In my marketing work with clients, I specialize in helping great businesses that are already bringing in a million dollars or more in sales. These businesses all shared a problem that year this came sharply into focus. 

The problem

Their sales success has been 100% offline. They’ve built a successful business on referrals, direct calling, a few big clients, in-person networking/business development, or some other slow but study organic growth process. These and other offline channels dominate service industries, from coaching to financial planning to contracting and any other number of businesses.

Why is offline sales success a problem? It doesn’t scale well. It is often overly dependent on personal relationships, geography, and repeat business. So, almost inevitably, these businesses hit a wall on their growth (or a pandemic slams the door shut on them), and they can’t muscle through it.

Attempt #1

Worse yet, they’ve never needed to develop and improve an online sales strategy. First, they try it themselves, and that doesn’t work. They end up with a site just to say they have one. The site is ugly and unclear and drives zero sales for the business. The final result is their idea that online sales won’t work for their industry is reinforced.

Attempt #2

After a while, they realize, maybe they didn’t execute well. The ugly site is getting pretty old. Maybe they should give online sales another shot. Having learned their lesson, they hire a professional designer. After a few thousand dollars and a few weeks’ work, they end up with a beautiful site. And then the sales come flowing in, right? Wrong! Instead, they end up with nothing but a pretty website, a lighter wallet, and no sales. Now they know and have proof that online sales won’t work for their business or their industry.

The result

It’s a bittersweet finding. Sweet, because they knew the whole online sales stuff was smoke, mirrors, and clever marketing but no real substance. Bitter because they are back to square one. They’ve tried local advertising, hiring new sales reps, calling on past clients, changing their pricing, but while there are some bright sparks, nothing is moving the needle.

They want to grow, but they don’t know how to do it.

The reason

Online sales never worked for them has little to do with their industry, and everything to do with their (and their designer’s) execution. They mistook online sales for a creative website, but that’s like saying all we need to do to sell offline is to buy business cards. 

They fail to sell online because they fail to develop a process to sell online.

The solution

That’s why my work is so valuable and effective for them. Rather than building pretty websites, I help these already successful businesses grow faster than ever by designing a full marketing and sales process that works. It works because it is based on timeless principles, incorporates best practices, and builds upon their proven success offline.

This is a lot to cover in a single article. I’ve added links to several articles at the bottom that address the what and how of creating an online sales funnel. Here, I want to focus on the why behind all of this and the mindset you need before adding online sales to your sales toolkit.

The three whys

Why #1: Scalability

Scalability is the most exciting to me of the three whys. A powerful online sales system is just that, a system. It’s a set of technologies and processes that you’ve engineered and can continue to optimize for peak performance. Contrast this with the make it up as you go approach that adequately describes most sales activities, and it is easy to see the advantages.

  • By leveraging technology, you can dramatically increase exposure to more clients and automate many rote tasks that keep sales reps from selling.
  • Blowing away geographical barriers, you can open your sales activities as wide as your operational capabilities. For knowledge work, video conferencing is here to stay. For physical work, I still find developing sales relationships offline to be more geographically sensitive. If you sell something just out of reach, I’d be willing to bet you’ll find a way to make it happen. You’ll often find it doesn’t take much to go further. You just never had enough of a reason to figure it out.
  • It is easier to measure because it is a process, allowing you to identify what is working and what isn’t. Working through and defining the process shines a light on all of this, which will enable you to reproduce and improve it.
  • Since we are scripting out many of the conversations and mapping out lead acquisition and follow-up, there is less guesswork for the sales rep. This means it is easier for your great reps to sell more, and it is a lot easier for your new reps to get up to speed quickly.

Why #2: Predictability

Predictability is like the golden goose of the sales world. The logistics needed to support all the downstream activities and variables that stem from an unpredictable sales process are staggering. Think about the number of decisions that need to be made about hiring, purchasing, scheduling, facilities, expansion, to name a few. Owners, CEOs, and management teams spend excessive time firefighting and solving problems that would go away if they could accurately predict their monthly, quarterly, and annual revenues.

Predictability would help you know when to expand, which sales performance issues are seasonal, permanent, or require action.

Why #3: Inevitability

The shift to online sales and lead-generation has been happening for a while. All the COVID pandemic did was highlight it and speed it up dramatically.

The shift to online sales and lead-generation has been happening for a while. All the COVID pandemic did was highlight it and speed it up dramatically. Click To Tweet

Even if you can get through the pandemic with nothing but your existing offline sales, how long do you think that will last?

Your customers are increasingly content with and dependent on digital communication. Your competitors are growing and are more likely to make the leap. As your customers’ desires and competitors’ strategies become increasingly aligned, what do you think that will do to your sales? And if you wait until you feel the loss in your offline sales, you will be so far behind in developing a strong offering online that you may never catch up.

This shift is inevitable. Why not take advantage of it now and make a move before it is too late?

The mindset

I’m going to wrap up with this. You need to stop using your past experiences of poor execution to justify the lie that online sales don’t work in your industry. You have to really buy into all three whys and go all in to make an online sales system work. Selling is hard work. If it were easy, someone would have done it already. 

You put in that hard work to design your current approach, and I’m sure you don’t regret it.

Now it’s time to put in that same hard work to develop a new approach to complement and supplement what is already working. It’s not a website. It’s a system, from start to close.

When you set out to build that system, you stand an infinitely higher likelihood of success. When you achieve that success, you’ll be so glad you put in the effort to make it happen, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you and your sales team can accomplish with the same resources.

The what and the how

Strategy

Websites

Lead generators

Email advertising

Messaging

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