Posts Tagged ‘Sales advice


web site hurting your sales effort?

by Pete Monfre

When many companies talk about marketing, they inevitably end up focusing myopically on their company web site.  Do a search in any search engine for “marketing” and the vast majority of topics will be on-line marketing. It’s as if the web has become the singular representation of  of marketing and sales tactics.

While your web site is important, it is a mistake to consider it as the only factor in reaching prospects and converting them to customers. For most companies the web is a critical focal point during the early stages of your sales process for prospects. The trouble arises when the we attempt to make the site everything to everyone. I’m not saying there are many different uses for a corporate web site (service, support, education, social interaction, etc.) but most of my clients expect their site to primarily help drive sales. Whatever you are trying to achieve with your site, the key is to have a clear understanding of what it the end game is and then focus your efforts accordingly.

If you want your site to contribute to successful sales, you have to understand how it functions in the sales cycle, align the content with how you sell,  and take into account customer evaluation and buying criteria.

This is not as easy as it sounds. One thing that makes this idea difficult to implement, and indeed one of the main reasons most sites are deficient in this area is that the wrong people control the content on the site. Most companies put the marketing or I.T. department in charge of the company’s web site. Neither of these groups typically have any incentive to collaborate with the sales team so the content of the site often conflicts with how sales functions. A better method is to assign someone who can lead a cross functional team in a strategic process to determine the optimum approach. My process creates a collaborative environment between sales, marketing and I.T. to first establish a foundation of requirements and desired outcomes. Then, we work to align these requirements with how prospects typically use the web to vet potential suppliers.

In the majority of B2B and B2C selling environments, the web site is the primary tool a potential customer uses to decide if you qualify for their business. Once a buyer is aware of your company (either through search engines or via referral or other demand generation work) the first thing they do is check your site. My research indicates that customers visit potential suppliers sites initially with three primary questions in mind:

Do your company’s capabilities match my needs?
Is this company capable, credible and trustworthy?
Should I include them on my short list of potential suppliers?

If you pass these initial tests, you will make the short list. If you don’t, you’ll never know because the prospect won’t inform you of your failure. They will simply move on to your competitor.

The typical B2B buyer spends only minutes at your site with the vast majority never making it past your home page. You need to make sure you’ve at least answered the above questions and offered some incentives to invite the visitor deeper into the site or to contact your sales team. One way you can do this is to offer special reports or other valuable information in return for revealing the visitor’s identity (usually in the form of an email address or other contact information). Many of these people won’t be ready to buy yet, so offering a subscription to an electronic publication is effective to maintain an ongoing conversation with people who have shown some level on interest in what you offer.

At the same time, your site must be attractive, professional and easy to navigate. Visual organization is key – if the visitor is presented with a chaotic layout of graphics, text, widgets and other elements they will simply determine that it is too much work to evaluate your company and with a click of the mouse, they are gone. This is where a professional designer is worth his or her weight in gold.

If your site aligns with your marketing and sales processes and delivers the right messaging at the right time, you will pass more buyer’s tests, make more short lists and, ultimately, more sales.


Chinks in the armor

I hate buying stuff. It’s like I have to be some kind of Sherlock Holmes to select a vendor and not get burned. Sometimes it’s easy to eliminate the jokers – they show up unprepared, don’t listen, and generally talk their way out of a sale. Others are not so easy. They say the right things, offer up gleaming case studies, have good sales skills, polished shoes and generally seem like a good option. The trouble is that usually there are several companies who have very similar capabilities and good sales pitches. How do I make the right decision?

Most business buyers experience similar things when going through a selection process. Their process is typically not one of inclusion. Instead it is a process of elimination – evaluating tangible information and leveraging intuition to determine who makes the short list and who doesn’t.

You might think they are hanging on every word of your carefully crafted sales pitch but the fact is they are looking for what I call “chinks in the armor”. Those tell-tale gaps that send the message that you may not be as good as you say.

The most common mistakes that kill sales

1. Sales person appearance and demeanor.
This one might seem obvious but I’m surprised at how often this fundamental rule is ignored by sales people. From wrinkled clothing and scuffed shoes to unshaven faces and renegade nose hairs, your personal appearance tells a story – and not necessarily the story you want. My personal downfall is my tendency to let my hair get too long. Some people look good with long hair, I look homeless.

2. Lack of sales process
One thing I’ve learned is that customers want to know that I know what to do next during the sales process. The very fact that I have a defined process sets me apart from competing interests that simply go in and sell, sell, sell! My ability to avoid “selling” and simply let the customer buy sends a strong message that I’m organized, I know what I’m doing and my focus is on them.

3. Unprofessional marketing communications
I know many companies that have mastered the above issues. Then, they whip out a brochure or send the prospect to a web site that looks and reads like it was created by a sixth grader. Ouch. For most prospects, this communicates volumes about the seller. This major mistake implies that the seller is unsophisticated, low quality, doesn’t care about its image or products, or worse. For most B-B sellers, the web site or a brochure doesn’t do the selling. However, it can enhance or destroy your chances to outclass competitors depending on how it reads, looks and functions. Perhaps you could get away with a crappy web site back in 1996, but not anymore.

4. Unresponsive people
When someone calls your office do they get a crazy maze of automated options or do they talk to a real person? Either option can ruin your chance at a sale. For example, a well thought out automated phone system that allows callers to quickly reach the person they need is fine. However, if it is confusing, doesn’t work right or worse yet, simply dumps callers into voicemail with no option to dial “0” for an operator, you are toast. Likewise, if your human receptionist speaks like he’s just graduated from second grade, doesn’t know your web address, can’t articulate what the company does or sounds like a zombie, it sends a negative message.

5. Conflicting messaging
If you are trying to convince the world that you are “all that” but every time they hear or see something about your company it’s a different message, your prospect’s doubt will grow. It’s understandable that sales and marketing messages can change over time, the key is to make sure that you update your information everywhere it appears. Not easy, but critical!

Sales is a game of gaining incremental edges over competition. The smallest things can defeat you if you aren’t paying attention. We are all guilty of this at some point. It’s a challenge for large and small companies alike. You’ll never be perfect, but if you pay attention, you can be just that much better than your competitors – and that’s all it takes to win.

Who is Pete Monfre

CLICK HERE to visit my web site

I'm a serial entrepreneur, marketing and media guy, raconteur, writer, producer and consultant. I write this little blog to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and selling, to expose the silliness that masquerades as marketing and help you make better decisions that will grow your business. And I have fun with it. Why not comment? That way we can have a conversation. Or better yet, hop on over to my web site and drop me a line.

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