When Customers Want You to Close the Sale.

It has been suggested, often, that the Web is not an environment within which people like to receive a sales pitch.

This, as with many things, is both true and untrue. It is certainly true that the voice of commerce grates terribly online when it is misplaced.

When I am reading a news story online, I do not want to be interrupted by the offer of a trial subscription to an offline magazine. When I open my email, I do not want to receive messages from strangers who tell me I may have won a trip for 2 to Hawaii. And when I’m reading someone’s weblog, I do not want to be offered the opportunity to buy a t-shirt or baseball cap.

Beyond those areas where pitches are entirely unwelcome lies a gray area. In recent weeks, I have found myself to be in a curious position of conflict. I have written a soon-to-be-published book on the subject of writing copy online. I’m tempted to mention the book and insert links to Amazon.com etc when I write articles like this one. It makes sense. The ‘product’ matches the ‘audience’. But I feel uncomfortable about pushing the book in this way, because that’s not why people read my articles. I’d be hijacking your attention, having lured you thus far under false pretences.

I know, just by mentioning the book, I’m guilty of inserting a sales pitch in this article. And yes, if I were that concerned, I wouldn’t have even brought up the subject. But, to be honest, I am unsure as to where the ‘line’ lies. There is a broad gray area between where selling is unwelcome and where it becomes very welcome. You’d think I’d know where that line lay by now, but I don’t. And in some ways, I like the fact that I don’t. It speaks to the continuing complexity of how companies and individuals co-exist online.

However, beyond the gray area, there are times when your prospects and customers positively want to be pitched. And they want you to close that sale.

Right now, I’m in the market for a remote control device that can advance my presentation slides when I’m giving a speech or holding a seminar. I like to be able to advance from one slide to the next, without having to stand by my laptop, pressing buttons. A radio frequency remote would give me the freedom to walk around a bit.

So I went to Google and searched around a bit. Finally, I found a site called MindPath.com. I think they have what I want, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been to their site a number of times, but have yet to make a purchase.

The problem? The problem is that they are not giving me enough information, and they are not making their product sound good enough to be worth the price.

In truth, they are probably giving me all the facts that I really and truly need to know. But as a potential consumer of their products, I want more. I have never purchased one of these gizmos before and I’m a little afraid of making a mistake. I want some reassurance. I’d like to read some testimonials from other speakers who use these devices. I want to hear how useful they have found them to be. I want to be made to feel good about taking the plunge and entering in my credit card number. I’d love it if they sweetened the deal a little. Maybe offer me a free carrying case, or some kind of discount, or free shipping.

In short, I want to buy one of their products, but they are losing the sale through being too passive. I want that device. I want them to sell a little harder.

Does my wavering in this way, in search of that final nudge forward, make me unusual as a customer? I don’t think so. I think I am very typical in this regard.

There are hundreds of thousands or even millions of other people who come to the Web in search of something that they really want to buy – only to end up disappointed. In many cases, perhaps the majority of cases, the sites that carry the products are services in question simply failed to make the sale.

And that sale is frequently lost because the copy on that site does nothing to enthusiastically and thoroughly sell the product or service in question.

So while there may be times and places online where it is entirely inappropriate to pitch a sale, and there may also be a broad gray area, don’t fail your business at those times when your visitors want to hear a hard sell.

Identify those places on your site and in your emails where a strong sales pitch is called for, and take a hard look at the copy.

Is that copy selling hard enough? Or is it disappointing your visitors?

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.