How to successfully sell ‘anything’ online

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Hubspot lists 10 ways to sell anything online by building a successful sales strategy.

(This article was originally published on HubSpot.com and has been edited for content and style. This is part two of a two part series.)

The ability to sell anything comes down to knowing your buyer and the critical sales methodologies to reach them. The ability to sell anything online can be boiled down to that as well—while using different channels and technologies to do so. You can be super effective at each by crafting a sales strategy that informs the tactics your team invests in.

Research different industries

Finding the right thing to sell may seem simple, but there are several pitfalls you can experience if you don’t do your due diligence. Every new business venture, especially those that are sales-led, should be researched heavily before you get started.

First, think about the industry you want to enter into. You can do extensive research on your own to understand the market for that industry, the key players you’ll be competing against and the potential your business will have over time. Use credible sources like Pew Research and the Small Business Administration to get started.

Choose your product or service

Next, you’ll choose whether you’ll be selling a product or service. When having conversations with prospects, either of these options will have different objections and customer needs that you’ll need to address as well as sales strategy. Products can typically be sold without face-to-face interaction while services normally require a conversation with a representative or the service provider who’ll be doing the work.

For products, you’ll need to consider shipping costs, e-commerce websites and supply chain. For services, you’ll focus on scheduling, project management and quality control.

Identify the target customer

You’ve chosen your industry and selected your sales offering. Who are you going to sell it to? Identifying your target customer is a welcome challenge to most sales reps because it allows them to find pain points quickly and prepare a pitch and sales strategy that meets their needs. The great thing about selling online is that you can iterate your pitch several times as you refine who your target customer is. If you notice that one prospect went with a competitor while the other chose your product, you can narrow down why that happened. You’ll reap the benefits of identifying a target customer ten times over versus literally selling anything to anybody.

Set a price

Everything is negotiable to a salesperson, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo standard pricing. The price of what you’re selling should be based on the cost of the product, overhead and profit margin. This protects your business, but it also protects the customer from being overcharged. With a set price, you can negotiate the product or service up or down depending on the customers’ needs and select a price point to match.

Choose a selling platform

A website isn’t always required to sell a product or service—shocking, right? There are several B2C companies that operate exclusively through platforms like Amazon, Shopify or Etsy. For B2B companies, a website would be the better fit, though. Regardless of the route you choose, you want to make sure you’re providing the prospect with a way to research you, the company and the product before they begin the sales process. A good rule of thumb is, the longer the sales process, the more likely it is you’ll want to use a content management system (CMS).

Generate leads

“Build it and they will come,” says the old adage. But this isn’t true anymore. Researching the industry, choosing a target customer, setting prices and building a website are only the beginning of selling anything online. You now need to thread the needle between all four of these steps and that starts with generating leads.

If you have access to a marketing team, this is a great place for them to step in and help out. But if you’re a one-person show, chances are you’re prospecting your own leads in between closing deals. Efficiency is key here, so consider low-cost, high-volume activities like email marketing, localized digital advertising and LinkedIn prospecting.

Make your pitch

Imagine you’re sitting in front of your first prospect. They’ve voluntarily submitted a contact form on your website and showed up to the meeting. Are you prepared to sell?

It might be tempting to sell on the fly, but resist the temptation. Having a well-crafted, thoughtful sales strategy and pitch prepared can make all the difference. Even if the customer is already sold on the product, it’s now your job to sell them on you and the company. The way you show up during the meeting will leave a lasting impression on them as a customer—impacting everything from repeat purchases to referrals down the line.

Keep your pitch short and to the point, leaving plenty of time for establishing common ground and answering questions.

Close the deal

You’ve made it through the pitch! Closing the deal is the next step and it can come as a surprise to some sales reps (especially those new to the field) that asking for a prospect’s business is a required part of the sales process. This could be as simple as walking the customer over to the cash register to complete the sale or as nuanced as asking for several signatures on a lengthy contract. Regardless, it’s imperative that you close the deal formally.

Deliver the product

The delivery method you choose will depend on your product or service, but the point is to be quick. If you’re selling in a brick-and-mortar establishment, the transaction will be instantaneous while those in ecommerce sales may have a bit of a delay getting the customer what they paid for. Services can sometimes take even longer due to schedule alignment.

If your product requires complex installation, you may want to offer assistance with that. If your service calendar is booked for a month, offer the customer an opportunity to book more than one session at a time so that they are closer together moving forward.

Any effort you can make to speed up the delivery of your product or service will be appreciated by your brand new customer. After all, you’re still making a lasting impression on them and any people they refer to you in the future.

Ask for referrals

We’ve mentioned referrals quite a bit thus far because the last step in the process of selling anything online is to set yourself up to start over on step one. Asking for referrals is the ultimate compliment a customer can give you. It means they loved their buying experience and their purchase so much, they’d want other people to experience it for themselves.

This isn’t a compliment to take lightly. If you receive a referral, follow up immediately (yes, even the same day) to introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to tell the referral how you know them. This not only lends you credibility, it opens the conversation between your customer and the referral so they can help sell the product for you. The testimony of an existing customer will be much more powerful than any pitch you could make. People believe their friends, let this work in your favor.

While the sales tips above can be applied to anything, you’ll want to tailor your approach depending on whether you’re selling a product or a service.

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