The Differences Between Proactive and Reactive Selling


Being proactive means making things happen rather than waiting for things to happen.

On a deeper level, being proactive also means you are ready for something before it happens, whereas being reactive means waiting for a situation to unfold before responding.

Being proactive has many real-world applications, most of which revolve around safety. I live on the Atlantic coast, so for us, being proactive means that during hurricane season we have our valuables ready to go, our hurricane kit prepped, an evacuation route mapped out, and a safe house to stay at (thanks to our good friends in Atlanta!). At the first sign of a hurricane, we are prepared and ready for safety. Being reactive, on the other hand, would mean having nothing prepared and simply reacting to whatever is happening without a solid plan. Being proactive minimizes stress and surprises while being reactive breeds chaos.

Working in the world of sales and business, it’s imperative to take a proactive approach rather than a reactive one.  That way, you are always prepared for whatever comes your way. Much like reacting to a hurricane, a salesperson who reacts to an objection without planning ahead of time is both stressful and ineffective.

Reactive selling consists of the following habits and traits:

  • Waiting for the prospect to set a meeting time after the first contact
  • Lack of research on the prospect/industry prior to a sales call
  • Lack of a set agenda for a sales call (“winging it”)
  • Not following a script or a process
  • Answering objections with “But…”
  • Asking the prospect questions that lead nowhere
  • Waiting for a response after you submit your proposal

Proactive selling is essentially the opposite:

  • Following up, setting a meeting time, and confirming if it works with the prospect
  • Research on the prospect, demographic, industry, etc.
  • Setting a sales agenda with the prospect during the sales call (and sticking to it)
  • Following your sales process/script
  • Strategically handle objections using a tried and true process
  • Asking discovery questions that will lead you to uncover a need
  • Following up on proposals constantly

In almost all cases, the proactive salesperson will close exponentially more than someone who is reactive. The proactive salesperson is well prepared, organized, rehearsed, and most importantly – active. These habits will lead you to see more prospects, have a better handle on your sales interactions, and close more deals.


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Author: Jason Karaman

Hello! I’m a marketing, sales, and customer service author, blogger and doer. I live in the South Carolina Lowcountry with my wife. I enjoy reading, writing, hiking, kayaking, and all things beach. For media inquiries, send an email to

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