The term “salesperson” can often evoke the stereotypical image of a used car dealer who will do anything to get a sale. But that’s an outdated image. The best salespeople today are skilled professionals who get to know all they can about a prospect. They do research in advance. They ask questions and listen carefully to answers. They tailor their pitches to each prospect and strive to match each one with the right product or solution for them. Progressive companies recognize this and spend a lot of money hiring and training salespeople to operate like this.
We all know that the internet has fundamentally changed the way business buyers conduct research. A frequently cited yet critical stat from SiriusDecisions is that 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is done digitally. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your prospects will conduct their digital research before speaking with a salesperson, but it does mean that your buyers do most of their research online.
With that in mind, you might consider your website a member of your sales team. It typically “meets” your prospects earlier and more often than anyone else in your company, and it furthers the relationships throughout the sales cycle. But are you doing as much to “train” your website to respond to prospects as you do your salespeople? Chances are, your website is the dumbest and least effective member of the team. Here’s why and how to fix it.
1. Your website shares the same message with everyone.
No good salesperson would talk to a junior-level employee the same way she speaks to a C-level executive. A marketing specialist at a tech company, for example, may want to know how easy your product will be to use and how long it will take him to get fully onboarded, while the CIO may want to understand how your solution will interact with the rest of the company’s tech stack and what ROI can be expected.
The same goes for prospects across industries and company sizes. A salesperson who doesn’t tailor her message to address the specific concerns of prospects in the financial services versus the retail industry, or to small businesses versus enterprises, is likely not very effective. Every prospect has different goals, uses different terminology and measures different KPIs. A good salesperson knows her company’s unique selling propositions for each type of buyer and knows how to best engage them.
But your website probably doesn’t do that. Your home page likely has one main message it uses with every prospect — one that has been carefully selected to appeal to the broadest audience possible. And while you may have developed content targeted to different buyer personas, industries, company sizes, etc., your website probably doesn’t offer up the most relevant pieces of content to each person. Instead, it requires prospects to find relevant content themselves.
2. Your website doesn’t listen to each person’s needs.
The needs of a prospect change dramatically depending on where he is in his buying journey. Is the product brand new to him? Then he’ll likely respond best to introductory and educational content. Has he used something like your product in the past? Then he’s probably looking to understand how your solution compares to other solutions on the market. Has he already done substantial research on a number of different vendors? Then he might be looking too see a demo and read some case studies about how your solution has helped other businesses like his.
A good salesperson pays attention to what each prospect needs and addresses each unique concern. But your website likely does not. It probably suggests an introductory video or ebook to everyone who visits your site, including those who are already your customers or who are close to making a final purchase decision. Instead of listening to what each person wants and providing helpful messages and content, your website most likely treats everyone the same.
3. Your website is repetitive and tone deaf.
Most salespeople will send appropriate and relevant content to their prospects. A good salesperson would never send a piece of content to the same prospect more than once, unless the prospect asked her to. Doing so would show that she didn’t remember her past communications with the prospect and would make her appear disorganized.
But your website does this. If you’re like many companies, you promote an event or a key piece of content prominently on your homepage. When a prospect registers for an upcoming webinar or downloads your killer ebook, you probably continue to promote it to him in that spot. It’s not just a wasted opportunity to get the prospect to engage further with your content and move them along the buyer’s journey, it comes across as tone deaf. Why would you keep asking someone to take an action he has already taken?
Invest in your website to make it smarter.
It’s time to make your website a smarter salesperson by ensuring that it can effectively respond to everything it knows about your prospects — just as your best human salespeople do — by collecting and analyzing data and personalizing the experience in real time based on that information. For example, your website should:
Take action immediately by learning what you can from reverse IP lookup or referring campaign source. In many cases, a person’s industry, company, company size, and more can be identified the second he lands on your site from reverse IP lookup. For example, if you can recognize that a prospect is in the health care industry from his IP address, your website can present images and copy specific to that industry on that page in real time. You could do the same if you recognize he is from a small business or an enterprise or any other defining attribute you used in the email or ad campaign the person clicked on to arrive at your site.
Learn from what each visitor’s behavior is telling you over time. A person tells you a lot about himself from how he interacts with your website. The pages he clicks on and how he engages with those pages, the content he seeks out and what he reads can tell you what industry he is in (if it can’t be determined from IP address), the topics he is interested in, where he is in the buyer’s journey, and more — depending on the content you have available on your site.
Paying attention to these behaviors can help your website determine the appropriate next step to suggest for each prospect, which content to recommend, and when to suggest speaking with a salesperson. It can also help you understand which actions the prospect has already taken so you don’t need to waste his time with irrelevant calls-to-action. You can keep moving him through the funnel instead.
Ask simple questions when it’s appropriate. Finally, if there is information that would be valuable to know but can’t be easily deduced through a person’s behavior — such as a person’s role in his company — you can deliver a simple survey while the person is engaging with your site. If it’s clear to the visitor that the purpose of the question is to help him find what he’s looking for, he will be more likely to answer it than if the request seems random and unrelated to what he’s trying to accomplish.
Don’t force prospects to speak with your dumbest salesperson.
Keep up the good work recruiting and training your salespeople. That’s money well spent. But don’t use your impressive sales team as an excuse to neglect your website. It’s not just a channel for getting prospects on a sales call as quickly as possible. Your prospects are going to conduct lots of their own research before speaking with you. Make sure they’re speaking to your best and brightest salesperson — your website — from the start.