3 e-commerce sales questions to make life easier

3 e-commerce sales questions to make life easier © Dhiegaum@sxc.hu

While you all probably have a shortlist of some standard questions when discussing e-commerce project requirements with a lead, some often get overlooked and can make a difference between a successful story and, well, the other kind. Here are top 3 questions to ask early on in your sales process to make lives easier for both the client and yourselves.

Ok, you’ve done the homework on lead generation (there’s a blog post coming up about how we do it, so make sure to stay tuned) and you’re in talks with a lead.

What you’ll often dive into right away is project requirements, feature discussions, value proposition of your solution, budget and timeframe expectations – and all of these are indeed essential for figuring out if you are the right fit – I came across a good article on selling features vs benefits vs value just recently, so check it out – it may come in handy for this part of your sales process.

What often gets overlooked, though, are some topics that are bound to arise, and if expectations are not set properly from the start, well – you simply know what’s about to hit the fan. This advice comes straight from the heart, as we’ve made all these mistakes on some of our previous projects.

Here are the three questions you should always remember to ask:

What is your previous e-commerce experience?

Don’t assume the client is clueless about e-commerce concepts, but also don’t think they are the next best thing after Tony Hsieh, even if they say they have a proven track record.

Make investigations, talk to the client about what are the key success factors for the business model they have in front of you, and you’ll get a better understanding of who you’re sitting next to at the table.

Hopefully you already have some experience in the business, so you’ll be able to quickly assess their knowledge and suggest the best way of working together.

Who will be our main point of contact?

Will they be a technical person and what is their primary responsibility and area of expertise? More often than not you’ll get into a situation where you’ve talked things through with the CEO or CTO only for the project communication to be assigned to someone who might have less knowledge of e-commerce (or Magento for that matter) than you would have anticipated or hoped for. Also, it can be a bit frustrating not to be in direct contact with the decision-maker.

Of course, you can make things work in any case – it’s only a matter of preparation for your Project Manager and developers to make sure they ask the right questions and speak the language your contact speaks best. You can lose several days as the project kicks off trying to explain a technical issue to a marketing person if you’re not aware they are, in fact, a marketing person 🙂

What exactly do you expect from us?

Now, this one is a bit tricky and you may think you have it figured out from the project specs or an RFP if the client had one to begin with, but are you really sure that you know the answer to this?

While you won’t be asking this particular question, it is very important to understand if the client simply wants you to develop a state-of-the-art technical solution or perhaps create an amazing user experience and the buck stops there – someone else on their team will be in charge of all marketing and store management activities after the launch.

It’s a whole different ball game if they expect to be able to count on you for all things e-commerce and are hoping you’ll be the partner that will lead them to prosperity (we actually had one lead come to us with this exact phrase – nice one, right?).

Are you assuming you’ll deliver the site and leave the table? Is the client assuming you’ll be there to keep a close eye on everything and suggest improvements after the launch? For how long?

Assumptions are the worst enemy of any business relationship, and while you probably can’t (and perhaps even shouldn’t) define all the features needed and desired on Day 1, you can certainly define expectations, so make sure to do so, otherwise you can find yourselves in all kinds of trouble later on.

Care to share?

So, there you go – three questions to help you manage expectations and your next project as a whole at least a tad better.

What’s your experience? What works best for you – having a clean slate and being the ones in charge? Or do you work better with clients who already have experience with similar projects? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Yep these questions are often forgotten and can cause problems at any further stage – so excellent reminder.

    In addition, a sales person or anyone involved in the initial communication process should also get a very short and simple answers to what are (credits go to @avinash):
    a) business objectives (in general and e-commerce)
    b) goals (in general and in e-commerce)

    The answers to these are usually straightforward but you want your client to also be aware of them (not always the case).

    To anyone reading – how many times did the client’s previous e-commerce experience cause problems?:)

  2. Thanks for sharing!

    I spent long time as freelancer and my best moments were working with “man in the middle” who has great technical and communication skills, so all tasks were clear and well estimated. This is my point of view as freelancer, but from couple of months I changed the business and now I spend more time communicating with clients. I am not so experienced as you and still don’t cover all the 3 questions, that you’ve mentioned …

    On this stage I work with small size business and usually we don’t start the project from scratch, so they come with already working Magento installation. Usually they are familiar with most of the features of Magento and etc. The fact, that they are separated with their previous developer makes me to try the answer of the next 2 questions:

    1 ) How and why they are separated with their previous developers? ( One possible reason is because they haven’t pay on time or they had some other issues )

    2 ) What they think about their previous developers? My point is to check how they usually treat the developers and what they think in general for them. So I have in mind, that they will treat me in the same way …

    I also like to ask Google by checking by searching for: “My Clients Name complaints”.
    Basically when I work with small businesses I am trying to find out how educated are my clients … also tying to recognize some patterns. For example I have a group of clients called “I am happy with that” This is a group of clients, that usually say “I am happy with that” after warned them, that something is going. In 100% of they come back and ask for help.

    I like to conclude with the thought, that if you have great experience you can convert the worst client to the best client in the world.

  3. Work with clients who already have experience with similar projects – is better (by my side). You can learn (good or bed customer experience) and realize valuable impact for each other.

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