There seems to exist the misguided suggestion that e-commerce, buying or
selling on the Internet, will soon surpass traditional means of retail,
such as department stores. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The e-commerce industry should check out the number of people that
through shopping malls on weekends. Are companies like J.C. Penny,
Zellers or Wal-Mart closing their doors and meekly walking off into the
sunset? No.They are expanding, rebuilding, renovating and opening new
outlets in an attempt to maintain and expand their customer base.
Internet marketers must do the same thing.
Even though the electronic
medium is gaining importance, and there are some impressive numbers being
up, there is still a major concern about
such things as transferring credit information and dealing with an
impersonal operator attached to some keyboard across the world. Not
every business can have a retail outlet because some businesses are
only amenable to on-line sales. But those that do have a retail outlet
should not only be involved in directly marketing their products through
their web sites, but the sites should be constructed so that buyers who
want to see the product will go to their outlets first. Many people want
see the products in front of them. They want to see them, compare them
to other products, perhaps see how look beside other items, especially
if they are outfitting an office. They may even want to do a little
haggling, which is difficult to do on-line.
For example, if you have an Internet site where you sell computers and
also a retail outlet, you must be prepared to deal, not only with the
customer who is willing to buy online, but also with the customer who
to go and kick the tires - so to speak. Provided that the techno-babble
has been kept to a minimum, an individual, after checking the web-site,
will come to you with his initial request. Now that number that has been
recorded as a hit on your web site is someone standing in front of you.
He wouldn't be there unless the web-site had done an initial selling
job. He is there to buy. This is where the true selling begins. As I
discussed in previous articles - this is the opportunity to learn
something about the customer. Some of the best sales individuals I know
have a tremendous capacity to ask questions and then shut up and listen.
They know who they are talking to; know what they what, and they have
learned this by listening after asking some questions.
You now have that same opportunity.
While you are finding out what he wants, you must also
discover his hot buttons. You must assess his
needs, but more importantly, listen to what he wants. It has been the
case that quite often a sale will occur, not based on what needs are
met, but on the extras that come with the package. The only way that you
can find out the bells and whistles that will sell your system is by
listening. Someone can have features similar to IBM, Compaq or
Panasonic, but they can sell their own system by emphasizing features
that fill a need that the customer never knew he had- his hot buttons.
These needs are discovered by asking questions and then listening.
Here are a few cardinal rules. Don't be patronizing or condescending.
assume that you always know what is best for the customer, or that your
superior product knowledge entitles you to decide what is best for him.
More importantly, don't try to sell the most expensive item on the
market. This is very short-sighted. It has been shown that an unhappy
customer can affect up to two hundred potential future customers.
For example, a store owner was looking for a new cash register. He came
into our showroom looking at some very sophisticated Point-of-Sale
systems. He was impressed with the flash, bells, and whistles. I listened
to his needs. I could have sold him the $4,000.00 piece of equipment,
because he wanted it, even though he didn't need it. His requirements
were assessed and he was told that all he needed was a three hundred
dollar cash register. It was essentially a cash box that would give him
a total sales printout at the end of the day. When it was explained to
him that his needs were for a simple cash recording system, he
appreciated the fact that we had looked beyond his enthusiasm and sold
him an appropriate item. Eight months later, when his business had
expanded dramatically and he needed an expensive system; where did he
go? He came back to us and ended up buying $14,000.00 worth of POS
equipment. An initial small commission turned into a very sizeable order
a short time later because we listened to the customer.
People resent being patronized or treated as if they are not aware of
needs. They appreciate your advice but that advice should never be
stated as an imperative. You may get the initial sale because of
pressure tactics but the long term ill-will can result in missing out on
There is also another interesting fact: once someone has come
to you after checking out your web site, and they have
bought from your retail outlet, their next purchase will probably be
from your web site. This is providing that you have sold them what they
needed, and not what you wanted them to buy.