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Merging Offline Sales Tactics into the Online World

I’ve been doing sales for as long as I can remember. Whether I was slinging sugary crack and serving the over 60 crowd their dark liquidy afternoon fix at a Saskatchewan based donut joint, or selling cool tech toys at some of the nations largest big box stores, I’ve seen it all. For someone in my age demographic, I’ve been providing Canadian retailers with the best minimum wage labor money can buy. Unfortunately for me, my parents weren’t doctors, so I had to work and ‘master my craft’ to pay for life’s finest luxuries like Kraft Dinner, and clothing. That was until of course, I found this little thing called ‘commission sales’, and that’s where my story begins…

Online Sales Tips


When we talk about the world of sales, whether it’s corporate, retail or online, there has to be some method to the madness and you need to follow some sort of sales structure or sales funnel. Over the past decade, I’ve researched, tested and tried a variety of sales strategies, some of course working better than others. One of the most effective systems of selling I’ve found and have had much success with, is the G.U.E.S.T sales approach.

The G.U.E.S.T Sales Approach system breaks down like this:

1. G reet your customers.

2. U nderstand your customers needs, and ask lots of open ended lifestyle questions.

3. E ducate your customers on the products or services you offer.

4. S olve & Satisfy. Overcome their objections and close the deal.

5. T hank your customer and follow up.

Many sales organizations have their own acronyms or sales model structure. This particular strategy is an easy to implement, easy to learn model that fits into most sales cycles and the one that I’ve had the most success with. While it may be difficult to see the correlation between retail, and the online world at first, it’s not as far fetched as you might think.

How can a website act like a ‘sales professional’ and use a good sales approach? Read on to find out!

1. Greet Your Customer

  • Real World Example – If your salesman (or woman) at your local retail location didn’t do a good job instilling trust in you and asking the right questions, there’s little chance they’ll be able to convince you to buy. You’ll probably mutter something along the lines of, “No thanks, I’m just having a look” which is a nice way of saying get lost, and that leaves most sales associates dead in the water.
  • Online Example – The same can be said for the look and feel of your companies website. If a customer arrives on your website and the content is a mess, hasn’t been updated in years, or is extremely hard to navigate, it’s highly unlikely you did a good job instilling confidence in your web visitor and chances are they’ll probably choose another online retailer to do business with.

2. Understand & Uncover

  • Real World Example – Not asking the right types of questions, or asking ‘close ended’ questions can be a killer. An example of a close ended question would be, “Do you like the color Red?”. The answer is either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, and leaves little room for the customer to express their true feelings. A better option would be, “What color would you prefer this widget in?”. This allows the customer to answer freely, and will hopefully help you to uncover more of their hidden objections.
  • Online Example – Make your website easy to navigate! People are curious creatures, especially online. They’ll be doing lots of research and comparing your product or service to other competitors. If you lay everything out on the table in an easy to use environment, your customers will remember the experience they had and come back. Another clutch piece of the puzzle is ensuring it’s easy for your customers to contact you. This is especially important if you run a local business. Make your phone number very apparent on the site. Ensure that all key pages have a strong call to action, so if your customers have a question, they can easily contact you.

3. Educate & Teach Your Customers

  • Real World Example – What you think you want, and what you actually need might be 2 completely different things. How many times have you been out shopping and the sales person asks how you’re doing, then immediately starts showing you products. They didn’t spend the time to get to know you, and they certainly didn’t spend any time understanding your true needs. Often times salespeople are in such a rush to ‘close the sale’ they forget to build a relationship with you. How can someone show you a product, or offer you a service when they don’t even know what you really need? On the flip side, you may ‘think’ you know what you need, but hopefully your sales person is a ‘sales expert’ and can point you in the right direction and make appropriate suggetsions.
  • Online Example – This is where it gets a little bit tricky. For large retailers, many companies opt for ‘live chat services’ where if a customer has a question, they can open a chat window and be chatting with an associate almost instantly. For many small online businesses, this isn’t an economical option, so is there any hope for you? Of course there is! One of the easiest ways to ensure your customers come back to your website is by providing quality content. Be sure to include product descriptions, pricing, comparison charts and anything else you think your customers might find useful. The more content on your site, the more your customers will float through your pages and educate themselves on your products and services.

4. Solve & Satisfy Their Needs

  • Real World Example – Overcoming objections. The often feared, never forgotten 3-word sentence of death, “I’ll be back” – and we’re not talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger (cause if we were, that’d be awesome).  If I had a nickel for every time a customer actually came back I’d be a rich man. At this stage, the sales person didn’t do a good enough job uncovering objections and overcoming them. Maybe it was the color, maybe it’s the price, maybe they just didn’t like you. Whatever the reason was, you’ll never know because they’re gone now and probably bought from your competitor.
  • Online Example – Establish your companies Unique Value Proposition. Your UVP is what sets you apart from your competitors. Yes, your product or service might be more expensive, but is the customer aware of the reasons? Sure, if they called you, you could explain to them ‘why us’, but you shouldn’t have to. The customer should know why to choose you because of the message conveyed on your website. If your website has unique, quality content and your pricing is fair, there shouldn’t be a reason why they WOULDN’T choose you, right? Right!

5. Thank Your Customers & Sales Follow Up

  • Real World Example – Any true sales professional will thank you for your purchase and provide you with after sales support. They’ll generally introduce you to a service department where you can receive support for your product if applicable. The real masters even provide follow up phone calls to ensure the product/service is satisfactory and alert you of upcoming specials to turn you into a customer for life.
  • Online Example – Ever received an online survey in your email? “Let us know how we’re doing to enter a draw for a $25 dollar gift card”, right? How is an online sales experience any different than that of a retail environment. Sure you’re dealing with a computer instead of a human, but aren’t you entitled to the same level of service? While different I know, the same rules apply. Look after your customers, keep them informed of specials and promotions and stay in touch. Companies that focus on support AFTER the sale are the companies of the future, and remember, customers remember the little things.