How not to win customers with your sales site

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I'm currently in the middle of purchasing something on the internet. Easy you might think, unless the thing that you need to buy is for your business or enterprise. Years ago sites like Amazon and eBay revolutionised the way we bought on the internet and made it easy to purchase goods in a way that worked for the consumer. Why did these sites become king? Not because of what they were selling, but how they were selling. It's the experience that matters. Why head to an online store that only shows part of their catalogue, requires you to sign up to use trivial parts of the site or has poor payment integration.

Unfortunately the same revolution hasn't happened for enterprise. B2B purchases are a nightmare obstacle course. Want to see our product overview video?... give me your name, number and email address and then we'll let you see. Want to know how much it costs?... give me your number and I'll call you. Want to contact a human?... our sales staff will be glad to have a chat and then call you every week for the next two months.

Most B2B business with an online presence are still stuck in the past, still trying to bug people so they can exist off the bottom 2%, the suckers. Their sites, no matter how elaborate are set up to solicit phone calls. Just like companies that cold call customers, it's just another form of spam and unfortunately, some people fall for it. After all they don't really have a choice.

So how can you improve your sales site? What should you change so that you are fishing for the 98% and not the bottom 2% that fall into the trap? Below are my suggestions for improving your B2B site to make it more customer friendly.

1. Don't hide your sales pitch.
Your home page might have drawn me in, but what are you providing beyond your flashy splash page? Do you have white papers, product overviews and videos detailing your products? Don't make me have to sign up for them. If your product is worth knowing make sure it can be known by the world. If you have some product videos host them on Youtube, who knows who might stumble across them. And don't hide your sales pitch behind jargon I can't understand. If I want a HR solution with payroll integration, tell me that's what you have and don't make me have to call to find out.

2. Be contactable in a way that is non-creepy.
Someone you don't know who calls you once a week to ask you what you are doing... that's a stalker. If I have a quick question about your product I don't want to call you because I know by looking at your website your first question is going to be: what is your name, what is your company, what is your position, what is your phone number? If I want to ask a quick question I prefer to send you an email, because I just want an answer to a single question. I don't want to be sold on your product just yet. Teach your call centre staff to answer emails if that's what it takes.

3. Give me a price
If I'm comparing 10 companies all with good looking web sites that are full of marketing fluff there's one good way to tell you apart: give me a price. If you can't tell me the price per license for enterprise for x users then I can only believe that you are hiding behind your product and it can't be that good if you can't tell me the price up front. Tiered pricing and support is fine, but be upfront. Don't leave me guessing that I pay a premium just because of my name and reputation.

The success of your sales site on the internet will depend on how well you can build a relationship with your audience. If you are full of jargon and fishing for my number you are not out there trying to reach out to your customers. eBay and Amazon are about trust and their relationship with their customers, make your sales site with the same idea in mind. Educate your customers, teach them why your product is better, provide them with tools to honestly compare and allow them to reach out to you.
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