The 5 Step Sales Process Online

All customers go through a 5 step buying process when making a purchasing decision. On the other side there is a 5 step selling process. If you want to make more sales on your website you should build your site so it utilizes this sales process and and leads potential customers along the way and converts them into paying customers.

5 Step Customer Buying Process

Before getting to the sales process let’s take a quick look at the buying process a customer goes through on their way to a purchase.

  • Identifying need or want
  • Determining requirements
  • Evaluating options
  • Purchasing
  • Evaluating Decision

Customers first identify a need or want and then begin to define the requirements necessary to satisfy that need or want. They next begin to gather information and evaluate the options that are available to them to meet their requirements. Once they know their options they will look to make a purchase which will include shopping for or negotiating the best price they can get. Once they have made their purchase they test the product or service and evaluate whether or not they made a good decision.

5 Step Sales Process

If you want to make a sale you must meet potential customers every step of the way through their buying decision and naturally enough there are 5 steps in the sales process corresponding to the 5 steps in the buying process. I’ve seen different terminology to refer to each of these steps, but I’ll use the ones as defined by grokdotcom since they were the ones who first introduced me to the subject

  • Prospect
  • Rapport
  • Qualify
  • Present
  • Close


Prospecting is where you send targeted traffic to your site. This is what all the search engine optimization and marketing has been about. Your customer has identified a need so you want to make sure they know you can fill that need.

To prospect you don’t just offer products. If you’re selling the Palm Treo don’t just market your site as one that sells cell phones. Target the keywords ‘Palm Treo’ or even better ‘Palm Treo 650.’ Even more make sure anyone who clicks on your ‘Palm Treo 650’ link is taken directly to a page about Palm Treo 650’s.


The instant a potential customer lands on your site you begin to build a rapport with them. The speed at which your site downloads builds rapport, the aesthetics of your site build rapport, your navigation builds rapport. Everything about your site will begin a dialog with your customer and your goal should be to build their trust from that very first moment.

All those aspects of your site that you may not think are important are important. Your site doesn’t need to be the most beautiful one online, but it does need to be professional. That’s not to say you need to pay someone to design and build it for you, but it does need to look like you did. You want your customers to know that you are concerned with them and have made your site as usable as it can be.


In qualifying you’re trying to understand what it is the customer is really looking for and then lead them exactly where they can find it. Of course on your site you can’t directly ask them what they want, but you can make it easy for them to find it on their own. Here is where your navigation can come into play by making it as easy as possible for visitors to your site to find what they’re looking for.

More than just navigation though it’s about the way you organize your content and your page structure. It should be obvious where your Palm Treos are going to be located even while your customer is on a page looking at Motorola Razrs.


Qualifying and presenting go together on your website. When you present you are providing options for your customer so they can identify the ones that best fit their needs. As with qualifying your navigation and organizational structure is important. Your content will come into play as well by providing the information your customer needs to make their decision. How do they know which phone is really the best for them. Give them detailed information about each and what the benefits of each phone is.

You can also present by displaying alternative products to them. While they are looking over that Palm Treo let them know you also carry the Kyocera Smartphones. Show them a listing of related products or a customers who purchased this also purchased that display.


You’re customer has found what they want and is read to buy, but they’re still not quite sure. Here’s where your site needs to close the sale. You can help convince your customer to go through with their purchase by providing your privacy policy and guarantees. Let them know they can always return what they buy within 30 and they’ll feel much better about making that purchase. Let them know you won’t give out their personal information and you’ll find them more willing to give it to you.

Make your checkout process as easy as possible. Don’t ever confuse your customers or they’ll eave just as they were about to pay. Help them fill out the checkout forms by filling in the information where you can. If they give you their zip code give them back their city. If their shipping and billing address is the same don’t make them fill it out twice. Reduce the amount of pages in the checkout process and make it easy every step of the way.

Your customers go through a 5 step process when making a purchase and you must go through your own 5 step process to make the sale. Prospect, Rapport, Qualify, Present, and Close. Make sure your site is working towards that on every page and as a whole and you’ll make more sales than you ever imagined.


Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *