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4 steps to improved online sales; offline, too, for that matter

A recent post by Robbin Steif got me thinking about how I close sales on the websites I’m responsible for in my day job. In concept, it’s simpler than most people think. In fact, I can name that particular tune in just four notes:

  1. Understand who your users are before you start building. Start with who you target (but don’t ignore the ones you get naturally). If you don’t start with the user in mind, you won’t end with the result you want
  2. Understand what those users want to do.
  3. Get everything that interferes with what your customers are trying to do out of their way. I don’t care what the CEO wants. He only thinks he wants it. What he really wants are more sales. Seriously.
  4. Only upsell once you’ve closed the first sale. Don’t confuse your customers by getting in the way while he or she is trying to do what they came for. Plenty of opportunities exist afterwards for that. ;-)

One last point about that post-sale upsell. Why don’t more e-tailers ask for a sale immediately following? For Pete’s sake, you just closed them once. The likelihood that you’ll get another sale from that same individual is much higher the chance that you’ll get a second sale from the poor soul who’s still floundering with your navigation trying to figure out how to accomplish their original goal.

In practice, number 3 seems to be where too many people I know foul up. The home page is not a place for political disputes or turf battles and your shopping cart is an even worse spot. Senior leadership needs to listen to what their e-commerce team tells them, assuming their e-commerce team follows steps 1 and 2. Otherwise, there is no reason not to ignore step 3. Frankly, a pet initiative for someone from the corner office is probably no worse than that of someone on the e-commerce team if neither are consumer-driven.

One final point. This works offline just as well as online. Check out Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy” if you don’t think so.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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  1. […] Back to Seth’s point, though. He hits it right on the head that having a great product is the key to your overall success. When I listed the four steps to successful selling online, I left that one out. Consider it the “zero-eth” step. Following steps 1-4 will only get you so far if you don’t offer the consumer value in the first place, whether that value derives from a cool consumer product, a useful business service, or a cheesy summer popcorn movie. Solve for that first. You can only put so much lipstick on a pig, after all. Or, in this case, a snake. […]

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