Start-ups and innovation

Selling in the digital era: the five greatest misconceptions

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Digitalization is now part of everyday life. For some, it’s just a trendy word, and for some SMEs, it’s still a foreign word. But digital technologies offer enormous opportunities for marketing and sales in particular. Learn here about the five greatest misconceptions of digital selling and pick up some tips on the subject.

There is practically no other term in the corporate world that is used as carelessly as “digitalization”. Work colleagues, the boss or the media - everything centers on digital transformation. This means that digitalization is no longer a trendy word - and hasn’t been for a long time - but has surreptitiously crept into our everyday lives. Is it a safe bet that you made your last search on Google less than 24 hours ago? And that the last time you downloaded the public transport timetable, it was via an app? Just like your own life, the life of all your customers has become increasingly digital.

Swiss SMEs are lagging behind when it comes to digitalization.

Since our life is therefore digital, it goes without saying that SMEs should also integrate digital channels into their sales policies. However, the reality is very different, as only a quarter of Swiss SMEs has a digital strategy (according to the HWZ study “Digital Switzerland 2018 ). The situation is even worse when it comes to sales and marketing, as digital marketing was only in fourth place when it came to the question about the most important digital development. But even in distribution and marketing, digitalization offers enormous potential. The fact is that there are many half-truths about digital distribution, most probably because many of us still have no concrete perception of digitalization. It is therefore high time that we got our act together. 

Misconception #1: “It’s already too late”

As the HWZ study shows, many of your competitors are still in the starting blocks when it comes to digital distribution. For you, this means that you still have time to jump on the digitalization train. 

Tip: it’s best to take small steps when you enter the digital distribution world, particularly if you and your team are not familiar with digital channels. You don’t have to open an online shop right away, but maybe start with an Instagram account for your company. This way, you can put out feelers and take time finding out about potential customers on social media.

Misconception #2: “As an SME, I don’t need a digital strategy”

To be able to ride the digital wave over the long term, every company needs a sales strategy in which digital channels play a key role, regardless of the size of their business or sector. This is because customer needs are always changing, which is a fact you must take account of in a well considered strategy.

Tip:  selling digital doesn’t make sense everywhere. Certain products, mainly services, are still reliant on analog channels. Therefore proceed touchpoint by touchpoint and ask yourself which channels can be enhanced or even replaced with digital technology. 

Misconception #3: “Advertising on search engines is expensive”

New customers normally contact your company for the first time via a search engine. Therefore make sure customers can find you on Google etc., but this doesn’t mean you have to buy expensive Google Ads campaigns. As a first step, try to optimize the content of your website on search engines, as this increases the chances of your website appearing further up in search results. It may cost a bit of time, but placement in organic searches is completely free for you.

Tip: offer unique content on your website that actually interests your customers. Relevance is the winner on Google! This is how to set yourselves apart from your competitors and get a better ranking from Google. 

Misconception #4: “Social media is a good channel for advertising”

Is there such a thing as a digital distribution strategy without social media? No there isn’t, but social media is more than just an advertising channel. Obviously you can reach potential customers with ads on Facebook and at a relatively low cost. But social media can be so much more: it gives you the chance to have a direct dialogue with your customers, increase your credibility and turn customers into fans.

Tip: the magic word on social media is authenticity. You can save glossy prints of your products for your catalog or online shop - tell people stories that excite them.

Misconception #5: “Personal customer contact will soon be history”

True sales personalities are also in demand in the digital age. If a customer comes into the shop first, the sales staff can direct the customer experience better than Google ever could. Customers who find out about products online in advance already know the hard facts. Whether the customer decides to buy from you or the competition depends on “soft” factors: credibility, competence and sympathy.

Tip: sales staff primarily have an advisory role and round off the customer experience along the user journey. Integration between customer advisors and digital channels is therefore essential. 


Companies looking to be successful on the sales front need digital channels. It’s up to you to create a contemporary strategy and choose the sales channels that are most likely to be in tune with customer needs. However, the golden path always lies in the optimum combination of digital and analog distribution.

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