Blog/Selling To Online and Offline the Same Way? Wrong!

Selling products to businesses in the online and the offline worlds are two different stories. Even if you reckon your target is comprised solely of companies operating online, it may well be you’re actually wrong. That’s what we thought at first too. The reality has shown though that traditional businesses are also an attractive group of customers. Throughout the recent years, we’ve learned that sales comes in various shapes and sizes, and online and offline businesses differ in many ways. How do you reach them and achieve your goals, then?


 Online vs. Offline

Some people use social media, invest in SEO and SEM, develop vlogs, and utilize other channels. Others prefer traditional business meetings involving a handshake and a face to face conversation. Just as your potential clients, the former live mostly in the world of bits, the latter in the world of atoms, and their buying patterns are completely different. The way you sell to businesses differs fundamentally, depending on whether they’re operating online or offline. Here’s the first difference:

online and offline clients

What’s the difference?

They differ in literally all aspects. Their only common point of reference is you – you want to sell them your product or service. It wasn’t long ago, that we were going through the same process. We were targeting online businesses but it appeared that RightHello services are also in demand offline. That’s why I’ll be showing you step by step what you should pay attention to when gearing up to conquer both worlds. From establishing contact, up to closing sales. My tips will help you avoid some of the basic mistakes.

A step by step guide to selling:

#1 For starters…

Establishing contact is often one of the most difficult stages in customer acquisition. There are various methods available, however, for the purpose of this post, let’s assume that… you’re writing a cold email. Regardless of whether you’re addressing a CEO, or a department director at a major company, you have to be straightforward – explain how you can help and what’s in it for them. No one has time to figure out what you’re on to. When targeting both online and offline channels, you have to get to the point quickly.

Don’t mess this up at an early stage. Are you wondering whether you should start off with “Hey”, or “Dear Sir”? It probably won’t come as a surprise when I’ll tell you that informal tone is expected when contacting startuppers. Just don’t overdo it! At the end of the day, you’re talking to your potential client, and not your pal.

When contacting offline businesses, make sure to stick to formal language. That said, remember that there’s another human being on the other side of the screen, just as tired as you are, working overtime. Still unsure how to develop an effective cold email? Read this post covering the topic, or hit me up directly at bartosz@righthello.com.

#2 Decision making

As a great salesperson, you know damn well that reaching the decision maker is half the success. Before you go to a meeting with a representative of a large offline company, make sure it’s the right person.

It’s only in theoretical terms, that it’s going to be easier for you to strike up contact with the CEO of a startup, than make it through the managerial structures at a major company hiring 500+ people. Young startuppers, despite being very active online, often live in their own bubbles and are very busy too. It may be that it’s not so easy to reach them after all.

#3 Loose t-shirt or a tie?

So, you’ve managed to arrange a meeting. Pat yourself on the back. Now, don’t mess this up. When visiting a large production company (offline), you have to first make sure to look the part. Don’t underestimate this aspect. In business, the way you look tells a lot about you. Remember – you won’t have another chance to make the first impression. You’re a professional salesman, so a shirt and a jacket are a must.

Lose the jacket when you’re about to see a startup CEO. You can skip the dress shirt too. Don’t be surprised if you’ll see him coming in to the meeting wearing ripped jeans and a hoodie.

#4 “Dear Sirs”, get straight to the point

These days, when everyone seems to be short on time, try to be concise and concrete. You know what they say online – tl;dr (too long; didn’t read). What your potential clients expect from you is a minimum amount of content conveying a maximum amount of information about the product.

A meeting at a large company will have a very official form. Get ready for a test in business savoir-vivre. To make it worse – the rituals related to meetings are similar, yet not exactly the same in all countries. You’re supposed to sit in a prearranged order at the table, then, hand over your business card. The meeting has an introduction, the main part, and the closeout. Everything goes according to the protocol implemented X years ago by the company founders. Maybe you can skip the sirs with the director, but it’s the older of you, who should suggest it. The same goes for the handshake. Official language is required, although you have to keep the tone natural. You can’t be too stiff.

As a reminder:

online offline selling

#5 Get ready for suspiciousness

If you’re a salesperson representing a well-established company, you’re in great luck. Due to the fact that X manages a large offline budget, he isn’t very trustful of young startups. The way he sees it, these businesses are risky – they usually aren’t very stable financially. That said, if you’re with a small, up and coming company, be ready to be treated with suspicion. Prove to X he can trust you. Present testimonials, a list of current customers, or investors. On the other hand, as a tech company pitching to a traditional business, you can hold the advantage of being the highlight of their day. Make sure though, that the initial interest turns into purchase intention, instead of being merely a way to pass time by seeing you.

Are you representing a small business, or you’re the CEO of a startup? That’s great in case you want to win the approval of young companies, who love to work with other rookies. They’re oriented towards dialogue and are happy to provide feedback. You can count on smooth, two-way communication. That said, there isn’t much chance for activating a multi-million budget, though.

#6 Gear up for a lengthy sales process

When planning product sales to large offline companies, you have to stay patient. Regarding what was said in #2 – most likely your contact point will have to consult the decision with his superior, the board, or several lawyers. This may extend the sales process significantly.

So you’re thinking you’ll strike a deal with a startup faster? Not necessarily. At online companies, the decision-making processes are more democratic and egalitarian, which means you’re dealing with a larger number of people having a say in terms of the final decision. The CEO you aimed for so hard and finally got through to (that’s what it was about, right?) will want to pick the brains of the team anyway. This will render the sales process longer than you expected. Steli Efti claims that startups buy way faster and don’t have a problem with making a decision within a relatively short timeframe. Of course, they usually reach consensus more efficiently than major organizations, but still, don’t expect to sign the contract within a week.

#7 Provide a trial to confirm your offer

Y isn’t sure whether your service will actually be useful to him. A free trial to test out the product will help dispel his doubts and win him over. Online businesses, that are used to free digital services, will be more willing to try you out than offline companies.

You’re steadily working on perfecting or enhancing your product? Don’t expect Mr. X to be very patient and let minor mistakes slide. He’ll be ruthless in his assessment. Your product is supposed to work here and now. If something’s not right, he’ll probably terminate the contract, instead of waiting for you to introduce improvements.

#8 Offer various methods of payment

Offline companies have fat wallets. As opposed to startups, they prefer bigger, one-time payments, instead of transferring smaller sums every couple of months. Offer them a single, concrete price for a comprehensive service. Also, consider a discount in case of an upfront payment.

Due to startups’ less stable cash flow, ponder splitting the payment into installments. It will be easier for them in financial terms to handle smaller sums, and you’ll have steady revenue every month.

Final word

To sum things up, online and offline customers differ fundamentally. They have different buying patterns, and their attention is focused elsewhere. What they have in common is that they both need your product, and you’re the person that has answers.

Regardless of whether you’re living in the world of bits, or atoms, the most important thing is human interaction, actual experiences and emotions. Keeping that at the back of your head, you’ll be in favor of both, the startup CEO and the major company director. At the end of the day, people buy from those they trust and like. Make the necessary adjustments and boost your sales as a result.

Offline vs online companies