The Five-Letter Dirty Word

I was wondering… Could you do me a favor?

It involves a simple five-letter word we all use: “sales.” Many people confuse its meaning, and when they hear the word “sales” or “salesperson,” they get an image of a slick, aggressive, fast-talking person trying to push something of dubious value. But we know that’s just a caricature…

So I’d appreciate it if you would help me try to figure out what sales really is. Is it these?

  1. Exchanging currency for product or services

  2. Exchanging personal information for entry into a sweepstakes
  3. Opting in to a newsletter
  4. Getting visitors to your site to register themselves
  5. Motivating your visitors to provide referrals
  6. Convincing your children they should clean their rooms
  7. Your children convincing you they should stay up 15 minutes longer
  8. Converting someone to your opinion about something
  9. Inspiring someone to get as enthusiastic about something as you are
  10. All of the above (and more)

If you answered “All of the above,” pat yourself on the back.

In all, sales is nothing more (or less) than the act of persuading your customers to take any action you have chosen.

Now let’s look at the word “persuasion.” Persuasion is a transactional process resulting in a change in beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors.

With the definition in place, let’s see if the choice of “All of the above” still holds true.

Was there some sort of transaction involved in each and every one? Sure! Everyone always understands the first choice listed, “the exchange of currency for product or services.” This is a transaction in which someone provides a product or service, and the receiving party responds with cash, credit, points, or some other type of compensation.

In the next several choices — exchanging personal information for entry into a sweepstakes, opting in to a newsletter, getting visitors to your site to register themselves, and motivating your visitors to provide referrals — we have engaged our visitors into a transaction in which they have given something of value to you (their personal information) in return for something of value to them. The value could be the chance to win a vacation, getting great information from your newsletter on a regular basis, gaining access to a “members only” area, or getting the good feeling of sharing a positive experience with a friend.

Do I really need to explain to you why kids are the world’s greatest salespeople? They are singularly focused on what they want, they are obscenely persistent in their efforts, and they just won’t take “No” for an answer!

And what about converting opinions and transferring enthusiasm? Isn’t that, in the end, exactly what you’re trying to do?

OK, so what does this all mean to your business? Quite simply, whenever you are trying to get your visitors to engage in any type of transaction where there is an exchange of value, you are trying to persuade them. Whether you use the five-letter word or not, what you are doing is “sales.”

Armed with this knowledge, go back to your site. Identify the “selling” that should be going on. What are the transactions you seek? What value is being exchanged? You should find multiple examples. Whether your site is focused on consumers or businesses, whether you are offering commerce or content, whether it is for research or play — you have “sales” that you are trying to make.

Now that you’ve identified all the places where you are “selling,” you can begin to look at ways you can improve the effectiveness of the process. Any article in the ClickZ Digital Sales archive should help. Next, spend a few minutes identifying all the objections that someone might have to your “sale.” Answer those objections at the point of action (POA).

Put expert selling processes and POA together, and you’ll see your conversion rates soar. “Sales” just might become your favorite five-letter word.

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