Stop thinking of your corporate website as a “thing”. Start looking at it as your lead sales person, says Bryan Gray of Revenue Path Group. Is this a person you like? Or even respect? Are they effective or just also-rans? Keeping a website on the team that can’t do the job is one of the Five Great Threats to revenue growth through effective selling.
Close Encounters of the Sales Kind - 70% Now Happen Online
For sure, there is a lot of subjectivity around the often fraught issue of the company website. “Look and feel” is always going to be open to debate. It is rare that total consensus is achieved when design is under discussion. BUT … What simply cannot be ignored - or even debated - is the following hard fact: around 70 per cent of pre-sales research is now done online by your prospects before they even think about engaging with your sales team.
So your website is de facto your lead sales person. Handling the bulk of initial enquiries. Determining to a great, even frightening, extent whether a prospect takes the next vital steps to becoming a customer.
Where Does YOUR Website Sit in the Customer Persuasion Hierarchy?
Now in ANY organization, anyone who was guaranteed to have 70 per cent of all the initial close encounters of the sales kind would be the alpha, the silverback, the 700 pound gorilla who got everything from the best bamboo shoots to the bragging rights, every time and unchallenged.
The hard question to be asked therefore is this: is your website as it stands today, right now, a 700 pound roaring sales-making gorilla? Or is it something a little more modest? A shy lemur, perhaps? Or a timid little bush baby only appearing at night and frankly preferring to stay out of the limelight? Worst of all, is it a sloth? Happy to spend its days lazing in a tree? How can you tell?
“Sloth website” tendencies include the following: high bounce rates, indicating that visitors aren’t engaged by what they encounter and don’t stick around for long; lack of leads, proving that few visitors feel inspired to follow up and get in touch; low conversion rates confirming that prospects have little interest in becoming customers. These tendencies might, might, be easier to accept while you continue to think of your website as an inanimate object; a kind of techno-phenomenon that’s just too hard and too expensive to fix until you really run into trouble. But now try that trick of thinking of your website as a person and see how rapidly your attitude changes.
Sales Warrior? Or Lack-of-sales Worrier?
This guy is your lead sales warrior. Yet he is basically doing nothing! How long will you go on paying him? How quickly are you going to demand that he show you some radical improvement before you show him the door? If you could get rid of him right now, would you? And if you did cut him loose, would it make ANY real difference to your business?
If strong feelings are aroused by this process, that’s good. Anger is the precursor to action. But for an effective fight back, don’t (just) get mad. Get even better at selling through your number one sales person. Finally, make your website work for your business.
And here is where it gets a little more demanding. Now that you’re looking at your site as a human sales person, you can’t just roar at the guy for an hour and finally give him a month to shape up or ship out. That might make you feel better momentarily but it’s not a long-term answer. You have to look at your own role in the development of the current situation.
Did this ineffective sales person really know and understand what was expected of them? Did they have quotas? A personal development plan? Training and ongoing professional development? Sales aids and full marketing support? Or did you, being honest, equip them with the online equivalent of a sandwich board and an arrow on a stick reading “Golf Sale This Way”? Then did you plant them on the end of a virtual street and hope to catch some passing trade? If this was your approach, blaming the poor guy for not cutting it out there in a tough market seems a little harsh!
It's Time to Equip for Success
From now on, things will need to be different. Your website will persist in being a truly horrible salesperson for just as long as you persist in giving them a horrible working environment: one of uncertainty, lack of support and absence of clear goals.
First base for positive change is defining what you want the poor guy to achieve. What does website-led success mean to your organization? How many initial sales meetings (visitor traffic) do you expect each month? What proportion of those visitors – as a minimum – do you expect to go further and convert into customers? How much money do you expect your head sales honcho to make for you?
Answering these questions will clarify the basic issues. You simply cannot succeed – or expect anybody else to succeed – if you can’t express quickly and clearly what success means. With the success parameters clearly defined, you can turn to the question of supporting your lead sales guy effectively. You have set them a series of expectations. That’s good. We know where we stand. How are you going to support them in achieving those expectations? (Not doing their work for them but making it possible for them to be effective in their own right.)
If you’re unsure how you’re going to support them. If you don’t really know what kinds of support are needed and what is going to be effective, it’s worth taking some advice and taking it quickly. After all, this virtual sales guy is directly handling 70 per cent of your prospects’ search for the stuff they want and the answers they need. So you can’t let him struggle on month after month, alone and ill equipped.
The Real Damage a Poor Website Does is to YOU
To sum up, if you have a website that’s the equivalent of an unprepossessing fellow with a clammy handshake – and who’s in acute need of a breath mint - then you also have a problem. It’s not your customers’ problem – they can simply say “not today thank you” and shut the virtual door. It’s not your shaky salesman’s problem because he isn’t actually a human being after all; ‘he’ is just a bunch of code on a server somewhere. It’s your problem.
So make it personal. Make fixing your web site issues an immediate priority. Start taking your share of the mighty 70 per cent of the enquiry process that’s happening out there right now. Because, if you don’t and your lead sales guy stays pallid instead of pushy, there are thousands of others out there who will get their foot in the door. And customers who could potentially be yours will open right up to your competition.