selling online vs in person with computer

Selling Online vs In-Person (Small Business Owner Strategy)

Selling online vs in-person. What are the pros and cons of each? How do they fit into your strategy as a small business owner?

Selling in-person is generally easier than selling online. It’s easier to build trust with people and you can overcome objections and read people’s emotions. However, selling online is incredibly scalable. That’s why many smart small businesses start out selling in-person but start to implement more online selling.

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Want to know how you can use a combination of online selling vs in-person selling to grow your sales? whether you’re

  • A local service based business
  • Own a physical shop
  • Sell courses
  • An online retailer

This article will help you find the exact combination of each.

What are the Benefits of Selling In-person Instead of Online?

Selling in-person has some pretty large advantages. When I started my business 4 years ago, nearly every sale came from meeting with people in person. There are several advantages to meeting with someone one on one and in-person.

  1. Selling is about building rapport and trust. It’s much easier to create a relationship and trust when you are meeting with someone in-person.
  2. Emotional intelligence is a key element of sales. When you’re with someone in-person, it’s easy to tell when they’re becoming distracted. frustrated, disinterested, or upset. If you’re meeting with people in-person, you can respond to all of these emotions, ask them questions, and adjust your conversation based on the buyers responses. You can’t do this with online sales.
  3. You’ll have people’s attention in-person. If they’re browsing the internet, they may have many other tabs open on their web browser. While you want to keep your in-person meetings exciting and engaging, you don’t need to hook people in within the first few seconds like you do online.
  4. With public speaking, you can still connect with many potential customers at once, but with the authority of being a public speaker.

What Are the Benefits of Selling Online?

computer screen that says
Financial business news online on a laptop with coffee and stationery

Selling online is incredibly scalable. While you can hire more salespeople, this requires new training, managing employees, and making sure the employees are making you more money than they are costing you.

If you have an online website that gets lots of traffic, sales can come rolling in day after day. This isn’t only for online shops. I’ve worked with chiropractors and dentists that have it set up so people can book appointments entirely online. For other people like realtors and roofers, often a phone call or meeting is required before officially working together. But, the sale can be more or less made online still. I’ve had people reach out and say, I want to work with you and no one else. Can you give me a quote on this project? So, even though the order wasn’t place, they were ready to buy. 97% of people will look up local businesses before choosing to do business. You can repel potential customers, or you can help make them ready ready to buy.

If you find just the right sales copy, your online ad, sales funnel, or webpage can drive business and leads for years into the future.

To be a public speaker, you’ll need to line up the opportunity, drive across town, and present in-person. You can simply pull out your phone or computer and do a live webinar, or Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube live. You will need an audience (or some plan to get more people onto your call), it’s a powerful way to quickly connect with many people. And, if you build up an audience, you’ll be able to quickly connect with your members.

What are the Disadvantages of Selling In-person?

traffic jam
Crowded traffic jam in urban street in bad weather

Selling in-person is time consuming. You have a limited amount of time and resources. Meeting with people in-person often will mean driving across town, finding parking, and money on coffee or lunch. You’ll need to deal with complex scheduling and cancellations. Preparing for your meeting, commuting, doing the meeting, and sending a follow up email can easily be 3 hours of your time.

Hiring sales representatives means training and managing people. Depending on their commission structure, they could be costing you more money than they’re making you. You’ll also need to find, hire, train, and fire sales representatives.

There can also be awkwardness or discomfort with in-person selling. If someone is on a webpage and they lose interest, they’ll simply leave. Potential customers can become rude, hostile, or aggressive on occasion. Going to meeting after meeting can be emotionally draining.

What are Disadvantages of Selling Online?

People tend to be distracted when they’re online. Ads, social media platforms, and a variety of website are competing for their attention.

More than half of users spend less than 15 seconds on a website. Can you imagine if you met with someone and they left if you didn’t impress them within 15 seconds?

People also tend to be more nervous in online transactions. A US Government survey that found half of Americans are reluctant to shop online.

nervous about online sales
Image Source: US Government Study

People may be nervous you’ll steal their credit card info (or take their money and deliver nothing). Even on online sales, it can still be useful to have one-to-one interactions. This could be a chatbot, a “contact us” form, or even a phone number people can call. If you are pitching a service on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest, you can have people leave comments or send messages on that platform.

If you are selling through established websites like Amazon, eBay, Shopify, and Etsy this will take away some of the risk (especially if you have great seller ratings). Having the option to pay through Paypal or Stripe makes people less nervous than simply having a place to fill out credit card information.

A much lower percent of people will decide to do business with you online. The median conversion rate for landing pages (percent of people who take your desired action such as making a purchase or messaging your business) is 1 out of 50 people. Those numbers are for a landing page that’s designed specifically for taking one action. The conversion rate for blog posts or a general website is often even lower.

online sales conversion rate
Source: Wordstream

Selling Online vs In-person for Local Service Based Businesses

google my business page
A Google My Business page is a great way to generate more business

Should local service based businesses do more of their selling online or in-person? Getting started, it’s easier to generate your first sales by connecting with people in-person. It’s not a good idea to rely exclusively on online sales when you’re just getting started.

An important element of online sales is testimonials and reviews. If you have no customers, it’s challenging to generate sales.

As local businesses gain customers, it’s important to introduce online sales. Otherwise, you’ll be reliant on networking, in-person meetings, or word of mouth. Often, people get busy and then they don’t have time to network and meet with people. Suddenly sales drop off.

A Google My Business Page and Yelp Page can give business owners new leads, even when they’re not actively spending time on these channels. Paid ads can bring leads on an ongoing basis without extra effort.

Incorporating online sales (or lead capturing) is a key step for gaining a consistent flow of customers. It also is helpful for attracting just the right people. Growing a small business isn’t only about gaining more customers. It’s about attracting the right customers who are willing to pay more, are easier to work with, and who appreciate your business.

Selling Online vs In-person for Physical Shop Owners

people love us on yelp logo

People who own retail shops should read the last section on selling online vs in-person for local businesses. There are a few unique online vs in-person considerations for retail shop owners.

Retail shop owners need to generate a higher volume of customers. A realtor may only need 10-15 clients per year, but many retail shops serve hundreds or thousands of people a month. It’s especially important that people can find you on Google My Business and Yelp. You can have special discounts if people sign up via email or check in. I have this helpful guide to receive more reviews on Yelp.

For some retail shops it makes sense to have an online store. When you are working to make online sales, it often works best to send people to a specific product page, rather than sending them to the general website to “just browse”.

Online coupons, promos, and deals are one way to help drive more customers to your physical location. You can collect emails and send ongoing promotions and deals.

Physical shop owners will likely do less one-to-one meetings with people. They need to convince large numbers of people to visit the restaurant and return.

Selling Courses Online vs In-person

in-person training

Online courses can be very lucrative. However, it takes a long time to build the right audience. Online courses are incredibly scalable. You can have 5 people in your course or 5,000. It’s not something where if you build it they will come. Many tutorials and how to’s are on YouTube for free. Most successful courses grow an audience over time and provide a proven system, process, and sometimes personalized coaching/calls.

In-person courses or trainings can be effective as well. People place a higher value on in-person trainings, and you can do a paid training. One option is to create a free event or group through meetup.com. Many businesses start by offering a free 60-90 minute training, then they offer a paid group training.

Businesses can promote these in-person paid group trainings online. In-person paid trainings can be a great option to show your expertise and make extra money. People who go through the training can become paying customers, but you don’t want your paid training to be a sales pitch in disguise. Bring incredible information and value.

Like other types of marketing, online courses are more scalable but they tend to command lower prices. In-person trainings can be a powerful option to gain customers and extra income.

Should I Do In-person Selling as an Online Retailer?

Many people think that online retailers need to do all selling online. However, there are still times when it makes sense to meet with people in-person. Make sure friends and family members know about your products that you sell online.

Even if most of your sales happen online, there may be opportunities to find trade shows or galleries where you can make fast sales. You can also hand out coupons or do giveaways at events to help drive more awareness of your brand and more sales. Just because most of your sales happen online doesn’t mean 100% of the selling happens online too. A number of online retailers are doing live events or even opening brick and mortar stores.

Conclusion: Successful Businesses Use Both Online and In-Person Selling

Successful selling and marketing isn’t solely online or in-person. It’s a combination of the 2. In-person selling is ideal for larger sales and starting a business early on. Effective online selling and lead capture helps businesses scale, grow, and gain a steady flow of customers. Whether you have a local business, a retail shop, or sell courses, there are opportunities to gain customers through in-person meetings and events as well as online.

Online sales require building more trust. A much smaller percent of people will choose to make online purchases. However, online sales are an ideal way to find the right people. Using a combination of online selling and in-person selling is the ideal strategy.

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