsold goods.

Direct selling can be popular with startups and entrepreneurs as starting costs can be low, without the need to find premises, and you have flexibility over the hours you want to work. It’s also not for everyone – selling face-to-face is a skill, and suits mainly confident people who aren’t fazed by knocking on strangers’ doors and any potential negative reactions. Direct selling also lets you demonstrate the product, or at least show it to people, so they see it in action and have total confidence in what they're buying.


Wholesaling is the step that comes before retail. It involves selling large quantities of goods to retailers at a lower price than their retail value (but a higher price than their manufacturing cost) so that they can be sold on at a profit.

This is a way of selling that suits businesses creating large volumes of products with a low manufacturing cost, but isn’t great for small-volume, expensive products. You’re selling directly to businesses rather than to customers, so think about this when it comes to marketing – you’ll have to approach it differently than for customers.


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