Stop trying to sell. Start selling software online. Part THREE.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

In the last two articles (number one and number two) on the subject of selling software online, we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve looked at the different types and roles of the salesperson, delved into the minds and behavioural patterns of the buyer, and considered the often-overlooked similarities between the high street and online stores.

The second article emphasised the importance of catering to the needs of the buyer, and how the website should be built around this above everything else. We looked at the sales pitch, spin and propaganda, and how to present the benefits of your product as a direct solution to the buyer’s needs.

In this final and epic conclusion of the Sales trilogy, we’ll be pushing the theory and abstract aside, and tying everything together into a practical, real-world package.

During the course of writing this series of articles, I’ve been engaged in the process of buying a house, and have been spending a considerable amount of time looking for new furniture.

We’ve been visiting a variety of different stores, and have therefore had the opportunity to speak to a fair number of different sales people. Some of them have been excellent. As well as persuading us to part with our hard-earned cash, they have provided me with a clear understanding of what makes a good salesperson.

Many of the skills that we witnessed weren’t quite so impressive, and while we inevitably didn’t purchase anything from those people, their efforts have not been in vain, at least for the purpose of writing this article.

Contrasting the behaviours of the two gave me the opportunity to draw up a useful list of character traits and working habits. Used as a checklist, they allow you to clearly and definitively label a salesperson as good or bad.

The bad salesperson:

• overly friendly
• overly pushy
• too talkative
• too quiet
• too much information
• too little information
• not interested in my needs
• not listening to my needs
• not feeding my needs

Note how these are all about striking a balance. The salesperson has to talk, and they have to provide information. But the important point is that the amount of information that I want or need is defined by one person – me. If the salesperson can’t read my needs, they will inevitably get it wrong. And there’s nothing like a bad salesperson to push me away from even the greatest of products.

The good salesperson:

• polite, but not cold
• friendly, but not overly so
• listens to me
• watches and gauges my response
• shows me what suits me
• reads my reactions
• acts accordingly

One of the things that I noticed was that the good salesperson will immediately try to find out what I need or want. If I don’t know, they will show me a number of options, and then focus on the ones that interest me most.

What set apart the good from the excellent salesperson was how they read my behaviour and reactions. If I drooled at the sight of a certain dining room table but said that it was above my price range, the excellent salesperson would take note of that. If we then found a couch suite that I liked, at a lower price than I’d budgeted for, the excellent salesperson would then bring up the subject of the drool-worthy dining room table again, mentioning that since I’d just saved money this might perhaps be an option again.

On your website, the exact same rules apply.

If your main product page is filled to the brim with an endless list of features, with too much text and too many images or with a bewilderingly complicated list of technical details, you’ll most likely drive away the customer.

On the other hand, if you don’t provide the information and level of detail that they’re looking for, they may never know that their solution lies buried in your website.

If, for example, the visitor to your website goes from the main page to the pricing page, then you can guarantee that they’re interested in what you have to offer. But chances are that they’re still looking for more than just the price, so if they want to know what they get for their money or how they can pay, make sure this is clear.

If they go to the support page, then not only are they interested in the product, but they may well want to look at the features, technical specs and compatibility information. They’re also obviously more than casually browsing what you have to offer, so a little push in the right direction can have the desired effect.

As a fantastic example of this in practice, I recently came across a company whose product I was interested in. The software appeared to be just what I was looking for, and when I went to their support page to get a feel for their product, they offered me a 25% discount. I purchased there and then.

The salesperson in the store already knows that you’re potentially interested, as you’re standing there, looking and listening to what they’re saying. From their point of view, every second that you remain in the store increases the chance that you might purchase.

The same rules apply to your website, but in a store, when’s the last time you had to run around trying to find a salesperson? Make sure your presence is felt on your website in a similar way. Guide your visitor through the process, but try not too be too obnoxious about it.

One common strategy for many companies is to put a large BUY NOW button on each and every page on their website. The high-street equivalent of this would be to have your salesperson shouting the price and pushing the contract in your face at the end of every sentence.

Like the salesperson, you simply need to present the information, options, details and a clear and easy route to purchase.

Assuming that everything is going to plan, at this point, we approach one of the final stages – the reassurance. There is a reason why the good salesperson will remind you that you’ve made a good purchase even after you’ve nodded to the sale. S/he knows all too well that until you’ve signed the paperwork, nothing is definite.

Even when your site visitor is at the purchase page, you need to carry on pushing and providing the help and reassurance they need. In order to do this, you need to be thinking about their concerns and making sure that you address them all.

The purchase page is a good place to remind the customer of your money back guarantee, to reassure them about the security offered by a secure server transaction, to point out your abundance of payment options, and even at this late stage, to show them yet more testimonials and even a sample of your client list. And if they will have the full version within minutes of ordering, then now is the time to remind them of this.

You should also be aware of how many sales are lost at the actual order page itself. Make sure that your forms are crystal clear, well laid out and easy to read and understand.

If there’s anything on the form that might not be easy to understand, then make sure there’s a link to a clear explanation. And if possible, leave out the tech-speak. The customer may not know if they need a client/server or workstation licence, but they do know that this is for use on their system only. Never assume that they know anything or everything that you consider obvious.

Once they’ve made the purchase, don’t leave them wondering what happens next. If they get the unlock code immediately, help them to print this out, and send them a copy by email too. While you’re at it, make sure that the subject of the email is self explanatory, and remind them to store this information for future reference.

Then there are the small touches, all of which create a good impression. A thank-you email, separate from the order confirmation, makes the customer feel good about their purchase. And if it reminds them of what their registration entitles them to, then all the better. If you also include links to tutorials, online support and a user forum, they’ll be happier still.

It’s important to remember that when someone buys your software, they will consider themselves a customer for a long time after the sale is made. It’s therefore important to respond in a timely manner to support requests or questions.

And if the customer paid by credit card, a follow-up letter in 10 days time telling them what will appear on their credit card statement can only help both of you. In the same way that the differences between the good and excellent salespeople are minor, it’s these little touches that can go a long way with the customer.

If you handle these well, you’ll often find that you build-up a good relationship with some of your customers, who might be extremely grateful for your assistance. If the relationship is suitable, then don’t hesitate to ask for a testimonial for use on your website, thereby turning a paying customer into a marketing asset too!

The sales process begins from the moment the buyer enters the website. From their point of view, it can finish many years later, or even never at all. A good sales process has very little to do with getting the order; it’s all about the customer.

Your website should therefore be focused on converting the visitor into a customer. Your sales process should ensure that the customer is a happy customer. And if all goes well, your after-sales procedure can even convert a happy customer into a marketing and PR asset. Be seen, be sold.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.