Repeat Sales And Sales Ladders Work Differently But For The Same Reason: Trust

It’s worth stating that the Internet has opened the door to a cluster of new marketing modalities, but it’s removed something very fundamental that was there from time immemorial, and which brick-and-mortar businesses inherently have: the trust conferred by having an address and real-live personnel. In other words, accountability and the trust that goes with that.

It’s well nigh impossible to sell anything on the Internet without trust. We don’t think of this, but there are several sales-chain breakdown points that dissolve precisely because of the perceived risk inherent in buying online. 

These can include:

  • A cheap website.
  • No physical address listed on the website.
  • No ‘About Us’ section, or indicators of who runs the website.
  • No telephone number listed. 

In recent years, not just SSL Certificates, but site badges (PayPal,, McAfee, etc.) are indices to trust. 

While you might see ‘Zagat Rated’ or ‘Yelp!’ or ‘Best In The Bay’ stickers on the window of a restaurant on Main Street, you would not not go there because it was missing. And it has to do with the basic perception that, from a cost-benefit standpoint, it wouldn’t be worth the $80 they get from you for a dinner for two, to up and leave if you got food poisoning after eating there. And it would be impossible for them to take your money and not serve you. You could simply call the police if – by some oddity – you paid and were not given your food. 

The same holds for a shoe store in Anytown, USA. 

But this is not the case for Internet vendors, the biggest brands notwithstanding. People need trust, to pull out their credit card, not just that you’re going to give them what they pay for, but that it does what you say it does, that it does what they need it to, etc. This is not an obstacle brick-and-mortar businesses have to contend with. 

When you get into big ticket items, this trust is even more essential. And, again, for all but established national brands, it needs to be addressed. Making a website professional, informative, spending money on content and platform speed and performance help. Having your physical location and contact information – who you are – listed on the website, all help. 

But sometimes, even that isn’t enough to license, say, a software suite that’s $90,000 a year. In a case like that, especially because sales are more and more buyer-driven, and your sales team means less and less, it helps to use ladders

So, what are ‘sales ladders’

Put simply, you don’t try to sell the big-ticket, high-buy-threshold item from the door.

You design a sales ladder that culminates in the sale of that item, and which: 

  • Offers initially free things, ideally that provide you insight into who might want items of greater cost;
  • Subsequently offers low-cost items to a smaller segment, also providing insights into who wants still more costly solutions;
  • Culminating to the highest-cost item, proffered to the smallest segment;
  • All the while, building trust and enabling the sale of a bigger-ticket item, which nobody would have purchased at the outset. 

This means that if you want to sell dental caps or bridges, you start with a free cleaning.

Not only will people accept the freebie, but you’ll be garnering more and more information about who the smaller segments are, and what they want.

During the free dental cleaning, you (the dentist) might see a cavity and schedule that repair that costs them $600, and which offers $400 profit to you. 

A smaller segment of the people who got the free cleaning will choose to get a cavity filled, but some segment of those people will need a bridge or caps – which are $20,000 apiece, and which provide $15,000 in profit to your dental practice.

The money-maker is the bridge or caps. With each step up the ladder, an offer is made – for a more valuable service – to a smaller and smaller audience, as you build a relationship and trust.

Too often marketers and businesses jump right to the good part (for them), the sale of a profitable – even if valuable or useful – service or product, forgetting that a courtship and relationship-building has to occur for people to trust you to deliver something that costs 5-figures or more. 

If you don’t have a an offer ladder for your product, create one.

Too often marketers and businesses jump right to the good part (for them), the sale of a profitable – even if valuable or useful – service or product, forgetting that a courtship and relationship-building has to occur for people to trust you to deliver something that costs 5-figures or more. If a website or brand is big and established enough, with great brand exposure, a footprint and other validators, selling household-name products, then this might work. You can jump right on or to buy a $1,500 bed. But if you’re selling a unique product or service, that’s generally not the case.

We seem the same psychology explain repeat business: people already trust your brand or company, and their ability to deliver the solution at issue. Figures vary, but it’s many times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to re-sell them on a complimentary product from your company. 

In each case, it has to do with trust, even if one phenomenon predates the Internet. 

The take-home is that people need trust in order to give you their money. And even moreso with the Internet, since they have no fall-back if you’re just a scam website. Millions of people have been taken for a ride by dishonest or criminal web rackets. It’s much harder with physical businesses, but trust still governs commerce. It’s one reason why certain nations have a better time courting business or investors than others.

With a laddered offering, you will do infinitely better than if you just try to hit someone up for a $20,000 dental bridge at the door.


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