It seems like I’ve always been in sales. Even when your background is marketing it sometimes just turns into raw sales. I’ve always been fascinated by the sales process, but just as horrified by it at the same time. Growing up, I always equated sales with Herb Tarlek and gaudy sport coats. Yet somehow, the concept of sales is something that has always come naturally, yet there are always lessons to learn.

cheesy salesmanUnfortunately, some of my sales experiences have been what I would describe as more high-pressure than others. I had to learn the “10 Closing Methods” and “Top Cold Call Lines”. Yuck! In my opinion, there is nothing as bad a forcing a sale on an unsuspecting person. That type of sales always makes my skin crawl. Fortunately, I have had many more good experiences and great teachers who taught me much more about people than sales. They taught me the importance of building relationships, rather than numbers.

The great thing is that this sales experience is what has shaped my philosophy of SEO and website marketing. This is what I attribute to my success, as sales will always be the same, regardless of whether it is on a website or in a shoe store. The sales techniques will always be the same because people are the same.

  1. Know your audience. I could stop with that one line. Knowing your audience involves knowing what they need, the terms that they use and how they shop for your product. There are many companies that have not taken the first steps to researching keywords and phrases that their customers use to find products in their market. Knowing who your customer is and how they shop for services is key to understanding they decision making process.
  2. Establish Rapport. This involves showing a trusted, personal, and professional face to the business. If a searcher uses specific phrases to find a site, and those words are not on the page where they land, they won’t be there long. The site needs to meet the expectations of the searcher in order to be successful. Establishing rapport online is just as critical to establishing it in person.
  3. Tell a story. Stories sell. People love good stories, success stories, company stories, start-up stories. Stories can communicate information about a business that a fact sheet never will. Stories involve building an personality and a unique voice, they connect people into knowing who you are, rather than viewing a faceless website.
  4. Create a need. Many sites simply present there product in a “here it is” type of format. If you want it, we got it. That simply won’t work unless you are the only one with that product. Even though what you have solves a need, you still need to create the need for the product in the searchers mind. You need to have product descriptions that involve problem-solving keywords and create a need for the product. Good content can make a searcher connect with the product and they will sell themselves.
  5. Anticipate the objection. Once the searcher knows the need, know what objections they may have; price, shipping, justification, color, etc. Anticipating the searcher’s objection to making the purchase or contact decision will enable you to develop content that can address those objections. Addressing objections can be very powerful content on a page, allowing for additional “long tail” keyword phrases that will help gain more traffic.
  6. Ask for the sale. Too many times, many sales people put all of their information out to a searcher or a buyer, and leave it there. If you don’t ask for the sale, you won’t get it. I equate this with the lack of “next step” actions. Whether it is a link to a contact form, adding a product to a shopping cart, or simply leading to a phone number, if those elements are not immediately visible to a searcher, they will not be used. The next step needs to be the most obvious thing on the page, as that is how you ask for the sale.
  7. Close with an Action. Similar to asking for the sale, a “close” should always prompt for action from the buyer. The action is a conversion point; build a list of conversions and actions that you would like searchers to take on the site. Assign importance to those actions, such as primary and secondary conversions. In addition, never just leave the buyer to wander aimlessly. After they fill out a contact form, provide them with links to additional relevant information. After they purchase a product, provide links to other products or articles, never just deposit someone on a thank you page with no direction.
  8. Don’t muddy the water. This was a lesson that I will always remember. Once you have the commitment of a buyer, stop selling. Don’t overload them with choices or add-ons that require just as much commitment as the original purchase. Up-selling or related products are fine, but only in the right order and in the right place. Neither up-selling nor cross-selling should be the focal point of the shopping process. Allow the user to complete the purchase and don’t muddy the water with additional choices.
  9. Shut Up and Listen. This is critical. Have you ever had a salesman that just didn’t know when to shut up? Allow the searcher to do the talking, allow them to find their way. Allow usability testing and analytics to tell the story. I am amazed at how many businesses have not made an attempt to talk to their markets or observe how users interact with their sites. Listen to your audience, stop talking, and let them tell you how you can do it better. A few hours of observing how people use your website will provide more intelligence than you can imagine.
  10. The Customer is King. Forget the continuing argument of whether content or links are king. Ultimately, the customer is King. If your site does not reflect that attitude, it will not be successful. The web is an economic democracy, if someone cannot use your site or does not like it, they can always go somewhere else to spend their money. The searcher must be treated like a King, the content must be focused on them and their needs, and not the needs of the company.

Are you selling your sites? Does your SEO reflect the attitudes and midset of your customers? In what other ways is SEO like the sales process?

Let me know if you have anything to add to this list . . .