If you ask most companies what their greatest sales asset is, they’ll probably respond “our sales team.” After all, they are the folks tirelessly hunting down promising leads, answering emails as soon as they hit the inbox, deftly persuading prospects to take the next step, and making an all-around commitment to their pipeline.
But what if this wasn’t the whole story? Maybe there’s another element to the sales process that gets systematically overlooked…I’m thinking of the company website.
Sure, the website is often acknowledged as the first touchpoint between a prospect and your business. Informative, ergonomic and enticing, your website is key to drawing in leads for sure – but has anyone ever really thought of it as a complete salesperson?
We decided to go through this exercise, anthropomorphizing our dear www.IKO-System.com to compare it to a flesh-and-blood IKO SDR (Sales Development Representative). We hoped this might give us some insight as to how well our website was performing and if there was any room for improvement.
Your website as your Salesperson
The first thing we realized is, though they may have the same responsibilities (winning new clients!), when compared to a real SDR, the website is at a bit of a disadvantage. Think about it – your website doesn’t get on the phone or in a meeting room. They’re more like a speaker on stage at a conference. During a conference, attendees are not obliged to sit down and listen. They are free to leave at any time they wish. This means your site has to be that much more convincing in order to get prospects to stick around.
So, first, sales reps have to adapt their speech to the right audience. Your website’s goal is to sell “the next step”. And the next step is to strike a chord such that visitors fill a “contact form” or “trial ask form”.
Let’s evaluate our website the same way we evaluate our Sales Reps
How do you evaluate your SDRs’ performance? You might have various metrics, but the key ones are probably:
- How many conversations do they have?
- How good are they at creating value/interest in their conversations?
- How good are they at converting prospects to the next step (deal)?
Our “e-salesrep” is evaluated in much the same way. We look at:
- The volume of visitors (new or returning). This can be seen as akin to the number of conversations an SDR has.
- The quality of the conversations? Bounce rate and drop-off rates.
- Conversion rate? Well… conversion rate from prospect to sales-ready lead.
As a B2B SaaS vendor, we sell our prospecting software to CEOs, CMOs, and Sales VPs in Western Europe and in targeted industries. While our website “has conversations” with over 3,500 new people (i.e. new visitors) a month, we have to consider the target market.
We might be tempted to concentrate our marketing efforts solely on boosting the number of overall visitors to our site, but we should be careful not to focus too much on these “vanity metrics”. This is the same idea with our flesh-and-blood SDRS: you want them to talk to targeted buyer personas, and not just anyone. If the scope of your speech (i.e. web content) is too broad, you might chat with people of no value for your sales cycle.
How good are our web-conversations?
Looking at the number of returning visitors figure is a good way to estimate the quality of our conversations. For IKO System, our rate is at 40% of our traffic. This means that 40% of our new audience is intrigued enough to come back and dig deeper.
Checking out the bounce rate (i.e. number of visitors leaving the room as soon as the speaker starts talking) is an even better way to measure interest. Our bounce rate sits at around 23%.
Bounce rate answers two questions:
- Is the speaker good looking and introducing him/herself well? (We’re on the home page in general).
- Is our audience targeted enough to get interested in our topic?
If your bounce rate is at 50% or higher, think about how you attracted your audience here, the focus of the audience role and the scope of your topic.
Drop-off rates are the very best metrics to evaluate the quality of your web conversations. Unfortunately, very few marketers use them. Drop-off rates show which content makes visitors stay in (or leave) the room in regard to the previous messages they received.
Drop-off rates show which content makes visitors leave the room in regard to the previous messages they received.
Each time a visitor clicks, it’s as if they’re asking a question: “how does your technology work?”, “who are you?”, and “what’s the price?”
Getting the most out of your web representative
So now that you know what to measure regarding your “website sales rep”, how can you make sure they’re performing up to their highest potential? You can always suggest some questions for your leads to ask how you structure your navigation bar, the paths through your site and your choices of strategic calls to action…but you need to leave a certain minimum degree of autonomy to your audience. And we know that some questions are more sensitive than others.
Your pricing page is your most anxiety-provoking page, just before your contact form (the ultimate act of commitment). So we choose to zoom in on these high-sensitivity steps to understand if our web-salesrep delivers the most efficient and logical language to create interest, maintain momentum and build enough trust to sell the “next step”.
People buy with emotions + logic: here is the proof!
We know people buy with emotions (that originate in what’s called “the lizard brain”) and then look for logical reasons to back up these emotion-driven decisions. By logically making a link between your product and your prospect’s needs, your sales rep can help prospects discover a logically justifiable reason to buy your product – but only if they stay in the room and accept your speech.
Sensitive web pages like your pricing page could make your web visitors a little more anxious than they would be when visiting other pages. This anxiety, (“we could never afford this,” “how could I justify this expense to my boss?”) might possibly lead them to leave your site abruptly. Tracking the drop off rate from “top-anxiety” pages is a way to measure and evaluate your prospects’ emotion-based actions while visiting your website.
When people interrupt your sales rep to ask for pricing up front, you know they probably aren’t clear on something, or perhaps don’t accept your story. 59% of visitors that start their journey with the pricing page were found to have left immediately.
59% of visitors that started their journey with the pricing page were found to have left immediately.
Calm visitors who took the time to learn the logic behind our solution left at a significantly lower rate of 25%. I call one group “skittish” leads and the other “drive me in” leads.
Skittish Prospects: Don’t talk about price too early!!
When our story resonates with prospects, they’re comfortable leaving their business card, (i.e. filling out a form). This act is a sign of commitment depending on the form’s length and purpose (from downloading an eBook to requesting a live touch). As of now, 20% of our new visitors leave us their name. This can be seen as a ridiculously high figure (5% is considered a good rate in B2B) but it shouldn’t be analysed in isolation. Volume, focus, form style, and visitor paths all influence this conversion rate.
20% of leads ‘leave their business card’.
You might be interested to know that we actually don’t privilege contact forms that ask prospects to get directly in touch with a sales rep. Sound strange? We’re working from past experience – we found that most prospects need 153 days from their first touch until they’re mature enough to talk to a salesperson. Some can be faster but all require multiple digital touches (i.e. nurturing content) before investing their energy into our sales cycle. Moral of the story? It’s better to start off with a business card and slowly nurture and educate a prospect than going right for the credit card and getting burned.
By studying the drop-off rates of new versus returning visitors on our website, we now know that the likelihood of new visitors filling a “sales contact” form before they view their 3rd page on the website can be up to 28%.
As a B2B SaaS solution, our website should be just as effective at closing deals as a real live sales rep. We’ve seen the strength of creating a ‘“journey” through our website, a logical path through which we address the why (i.e. pain), the what (solution) and the how (technology, pricing) of our offer. In order to decrease buyer anxiety, we decided to decrease pricing page emphasis (making it less easy to find and de-indexing it from search engines). We also discovered that content kills direct conversions; after a certain point, the more people read description pages of the solution people read, the less eager they are to ask for a live touch. In a nutshell, they get bored. The way we plan to deal with this insight is by adding dynamic call-to-actions based on visitor behaviour.
We still have lots of promising analyses to run, especially to uncover persona-specific behaviours.
Stay tuned for our next article on this.