How Selling Patiently Can Increase Your Online Sales

You’ve worked hard, and you’ve worked smart…

You’ve bought the highest-converting keywords in your industry.

You’ve reworked your landing page headlines to focus on benefits and not features.

You’ve even added some powerful testimonials…

So why do your visitors bounce off your landing page when you ask for the sale?

Today we are going to go over how two companies have increased their conversion rates by breaking the conventional wisdom of always putting the call to action above the fold.

Instead, both companies take a patient selling approach that can dramatically increase conversions for complex and expensive products.

It can be scary to not ask for the sale right away, but that can actually be the best way to boost sales and break through a conversion rate plateau.

The Problem Is Asking For The Sale Before The Prospect Appreciates The Value of Your Product

A lot of folks suggest that it’s best to add a call to action above the fold, where people can see it right away. As Lee Rush Schwartz puts it, “a user is more likely to click on your call to action if it resides above the fold.”

This is likely true for simple and cheap products.

The problem is that for complex and expensive products and services, asking for the sale right away can lower your conversion rates.

To be clear, asking for the sale is something we have to do. And adding a prominent call to action somewhere on your landing page is absolutely necessary.

So the problem isn’t having a prominent call to action. It’s having a prominent call to action before you demonstrate the value of your product or service.

Let’s take a look at a real landing page for an expensive product that clearly shows this tension between (1) showing the call to action right away, and (2) demonstrating the value of a product before you show the call to action.

This landing page is for the Sage 50 accounting software, which is a downloadable desktop software product. It has a prominent call to action for an expensive purchase that’s above the fold (I’ve highlighted the call to action by adding a giant red box):

sage 50

The call to action on this page is the second thing I saw on this page (I looked at the picture of the box first).

The call to action lets visitors select the edition they want and then click a BUY NOW button to purchase the product instantly. The cheapest one-user edition costs $295, while the most expensive five-users edition costs $719.

Wow, even the cheapest $295 edition is pretty expensive!

Common sense says that before somebody spends $295, they need to be convinced that they are spending that much money wisely. In other words, prospects weigh the reasons to buy against the reasons to not buy.

In his influential SPIN Selling, Neil Rackham visualizes this as a seesaw with BUY on the left side and DON’T BUY on the right side.

Here’s how Neil visualizes the seesaw in the prospect’s mind for an actual sales call he recorded in which a salesperson tried to sell a word processor in 1981:

wordprocessor ad

The product cost $15,000, which was an even bigger chunk of change 31 years ago. There’s also the hassle of installing the system and training typists to use the word processor. Both reasons go on the “reasons not to buy” list (the right “Don’t Buy” side of the seesaw).

Meanwhile, the prospect imagines that “fewer typos” is only item on the “reasons to buy” list (the left “Buy” side of the seesaw).

As you can see in the diagram, the reasons not to buy greatly “outweigh” the reasons to buy. So it’s no wonder that the prospect declines to buy, saying “it’s not worth all that hassle just to get rid of a few typos.”

Neil then explains how a different salesperson might convince the prospect of more “reasons to buy,” such as:

  • Improved motivation, because the typing staff hates retyping
  • Improved productivity, because the typing staff won’t have to retype an entire document to correct one error
  • Less proofing, because the buyer won’t have to proofread documents repeatedly
  • Time to train staff, because the buyer won’t always be proofreading

This time, the seesaw shows that the “reasons to buy” greatly outweigh the “reasons not to buy.” If the prospect really believes all these reasons to buy, closing this sale is a piece of cake!

buy dont buy

Also, the seesaw clearly shows that the more expensive the item, the more you need to increase the perceived value. The high cost of a product is a very powerful reason NOT to buy.

So when a purchase is expensive, you need a lot of reasons to buy. And those reasons have to be good.

Neil’s anecdote is an old school sales story, but sales and landing pages operate on the same basic principles. And the universal principle here is that you won’t book a lot of sales of expensive or complex products until you’ve given the prospect enough reasons to buy.

In the world of landing pages, putting a BUY NOW button above the fold can sometimes work out. But it won’t work well until you’ve given the prospect a list of reasons to buy that’s compelling enough to whip out a credit card.

If you hit them with an expensive price at the top of the page before you’ve explained the value of the product, the prospect is likely to bounce immediately without reading any of your beautiful copy. And we don’t want that!

Why Many Landing Pages Ask For The Sale Too Soon

So why do many landing pages ignore it and ask for the sale before giving reasons enough reasons to buy?

The first reason is that many copywriters have blindly accepted the conventional wisdom that putting a call to action above the fold is always right. As with all conventional wisdoms, it has a kernel of truth. Many tests have borne this out for cheap products with obvious benefits.

If a product is obvious and cheap, it doesn’t really have to explain benefits or justify much value. A dating site like Chemistry.com helps you find “the kind of relationship you want” and costs a relatively cheap $49.95 for a month. The conventional wisdom probably works here…

But for expensive products with hidden benefits, this conventional wisdom may break down. This creates an opportunity for a sharp increase in conversion rates by switching to a more patient selling approach that waits to ask for the sale.

The second reason is a bit speculative, but many copywriters seem scared to not ask for the sale right away. After all, expensive products often demand a high Cost Per Click, so if you’re shelling out moolah on AdWords, you’re desperate to earn it back. And when you’re desperate, it’s natural to ask for the sale right away.

The call to action on that Sage 50 accounting software landing page might indeed be motivated by the desire to earn back pricey clicks. I navigated to that page from an AdWords ad for the keyword [buy accounting software]. This is a great keyword with high purchase intent.

But you have to pay for a lot for great keywords. According to the Google Keyword Tool, the approximate CPC is $8 a click.

keyword ideas

With a pricey $8 CPC, we can easily imagine a fearful landing page author who decides to hit the visitor right away with a prominent BUY NOW button. Fear drives them to desperation.

But what if we as marketers can resist conventional wisdom and conquer our fears of not instantly earning back our AdWords budget? Does that mean we can dramatically increase conversions?

Let’s take a look at two case studies where two companies did exactly that.

Case Study #1: Moving The Call To Action Below The Fold

In this great case study, the client offers “a subscription service where busy families can get dinner recipes and ingredients delivered to their doorstep 3-5 times a week.”

The copywriter doesn’t mention the price of this service, but let’s take a stab at roughly estimating the cost of each meal. I would speculate that the cost of their dinners can’t be less than the cost of a delivery of a large pizza. Actually, I would guess that the cost of their dinners is a lot more than a cheap pizza, but let’s just eyeball this…

I just priced out an order for a large pizza on Dominos.com. My order was for $16.32, including a $2 delivery fee and taxes (I didn’t include any drinks).

So if the subscription service is at least three times a week, that’s a cost of at least $200/month. And for the five-times-a-month option, the price goes up to around $325/month.

So even assuming the price of one of these dinners is the same as a cheap pizza, the monthly charges are quite high.

This ain’t no Netflix $7.99/month impulse buy!

Plus, the service sounds a little complicated to explain. It’s not quite a grocery store… It’s not quite a restaurant… And it’s not a pizza delivery service…

It’s kind of a mixture of all three! You’d have to explain the details of the service to the prospect before she understood the value.

So this service is both pricey and complicated…

Hmmm, this sounds like a great place to test moving the call to action to the very bottom, after you’ve established the value of the service!

In fact, that’s just what copywriter Michael Lykke Aagard did. He ran a split test, which you can see below (he circled the call to actions with a thick blue border):

control treatment

  • In the control, the call to action is an above the fold box in the sidebar.
  • In the treatment, the call to action is a below the fold box on the bottom of the page

It’s pretty stunning to see that this small change led to a 304% lift in conversions!

As one commenter on that case study says: ” the landing page is a conversation…. and you don’t start a conversation by saying ‘Buy this now and I’ll tell you why you should later…’”

That makes sense to me!

Now let’s take a look at a second case study that takes a slightly different approach to the same problem…

Case Study #2: Using Squeeze Pages And Drip Marketing

Moving your call to action to the bottom of your landing page is just one way to ask for the sale after you demonstrate the value of your product.

There’s another way that’s even more patient…

Take a look at the landing page that Dane Maxwell wrote for his Recruiting Ninja system. Here’s a screenshot:

recruiting-ninja

Notice anything unusual?

If not, take another look at the call to action…

The call to action is NOT a form where you insert your credit card details…

The call to action is NOT a “buy now” button that leads to a cart checkout page…

So what is it? The call to action is an email signup form!

Even if you want to, you can’t sign up to pay for the Recruiting Ninja recruiting system right away… You can’t even see the price!

You can only sign up for a series of five videos of interviews with successful real estate agents. Of course, those agents have all achieved success using the Recruiting Ninja system…

Once you sign up, you get a confirmation email from an email marketing service that verifies you want to sign up for a drip campaign. Once you confirm, you get dripped an email every three days about each of the five interviews. (Actually, I just counted, and apparently there’s a bonus sixth interview.)

email inbox

The patience doesn’t end there…

An impatient marketer would include a link to buy in the first email. But there is no such link in that email! There’s only a link to a web page with that first interview.

On the bottom of that first interview, there’s this message:

finished-watching

So if you’re super eager, you can click and watch the second video. Once you get to the fifth video, you see this final message:

after this video

At this point, the prospect has watched five videos about successful brokers who have used the Recruiting Ninja system successfully to recruit more real estate agents. (Or at least, they’ve seen that there are five videos, or received five email teasers about the interviews.)

This is a pretty great way to make sure the prospect has time to learn about the value of this service! There’s no way to scroll down to the bottom of the landing page and sneak a peek at the pricing right away. You have to at least be exposed to the five videos before you can click that LEARN MORE button.

So finally, you get to the final page. Is the pricing listed on that page?

Nope! On that final page, there’s only a video demonstrating the benefits of the Recruiting Ninja system. Dane only reveals the price for Recruiting Ninja at the 22:23 minute mark of that video.

Now that’s patience!

Sadly, there is no formal case study on this campaign that explains how this approach was achieved after many split tests comparing this patient selling approach to a greedy selling approach that asks for the sale right away. So I can’t point to a huge increase in conversions from patient waiting in this second case study.

But in an interview on Mixergy, Dane says “I am a big fan of split testing for conversions.” He also says he idolizes John Carleton and Eugene Schwartz.

I’m certain that nobody idolizes those guys without split testing every landing page they write!

The acid test is that Dane spends money on AdWords to promote this patient landing page, so he’s making money on this. Here’s a screenshot of a Google search for [recruiting real estate agents].

recruiting-real-estate-agents

I looked it up using the Google Keyword Tool, and the [recruiting real estate agents] keyword has an estimated CPC of $3.05. OK, so it’s not quite as expensive as [buy accounting software], but it’s not a 5 cent CPC either!

search-terms

Next Steps: Using The Patient Selling Approach

Patient selling works very well for these two companies.

If you have a complex and expensive product, patient selling might work on your landing pages too.

A very easy split test can you run is to move (or delete) an above the fold call to action. Particularly if your call to action mentions a high price…

If you see strong positive results from that simple split test, you can then double down on patient selling. You can split test a more drastic variant like the Recruiting Ninja email opt-in => drip marketing => customer videos => sales video => purchase sequence.

Creating a campaign like that is a lot of work, so it makes sense to do the simpler split test first. That way you can easily verify that the patient selling approach works for your product.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to challenge conventional wisdom about conversion rates. And the best way to do that is to test, test and test some more!

About the Authors: April Dykman is a guest blogger for KISSmetrics, you can find her on Twitter here.

  1. Thanks for this Kissmetrics. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not thinking about conventional wisdom. Getting into the minds of the visitors. I do that by speaking with them. Because assumption is the mother of all……

  2. This is a really well researched, insightful post. Well constructed, well explained. And not overly simplistic content – akin to the complex (and expensive) product purchase, you subscribed to the same methodology. I was encouraged to read to the end due to your ability to keep it interesting and relevant. Thanks, really useful.

  3. Hi April,

    The ‘Recruiting Ninja’ case study was painstakingly awesome and goes on to show how labor of love never fails to get rewarded and I’m referring to both this blogpost and the examples it carries to drive the point home. One big mistake that copywriters/ content marketers make is to forget that they are customers too. It’s not ‘us and them’. Before creating a piece of content, one should put oneself in the shoes of a customer and think and feel like him. This is why ‘Recruiting Ninja’ is a success.

    Landing pages are a lot like flyers. They are different in that one can interact with a landing page. Here’s one post which dissects the flyer http://dailycontentjournal.blogspot.in/2012/05/story-of-lost-wallet-content-and-karma.html

    Thanks again!

  4. Great points, but it just makes sense after all.

    I mean, You’re not going to sell a high ticket product like a $7 ebook.

    There’s the same debate between those who send traffic to an offer, or those who send it to build an email list.

    Many report having better results when they are patient and take what it takes to clearly explain what benefits customers can get from their product.

    Great article !

  5. The 300% inrease from case study #1 is amazing. I like the slow sell, but what surprises me is the number of conversions from a small box in the lower left hand portion of the page. I will need to test out something similar.

    Thanks

  6. The problem is that for complex and expensive products and services, asking for the sale right away can lower your conversion rates.

  7. Thank you for pointing out how annoying the “sign up to shop” strategy is! I don’t know where this trend started, but it is crazy. Can you imagine an offline store trying to force their customers to give them email/contact data BEFORE they enter the store? I’ve been telling sites to create an opt out button since I noticed this trend.

    Great post.

  8. Some very useful information here, I think I will try to split test these with my landing pages also.

Comments are closed.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →