Online and offline sales are as far from one another as heaven and earth. However, that doesn’t mean you should focus solely on one of them. As experience shows, a business can’t sell online alone if it wants to grow and prosper. Sales can come in different shapes and forms, and it’s a mistake to underestimate traditional business formats as a source of clients. The main thing here is to remember that online and offline business has to be reached in different ways. So how exactly do you do this?
Online vs Offline
Some people prefer SEM, SEO, blogs and vlogs, social media and other online channels to establish a communication with their brand’s audience and convince them to buy. Others consider face to face business meetings with the accompanying elements such as handshakes, eye contact and personal conversation the best way to sell. Look at these two categories as you would at your potential clients. Their buying motives and habits are totally different, and therefore so too should be your ways of selling. Look at these client personas:
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What’s the difference?
They are absolutely different, in each and every point. Except one. You are the factor that unites them, and your desire to sell them your product or service. It’s up to you to find an individual approach that suits both of them in order to successfully close the deals.
Let me show you what to focus on while preparing for successful campaigns in both cases. Let’s take it step by step; from setting up a contact to closing the deal. Why step on the same rake when you can use the experience of someone who’s already done that, and avoid basic mistakes? Check the selling guide below:
1. Establishing contact
Setting up contact is one of the toughest, but most important steps in the customer acquisition process. Let’s take cold email as an example.
Regardless of whether your prospect is a top manager in a big company or a startup CEO, be honest and get straight to the point - explain exactly what’s in it for them. Usually, people have no time to analyses what the real reason for your email was. Be it online or offline business, be straightforward enough so no guesswork is required by the recipient..
Don’t spoil everything at the very beginning. Not sure whether to start your email with “Dear Sir” or “Hey there”?
I doubt it will come as a surprise for you to hear that it’s best to stick to formal language when contacting offline businesses. The person you’re writing to is tired too, and the last thing he or she would like to do is work out the meaning behind a message that is written in a style he or she isn’t used to.
In contrast, informal language is commonplace when contacting start uppers. Just don’t go too far! After all, you’re talking to a potential customer, not your buddy.
2. Decision making
If you’re a half-decent salesperson, chances are you’ll know pretty well that approaching the decision maker is half the success. Make sure the person you’re planning to meet personally or online is the right employee who has actual buying authority. It’s quite hard to make it through the whole managerial structure of a big company to arrange a meeting with someone.
It’s important to note that the easiness of contacting a startup CEO, compared to a major company department director, is a delusion. Though very active online, young starters are very busy and unlikely to have personal contact with anyone outside of their inner circle. Don’t waste your time and effort targeting the wrong person. Don’t fail the sale. Check every contact before using it. You can do this by yourself. It’s time-consuming, but necessary. A more efficient alternative is to use a trustworthy business database platform, which provides comprehensive company and employee’s information, including humanly-verified direct emails, phone numbers and positions. This dataset is the best way to quickly identify the decision makers and reach them directly.
3. Formal or informal style?
So, the meeting is arranged. It’s time to think about first impressions - don’t underestimate the importance of appearance. Are you visiting a major production offline company? Clearly, you’ll need to dress accordingly to look the part. In business, especially more traditional types, the way you look says a lot about you. As the old adage goes, you’ll never have a second chance to make the first impression. A jacket and shirt are required to look like a professional salesman in this kind of situation. The jacket is a universal garment. You can lose it when meeting a CEO of a startup and change the shirt for a T-shirt. It’s entirely possible that he or she will be dressed like a teenager or a hipster, but you’re still there to discuss business.
4. Be concise, cut to the chase
Everyone’s always in a hurry - this is a fact of our time. Try to keep it short and get straight to the point. Most of the online conversations are abbreviated; tl (too long) and dr (didn’t read) are the most common reactions to a long email, for example. Do what is expected of you by your prospects: fit the maximum amount of information about your product into the minimum amount of content. An offline meeting in a major company involves a certain procedure and compliance with the business protocol adopted by the company. Even if you can skip the “Sir” when addressing the director and top managers, you should wait for a cue from them before doing so. The same goes for the handshake. You should use the official language, but don’t be too stiff or your prospects won’t feel able to relax.
5. Be ready to meet the doubt
You’re lucky if you’re representing a big stable company, because people managing a big offline budget are generally quite suspicious about young startups. It’s quite hard for them to trust unstable businesses, as the startups are commonly perceived, and, let’s be honest, often are. Be prepared for the suspicion and do your best to prove they can trust you. A list of current customers, some testimonials or real investors’ names are likely to help. Even if you managed to charm them with the novelty and freshness of your high-tech product, make sure that their initial interest has modified into a purchase intention.
On the other hand, being a startup representative will score you points when speaking to a startup CEO. You’re on the same page and will soon find common ground to cover. They love to work with other young entrepreneurs, and are usually eager to provide feedback. The communication will most probably be smooth, but it won’t be about big money.
6. Be prepared for a long sales process.
It should be expected that the big offline companies typically have a complicated decision-making process. Your offer normally has to be approved by the superior and maybe several others. The sales journey can take a long time.
However, you shouldn’t expect to be able to make a deal with a startup much quicker. It’s typical for the online businesses to have a democratic decision-making process. Be prepared that your offer will probably need to be considered by a large number of people, most likely the whole team, and everyone will have his or her own opinion and objections. Try to foresee some of them and use the arguments directly in your offer. You’re a start upper too, after all, and therefore aware of most of their concerns.
7. Provide a trial
Each of the above mentioned groups’ representatives has his or her own concerns regarding your product. A top manager won’t tolerate minor mistakes, expecting a brilliant product for his money. It would save the nerves of both sides. The young online businessman has to be sure your service is actually useful to him. His budget is limited and he can’t afford mistakes in spending it. You can win him over by offering a free trial.
8. Afford different payment methods
A startups’ income is an unstable value. They'd appreciate the possibility to split the payment into smaller sums, which would prove beneficial for both of you. It means more manageable expenses for them, and stable monthly revenue for you. Unlike startups, offline companies prefer one-time payments due to the complicated internal procedures of money transfers. The best offer for them is a full, single price for the whole service. In case your product or service requires recurring payments, consider a special offer for yearly payment and a discount for prepayment. This little gesture will be appreciated and bring you good dividends.
To sum up
The difference between online and offline clients is huge. They have a different focus, buying patterns, and way of perceiving offers. The only thing they have in common is that your product could satisfy their needs and it’s up to you to demonstrate this. Regardless of which of the business worlds you belong to, all that really matters is human interaction, emotions you can cause in your prospects minds and their experience with you. Keeping that in mind you can make a deal with either a major company top manager or a startup CEO.
After all, people, be they big bosses or usual employees, prefer to buy from those they like and trust.