woman packing a box for shipment
From retraining your sales staff to identifying the best places for selling your products online, there are several steps to take when pivoting your sales strategy. — Getty Images/svetikd

In the era of coronavirus and social distancing, it will be no surprise to hear many U.S. small businesses have either added an online sales component or transitioned fully from in-person to online sales. While online-focused sales are different, many of the same rules of persuasive in-person sales apply, and you still need to work hard to attract customers and convince them to follow through on their purchase.

Here are some tips on how to effectively switch from in-person to online sales.

Acquire sales software and tools

When it comes to moving to online sales, the first things you should invest in are tools to sell online. There are three primary types of tools you’ll want for selling:

  • A sales CRM that helps you track the sales process.
  • E-commerce software that can track your inventory and can facilitate transactions.
  • Communications software for talking to customers.

First, let’s talk about CRM (customer relationship management) software. Many companies including Salesforce, Hubspot, Zendesk and Zoho, all offer powerful CRM software that can help you track conversations with your potential and active customers. These tools let you know which salesperson is pursuing which leads and where those customers are in the sales funnel.

Second, if you’re selling products online that you once sold in-person, you’ll want smart e-commerce software to help integrate with your sales tools, track what you have available, process financial transactions, and more. Popular services such as Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix Stores and PinnacleCart all offer these abilities to customers trying to sell goods online.

Finally, your company would also be wise to invest in communications software to enable video calling and live chat. Video chat applications such as Zoom and Skype can help formerly in-person salespeople with one-on-one calls face to face. Live chat applications such as LiveChat and Olark can help you engage with online customers, whether they are in the process of buying or have already purchased something.

While there are many places to potentially list your products, you don’t have to use all of them.

Retrain sales staff

With many traditional in-person sales tactics out the window because of COVID-19, companies have had to retrain their sales staff for this new online-focused period. Start by teaching your sales team how to use some or all of the new tools mentioned above, including CRM, e-commerce and communications software. Having your salespeople proficient in sales technology will give them a base from which to work.

While teaching them how to use new tools is a start, you then need to focus on teaching and encouraging salespeople to still provide a human touch even when doing it online or over video. They will be most effective if they are able to convey emotional intelligence with prospective customers and they work to build honest and personal connections.

Encourage salespeople to talk with prospects over all channels and have them go to whatever online channel the customer is most comfortable with. This can include engaging over social media platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, or it could mean giving a short video presentation over Zoom.

List products in marketplaces

While you will likely want to sell products via your own website as you transition to online sales, there’s a good chance it would also benefit you to sell items on popular online marketplaces. These can include major sites such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Etsy and Google Shopping. You also should consider if a niche marketplace is for you, with sites like Orchard Mile (luxury apparel); Steals.com (family-oriented deals); Houzz (interior design); and FullBeauty (plus-size fashion) offering a more focused experience.

While there are many places to potentially list your products, you don’t have to use all of them. Try using a few marketplaces and test which one works best at connecting you to your ideal customers.

The biggest benefit of using these marketplaces is that they will certainly have more reach than if you were selling just on your website. For example, marketplace giants Amazon, eBay and Walmart attract a combined 500 million users to their sites each month. Being at the fingertips of millions of people can help you move a lot more product.

The other major benefit of these marketplaces is that they have a streamlined sales process that makes buying, selling and fulfilling a relative breeze. Each of the top marketplaces allows companies to advertise through their channels as well, which may be worth it if one channel, in particular, works well for your product.

Consider selling through social channels

Finally, while the largest social media channels have billions of users combined, it’s not easy to necessarily sell through social channels. Social media plays an important role in promoting products and brands, but it has historically been challenging for small businesses to move products through social.

The only major exception to this is Instagram, which makes it simple to advertise and sell in a matter of taps. A well-shot photo or video of your product on Instagram can encourage a customer to immediately visit a page where they will swiftly buy the product. You can also encourage salespeople to talk with customers via Instagram too if they engage there.

For more resources from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published September 09, 2020