This month’s conference call was all about how to optimize a website for those selling big ticket items. (Customers will be able to access a recording of the call either from the monthly CD they receive or from a link in the customer portal part of our website.)

Selling large, costly and most likely complex products and/or services can be a challenge online. Here prospects don’t decide on a Monday what they want and from whom and by Wednesday have the transaction complete and their solution in their hands. Nope, these decision cycles can take weeks, months or even years to work through. During this time prospects will vacillate from supplier to supplier, option to option, and could well end up not buying off anyone at all.

More often than not the actual decision to buy will NOT be made with a web page and order form in front of your prospect. This might occur over coffee at the dining room table, at the roadside when their car gives up the ghost for the umpteenth time or, with luck, with your salesperson in your office. How and where the sale will end is hard to predict; nevertheless, there’s a very strong chance that it will start online. Here a prospect will kick off some research using trusty Google and a broad category-type keyword like “crm software”.

Hopefully, if you sell CRM software, your website will feature in this list. Now all you need to do is to capture this early level of interest and convert it to actual orders week or months or more later. Up for the challenge? Understandably, there’s a lot to get wrong during this time. But to help you along the way here’s my list of the seven most common mistakes people make, with a short note on how to avoid each of them.

#1 – Failing to include lead nurturing

So they arrive on your website, read your content, perhaps print out a report you offer, and then are gone for another few months as they consider their options. Remembering that these big ticket decisions will take weeks or months to complete, somehow you need to keep in touch as prospects work through their decision. Email marketing is the obvious choice here as long as you have permission to send it. But let’s not forget direct mail or even telemarketing too, or even all three in a neat “mix and match” format.
People lead busy lives and because of that prospects will naturally forget what you told them or what they read on your website. A regular drip feed of content to politely and persistently remind them of all the key facts is required. Do this well and you will have them move from thinking you are just one of many viable alternatives in month one to being convinced you are the best option in month ten.

#2 – A website that talks too much on how you can solve rather than understand a problem

Think of it this way. Say you need a builder to come in and fix a stuck window in your lounge room. It’s a simple job that’s been bugging you for ages and now it’s time to find a builder – any builder really – to get it sorted. Your criteria of who gets the job would probably include things like whether they are local and what their minimum call-out fee is. Simple criteria really to fix what is quite a simple problem.

Compare this with when you need a builder to help you create our ideal home. This requires a completely different list of criteria and there’s a strong chance that the builder that fixed the window is not going to be the one to build the home. Now, the ability for them to understand the problem matters more than where they operate from and even what they charge. (No point in paying less for something you don’t want.)
So home-building builders would be well served by a website that explains the process they follow to listen and understand what their prospects want. Ideally this content would be supported with some testimonial proof from happy customers that say they did exactly that. This leads me nicely onto my next point.

#3 – A website with a paucity of social proof

It’s not that purchasers of big ticket items are less trusting of suppliers than their small ticket cousins. Oh well, let’s face it, they are. Making the wrong decision here is a problem. It’s not that easy to take your recently built home back and ask for a replacement. Or pull out a multi-million dollar CRM system because it doesn’t do exactly what you wanted it to.

So buyers take more care and are naturally pleasantly reassured when they read the successful stories of others who can attest to the process or product doing exactly what they are being told it will do. For instance, if your website says that your $8000 ride-on lawnmower will easily manage long grass on sloping terrain then that’s fine. But if a customer sends in a video of them using the machine doing exactly this AND raves about the finish it leaves behind then this is so much more believable.

#4 – Failing to offer impartial, valuable information for buyers who are interested but not yet ready to buy

Just by the nature of the long sales cycle that big ticket items operate within, more people will arrive at your website interested than those who are ready to buy. The proportions could be 10 to 1, 50 to 1, or even 100 to 1, depending on your business category and the marketing they have received before arriving.

Now I realize that persuading those ready to buy now to contact you is a very big priority. But very close behind this is developing a system to do the same for those interested – the vast majority of your site traffic.

To achieve this you could offer them an impartial buyer’s guide, technically detailed white papers or even complimentary CDs of prior coaching sessions. During the customer conference call I mentioned over 25 different types of content you can offer for this stage. They span all types of media choices and formats but all have the same thing in common – they offer interested prospects something of real value.

This is not the time for product catalogues or a full-on sales pitch in print. Prospects are not ready for this yet. First, you need to win them over with some meaty, valuable and timely content that helps them during the research and information-gathering stage they are in now.

#5 – Failing to answer the top questions prospects have during their buying process

We covered this one at length during the coaching call. The key points are that there will be a list of questions – probably less than 5 – that the majority of prospects will need answering BEFORE they will even consider you as a valid supplier. The first job is to use some effective but relatively easy to run research to find out what these questions are.

The obvious next step is to answer them completely during your sales process. For instance, business owner purchasers of accounting services may have at the top of their list the ability for their supplier to explain complex issues in simple to understand language. So accountants selling services into this space would be wise to own a website that does exactly this.

#6 – Prospects doing the hard work of translating features into benefits

This is sales training 101 but still we can all slip back into old habits – especially when we are writing website content. So let us be clear – it’s not about you and what you do – it’s about them and how their life will be different after using you. For instance, you may run quarterly seminars where all clients are invited to meet and mingle with other business owners like them. That’s a feature. There are a ton of benefits this could flow into. One may be for attendees to learn from others just like them who have experienced the same problems and have gone on to solve them in new and innovative ways.

#7 – Failing to add value to entice people to leap from the online world to the offline one

In most cases for big ticket items you will need to transition your ongoing online lead nurturing communications into real face-to-face sales talk. This is a critical stage. Do it correctly and all your prior online work is worthwhile – make a mess of it and all this was for naught. You can improve your chances of success here by “selling” the act. For instance, why not rev up a simple “call us for a free quote on your payroll processing needs” into something like “call for your 20 point payroll industry benchmark review”. Ideally, this statement would be delivered on its own landing page that explains exactly what will be delivered, by whom and the benefits others have gained by doing the same.

So there you have it, seven mistakes to avoid when selling big ticket items online. I hope you weren’t making all of them? Contact us today if you would like a complimentary assessment of your efforts so far.

Have fun.