Your website can be designed to do your sales work for you. To get started, you want to think through the sales process from your customer’s standpoint. What are the different steps that the customer progresses through?

On your website you need to sell a customer more or less the same way you would if you were selling offline. However, there are some important differences. Most of all, the Internet is less personal and visitors to your website can be much more fleeting. Your competition is just one click away, and most prospective customers will visit multiple websites.

Think of people visiting your website as your guests, not as a prospects. Think in terms of informing them on your website, not selling to them—and certainly not advertising to them.

Although there are many steps in the sales process you should address on your website, you do not need a large website. All of this can be done in one page for a small service business. In fact, a one-page website can often be preferable because it is easier to make a one-page website look great than it is for a multiple-page website; you don’t lose customers who decide not to click to another page; and it is easy for a prospective customer to move back and forth on the single page.

1. Build Traffic to Your Website

Blast your website name everywhere you can: in all your advertising, in your social media, on your business card, on your trucks, and anyplace else. Optimize your website design for relevant search engine results. Although there are many things you can do to increase your chances of showing up well in search engine results, the first thing to do is make sure you have several headlines on your web pages that include the keywords that you are targeting. (Check out my presentations on driving traffic to your website.)

2. Have a Compelling Website Design

A lot of visitors to a website will click away within a couple of seconds of landing there. To hold visitors long enough to seriously consider your website, and hence your company, your “first impression” should do the following. First, it should look professional and polished. This means a clean, crisp design that looks attractive. A mix of headlines, text, and at least one image is a good bet. Second, the website should look friendly. For example, just a lot of small text, even if it contains great material, is not a good idea. Third, the website needs to look relevant to what the prospect is looking for. Prospects should see instant confirmation that the website is relevant for the information they are seeking. If you are a local service business, prospects should clearly see that you service their area. Fourth, navigation should be easy. Prospects should be able to tell on the website where they can find the information they want.

3. Give 3 Reasons to Buy from You, Including Your “Unique Selling Proposition”

You don’t want to blast your prospects with lots of sales points and loud advertising-type messages, but you do want to deliver your unique selling proposition. This is the very short, single message that presents a particularly compelling, succinct, and easy-to-communicate reason why customers should choose you rather than your competition. Because this is your website, not a radio ad, you should consider delivering this in more of an informative tone, rather than a sales tone.

Beyond your unique selling proposition, you will typically want to focus on a couple of other reasons why they should do business with you rather than with your competitors. For some reason, people seem to feel more comfortable when they have at least three reasons to do something.

Then think of how you can “whisper” these reasons to customers and not shout them. Maybe you can present them more as editorial commentary in style. Particularly avoid loud, blaring headlines.

4. Build Your Authority

Especially when they are buying a product or service from a business they are not familiar with, people are always hesitant. They are especially hesitant when they are on the Internet. To offset this, you need to establish your authority.

You might want to include an expert advice article on the relevant topic, maybe even authored by yourself. Or you may want to cite your years in business. Or you may want to tout highlights from your professional biography. Maybe there are awards or recognitions you can mention, or media articles featuring your company that you can refer to.

Testimonials can also be important for establishing authority. Ideally, you will have some satisfied customers who will let you quote them on the website, perhaps without using their last name or their address.

5. Overcome Objections

We’ve all been taught from an early age to say “No. No. No.” and to be very careful before buying anything. Hence, it is human nature to find reasons not to buy something, or reasons not to buy something today. Sometimes these are great reasons; often they are not.

You should figure out what are the most common reasons that people do not buy a product or service from you. Then you should address these on your website. One way to address these objections is with a question and answer section. I’d keep it short, focusing on the few most common objections along with compelling but credible responses.

6. Offer a Guarantee or Free Return Policy

Among people’s most common objections to buying is they won’t like the product or service once they see it or use it, or they are afraid it won’t work as promised. These fears are multiplied when doing business on the Internet. This is why leading e-commerce firms have incredibly generous return policies.

7. Sell in Progressive Steps: Engage and Connect

Unless you are selling a really inexpensive impulse item, people generally want to proceed slowly when buying and not feel rushed. They typically want to review your offerings several times, on several different occasions. But this creates a huge problem for you because they are almost always going to visit your competitors’ websites, and maybe a lot of them.

Therefore, to succeed you need to both engage prospects and also connect with them. To engage them, you want to keep them on your website long enough to deliver your message in a way that makes a positive impression. To connect with them, you want to have some kind of interaction.

At the early browsing stage, prospects might not be ready to call you for a quote, for example, or even call or email you for additional information. Maybe they will provide you with their email, especially if you offer something in return. Commonly online businesses offer a free subscription to their online newsletter or additional free information, such as an industry survey or report.

Once you get the email from the customer, you at least want to send an automatic “thank you for your interest” type of response. If you have the time, you could consider sending a personalized but short note including your name or the name of another contact person. As long as you don’t try to sell hard in this process, you can help solidify the bond with the prospect and greatly increase your chances of getting to the next selling stage.

8. Get the Buy Signal

In most sales processes for all but routine purchases, there is some kind of intermediate step between solidifying interest and getting the order. It may simply be a request for more information, such as information unique to the prospect’s situation. Or it may involve getting a quote or an estimate. Sometimes it may be both steps: perhaps first getting more information and then later requesting a quote.

On your website you want to make prospects feel comfortable that they can go to these further steps without feeling that they are in any way committing or even creating a high expectation that they are necessarily going to buy. You can do this by saying “please call us or email us for more information.” But it is better to provide a form as well. You could even provide live texting, but few very small businesses do.

Similarly, if providing a quote or an estimate is part of your sales process, try to solicit that as well. I would say something such as “Please call and we would be happy to provide you with a free, no obligation quote.” Of course, people assume that the quote is free and that there is no obligation, but especially when dealing with consumers it helps to reassure them of this.

In addition, you should consider promising rapid response to requests for quotes, such as “Free quotes within 24 hours.” This will also make people more likely to respond.

9. Use “Exploding” Offers to Close the Sale

You’ve done everything right. You’ve taken prospects through all of the sequence of steps. They like your service or product. You are number one on their list at the moment. But still they are hesitant. It is not rational, but they are human. The problem is, if they don’t buy from you today, they might instead buy next month when they might be visiting your competitor’s website. What can you do?

You can offer some incentive to close the sale today. These are called “exploding” offers, as they have no value if not used right away. For example, if you provide quotes or estimates, at that time you could provide a small discount—or even better, a little extra service or gift—if the prospect commits to your offer within a short time period, such as 24 or 48 hours.

10. Seal the Deal

Sales concluded via the Internet, even with some email or other electronic communication or even phone communication, are more likely to get rescinded than deals that are done face-to-face. People by nature have “buyer’s remorse,” and when the sale isn’t made in person, it tends to happen more often.

The ways you try to overcome this to nicely thank customers for the sale. Then give them a clear path of next steps and keep them informed. Maybe you say the operations manager will contact them on Monday to schedule the work. Then on Monday at 9 a.m. the operations manager follows through and schedules the appointment. Similarly, if you are selling a product, keep your customers informed. Maybe this involves just telling them when it is expected to ship, when it has shipped, and what the tracking information is.

11. Follow Up Afterward

One of the most important steps and greatest opportunities happens right after the deal is done and the product or service is completed. First, you want to get the customers’ feedback—if they are pleased with your service or product, great. You thank them so much. Then you encourage referrals, ideally offering incentives.

If they are not pleased with your service or product, then you want them to tell you, not to blast it on social media websites. Is it something you can correct? Is it something you need to partially or fully refund? In this day and age of social media, you need to try hard to have satisfied customers. One happy customer may refer you to three friends, but a really unhappy customer may mention you to 300.

Then, finally, some time well after the sale, maybe three months later or at the next holiday time, you might want to check in again with your customers. Wish them well, perhaps send them a card or some little trinket, and keep your company fresh in their mind for a possible repeat sale if appropriate, or if not, then for possible referrals.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • You probably don’t need a fancy or large website.
  • Your website should look professional, attractive, and friendly.
  • You need to be able to take your prospects through each step of the sales process.