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Six Step Digital Sales

Posted on December 19, 2000

By Bob Cortez

As a website evolves, we move through several distinct phases. Phase 1 is just getting it up. Phase 2 is creating awareness and traffic. Phase three is getting results. Making the sale. Every site is selling something. Whether that something is products, service, return visits, registration, donations or referrals, there is something that every site wants us to do when we visit. Getting people to do what we want is selling. What is your site selling? What do you want people to do when they visit? Even if all you want them to do is to return (a pure content site), you still need to sell that proposition.

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Sales professionals generally accept that there are five steps in the sales process. These five steps are: Prospect, Rapport, Qualify, Present and Close. These steps are taken in order, with each building on the previous steps. If you have problems with any of these steps it is probably from not completing the previous step. I have my own "Secret Sixth Step" that I'll discuss at the end. (Although it's not much of a secret to successful sales people :)

Let's take a look at each of the steps in the sales process as they apply to our web projects.

1) Prospect. Think of prospecting like you're panning for gold. Not every waterway is going to have gold in it. You have to sift through the regular sand and gravel to get to the desired nuggets. This is done by carefully crafting entry pages to answer the question "What's In It For Me?". How would you describe your most likely customers (your nuggets)? Where do they live, what do they do, why are they interested in what you are selling?

You may have several distinct groupings that you'll need to create an entry specifically for them. For instance, if you sold computer games for children, you would want to create an entry page speaking to kids and one speaking to parents. You would then create Meta tags, reciprocal links, and strategic partners geared towards attracting each of those groups to the appropriate entry page. A web site can also be used to prospect through an affiliate program, viral marketing, and recommend it programs.

2) Rapport. I think this is an area that many sites have the most trouble with. In order to have rapport you must have interaction and trust. You have to let your personality shine through, let your visitors know who you are and what you are about. I'm not talking about just your 'About Us' page, but throughout your site, your writing, your style. Make sure you have names with titles and all kinds of contact information easily accessible. Give your visitors a way to interact with you via discussion boards, lists, chats, IM or phone. Be interested in them. Give them the opportunity to talk about themselves, what they like and don't like. Ask them how you can serve them better.

3) Qualify. Again, another area that most sites have difficulty with. (But then, many offline sales people have this same problem) What qualifiers do you have for your product or service? What is the specific need you can fulfill? Do they need to have specific knowledge or expertise? What are the different financial considerations?

The web site can be designed to lead people through a series of if- then qualifiers. For instance: If you are a small business owner that has yet to get started online, then you need my booklet Bricks to Clicks: Getting Your Business Online. Or, If you have an existing web site that isn't performing and have a budget of at least $1000, then you need my consulting services.

4) Present. This is the step that most sites and designers focus on. Unless you have taken your visitors through the first three steps, your presentation will be wasted on people who aren't interested, don't trust (know) you, or aren't qualified. The mistake many sites make is in presenting features only. Yes, you need to list features, technical details, warrantee information and price, but you must relate each of those to benefits. Some people respond to features, some to benefits, some to the combination. If you can't think of a benefit for a feature then it probably shouldn't be included in the presentation. If you use pictures of products make sure they are quality pictures. Show the product from many different angles, and if possible, show it in use or with a human model.

5) Close. Give them an incentive for acting now. Make it easy, put a link to your order page on every page, take as many different payment forms as possible, and allow them to order via phone, fax, email or online. Ask for the order. Remind them of the benefits and the need you fulfill. Reassure them that they are making the right choice. Provide links to your testimonials. Remind them that you are easily accessible and available to assist them after the purchase.

And now for the promised sixth step.

6) Follow-up and after care. In step one I suggested that you look at prospecting like gold panning. Step six is taking those gold nuggets and turning them into jewelry. Creating even more value.

Use your order (or subscription) confirmation page on your website to solicit referrals and testimonials. Create a customers only area on your site for updates, feedback, and a customer community. The first sale is the most difficult and least profitable. Your best prospects are past customers. This is a new stream where you begin the process again at step one. That's the secret, it's not a straight line from prospecting to close. It's a never ending circle, spiraling upwards.

Take a look at your web site. Which of these six can you start doing better?

Article by Bob Cortez,
President Total Quality Marketing, Inc.


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