Closing the Sale Online - Is eCommerce Making Face-to-Face Selling Obsolete?,  by Bryan Heathman


Have you asked yourself how you can increase the conversion percentages on your ecommerce website in the absence of a face-to-face sales representation for your company?  We know that a live salesperson can close a much higher percentage of buyers than a ecommerce website.  However, if your company is anything like mine, getting a salesperson to work 24-hours a day is tough.  So to capture your share of the $150 billion spent a year on ecommerce, let’s explore how to use a series of Tools of Influence that the online marketer can incorporate into their website to generate sales conversions.  Excellent closing ratios create the revenue which is the lifeblood of any company. 


Sales professionals know that certain laws of influence exist in modifying the buying behavior of customers.  The trick… in online selling… is how to leverage these techniques of Influence when you are not face to face with your buyer.  Here are four ideas that will help influence buying decisions when you are relying on your website to close sales. 


1.         Create Urgency:  One of the most reliable tools of influence in closing sales is to create urgency.  We all know that if a buyer puts off a buying decision, the opportunity to close the sale is typically lost for good.  One idea is to offer limited time incentives to make a buying decision.  For example, offer free shipping “today only”, which is a great method of helping people overcome the perceived cost difference in buying online.  Another good motivator is free installation if an item is purchased online, as this helps close the perceived gap of getting good customer service in the absence of face to face contact.  When presented with limited time offers, the consumer has an unconscious fear of loss that is proven to be a powerful purchase motive.


2.         Authority:  authority figures in our society plays an important role in influencing behavior. It is no secret that certain professions and industries use uniforms to communicate authority.  There are several fascinating studies on human compliance behavior when under the direction of authority figures wearing uniforms like white lab coats.  In sales, the successful salespeople know the edge that a well tailored suit, crisp shirts and polished shoes can accomplish when making sales calls.  The question is “how can you leverage this authority online?”  One technique used to communicate “authority” includes publishing photos, articles and videos of well-respected authorities within their industry to create an authoritative air to their websites …note that many authors are more than happy to lend their image and articles for the purpose of public relations, which helps them raise visibility of their books.  Don’t be shy about asking…you will be surprised at how receptive some authority figures can be.


3.         Limited-Time Gift-with-Purchase – sometimes a personal motive can have a stronger impact on a buying decision than tools like price, free shipping or payment terms.  The beauty of using a website to promote a free gift-with-purchase is that it is like hiring a silent salesperson, who works for you 24-hours per day, who never takes a sick day, and never takes a personal day to hit the golf course.  Pick a free gift that inspires your buyers.  If you know your customers love to golf or fish, pick a gift that relates to their personal interests, versus their business interests.  I met a couple salespeople at a local coffee shop who sell network storage hardware to the world’s biggest technology companies.  They were talking about a fly fishing trip they took to Alaska with some clients and the 26” rainbow trout they caught.  You better bet that custom tied flies would be a powerful incentive to place a purchase order, versus free shipping on their next purchase order of computers.


4.         Referrals:   we all know that the best leads to acquire are those referred from within your network.  In fact, can you guess what marketers are taught is the #1 most effective form of advertising?  Yup, you guessed it…word of mouth advertising.  A warm lead is almost always one of the most closeable leads you can get.  Use your website to let your prospects tell their colleagues about you and what you can do for them. This can be in the form of a Tell-a-Friend tool set-up on your website that enables visitors to email a web link to their colleagues.   Some marketers even offer incentive items to their customers for referring new prospects.  If you automate this system once, then you can create an evergreen source of new referrals to keep your pipeline full. 


I believe the ultimate aim in ecommerce marketing is to set a plan in motion to make money while you sleep.  With a little creative thinking into your conversion strategy, applying these Tools of Influence will have a direct impact on your bottom line results.  Nothing beats waking-up in the morning to a fresh cup of coffee and seeing orders roll-in from the previous evening. Good selling!


Bryan Heathman is a popular speaker and author of the widely acclaimed book, Conversion Marketing.  Beginning in 1995, Mr. Heathman has captained hundreds of online marketing campaigns for some of the world’s largest commercial ventures, including Proctor & Gamble, Nissan Motors, and Travelocity.  Other ad work includes marketing leadership with such notables as Microsoft, Kodak and 24/7 Real Media.  Mr. Heathman incorporates his practical experience into a system of psychological tools for website marketers to achieve maximum influence and the highest sales conversion ratios.  To see Conversion Marketing in action, subscribe to the Convert-O-Matic ezine for the latest tips and tricks of conversion.



For a preview of Bryan Heathman's audio program "Converting Sales in the Google Era", click the "play" icon below.