Your Website Isn't Human - Don't Steal the Thunder From Your Sales Floor
As the internet has evolved, we are learning how to do more and more business online. Websites have become interactive, rich with content, and can completely take over the sales process. But could you be trying to do too much with your website? Depending on your industry, over-automation of the sales process may be hurting your bottom line.
Don't streamline your sales process at the expense of your audience.
On occasion, we all need to make a complicated, service-oriented acquisition. Many of these services tend to be financial in nature, and of a personal matter such as a home mortgage or life insurance. With the technologies available to web developers, and the desire for simplification of the sales process, entire web applications have sprung up on websites. Gigantic applications, requiring large volumes of personal information have replaced small information request forms and quote request forms. While the prospect of one application leading to one sale sounds attractive, what are you giving up by allowing your website to take over the entire sales process?
A few years back, I was shopping for life insurance. I really wasn't sure how much insurance I needed, which companies were more reputable, and the strengths and weaknesses of the multitudes of insurance providers. I wasn't ready to complete an entire life insurance application. I really just wanted to talk to someone who could explain my options. A simple info request form would have been perfect. After a quick chat with an insurance representative, I would have gladly completed an application online. Rather than completing an application with unanswered questions, I just moved on to the next website until I found the help that I needed. I've had similar experiences with mortgages and other loan resources.
People may need to speak to a human before completing an application.
When it comes to services, and in particular complex and/or expensive services, a website simply cannot compare to a human representative. It's easy for a sales manager, or business owner to simplify the process of sales. It is nice and neat when your inbox is full of sales, rather than inquiries. But how many people were turned away from your website because they were turned off by a large application, or a form that collects more information than a stranger is willing to provide? Well, it's a whole bunch.
Accommodate your audience, don't make them accommodate you.
By introducing your sales team back into the sales process, and allowing for simple, uncommitted communications with your web audience, you will capture the attention, and eventually the pocketbooks, of many people who would otherwise look for someone more willing to invest face-time. They want to buy: After all, they did come to your website right? In the pursuit of simplifying the sales process on your end, don't lose sight of the needs of whom you are selling to. Computers make lousy salesmen. With a rough economy looming, you can't afford to let prospects go simply because they had a few questions.
How much info should you collect?
Some people like to get down to business, and may be completely comfortable with completing an online application. For this stereotype, applications work just great. For question-oriented web visitors, who need a personal touch before committing to an application, you should collect just enough information to size up your prospect, and reach out to them. It is okay to keep your application process on your website, but make sure that there is easy access for web based communications. Keep in mind that web based communications is not just a phone number. Accommodate to your audience, and don't make them accommodate you, because most won't.
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