Now that everything and everyone is online, we live in a world of information overload. Getting people’s attention is harder than ever. With so much access to choice and knowledge, customers are taking their purchase journey online, where the influence of salespeople matters less and less.
The good news is there’s still a way to sell online. It takes a new approach and great tact. The online environment has a short attention span but a long memory, so making certain mistakes will cost you dearly. Make sure you avoid these five selling mistakes:
1. Regurgitating obvious information – Before we all went online, prospects needed someone to explain products or services. Now they can find this information online by themselves. Salespeople have to provide something more, giving new insight that sparks that Aha! moment in a prospect’s mind. That’s the best way to avoid being seen as just an opportunist, an order-taker, or entirely unnecessary to the buying process.
2. Looking for leads behind a door – We still need to go where the customers are. But gone are the days of knocking on a door and being welcomed for your information. Same with cold calls. Customers are not waiting for the phone to ring. They’re online, doing their own searches and spending time on social media. To nurture prospects as response rates dwindle, forget doors and phones — and head online. It’s a different allocation of time and energy, but vital to selling in the digital arena.
3. Using an antique selling model – The traditional purchase funnel is 120 years old. It was widest on top to fit in an enormous volume of prospects, tapered down through the attention phase, and then out popped enough sales to make the effort worthwhile. The digital sales funnel is altogether different. It’s not funnel-shaped, but widest in the middle. Attention is today’s rare commodity, so the longer we can contain it, with insights and other added value, the better the chance of influencing people’s buying decisions.
Waiting for face-to-face to build a reputation – Time together in a room is unlikely with everyone online, but we all get to be media personalities. No one waits for an introduction to check someone out, and opinions are formed quickly. Salespeople should craft their own online reputation, connecting with influencers by interviewing them, collaborating on a joint webinar or trading guest posts on each others’ blogs. Testimonials and online feedback from satisfied customers are great ways to build credibility, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Producing meaningless content – What makes a platform compelling is its content. Given shorter attention spans and abundant information, content must provide value. No one is going to stay online staring at a “Buy Now!” button for long. Salespeople need to understand what will reach their prospects. What material will engage people and lead them to a purchase? It should be visually appealing, and speak powerfully to a customer’s core buying motivations. Otherwise, you’re a step away from obsolescence, as attention jumps to a more captivating channel.
Selling online takes time, but it’s time spent differently. There are terrific tools, apps and platforms to help — and salespeople should take full advantage. There are apps to manage a social media presence and create content, and tools for monitoring attention and online effectiveness. The digital selling arena is an entirely new environment, filled with opportunity — as long as you can make the most of it.
Grant Leboff is a leading expert on digital marketing. Based in the UK, he is the founder of Sticky Marketing Club Ltd., a strategic global consultancy that is transforming how we sell in the digital environment.