An Entrepreneur's Quick Guide to Closing Online Sales

17 MAY 2010

You have a great idea for a business. It involves selling products or services which may or may not be delivered online. To support your business you create a website, put the URL on your business cards, and buy ads on Google.

And nothing happens.

Except, perhaps, that your sales fall off a bit because you’ve spent so much time creating and marketing your website that you’ve neglected to make the contacts you usually use to generate business.

Take heart. Making your website do what it is supposed to do doesn’t cost much and doesn’t take long. It has never been easier to sell products and services globally.

Start by Making it Easy to Place Orders

Having a website doesn’t mean you no longer have to market and sell your products. What it does mean is that you can have an order taker standing around 24/7 to take people’s money.

If your objective is actually to close sales online, the process of ordering your products and services online has to be effortless for your customers. If they go to your site knowing what they want, they should be able to find it in two clicks and they should be able to order it in one more.

If this is not how your website is working, then you have found a key reason why your sales are not what they should be.

Sometimes the problem is your page design. It spends more time talking about you and your team than getting people to the products and services they want to buy. Having articles and blogs online does help bring people to your site, and can keep them there until they decide to shop, but a sluggish or confusing ordering process “unsells” people. It is so easy to get online commerce right these days that most folks have no confidence in people who get it wrong.

How do you make placing orders though your site easy?

Paypal makes it easy to create “Buy Now” buttons for any product on any page on your site. People trust PayPal. The PayPal checkout process is quick, secure, and predictable. If you have under ten simple products to sell on your site, just stick Buy Now buttons on your pages and you should see sales go up. If your products require people to pick sizes, choose colors, select shipping options, or specify other parameters, Buy Now buttons probably aren’t the best choice.

Online ecommerce solutions like Yahoo Stores, Pro Stores or EventBrite, make creating full featured catalogs of products and services easy. You can be online in minutes with these online store solutions, even if you nothing about HTML or programming. These tools handle size, color, shipping and most other purchase options quite handily.

Open source catalog solutions like Magento work well for people who just believe, very strongly, that they have to host their catalog on their own servers. You can install them in a matter of hours, add your products and services to them, and start taking sales in under a couple of days. You can customize their look and feel completely.

It almost never makes sense for a small business to create a custom online sales solution when there are so many that can be had for next to nothing, that customers already trust, and which are so easy to customize. Your time will be better spent driving traffic to your fully functional site.

Marketing & Selling Products Online

Once you can take orders for your products and services on your site, you can begin pouring customers onto the site to take orders from.

If you have been taking orders for your products offline with some frequency, then you already know who your customers are, why they buy your products and where they can be found. You can tell your existing pool of customers your website address and you’ve effectively given them an order taker they can turn to at any time to get your products and services.

When you want to get new customers via the internet, your understanding of who your customers are and why they buy your products will remain, for the most part, unchanged. You will just need to determine where your customers lurk online.

If your products and services are delivered to local populations, then you may find tools like Google’s Local Business Center useful. It lets you geographically locate your business in Google Maps, so that when people in your geographical area search Google for “florist”, “plant nursery”, “child care center” or “computer repair” a link to your business pops up along with a pointer to your location on a map. This gets them to your page where they can place an order.

If your products and services are, by and large, location independent then you will use other mechanisms to drive traffic to your site. You may decide to:

  • Place ads on Google and other search engines that will display when potential customers are searching for the products and services you provide.
  • Use Search Engine Optimization techniques (SEO) to get more links to your business high in the normal listings for your target keywords.
  • Place advertisements on the websites that your customers go to for news or entertainment.
  • Advertise in print magazines or newspapers that your customer read.
  • Work to have articles and blogs written about your product or service by writers that your customers read.

If, after several weeks, you find that your website is not helping your company earn more, the cause is almost invariably one of the following:

  • Your site makes it hard to place an order.
  • Something about your site makes customers doubt that you can fulfill their order (inaccurate information, misspellings, unattractive layout or design, etc.)
  • Your site doesn’t provide the information customers need in order to decide to buy.
  • The wrong people are visiting your site because your marketing is funneling the wrong people there.
  • No one is visiting your site because your online marketing is ineffective or non-existent.

If your website is equipped with a page counter or Google analytics toolset that lets you track how many people are coming to your site, what pages they look at, when and if they click the order button then you should be able to discern which of these issues is effecting your online sales.

A methodical approach to resolving these problems will result in increased revenue for your site.

Closing Sales Online

In designing and developing a functional website to sell your products it pays to take a very analytical, very practical, very limited approach to deployment.

Start with ensuring that purchase of a product is a matter of a few clicks, that customer’s you’ve met in the real world feel comfortable buying through your online interface, then work on driving more traffic to your site so more customers can be closed. Make sure it is very easy for people to ask you questions about your products and services, and that you request feedback on the order process after every sale. Your online customers are the best people to provide you with advice and guidance on how to sell more online.