Types of Sales – The Big 4 Categories

Types of Sales - The BIG 4 Categories.

In the seemingly complicated world of sales, it’s easy to get turned off about the profession.

Most people have been sold the wrong way at some point. Maybe it was a pushy sales clerk or door-to-door salesperson. Perhaps it was an awkward skincare or Tupperware party.

That discomfort will turn off many, but if you’re still curious you probably have questions.

What are the various types of sales? What sort of jobs are out there? What do the jobs entail?

The good news is, all sales jobs fit into 4 tidy categories:

  1. Business-to-business (B2B) sales
  2. Business-to-consumer (B2C) sales
  3. Direct sales
  4. Indirect sales

We’ll take a journey through these differing landscapes – from towering corporate offices where B2B deals unfold, bustling online markets for B2C transactions, video calls, and coffee shops where direct sales are done, and partnership channels where indirect sales happen.

Illustration of office buildings.

We’ll unravel the mysteries of the 4 types of sales and outline what selling in these categories looks like, so you can make a good decision about the type of sales career you are drawn to.

Ready to dive in?

Introduction to the 4 Types of Sales

So you want to be a high-earning sales star? I remember feeling the same way not so long ago.

To reach the dizzying heights you are imagining, it’s important to formulate a game plan.

It starts with your desire and ambition sure, but what area of sales makes sense for you? What type of sales career aligns with your strengths, interests, and goals?

Are you a fast talker who wants to close deals every day?

Does the idea of a more consultative sale with a longer and more complex sales process appeal to you?

Are you a strategic thinker and relationship builder?

These and other questions need to be answered, to pick the right type of sales category for you.

Each of the big 4 sales types has different nuances, models, approaches, strategies, and challenges for you to consider.

Let’s take a closer look at each:

B2B Sales

B2B sales involves selling products or services from one business to another.

Illustration of a hand passing an invoice to another hand, what is passing money back.

This type often involves more complex business problems, and decision-making processes as multiple stakeholders may be involved on the buyer’s side.

This is the home of solution selling, consultative selling, enterprise sales, and even inside sales.

Salesforce, a leading customer relationship management (CRM) platform, offers robust solutions specifically tailored towards facilitating and tracking B2B transactions.

B2C Sales

In contrast to the B2B sales model is B2C, which refers to businesses selling directly to end consumers rather than other companies.

Think about buying clothes online or changing internet providers – these are classic examples of B2C interactions where some processes might even be fully automated.

Illustration of a hand reaching through a computer screen with a credit card, exchanging it with a hand reaching through another screen with a bag of goods.

As a seller, B2C transactions generally involve reaching out to consumers directly or handling inbound inquiries about products or services.

Generally a simpler sales transaction vs. solution selling in B2B, often B2C sales is punctuated with a little more pressure.

Direct Sales

This method puts you right at the front line dealing directly with customers without intermediaries like retailers or wholesalers.

Traditionally people would sell products from direct-to-consumer companies like Avon, Mary Kay, and Amway.

These days this model is very popular with sole proprietor business operators, consultants, and coaches who are trying to close leads generated through advertising or social media.

Indirect Sales

This is where individuals or businesses utilize third parties or intermediaries (like retailers) to sell their goods.

An example of indirect sales for an individual would be a personal trainer who is scheduled by members of a gym. The gym is the sales channel for the trainer.

This sales model is very popular in the business world, where often hardware components or software is combined into a product.

The sales process and sales pipeline are quite different with indirect sales, with more of an emphasis on partnerships.

4 Types of Sales – Deep Dive

Ok, let’s explore each of the 4 types of sales in more detail.

Specifically, we’re going to explore the sales models, scenarios that will help you understand each, the skill sets required to succeed as a sales rep, and then some job types within each category.

Let’s get started with the first model:

Sales Type #1 – B2B

B2B sales are a cornerstone of global commerce. Sales representatives at the top of B2B sales are some of the best in the world.

As consumers, we are familiar with the classic B2C model, but a huge percentage of monetary exchange is done between businesses.

As such, for sales reps looking for a lucrative career, this is a great sales category to consider.

In B2B sales, the goal is to establish connections that could aid in the improvement of your prospects’ business.

This is typically done through providing solutions in 3 key areas; business growth, business efficiency, and business risk.

Every company is obsessed with increasing revenue, profit, market share, and valuation, so messages that address these growth areas are usually well received.

Illustration of a business man running up a business growth graph.

Every company is also looking to improve operations, reduce operational costs, and reduce risk, so messaging that addresses these challenges is also usually well received.

Companies that sell B2B usually have products/solutions that address specific problems in one of these 3 key solution areas, often for customers in specific vertical industries.

Illustration of a man pulling an indicator lower on a "risk meter", to indicate reducing business risk.

So consider your options if B2B sales are calling you – what problems do you want to solve? What types of products or solutions do you want to sell? What types of businesses and buyers do you want to sell to?

The options are endless, from tangible products to intangible services, complex solutions, SAAS (Software as a Service), and hefty enterprise packages.

The job roles are numerous; sales teams can include SDRs, inside sales, outside sales, and account managers.

Tangible Products

Products could include everything from high-end tech equipment to countertops in a retail environment, to basic office stationery supplies. 

Intangible Services

Beyond physical goods, services play an integral role in B2B transactions too.

Think legal, accounting, or consulting firms offering expert advice, or marketing agencies providing strategies that drive brand awareness.

Illustration of a consultant indicating that tax money can be saved via accounting services.

Solutions & SAAS

A step beyond standalone products or services is comprehensive solutions—tailored combinations designed specifically around client needs.

Often, solutions include elements of software/SAAS and services that are assembled to address a specific business need.

Enterprise Packages

Last but certainly not least are enterprise packages. These are massive 7, 8 and even 9-figure deals, that help to address major problems for large customers.

An enterprise deal could be a technology solution featuring hardware, software, and services, or it could be the production, delivery, and installation of major equipment or complex products like a rail system or manufacturing facility. 

Sales Type #2 – B2C

B2C selling is a well-known type of commerce in which businesses provide goods and services directly to customers.

Buying stuff online like a new mattress, walking around the mall, and greeting a door-to-door salesperson are all examples of B2C sales.

Nowadays, much of this kind of trade has become automated thanks to companies like Amazon.

The Role Of Salespeople In B2C Transactions

Automation has not completely eliminated the need for human interaction in B2C sales.

For example, buying shoes or clothing for a special event, or a big ticket item like a car. 

Illustration of a man helping a woman try on shoes in a store.

Although there are online options for both, most buyers still prefer going into retail environments and dealerships where they can get advice and assistance.

B2C sales cycles are often significantly shorter, so selling skills that help customers cut through the fog and make fast decisions are at a premium in these environments.

Tips To Excel In B2C Sales

  • Build comfort quickly: Your energy needs to be strong and positive from the jump. Immediately disarm your buyer and make the interaction enjoyable. 
  • Earn their trust: Seek to understand your buyer’s situation and show genuine empathy. Demonstrate knowledge and confidence so buyers feel empowered when making decisions.
  • Know what objections you will encounter: Have clear strategies for overcoming typical objections. In car sales, many buyers want to “think” or “talk to their spouse” before making a decision, so have strategies to deal with those scenarios.  

Remember, in B2C sales you’re not just selling a product or service—you’re selling an experience.

Buyers are often ready to decide if their interaction with a salesperson is enjoyable and informative and they feel empowered and supported.

Sales Type #3 – Direct Sales

Direct sales means you are selling to a customer, but not as an employee on behalf of a company.

You could be selling your own products or services, or you may be selling an organization’s products, but as an independent.

The older model here is multilevel marketing (MLM). Companies like Herbalife or Nu Skin allow you to sell their products directly to your identified audience, and also recruit other sellers underneath you to expand the network.

The newer model features your own offerings. This is exciting because it’s quite entrepreneurial, with the seller working hard to appeal to an audience and win business directly.

The Excitement of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Sales

A unique feature about DTC is your ability to control every aspect related to your offering —be it product or service details, branding, pricing strategy, or customer experience.

Online brands leverage this model effectively by establishing close relationships with their audience through email marketing and social media engagement.

Illustration of major social media logos including LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and X (Twitter).
  • Advantages: DTC allows you to create, sell, and adapt your offerings. It supports a very close connection to the market, control over brand, offering, and pricing, plus higher profit margins.
  • Challenges: Establishing an online (or even offline) presence to promote your offerings can be daunting. Entrepreneurship is more than just selling, it’s marketing, customer management, and fulfillment, so consider if that’s something you want.

Selling Services Directly: Coaching & Consulting

The internet has opened a tremendous opportunity for anyone with expertise to provide coaching and consulting.

Online service sales provide access to a huge global market and allow you to present yourself and your offerings in ways that will appear to your target audience.

Individuals selling their services can leverage modern methods like social media, sales funnels, and video calling to attract and close business. The final ingredient are the sales skills to move curious prospects into paying clients.

Illustration of a coach or lecturer standing at a podium in front of a white board.

Sales Type #4 – Indirect Sales

This is the ultimate form of business teamwork, where if everyone handles their responsibilities, everyone wins together.

There are 2 key scenarios of indirect sales. 

Channel Sales Model 1 – Sales Partners:

In this model, a product manufacturer leverages partners to sell those products to customers.

There are different types of sales roles within this delivery chain to be aware of.

The manufacturer needs business development reps to build and maintain relationships with selling partners. The selling partners fall into a few intermediary categories, and also need salespeople to facilitate everything:

  • Distributors: They buy products from manufacturers and sell them wholesale to retailers.
  • Retailers: They purchase goods from distributors or manufacturers directly, and make them available for consumers. Think Amazon, Costco, and any storefront you visit regularly.
  • Affiliates: Online marketers promote specific products to their audiences; they earn commissions when these referrals lead to purchases (i.e. Amazon has an affiliate program to drive business this way).
Illustration of business man standing in front of a retail clothing store.

This approach allows companies to reach more potential customers and tap into new markets without increasing their own sales team.

The beauty of leveraging sales partners is scalability. You can build revenue streams through partner organizations without adding headcount to your payroll. It’s like having multiple outsourced mini-sales teams moving your product. The downside is that everyone in the delivery chain needs a cut of the profits!

Channel Sales Model 2 – OEM/VAR Partners:

The other model is when a company makes a component and then leverages partners to package it up into a larger product or solution and sell it to customers.

In this relationship, the component maker is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the selling entity is the value-added reseller (VAR).

Let’s explore the example of mobile phones. Consider that the retail sales entity for your phone is usually a network provider or the VAR (i.e. Verizon, Apple, Samsung, etc.).

Within each mobile device, there are numerous component parts, all provided by OEMs. All the chips, camera lenses, screens, and even the assembly are done by other companies.

Another scenario is technology solutions. Often makers of software (OEMs) package their particular product with larger software or hardware partners (VARs) that sell a total solution directly to a particular customer market.

Imagine a car manufacturer, that needs an assembly line featuring a bunch of OEM technology combined to work harmoniously to help them produce safe vehicles.

Sales roles in this model include OEMs building and maintaining profitable relationships with VARs and vice versa, and VARs marketing and selling directly to consumers or business buyers.

Text reading: "The component maker is the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the selling entity is the value-added reseller (VAR).

Perks & Pains of Indirect Sales

One of the main perks of the indirect model from the sales team perspective, is the emphasis on relationships with your partners. Business Development Managers who enjoy nurturing important relationships will thrive.

Other Good Reasons to Consider Indirect Sales:

  • Increased Market Reach: This model lets you penetrate markets that would otherwise be inaccessible. The company can rapidly leverage market trends with this approach.
  • Faster Expansion: Selling through partners is quicker and less risky than setting up your own sales and distribution networks in new regions.
  • Savings on Costs: Businesses can reduce overhead costs by hiring fewer sales reps, and still move products.

There are challenges with this model also, due to the reliance on other organizations to handle their responsibilities.

These can include ironing out the supply chain and delivery details, ensuring brand presence is maintained, product placement is correct, and that there are no channel conflicts. 

The good news is that your work in this area can dramatically improve your organization’s performance and success!


Are there other types of sales beyond these 4?

There is a laundry list of different types of sales if you search the internet, but generally speaking, they all fall into these 4 category types.

Yes, indirect sales is a form of B2B sales, but it’s unique enough to have its own category.

Are sales approaches different for the various types of sales?

The approach and salesperson aptitudes are all different depending on situation and circumstance. Your role in B2B consultative sales will require different sales skills than selling coaching services directly to people on the Internet.

Consider your skill set and interests when determining what type of sales may be best for you. 

Text reading: "The approach and salesperson aptitudes are all different depending on the situation and circumstance".

Where can I learn more about the different sales jobs within each of these categories?

Check my blog for numerous articles on sales, sales jobs, and associated skills. In particular, this article about corporate sales role types should help with more about inside sales, outside sales, service sales, etc.


So, we’ve trekked through the landscapes of the various types of sales, from corporate environments to online markets.

You’ve learned about B2B and its emphasis on solutions and services. And you saw how B2C thrives in automated spaces like Amazon but still values a personal touch.

We explored direct sales too, including selling your own offerings to customers generated online. Plus indirect channels that demand a unique sales process, and collaboration with partners.

The world of sales is diverse. Knowing the various avenues, and the associated skills should help you find the right place for your unique capabilities.