Direct Sales Strategy: Beginner’s Guide

September 22, 2017 | Direct Sales

Need a Direct Sales Strategy? Here are Five Easy Steps

Are you gearing up for an important direct sales event? 

Perhaps you are attending a trade show, or manning a booth at the local mall. The biggest mistake that beginners make when attending a direct sales event is not going in with a direct sales strategy. Put simply, they don’t prepare to have sales conversations that can actually lead to sales.

Tina Nicola, M.A.

Tina is the founder of and has been creating profitable marketing and exhibit strategies for startups, small businesses and nonprofits for over nineteen years. Her main goal is to broaden access to the techniques she has developed so anyone can benefit and improve exhibiting strategy, sales conversations and follow up.

That’s bad news because sales events are expensive. For instance, a small 10×10 exhibit space at a trade event can easily cost a company $10,000. Spending big bucks on a sales opportunity without a direct sales strategy is at best a waste of money. At worse, it can even spell ruin for a startup or small business.

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The good news? A direct sales strategy can be broken down into Five Easy Steps!

That’s because a direct sales strategy is all about successful sales conversations. And successful sales conversations follow a repeatable pattern consisting of:

  1. Icebreaker
  2. Quick Intro
  3. Lead Interview
  4. Next Steps
  5. Disengagement

This direct sales strategy is the “five easy steps” strategy taught by Tradeshow Basecamp™ courses. Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.


Icebreakers aren’t just useful at parties. At many direct sales events, your job is to sell products to strangers. Before you can sell to them, you’ve got to get that stranger to stop.

  • An icebreaker is the question or comment you will use to stop a potential customer.
  • An icebreaker starts the sales conversation that gives you the opportunity to sell!

Quick Intro

You’ve used an icebreaker and a lo and behold, a potential customer has stopped long enough to answer. Or better yet, someone has walked right up to you and said something like “What’s this company selling?”

It’s time now for the Quick Intro.

In 2-3 short sentences, you want to tell that person your name and something about the company or product you are representing.

The key here is short. The Quick Intro will be one of several carefully-crafted intros that you’ve prepared in advance. After the Quick Intro, you will cleverly segue into Step #3: Lead Interview by asking your potential customer strategic questions.

Lead Interview

The Lead Interview is just the series of questions that you will use to find out if the person you are speaking with is likely to buy from you. Someone who is likely to buy from you is known as a good lead.

After each question you ask the potential customer, you should:

  • Actively listen to the answer.
  • Respond with relevant details about your product or company.

Next Steps

Next Steps are just that! The next steps you will take—or that you can get the potential customer to commit to.

Guided by specific sales goals, Next Steps get you closer to one of those goals, or even a final sale.

Examples of Next Steps?

  • Giving out a free product sample.
  • Scheduling a follow-up conversation.
  • Signing up the potential customer to view a demo.
  • Or, asking for the sale!


The Disengagement is the ending of your conversation…for now! Think of it as an intentional goodbye. Isn’t this obvious? Not always! It’s important to think of the Disengagement as an actual step in your direct sales strategy. Why?

Why is Disengagement a Step in our Direct Sales Strategy?

It might seem strange to include Disengage as a direct sales strategy step. However, many new to sales forget to do so when the situation calls for it. Any time you realize the person you are speaking with is not a good lead, it’s time to disengage! That’s right, jump right to Step #5!

This might seem cold. But remember, at a direct sales event, time is money! If you are spending time talking to someone unlikely to buy from you now or in the near future, that is time not spent talking to someone who might actually be a good lead.

As you will learn from our article on creating a direct sales strategy plan, everything in your sales training—everything—must be guided by your specific sales goals.

When brainstorming direct sales team training ideas, start with this question: What are my organization’s sales goals?

Introduce a Direct Sales Strategy Plan

Are you in charge of sales team training for beginners? Most sales beginners fall into one of two camps: Talkers and Thinkers. For talkers, the idea of having sales conversations might seem easy. After all, isn’t it just a conversation with some sales information sprinkled in? Thinkers have the opposite problem. They might see sales conversations as hard and complicated. Thinkers can imagine all kinds of ways they might lose control of a sales conversation, or that a sales conversation might go wrong.

If you need help defining sales goals, check out our article on using a sales funnel to assist you in creating more than one sales goal.

Both Talkers and Thinkers are likely to waste your money at direct sales events. To avoid this, you need to show your direct sales team that sales conversations can be easy, fun and repeatable!

Check out our article on direct sales training topics for help creating an outline for your sales team training event!

Show your team that typical sales conversations have a structure: a beginning, middle and end:

Give your team a clear direct sales strategy plan. Break down direct sales training into five easy steps.

  • Icebreaker
  • Quick Intro
  • Lead Interview
  • Next Steps
  • Disengagement

Create or Review Sound Bytes

In reviewing the basics of a direct sales strategy plan, you’ll see there are many instances when it helps to create sound bytes in advance.

For instance, Icebreakers should be open-ended questions to maximize your sales team’s chance to stop traffic and start conversations that could lead to sales! Provide your sales team with great Icebreakers or create the Icebreakers as a part of your direct sales team training.

Here are more sound bytes you’ll want to create with your team:

  • Quick Intros – Craft a handful of short intros to introduce your product or company
  • Lead Interview Questions – Based on the A-C-T-I-O-N criteria, create questions your sales team can use to qualify leads.Tip: Reference these questions on your Lead Card or App to assist your sales team in recalling the best lead qualification questions.

As we explain in our article on lead qualification, the Lead Interview is about asking strategic questions but also actively listening to the answers your potential customer gives. Based on these answers, your team needs to respond with short, relevant information about your solution or company.

Create short (2-3 sentence) soundbites about your product solution, features or company to be used during the Lead Interview.

During your direct sales team training, brainstorm the following:

  • What objections or doubts are customers likely to have to purchasing your product?
  • What problems are your customers likely to have that your product can solve?

Then, brainstorm soundbytes to address these possible objections/ problems.

Create a list of ‘Question/ Answer’ soundbytes that your sales team can memorize and reference during their sales conversations.

Why sound bytes and not ‘pitches’?

Despite sales ‘pitches’ being a common industry term, we have found it provides the wrong approach for a sales team. Pitches tend to be too long to facilitate a conversation. Nervous sales beginners are likely to spout off a pitch covering all the product features instead of using the Lead Interview to discover what problems or needs the customer actually has.

By preparing sound bytes instead, your sales team is better prepared to practice active listening and to provide product information in ways that persuade the potential customer.

Click for more ideas on defining Direct Sales Training Topics.

Sales Role Play

Direct Sales Team Training Ideas - Role Playing w/Pretzel Guy
Role-playing is critical to making sure your sales team is prepared!

Finally, direct sales team training ideas should never exclude the most critical part of the learning process: putting the training into practice. The best way to do this? Role playing.

Browse our list of sales role play scripts and examples!

Divide your sales team into pairs

One person is the sales rep and the other a potential customer. Give the potential customer a character to play, based on a real-life example. The sales rep goal? To use the Five Easy Steps to stop the customer, start a conversation and determine as quickly as possible if that potential customer is a ‘good lead.’ Then? Propose an appropriate Next Steps and Disengage!

For direct sales team training ideas related to role-playing, check out our face to face sales script examples!

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