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

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

In the previous article on selling software online, we focused on identification. We looked at different types of salespersons and their roles, and we tried to categorise some of the behavioural aspects of the other important part of the equation, the buyer.

We also compared the online store to the more traditional “real world” counterpart, and discovered that although they operate in different sphere of existence, there were more similarities than differences.

This article will focus more on the customers; their needs, how to cater for them, and most importantly, how to present your product as the solution they’re looking for.

Buyers fall under an almost endless variety of labels. Starting with the basics, we need to consider their age and gender. Following on from that, we look at their experience, technical knowledge, needs and requirements, operating systems, disposable income, means of purchase, geographical location and so on. The list is almost endless. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are very few products that are only used by one type of person.

As an example, imagine a feature-rich text editor. This could be used by writers, editors, proof readers, programmers, HTML coders, webmasters, basic users with no need for the additional functions, cross-platform writers, archivists, researchers and many others.

While all these users have the same basic need for a text editor, that is as far as their similarities go. Each of them would have their own quite distinct demands and requirements, and each would be looking for different things when exploring the product’s website .

For the purpose of this article, we’ll assume that your website has already performed the two most basic and critical functions: attracting the attention of the customer, and engaging their interest to explore further.

At this stage, you need to start laying the foundations for the ultimate goal; the sale.

Above and beyond most other factors, almost every purchase is based either on a specific need for the product, or a combination of needs.

As we’ve already pointed out, chances are that there are several different types or groups of users of your product. If your main source of sales information is your website, then this is where you need to identify and cater to each of these individual groups.

A simple and effective means of doing so would be to set up a series of paragraphs or sections, each targeting a different user type. For example, let’s say that your product offers a means of ordering and sorting digital images.. You might want to consider using the following statements, each followed by a small section of text with a link or links to further information:

— Need to arrange your digital pictures?

— Categorising your portfolio too time consuming?

— Client files and artwork getting lost?

Each paragraph would not only attract the interest of different users, but would effectively lead them to a separate part of your website that caters to their needs and communicates with them in their own specific language.

It is vital to understand is that the “one-size fits all” approach simply doesn’t work here. Big companies spend a great deal of time and effort in identifying their user groups and dealing with them separately, and there’s a very good reason for this.

Once you’ve identified your user groups and drawn attention to their particular needs, the visitor should effectively recognize their own circumstances staring them in the face , and want to know more. This is the point where you can start leading them through a four-part process.

Firstly, you need to reinforce that they’re looking in the right place, as it’s never too late for them to give up and leave your site. Remind them that you know what their needs, problems and requirements are, and what circumstances they’re in..

The second stage should expand on the first. Emphasize that if they have some sort of need or problem now, chances are that this is only going to increase in the future. Keep in mind that the fact that your visitors are looking at what you’re offering indicates that they have a desire to address their circumstances. They’re looking for a solution that you’re offering.

The third stage should offer your potential customer options that they may not have considered. Maybe they didn’t know your software even existed, or perhaps they had no idea how quick or easy your solution would be to implement.

The fourth stage leans very strongly towards your product and exactly what it offers.

It’s worth pointing out that you may now find yourself in the very grey triangular area between facts, sales pitch and propaganda. Getting the balance just right can be extremely difficult, but it’s very important that you do so.

Too much propaganda or spin, and the result may be disbelief, weariness or even scorn. Too little persuasion, and your polite attempts may go unnoticed.
The benefits that your software offers, as opposed to it’s features, offer an effective and safe means of achieving the right balance. Never underestimate the importance of benefits, and the irrelevance of features. The buyer isn’t interested in spending money on what you’re selling, they’re only interested in buying what it can do for them.

A feature of being able to read over 150 file formats could easily wash over the user’s head. But if you point out that they’ll be able to open almost any email attachment, you may get their attention.

High speed searching within an intuitive interface sounds technical and uninspiring. Explaining that your application lets a user find their files quickly and simply is a different story.

Lossless image optimisation and filesize reduction means very little to me, but if you show me something that lets me send my digital photographs quickly with small, clear files, you’ve got me interested.

Once the benefits have won your visitors over, it can’t hurt to call attention to your own unique strengths. If you product is faster or more efficient than others, make sure they realise this. As long as you push gently enough, you can’t be too pushy.

However, the game isn’t over just yet. Even at this stage, some will have their doubts. The simple act of thinking about where their wallet might be sometimes sobers the user up, and they can go from being putty in your hands right back to cold, suspicious caution.

It’s therefore essential to give them all the reassurance they need. Give them access to plenty of screenshots, so they can see the obvious quality of what they’re about to purchase. Provide them with case studies so they can see how people in their position used your software and were delighted with it. Show them testimonials, as your users’ words speak many times louder than your own. Give them a trial version of your software with no obligations, so they can see how good your software really is. Let them know they can contact you if they have any questions, and make sure that doing so is easy.

Assuming that everything has been covered, the ground is now set. The problem has been identified, possible solutions have been presented, your product has been clearly shown to be the answer to their needs, and the decision has hopefully been made to buy.

Sadly, even at this final hurdle, the sale may be lost. The next and final article in the series will look at asking for the sale, the final stages in reassurance, handling the sales process itself, and making sure that the customer never looks back. Be seen, be sold!

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.