Tuesday, November 28, 2006

#1 ecommerce website sales tip

When a buyer goes to your ecommerce or corporate website, ask them to register, and fully explain to them WHY they should register now. Offer them real tangible benefits for registering, like a FREE sample, product, or customized, user-specific information.

Capture only name, business address, phone number, extension, email address, fax number, and VoIP handle or number.

In some cases, you may need to capture industry and purchasing decision authority. But the less you capture initially, the more responses you'll get. If you need more qualified responses than mass responses, capture more information.

Just don't get marketing-research greedy. Keep it to a bare minimum. If they're a hot prospect, most will probably not mind giving you more info on your quick follow-up to their online registration at your site.

Then, within seconds after this registration is submitted, have a salesperson:

* phone him

* fax him

* VoIP him

* send him an email

* mail a personal postal letter.

Thank him, by name, for expressing an interest in your company and products. Ask about his specific problems, needs, questions, complaints, suggestions, or interests. Offer to send him more specific information, price quotes, product comparison charts, competitive comparison charts, how to tips...anything that can move him closer to you as a trusted advisor and friend, and eventually, customer.

You strike while the iron's hot, while they are expressing white hot interest in you as a possible supplier of some product or service.

EDIT UPDATE: Do not hound the prospect, do not use high pressure sales hype on him or her. Tone this down and customize the concept to best suit your audience.

I repeat: if the prospect is HOT, meaning ready to buy now, from somebody, you ought to consider trying to understand the need, the problem, and see if your product can be relevant and economical for them. That's all.

EDIT UPDATE #2: It seems that this "sales tip" would probably be more appropriate for high ticket, complex, or abstract products and services. For "commodity" goods, impulse purchases, low ticket items, and simple products, this seems like "overkill". The debate has been going on both here, at the Evolt! web developer discussion list, and in emails to me. Thanks for all the insights, everyone.

I must also state that I dislike registering at sites where I have to fill out long forms, screen after screen of personal or company information, and they also toss in promos for various newsletters and topic update alerts.

I'm all for user empowerment and I'm against aggressive, intrusive sales hype. My main reason for the instant phone call, as I said, is to pinpoint customer questions, complaints, problems, etc. that the company representative might be able to clarify or solve, plus identify those registered users who are ready to buy now.

33 comments:

Paul Woodhouse said...

Couldn't agree more about striking whilst the iron is hot.

This isn't to say you've got to be all over the buggers like a rash and stalk them every day until you've got a court injunction out against you.

But, there's an immediacy and clarity which the internet offers unlike anything else. If your web presense is clear then your enquiry should also be clear and nobody is wasting anybody's time.

steven edward streight said...

Paul: I state the concept in extreme form to stir debate and harsh attack.

A feller on the Evolt! web developer discussion list hates my idea.

I Want My Ideas Trashed...harder people, get your hate mojo on!

steven edward streight said...

Oh, I'm getting flamed and also some "huh?"s.

I'll post some email flames here in the comment area. I think I just got a critique from Evhead.

Evan Williams said...

no idea.

sounds like a nightmare for a shopper like me, though.

steven edward streight said...

Evan, I think you're tough enough to endure a kindly, benevolent marketer's assault, I mean, advances.

steven edward streight said...

I'm not angry this time, though. I'm just asking if this "ecommerce sales tip" makes sense.

If the prospect is hot, is genuinely in urgent need of what you got, then why not contact the buyer immediately, while the interest is intense?

liz strauss said...

First, never trust a web dev under 30 -- Even Timothy Leary would say that now.

They've had too much self-esteem kool aid.

Second, in the world of egos, only neurologist have bigger ones than some web devs I've met. :)

What's the difference between God and a web developer?
God doesn't think he's a web developer.

steven edward streight said...

Liz: you naughty little user advocate and online shopaholic defender.

Rob O said...

I was just reading that thread on the evolt list, while Christian must be having a really bad day I think the ideas are intrusive and i'd get pissed off with it. I hate being sold something, I'd rather just buy what I'm looking for. OR at least buy what I think I'm looking for =]

An option to sign up to a mailing list or two is more than enough.

steven edward streight said...

Rob O: thank you for your candor.

I think my idea will work best for consumer products, but I keep wondering about web services and consulting too.

I am with you on hating hype, high pressure sales, in fact, I have said in recent posts that you should leave the customer alone and let them browse at their own pace.

But I got this idea from the book Corporate Internet Planning Guide by Richard J. Gascoyne (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1997, p. 2).

A seemingly old and forgotten concept that I've resurrected and am now catching hell for.

Hurt my ideas as hard as you can, before I go to my boss and look like an idiot with a bad idea.

Heh.

:^)

Be anatomically correct. Give your smiley a nose! I. Have. Spoken.

John C. Dvorak said...

Salesforce.com?

I'm not sure except to tell you that I doubt it is cheap or
easy to use.

Evan Williams said...

I may be, but I shop on the Internet to avoid such things.

steven edward streight said...

I hear you loud and clear. Thanks Evan for taking some time to express your honest critique.

I am being misinterpreted perhaps. I am 100% against hard sell, high pressure sales, typical old economy hype, etc.

But I'm trained in direct response marketing, and this seems like a good strategy, maybe toned down or customized.

It's largely in how it's implemented, I think.

Loving Odeo BTW. Moving more toward podcasts, and less on video.

Rob O said...

I can see what you're getting at but because the article gets straight to the point it sounds aggressive. As far as having someone immediately contact you whether you want it or not is nuts. Both in terms of putting people off and the extra human resources required.

A good idea is to implement immediate contact as a choice, for example many of my ecommerce sites have an optional enquiry basket, and along with the add to basket buttons etc.. you can click a button for instant callback. Whether the user is registered or not you can just drop a simple form in for their name and number. This is a more friendly way of 'striking while the iron is hot'.

=]

PS. my smily is a smilian from the planet smilia where they don't have noses...

steven edward streight said...

rob o: very interesting, gives me pause to think and consider more deeply. I think I agree with you.

Rob O said...

No problem Steve, glad I gave you something to think about. I'll be following this thread with interest, it's given me some ideas too.

Cheers

robin roblimo miller said...

I don't pay a lot of attention to ecommerce software per se, but most
content management systems have some way to send a "thank you" or
confirmation email when someone signs up.

I don't think any of them have built-in salespeople to make annoying calls, though...

- Robin

steven edward streight said...

Roblimo: thanks for taking time to participate in this discussion.

It seems like it's Marketers: YES and Web Guys: NO.

heh

steven edward streight said...

rob o: I wonder if it depends on the audience and the product, what the protocols are.

This approach can easily be ruined by a pushy, cheesey, super enthusiastic sales aggression.

But it could be modified and beneficial in the right strategy and tactics, if it stays helpful and customer-oriented, calm, gentle, laid back, casual, eager to answer questions.

I got the idea from a book dated 1997, but all they said was "buyer gets a phone call minutes later".

Rob O said...

It could absolutely be ruined by such a salesperson. I think this idea only has merit when dealing with larger orders in the £100s or £1000s, these transactions tend to be on B2B sites, which is also where you'd most likely want to speak to someone about the product / service before forking out that kind of money.

There are other means too, some sites monitor if you leave a page open for a couple of minutes and an AJAX chat box opens up saying 'Hi my name is ... can i help you?' Not too obtrusive as long as you can close it and move it around.

steven edward streight said...

Yes, I actually like these Live Chat Tech Assistants as a marketing or customer relations tool.

I interacted with one once on some web services commercial site, it was a hosting company, I think. Very fun to interact in real time with a Tech Chat Representative.

I asked: "Are you bot or human?" and they said: "Human." Ha.

steven edward streight said...

And yes, I was thinking about B2B applications, not Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or other retail sites.

High ticket products, complex services like network security, or abstract products like consulting.

Jim Estill said...

There are no right answers since all circumstances differ. The key is appropriate interaction the way the customer wants it (and this is not always easy to know).

Truly seek to help the customer.

steven edward streight said...

Yes, if it helps the customer solve a problem, if it speeds things up for the buyer, if it is perceived as special, beneficial service, and if it makes the customer happier to deal with the company, it is probably worth doing.

All my management books tell me to keep experimenting, seeking new ideas, and trying to make them work. So I am attempting to take that advice.

marc said...

I think there are a couple major DON'Ts on your list, at least for me personally.

1. DON'T call me. I don't mind at all if someone wishes to contact me after I've made a purchase - it actually generates a sense of trust, as in, yes this is a real company - but not by phone. This is the Internet and it's got all the communication mechanisms you would possibly need built-in (ie, email).

2. DON'T ask me to register. I hate being asked to register to make a purchase. If I want to come back I will, and if I do come back maybe I'll register then. But demanding registration on a first purchase is no different from demanding sex on the first date.

I think some of the steps in your process are in the wrong order too. The checkout aisle at the supermarket is an excellent analogy to illustrate, in my opinion.

"Price quotes, comparison charts, etc. Too late. After the fact."

Too late. After the fact. I've already bought my BrandZ bag of chips. You're not gonna convince me to buy BrandQ instead. Or cross sell me on BrandZ hot n spicy dip. After I have completed my transaction I am ready to leave. I will probably not come back into the store to make another purchase. That's why the racks with the candy are BEFORE the cashier, not after.

What you do see beyond the register, at least at my local supermarkets, are opportunities for giveaways. Drop your receipt in this box and win a prize. Post-transaction communication should be limited to bonuses to convince me to come back to your store. "Thanks for your $500 order, here's a $15 coupon for your next visit." Not only does that increase the chances that I'll come back, I'll probably go tell Uncle Joe about it too. Then when he goes shopping and sees his total at $495 he might throw in another box of candy to round it up and get the coupon too.

By the way, "huh?"

I had no idea why this email landed in my personal inbox. If I didn't already know you and hadn't seen the ensuing discussion on evolt I would have ignored/trashed it.

steven edward streight said...

I keep envisioning this benevolent dream of a pro-active web site, befriending the prospect or intentional buyer who has not yet made a purchase decision, but...

is (1) ready to learn more, or (2) ready to buy now.

so much so, they're willing to input a very brief registration form, submit it, and get fast feedback, from "successful submission" to "can I help you decide or learn more?"

I have seen Virtual Assistants who charmed me briefly, but also got their robotic point across, a web empowered welcoming.

Rob O said...

marc said: "demanding registration on a first purchase is no different from demanding sex on the first date."

come on now... seriously. It's a shop. I'm a web developer/designer and I hate inconveniences etc etc but if you see how most people use the internet they just accept that thats what you do. The biggest shops require registration. It's only one form usually, or a series of very simple ones e.g. play.com... People throw their information and details around the web like monkeys throw their poo. Taking simple usability into account and a balanced approach is fine but assuming that consumer's think like you do won't get much return. Marketers know how to market, developer's know how to develop. Good communication and compromise between the two will win out.

steven edward streight said...

I have failed to sufficiently convey the extreme user-benevolence I imagined this site extending.

It would reinforce, not intrude. It's like Paul Woodhouse stated in the first comment in this thread: a win win situation. Not a bullying. Not exploiting. Not annoying.

A registration incentive might be a 25% lifetime discount to all your products.

What's wrong with a powerful, tangible, elite, prestige incentive of practical or monetary value to the one who registers?

carrie said...

awesome comment thread/string!

jecklin said...

It is like watching someone you see everyday age...

I'm online everyday and nothing seems to happen/change...

gone a week and it feels like everything's changed--esp. with a manic blogger like you.

Frankly, I don't want anyone calling me.

That's the nice thing about the internet, if I am interested I will initiate the contact.

Sure is a popular post...

steven edward streight said...

It's in the digital air, cyber shopping monday and ecommerce tuesday, pondering the effluvium of social vector transmission zones.

marc said...

Steven, the guys at the side of the road are shops too. Doesn't mean I want every roadside vendor to have my contact details. But you know, over time you get to know that one vendor whose roasted cashews are just right, maybe you wouldn't mind him giving you a call come Christmas time to ask if you want a special order.

I think you're being a marketing idealist by falsely assuming that just because you WANT someone's contact info, they WANT to give it to you.

steven edward streight said...

You guys just don't get it.

I guess you've never tried to buy something and been frustrated at how difficult it was.

I have gone to web sites and filled out contact forms, wanting a salesperson to contact me. Nobody contacted me.

Recently it was a provider of custom tool bars. I wanted to explore this for myself and for a few clients.

But nobody contacted me, even when I practically begged them to.]

Again, I repeat, so listen closely: I am talking about HOT prospects who are ready to BUY NOW.

I am NOT talking about casual window shoppers.

I am not idealistic, I am totally pragmatic and realistic about this.

I join you in hating and shunning stupid sales gimmicks and pushy aggressive sales people, especially when canned speeches and extended warranty scams are involved.

You provide real benefits for those who register on your site. Then you only ask for a minimum of information from the person. And you proceed to contact them while they're still browsing your ecommerce or corporate site. I suggest a gentle, helpful, relaxed approach.

I always leave it to the customer to decide whether or not to pursue this registration. Some may resent being immediately contacted, but fuck them.

The majority of people who go to the trouble of registering on any site are very interested in what the site has to offer. So you must respond to the registration as quickly and politely as possible. And not just mess around, letting that hot prospect find another vendor.

If you have any experience in marketing, sales, or promotion, I think you'll understand what I'm saying.