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Websites are an optimal place to learn, test product positioning, test marketing and, most importantly, attract prospects by engaging them in an interactive dialogue. They enable a more proactive approach to business-to-business selling that I call ProSultative Selling, which minimizes the consultative elements of B2B sales by building constant dialog and interaction between buyer and supplier across all channels of communication.

Websites deliver a blend of accessibility with low cost of contact and interaction while also producing metrics from which it is possible to learn and improve. When working to gain a basic understanding of the suitability of a product to meet their needs, prospects prefer a website to a face-to-face meeting. The website has replaced at least eighty percent of the interaction that used to occur at the first meeting between a salesperson and a prospect. Your website is the first crucial building block in changing your current sales process to a ProSultative conversation.

Prior to the advent of websites as business tools, at a first sales meeting, prospects would arrive ten minutes late and leave ten minutes early, giving me, the salesperson, forty minutes. In those forty minutes, I would spend five minutes on introductions and five minutes on wrapping up, leaving just thirty minutes to pitch my product. The outcome of nearly every first meeting was re-direction to another more junior person. The prospect would spend the meeting deciding with whom you were going to work after the meeting.

After websites became common, these first meetings started on time with minimal introductions, used the entire hour, and often were attended by more than one person. The people I previously would have met with at subsequent meetings were already present.

For example, I worked for Tenfold, a software and services company selling large-scale, vertical applications, at the time the Internet was first becoming a business tool. I had a first meeting with Paul Bench, a senior manager in the IT group of National Westminster Bank. Paul walked into the meeting, greeted me, and moved straight into a detailed discussion about our solution. At the conclusion of the meeting I asked what drove the efficiency and productivity of this first meeting; Paul explained he had visited the Tenfold website as he now always did prior to vendor meetings. He had read about our solution and thought it had use. He would not have granted me the meeting if he had not believed so. The due diligence and deep questioning that occurred at a second or a third meeting was happening at this first meeting.

From a sales process and productivity perspective, this was a tremendous advancement. Unfortunately, even a decade later I do not see this knowledge being integrated into sales processes. Marketing and Sales continue to act as discrete operations, often with Sales seen as Marketing's customer. The website content is built by Marketing who must work with sales to understand what information to provide to replace this first meeting. The result is the first sales call is now run by Marketing.

According to research from Marketing Sherpa, eighty percent of decision makers find suppliers rather than suppliers finding them. Decision makers conduct this research online, starting with search, which in turn leads prospects to the vendor website. To reflect this dramatic change, current budgets for generating new prospects need to be re-balanced across Sales and Marketing. Marketing and Sales need to work together to create a path toward a prospect finding your business rather than the cold-calling shotgun approach of your business trying to find prospects.

To determine if your website is highly sales oriented, follow these steps:

  • Ask someone who knows nothing about what you do to look at your website. What do they say? Do they understand what you are selling?
  • Look to see how quickly you can get to every piece of information on the site. How many clicks are required; how long does it take? How easy is it? Note that most website visitors rarely click through to a fourth level.
  • Is all the data on the site appropriate for customers and prospects? As all information on your site is about your company, consider if it is too much information. I have found sites that make user guides available to prospects. No prospect wants a product to be difficult to use, though they may accept a learning curve if it delivers enough value. A user guide running to four hundred pages may reflect a thorough support document, but it may also scare the prospect into thinking a product is complicated.
  • Are you drawing the customer through the information into an information conversation? How easy have you made it for them to talk to someone? Starting from the home page and seeing how quickly you can get to talk to someone if you are a prospect is a valuable test. What happens if a prospect wants to talk to a person immediately? Have you provided online chat or a phone number?
  • Use a slow connection to connect to the website. Many times prospects will visit your site in their own time. If a customer is accessing your site from home, they may not benefit from the same web access speeds they enjoy at the office. Reducing complexity, ensuring bandwidth-heavy animations and videos are opt-ins, and simplifying downloads become good marketing principles.
  • Hold some information back. The web allows your competition to review your products and positioning and respond immediately. If you have something new in your product and announce it on the web, your competition can react very quickly. It is a delicate balance to put enough information on a website to encourage a prospect to want to do business with you, while keeping enough back to differentiate when engaging in a dialogue with a prospect.


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