Can you sell more online with real people?

Shoppers at checkoutBusiness owners want to reduce costs and make their businesses more efficient. That is understandable because it leads to increased profits. So, it is easy to see why so many firms want to sell online. It can be automated and can cut out a whole layer of sales staff, further raising profitability.

However, there is a problem with that theory. The notion of being able to automate sales online misses out one vital ingredient; the fact is human beings prefer to buy from another person, not a website.

Even though there are billions of pounds worth of sales online, they represent only around 5% of all sales. In other words, 95% of what we buy as consumers or businesses takes place in the “real world” not online. With e-commerce being possible for over 20 years now, and online selling only being able to grab 5% of that potential in all that time it suggests that real world buying is something people prefer.

Now, new research suggests that you can sell more online if you include real salespeople in the mix somehow. The study was only looking at the business-to-business arena, but it demonstrated that in many situations the most important factor in selling was the real world contact with a real human being. The websites of the businesses studied only went so far in helping sales. It was the presentation from a sales person that was the clincher.

Chart showing sales impact of real people

What the study showed was that when the purchase was merely transactional and that there was no need to check with anyone else in the office, then the impact of a sales person was small. However, for other kinds of sales, where consideration was required, where the customer needed to understand what was on offer and where other people needed to be involved in the decision-making, then the impact of the web was lower.

The research implies that the kind of website you produce should take into account the type of buyer behaviour which exists beyond the web. Do your customers need educating? Do your buyers need to check with other people, perhaps discuss it with their colleagues? In such instances, trying to automate online selling will only reduce your sales potential. Instead, it looks as though adding in “real people” to your website is going to improve sales.

You can include “click to call” buttons for individual sales people, for instance. Or you could use personal Twitter and LinkedIn buttons to promote engagement with individuals, rather than the business as a whole. You could also include “live chat” facilities with the option to speak to specific individuals within the company. The more you can connect your potential buyers with real salespeople, the more likely it is that you well sell more online.

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