No Such Thing as a Digital Salesperson?

“Our sale can only be made by a salesperson, not on a Web site!”

He stated it so emphatically that it rang true — at least to him. I was speaking with an executive from a software and services company who offers enterprise solutions. I offered some observations to aid him in framing his position more effectively. After all, if he insists on making a ludicrous statement, it seems gentlemanly to help couch it in terms that would help him pass as informed during his next cocktail conversation.

Today, I’ll share my attempts to help this misguided soul.

They Won’t Be Looking for Information

A company has a need to fill, recognizes a problem,, or identifies an opportunity. People try to recall how your advertising says you can solve their problem. Or, they’ll ask friends and colleagues if they know who can fill their need. They may even consult the yellow pages.

They’d never think to look for your company on the Web. After all, companies only have Web sites to show to friends, enhance prestige, and increase IT expenditure. “Everyone has a Web site, so I’ve got to have one, too,” goes the thinking. A Web site makes you appear up to date, even hip. Rarely will anyone ever actually see the site. It’s like a novelty T-shirt you wear under two layers of clothing.

Needle in a Haystack

Even if prospects search the Web for alternatives, they may never find your site. A Web site is a needle in a haystack, isn’t it? If prospects don’t know your URL when they start, how would they ever find you in the wide ocean of porn, sports scores, and spam that make up the Web?

If somehow they do find your site, it’s impossible for a it to qualify a visitor’s need well enough to present the right information. It’s nothing more than an electronic brochure, right? Only a salesperson can properly qualify a prospect and deliver the right information at the right time, the way prospects want it. A properly trained salesperson can discern prospect personalities and speak to them in their language.

Humans Perform as Expected; Why a Web Site?

A salesperson can develop a presentation that explains and answers everything prospects are curious about. Prospects never need to visit your site. They won’t need any reassurance. The in-depth presentation prepared by the well-trained salesperson answers all their concerns and leaves no stone unturned. That’s something a Web site could never do!

Once they receive your information, prospects understand everything. They’ll perfectly recall and explain it to their colleagues and managers. They require no supplemental information as the presentation was riveting and scintillating. Their colleagues will never go to your site to learn more, because the prospects explained everything exactly the way the salesperson did.

Even if your site tries to answer questions with a hyperlink, it’s unlikely anyone will click. Who has the time? Who wants to get carpal tunnel syndrome surfing some company’s Web site?

If you knew the order of the questions prospects asked, you could come up with a bleeding-edge Flash presentation. Or, you could line up the answers so prospects wouldn’t have to search for them. The site would provide answers as they think of questions. Yet that would be impossible.

A question remains: Is there any need for a Web site? Certainly. Your competitors have one. Everything they do is so brilliant, you must have one, too.

People Remember Everything Salespeople Present

After your salesperson finishes the presentation, prospects won’t seek a competitor’s Web site. They see no value in what a competing Web site can teach them. After all, only a live person can provide all the in-depth answers.

A Web site could never be a digital salesperson and replace a real person. Something so lifeless as a Web site can’t beat a live person’s communication skills. A live person flawlessly duplicates the presentation with all the nuances and subtleties. All the different questions prospects may ask are answered the same way every time. These answers are always at the salesperson’s fingertips.

Can a Web Site Lose Sales?

Say a Web site alone can’t make a sale. Can a Web site help you lose a sale? Think through your entire sales process. Reconsider all your customers’ needs before you answer. After all, some companies seem to want their Web sites to be up and running in the worst way possible.

If you believe a Web site won’t make your sales, then I’m sure you’ll be right. How could I argue?

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