If You’re on the Web, You’re in Sales

    June 8, 2004

Everybody on the Web is in the business of sales. It doesn’t matter whether you’re managing an intranet, a government or university website. You’re still selling something; still trying to get someone to do something. What do you want people to do? How are you going to convince them to do it?

The Web is like a mirage. It’s not what it looks like. The Web looks easy. There are few barriers to entry. Anyone can put up a webpage. That’s one of the things that makes the Web so hard. The millions of people who think the Web is easy design awful websites and publish terrible content.

Making the Web work is hard because you are selling to someone who is very impatient. They will give you less than a minute to make a compelling case. In this day of information overload, being compelling requires a lot of skill.

When I was in New York recently, I had the pleasure of the company of Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. Bryan and Jeffrey founded Future Now in 1998. They think a website should sell.

“Notice how each step in the evolution of sales seems to make the purchase easier for the buyer and harder on the vendor,” Bryan states. “Each step seems to remove some of the friction buyers feel and makes the purchase process smoother for the buyer.”

That’s a very interesting point. We’ve moved from barter to self-service. Barter was a very complicated and slow sales process. Self-service is about convenience, speed and price. To achieve real success in self-service you need to understand the customer better than they understand themselves.

Selling has a bad name. Some people think that it’s beneath them to sell. I use to be one of those. I did marketing in college. Marketing is a step up from sales. It’s more sophisticated. More intellectual. Sales, on the other hand, is a kind of a low level task. It requires a lot of persistence but not much thought.

That’s the way I used to think. Now I see selling as an essential skill. A very difficult skill to acquire. If I’m asked to examine a website, one of the first things I look for is how well it’s selling what it’s got. Most of the time, it’s not doing the job very well.

There are two extremes. There’s the cool dude Flash brigade who think that all you need is a big image and some rotating text. Then there’s the hardcore technology fraternity who feel that anyone who sells on the Web is a lowlife. I belong to the school that believes that making the sale is what is important.

Concepts such as usability and findability are popular today. Over the years, I’ve learned that selling is very often about emotion. Great selling happens when you walk into a store intending to spend 100 dollars. You leave half an hour later, having spent 500 dollars and you’re feeling happy.

Creating a usable website is not the objective. Nor is making everything on the website findable. You might only want people to easily find the most expensive products. Making your website maximize profits over the long-term is the objective. Persuading people to do the things you want is the objective.

For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

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