Feb 22, 2011 by Aaron Rubman
MB/I central has become a lively place over the past couple of months. By concentrating representatives from sales, administration, design, programming, and management in one location, Marissa has given us the chance to brainstorm, integrate efforts, and share broad design philosophies even as we work on specific projects.
My own focus, whether testing a new CMS or adding content to an existing site, tends to be on the ease and usability of our systems. The easier it is to find or change information, the more I tend to like a site. Scott Stiefvater, who also started as a teacher, shares my view that websites should be educational devices, but his experiences in sales have given him a perspective that I don’t frequently consider.
Here are some insights on using websites as a sales tool that I gained from one of our recent conversations.
Don’t Reveal Everything
The first point that Scott made was that a good sales website should not reveal everything. This caught me off guard. We live in the information age, surely the purpose of a web presence is to give a potential client all the information they will need to make a purchase decision and commit. Just take one look at amazon.com or bn.com will show you just how powerful it can be to integrate product lists, customer reviews, and automated suggestions into one package.
But Scott pointed out that these sites only sell off-the-shelf products. For a company that provides custom solutions, you’re going to want to have a direct conversation with potential clients. A website that answers “everything,” can rob your visitors of the motivation to call and create that personal connection essential to closing a sale.
Know Your Sales Cycle
The key, Scott informed me, was integrating the website into a known sales cycle. If you rely upon Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the bulk of your business, you can safely assume that your visitors already know a bit about you and what services you can offer them. Your website should focus on reinforcing your professionalism and providing evidence to support the claims you make in your written proposals.
However, if the bulk of your leads come through friend referrals on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, you should build your site differently. You will need to quickly prove your relevance, and give visitors a way to leave critical contact information without spending a lot of time on site. In depth conversations will need to wait until later, and may even need to take place on public channels. In short, the social media mindset Lee Richter described in an earlier newsletter also apply to sites that draw their audience from social media.
Nothing can kill professional trust like reading from a script, or giving the impression that you’re reading from a script. Just as it’s a bad idea to read from your slides during a PowerPoint presentation, it’s self-defeating to cite the exact same case studies and testimonials you highlight on your website. It makes it look like you have nothing more to offer.