Does selling online strike fear into your soul? You'll be branded as smarmy, sleazy and will suffer a fate worse than death, right? Wrong. The reason we loathe the idea of 'selling' to people is because we hate being 'sold' to, ourselves. Yet we all love buying.
So let's view online selling with our "buyer hat" on instead of our "seller hat." This way we can emulate all the factors that make us love to buy. Here are 7 tried and tested golden rules:
1. Be generous (especially before the sale)
We buy from people we know, like and trust, and the number one way to earn this trust is to be generous and deliver value long before any sale ever takes place. You can do this effectively with great content marketing like sharing helpful tips on a blog, publishing e-books or sharing photos and building an audience on social media.
When you establish trust and deliver value before asking someone to pull out their credit card you lay a solid foundation for when you do decide to make a commercial offer.
2. Email is the best way to sell
In marketing and social media circles, it's no secret that email marketing is what sells. Forget social media. Yep you heard me correctly; social media is great for networking, strengthening relationships and growing your profile, but it's lousy for closing sales. It's like selling your wares at a birthday party — it's ineffective and usually inappropriate (even though some people still do it!)
Whether you are selling physical products, information or even services, emailing your subscribers with a sales offer is going to get you your best results - hands down. In my experience I've had 20x to 100x better results with email marketing than by making that same offer on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. This email sales copy template will provide a proven framework that you can use.
Let me also share two really 'pro tips'. The first is to send text-only emails (just like you would normally send in Gmail or Outlook). And secondly, send a one or two line follow up email to people who clicked through to your sales page, but didn't end up buying. They may simply have been distracted but are still interested, so if you send a gentle reminder email to them a few days later, you'll find that many still decide to buy.
3. Ask for the sale
Asking for the sale may seem obvious, but it's often overlooked. I've heard people say they are making no money from their blog or website… and there is nothing to buy. Or maybe there is a Buy Now page but they've never promoted that page. Madness.
Remember to promote your offers and ask for the sale. If you genuinely believe in the positive impact that your product or service will have on your customers, then you are actually doing people a disservice if you don't invite them to buy it!
4. Don't become a crazy salesman
When you ask for the sale, which is usually a combination of an email offer and a landing page where your offer can be purchased, keep your selling voice consistent with your normal voice.
You know how when people write their regular emails and blogs they are helpful, conversational, and friendly… but when they have something to sell they become a crazy person? You've seen the big red font, the screaming CAPITALS, yellow highlighter and excessive exclamation marks!
The transformation is horrifying and it repels your buyers, so stay true to your normal way of communicating. Also remember that you're in this game for the long term, so if people aren't ready to buy today, that's OK. Please don't apply the high-pressure, guilt-inducing, hard sell or you'll also scare off your customers.
5. Offer peace of mind (that means, you take on the risk)
People have been scarred by bad online experiences and are justifiably sceptical when it comes to buying from you. Therefore you really need to help put their mind at ease that you are reputable and trustworthy, and the best way to do this is to offer a guarantee.
For example, one of the most successful online stores on the web, Zappos offers a free 365 day return policy. Even if you just change your mind and even if you've worn the item. It's helped them become a billion dollar company.
But what if people abuse the system...? Well there will always be a few bad eggs out there who might try to cheat the system but they're not the sort of people you want anyway and they are in the tiny minority. Most people are honest, and if you deliver a great product at a price-point that delivers plenty of value for the customer, then they will be thrilled. They'll buy from you again and again, and they'll tell their friends. Focus on these customers, rather than getting too concerned about the handful of bad eggs.
By the way one little known fact about Zappos is that if you abuse their returns policy you're not allowed to buy from them again. For example, if you bought a pair a runners, wore them for 360 days and then sent them back, you'd get a full refund, no questions asked, but you'd be blacklisted from being a customer again. You could implement something similar.
6. Make it really easy to buy on your website
Don't drop the ball once you've earned their trust, made your offer and asked for the sale….! Test that your buttons work, that the checkout process is smooth, that your payment facility works and that your customer gets a tax receipt. We often overlook this testing step as we get caught up in the excitement of sending out our sales offers.
If you want to make effortless online sales for a long, long time to come, then the best way is to over-deliver on your promise so your customers keep coming back for more. Simply ensure you deliver way more value than the price you charge, and you'll have customers for life!
Adam Franklin is the co-author of Web Marketing That Works, a social media speaker and co-founder of Bluewire Media. You can download 33 free marketing templates from his book. Follow Adam on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.