Sales people talk a lot about about "closing the deal", the final stage in the sales process needed to get people to sign on the dotted line.
Typically, the stages leading up to the "close" are affordability, no perceived need, no hurry, or no trust. Sales people are trained on how to spot and deal with this issues, and ways in which to overcome a customers objections. Sales training is partly systematic, and part art. After all, everyone is different.
It's the same on the web, however unlike the salesperson, you can't engage a person, one-on-one. But there are things you can do to increase the chances of making the sale.
I thought I'd put together a simple checklist for beginners on ways in which you can get a visitor to take a desired action. I've included links to some great resources for those who want to dig deeper and see practical examples.
But what if you don't sell things?
Really, every web site "sells" something, be it a good, a service, or an opinion. This checklist can be used, and adapted for any site. Sometimes, a simple change or two is all that is required to go from good to great.
For example, Amazon, a company that builds conversion techniques into their powerful sales platform, made one simple change that made them millions of dollars in extra revenue. Rather than phrase match search results, they displayed products most people purchased after searching on any given query. By doing this, they increased relevance. The result? A revenue increase of 3%, which amounted to millions of dollars in extra sales each year.
You can read more about what Amazon did in this free report "Controlled Experiments On The Web: Survey And Practical Guide"
1. Never Make It Difficult For People To Pay You
Once someone has said "yes" to an idea, you need to get them to sign on the dotted line as quickly as possible. Leave too much time, and people may reflect, have second thoughts, get distracted, or otherwise lose momentum. Think about bricks 'n mortar stores. It's always immediately obvious where, and how, to make payment. If the store is smart, they don't make you wait to pay.
One exception to this rule is if you have a good chance of upselling. However, overplay this strategy, and you might lose the customer altogether. A certain, large domain name registrar springs to mind.....
- Shopping Cart Usability: 21 Best Practices
- Best Practices for Online Checkout Process
- Hidden Secrets of the Amazon Shopping Cart
2. Be Relevant
Learn the lesson of Amazon. What do you your visitors really want from you?
If you're not what the visitor wants, then all the SEO, testing and tweaks in the world won't help. Monitor what people do on your site after they arrive. Do you know how many visitors click the back button after arriving? If too many visitors click the back button, you've clearly got a relevancy problem.
Obvious, right? What's not so obvious is what to do about it. Which brings me on to point 3....
3. Measure & Iterate
Good analytics are important. What's even more important is acting on the data.
Look at your website as a constant work in progress. It should be always "under construction". Watch what your visitors do, and what they don't do. Make changes, measure the results, then make further changes in response to those results. Repeat.
Converting visitors to action is part science, part art. There is no one way of doing it. What works for you may not work for others.
- 10 High-Profit Redesign Priorities
- Increase Your Sites Conversion Rate: Google Website Optimizer
- A/B Split Testing
4. Reassure People
The web is often nebulous. Unlike a physical store, or face-to-face dealings, it can be hard for the visitor to gauge credibility. Therefore, you need to go the extra mile to reassue people your site is legitimate. You need to include as many credibility markers as possible.
Examples of credibility markers include your contact details, testimonials, money-back guarantees where appropriate, a physical address and phone number, credit-card security measures, and privacy and data collecting policies. Tell people what to do when/if the process goes wrong.
- Website Credibility
- How Do People Evaluate a Web Site's Credibility (PDF)
- Do Your Users Trust You?: 21 Tips for Improved Website Credibility
5. Make Your Call To Action Crystal Clear
A call to action is a description of the activity you want your visitor to take.
Do you know where your visitors look and click? Using tools such as CrazyEgg, amongst others, you can approximate eye patterns, and see where visitors click most often. This is where your call to action should be located, if practical.
Eye paths are are also important. What visual or textual elements grab people's attention the most? Try changing the size of the headline. Try changing the separation between the headline and other page elements. Place the headline next to a picture.
Take a look at this before and after:
The "after" page, with enhanced credibility markers and clearer eye paths and call to action, increased the conversion rate by 40.7%
- Optimizing Landing Pages 2006
- Optimize your PPC Campaigns, Eye Paths And Page Copy
- Do Your Users Trust You?: 21 Tips for Improved Website Credibility
6. Provide Clear Signposts
Because the web is non-linear, it can be difficult for people to determine where in the process they are, and what happens next. Try to make this explicit by using signposts.
For example, you could outline in the first step of a sales process that the process will take five steps. Then, at each step, clearly show what step people are at. Signposts can be both visual and text.
7. Encourage People
Sometimes, the visitor might be unsure if they are following the process correctly. Encourage people at each step, reinforcing that what they are doing is correct. Create thank you pages and send responder emails. Tell the visitor who to contact if they have any concerns.
8. Give Visitors A Reason To Return
Most visitors aren't ready to buy or commit to action. They're tyre-kicking, they're researching, they're browsing. Try and "capture" these people, and hopefully they'll convert to desired action next time they visit.
Encourage them to do something painless, like bookmarking the site. Offer them a something free in return for their email address. Think about what you can give people in order to make them feel indebted to you. Clearly outline the benefits they'll get if they do return. What's in it for them?
9. Create A Sense Of Urgency
As a seller, you might have a sense of urgency, but the buyer may not. One way to help close the deal is to create a sense of urgency in the buyers mind. Methods such as the time sensitive offer work well i.e. if a visitor orders today, the visitor receives a special discount.
10. Personalize Your Communication
The very existence of a blog or newsletter on your site reinforces the idea that there is a real person behind the site. If appropriate, sharing your views and experiences is a powerful way to engage visitors on a personal level. Careful, though. Over-familiarity can also be annoying. It may also be inappropriate in some environments i.e. old-school corporate.
Amazon features authors statements, reviews, and personal feedback. You really get the feeling the website is a place, in which real people reside and communicate with one another.
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