I know that a business's website is one of the most powerful sales tools a small business can have, but I've never thought of a website as a salesperson until now. Do it yourself and you might start looking at websites differently.
If you think of your website as a salesperson, you'll begin to think of it as more than just a glorified brochure. You'll even want it to be better designed, since you probably want your sales reps to look good.
To help develop your website into a salesperson, Local Na8ion asks these four questions:
1. Does your website know everything about your business that it should?
2. Do you measure your website's success (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually)?
3. Do you offer your website "training" on your business fundamentals, new trends or economic changes in your local market or in the national business climate for your industry?
4. Does your website have all your current products, services and pricing?
You would never send a sales representative to prospective clients without ensuring he or she had all the needed information, so your informational expectations of the website should be no different.
If you are selling a line of women's handbags and scarves in person, for example, it would make sense to describe the fabric and the show the bags from all angles, detailing which scarves are machine washable and which scarves are not. The same sales routine applies to your website.
Sales representatives also educate themselves about their clients, so they spend a lot of time listening to the customer's needs and concerns before selling a product or service. The same applies to your website.
While building your website, keep in mind an overall profile of your customers. Be prepared to update your website as your customer base evolves. For example, if you are selling to an older audience, it wouldn't be a great idea to have text with very small characters (hard to read as you get older) and a confusing (what young people might call cool) layout.
In "10 Web Site Musts," I offer 10 steps for building a business class website that will help you to make sure your most important "salesperson" has the skills to pitch your audience the right way.
In the same way you would expect your salespersons to gain new skills and new sales tools from year to year, the expectations of your website should progress with time. The salesperson of 1980 might have carried around a bag of product samples, but today's salesperson should carry around some initial inventory on a notebook computer and provide a DVD to potential customers.
You could even consider adding an avatar to your site to add a more "human dimension" to it. The avatar could greet customers, ask questions and direct customers to areas of the site they might be interested in. SitePal is a company that offers this kind of technology.
Giving your website a boost of intelligence and enabling your human sales reps to know when prospects are on your website and what web pages they've visited, can also provide insight. Genius.com offers these sales intelligence tools to add to your website.
Ensuring you can communicate to your audience, that they can communicate with you and that your audience can communicate with each other is important and is what Web 2.0 communication is all about. A blog is the best way to start this. Word Press, Movable Type, Type Pad and Blogger are all options to start marketing and selling through a blog.
Remember your website is probably one of your best--if not the best--sales assets you have. If nurtured and taken care of, it will boost your sales and grow your business, just like a human salesperson.
Ramon Ray is Entrepreneur.com's "Tech Basics" columnist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com. He's the author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses and currently serves on the board of directors and the technology committee for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.