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Entireweb Newsletter   *   February 8, 2007   *   ISSUE #308
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Increase Conversion with Situational Selling

When you walk into a sporting goods store, does the salesperson immediately assume that you play hockey? Of course not. In fact, he'd probably never make a sale if he greeted every customer with "Hi! We've got some great ice skates in just your size. Would you like to see a pair?"

On the other hand, the one-size-fits-all sales pitch -- "Hello, may I help you?" -- doesn't exactly entice shoppers to break out the old wallet either.

Instead, the really good salespeople are trained to discover details about the customer before trying to pitch a particular item. A question like, "Hi, how are you? What sport do you play?" is a great opening line. It gets the customer to focus on a general topic, and then persuades him or her to narrow down the choices. And a focused customer is a buyer, not a browser.

What does this have to do with your online sales? Plenty. Especially if you'd like to increase your conversion by 50 percent or more.

You see, if you focus just on increasing traffic without increasing your profit per visitor, well, you're missing out on more money. Or more e-mail opt-ins. Or whatever it is that you do to monetize your site. Fewer clicks and more sales should always be the goal. You'll improve those two metrics when your site successfully gets visitors to focus right away on the homepage and then proceed directly to checkout.

That's where the "situational sell" can be your super-cybersalesperson. On a website, you can give visitors a few choices that best describe their situation, and entice them to click on the description that puts them into a specific segment of the market.

The situational sell is a way to pitch products and information strictly from the customer's point of view. If you're selling sports merchandise online, you would want to get customers to click on their favorite team right away, and then choose the item they want to buy. After all, a New York Yankees fan isn't interested in looking at merchandise from the Arizona Cardinals. If you're selling real estate, you could ask visitors if they're buying a starter home, a vacation home, or just looking to remortgage an existing home. Think of the situational sell as pre-qualifying your visitors, before they get a chance to wander aimlessly through your site. If you pre-qualify them, you can funnel them through the sales process a lot faster.

One traffic school website who tried this tactic ended up increasing its email opt-ins by a whopping 60 percent! How did they do it? Instead of simply listing the names of the courses it offers, the website asks visitors what type of driver they are, literally. On the site you'll see 3 boxes in a row in the main body area. Each box contains a unique headline, a photo to illustrate the idea, and a description of services within the category.

Box #1 contains the headline "New Driver?" and includes a picture of teenagers laughing and hanging out in a school parking lot. Box #2 carries the headline "Too Many Tickets?" and includes a picture of a driver getting a ticket. Finally, Box #3 has the headline "Trying to pass the state exam?" along with a picture of a recent immigrant holding paperwork.

Under the headlines, a series of links appear. This is also a great place to include your top-tier keywords. Once a visitor clicks on one of those links, he or she is guided to a page specifically geared to sell products or services to their demographic.

The beauty in setting up a 'situational sell' website is that it's a very flexible way to market one type of product to a wide selection of site visitors.

If you're selling e-books or informational products, there will be different features or advantages that you'll want to highlight, depending on the visitor. By segmenting your visitors first on your homepage, you can funnel them to specialized pitches.

The situational sell sounds logical because it is logical. But in the day-to-day minutia of maintaining a website, the big details sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Take a fresh look at your homepage and give your visitors a fresh perspective. Try the situational sell. It will make your visitors comfortable, they'll feel as if you already understand their point of view, and you'll most likely be rewarded with higher conversions.

About the Author: Diane Metz writes about website marketing and development. She offers free, unique content to select websites. Her companies include Crown CD Manufacturing, which specializes in CD duplication and CD replication, for marketing, music, promotions and software.

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