How Traditional Sales Techniques relate to Digital Selling

Classic Salesman

The importance of Traditional Sales Techniques for Digital Selling

When it comes to Digital Selling everyone focuses on the word Digital. It’s all about the platforms, the techniques and the tricks of the trade. Push this button here, pull another lever there and crank the handle round two turns and the money falls out of the big flashing machine.
If only it were that easy.

The unfortunate truth is that often people completely forget about the selling bit. Even if they are promoting a good cause, building a community or highlighting an issue the reality is that there is still a bit of selling going on in there somewhere.

What is genuinely intriguing is what happens when a marketer starts to compare modern digital selling theory with that of its distant ancestor, the traditional salesman.

Classic Poster Lithograph

The information age is longer than we all think

A very good friend once gave a talk on the subject of “The Traditional Sales Techniques of the 1950’s”. He painted a wonderful picture of those men in their beige suits, briefcases and starched shirts plying their trade in the sun kissed offices, diners and lounges of picket fenced America. This was not the world of the high flying Mad Men but the softer and more homespun environment of small town USA.

We might like to imagine the worn shoes and long hours of the travelling salesman but the truth is that they had it much easier in those days.

Most of the customers actually came to them.

In that era, if a customer wanted to buy a complex product that required information prior to purchase then they had to go to a salesman. Only the salesman had the information available in brochures, price lists and written documentation to inform the customer about their buying decision.

If a customer wanted to buy an insurance policy, motor car or vacuum cleaner then chances are they would need someone to explain the differences. As long as the salesman kept a respectable attitude, offered a reasonable deal and tried to not lead the purchaser too much in the process then a sale was often forthcoming. Life was so much easier back then.

Digital Fibre Optic

In the modern era

Fast forward to the digital age and the major change is the arrival of choice. Users now have a choice in where they go to get their information. In fact, they have significantly more choice at the end of their fingertips than their predecessors. Far more information than they can deal with.

An infinite number of websites and social feeds are now competing to be that salesman who gives the user the information they need to make their buying decision. User are bombarded with pop up adverts while their email inboxes fill up with never ending offers. Adverts follow them around their favourite sites like a stray lost dog. It’s a never ending assault on the senses. Buy this, buy that, go on, go on, go on, don’t leave, please don’t leave, really, please don’t leave….

Yet the old rules still apply. Customers are still seeking the salesman who they trust to give them the information they need to make to correct buying decision. The medium may have changed but the customer is still behaving the same way as they did back in the day.

Dog on phone selling

Information is still as important as ever

What classical sales technique says is that the individual that provides the correct information for the customer to make the correct purchase is usually the individual that closes the sale. It is no different in the modern age of digital selling.

By providing high quality, accurate and trustworthy information to a potential customer the salesman can build enough trust with the customer to ensure that they are the recipient of the order. The customer just doesn’t trust anyone else to provide the product or service any better. It’s often worth paying the slight extra cost just to get that personal re-assurance of good service.

Information is one of the key pillars of digital marketing. In many cases it is an absolute requirement of the purchasing process and the gathering of it plays a critical part in that decision. Learn this lesson.

Who buys an expensive stereo system without checking what connectors it has on the back? The website that has clear photographs and a comparative table between the offerings is the one that will get the sale. For an enthusiast this may not be enough and the desire to be so absolutely sure that they have to see the product in hand is probably the only factor keeping most specialist audio shops still alive.

Digital selling

Digital Selling with Information

When it comes to providing that information it is always quality over quantity that wins. Customers are simply not interested in having to wade through acres of marketing fluff to find that one piece of critical information that solidifies their decision. It’s about getting to the point.

Demonstrate knowledge, provide guidance, offer opinion, by all means, but what the customer is really looking for is that insightful piece of information that reinforces their existing perceptions. This one is too big to fit in the back of a vehicle. This one uses a strange connector. The chances of getting a replacement part for the last one are next to zero. All of this detailed knowledge can often be the key to pushing the customer over the edge. Most retailers will have expertise due to their involvement in the industry.

Provide that critical bit of information

Having top quality, detailed and genuinely informative information on your website is naturally the best way to provide that critical detail to a customer. As well as having the reinforcement of your brand at the top of the page the level of control over content layout and format means that it is the ideal way of leading a customer to the buy button.

This is the world of content marketing and Google listing. Digital marketers crafting pieces of high quality content with the purpose of listing on a keyword. Like some strange hipster laboratory.

Each piece of content is tailored and tuned to the intended keyword but this is not an exercise in padding. By focusing on quality and detailed information the elite digital marketer is harking back to the days of the knowing salesman. With his briefcase and tie he can reach across the kitchen table to point out the benefits of a particular offering to an eager customer in the comfort of their own home.

It’s really the same process in the modern age but these days it happens while on the sofa with a laptop.


So what about Social Media?

It’s very difficult to provide detailed information in 140 characters or less. As such social media tends to be a conduit of syndication. It can point out where this content is for those who might be interested but it’s only ever sharing a link. We have done this article on this subject that you may be interested in, check it out.

The alternative is to aggregate someone else’s content. We have found this really good link on this subject that someone else has done but you may be interested in.

This is a very valuable technique if you are digital selling. If the end content is of high quality and contributes to the customers buying decision then the customer associates all the participants in the process with trust, assuming the whole experience was a success. In almost all circumstances the product being sold is not a competing product of the aggregator. When the customer is ready to purchase the aggregator’s product they should be in line to get the business. They may have to pick them up with follow up marketing but there is a good chance that the aggregator will get a page like or follow back from the experience.

Work together

Building partnerships is therefore critical to reinforcing the information transfer process. Having non-competing partners who share an interest in distributing information about the sector can dramatically boost a social marketer’s reach.

Yatter helps by not only finding those partners but also by synchronising their content. By having prior knowledge of content that is going out among your partners it is easy to slot in and join the aggregation. Every customer that is going through the partners sales funnel is potentially being touch by your brand and the same goes in reverse. If partners can build trust and share knowledge of the sector then this can make digital selling a breeze.

Master Knowledge

When it comes to information and Google listing there is a strange world of the product code. If you are selling replacement laptop batteries, specialist parts for industrial machinery or anything that has a code or part number then it may be worth making an effort to list content on each specific code individually.

People type in the code of a product if they are looking to buy a replacement part and having a specific page that is search optimised for the product code can bring great results. The traffic will not be high but it will be viable. All it takes is a product image with the part number visible and some details lifted from manufacturer information and a small but profitable channel can be established. It’s a great job for an intern but make sure there is a buy button clearly visible on each page.


In conclusion, the traditional method of using access to information to control a sales relationship may be dead in the modern world but it still teaches an important lesson. How a customer receives the information during their buying decision process can impact who they choose to buy from. Modern digital selling has learned this lesson in the form of Content Marketing.
Help the customer become better informed about their buying decision and they are more likely to buy from you. Remember that lesson next time you sit down to write some high quality content for your site.

It might just be the thing that closes the sale, time and time again.

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Robert Munro

Robert Munro

Bobby is an old friend of the Yatter team and has helped us extensively over the last few years with content and editorial support. He currently helps run What they don't Teach at Uni and has been a user on Yatter right through our development and alpha test period. His site is currently used as an example organisation on Yatter and you will no doubt recognise him from our screen shots and guides.