In building websites to sell products online, there’s a huge misconception out there about products selling themselves. Perhaps if you have the brand recognition of Apple or Coca-Cola you may find that products sell relatively easily, but once you examine the “why” behind it, you quickly realise that these huge companies have spent millions of dollars—if not billions—creating and maintaining that brand.

The truth of the matter is that online entrepreneurs have been getting bad information for well over a decade, and the end result is that their websites are set up to function much more like brochures rather than legitimate, sustainable, self-functioning sales systems.

Think about a grocery store circular or tourist information in a new city you visit. It’s somewhat appealing. It’s certainly new and therefore momentarily intriguing. It’s helpful, if only because you wanted to know about the subject before you picked up the brochure. But it’s not exciting; it doesn’t grab your attention and identify a solution to a problem. Unfortunately, this is the common website out there: Insipid, unclear and uninspiring. It’s a brochure, not a sales system.

How do you know for sure if your website is a mere brochure instead of a legitimate sales system? That requires a lot of honesty and reflection on your part. If you have an existing site, thoroughly examine what your site is about and ask yourself some very important questions.

Is Your Website Exciting?

Excitement in a good sales system website is an excitement that immediately grabs a visitor and continuously builds. While you may feel as if your poetic waxing about a product and your fancy imagery are working to build excitement, what you’ve basically created is a business brochure. You’re showing people what you’re about, but you’re not inspiring people to opt-in, you’re not indentifying the problem and providing the solution, and you’re certainly not jumping off the page and making people believe they need what you’re selling. An exciting website comes across as a must-have, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Anything else is just a pamphlet.

Is Your Website Authentic?

Authenticity is a trait fully capable of deciding your website’s fate as a lowly leaflet or a superior sales system. Along with being exciting and pushing the need, your site also needs to be authentic. Products sold online, whether tangible or information based, operate using trust. This is something that needs to be built up through legitimate testimonials, a thorough sales page, a guarantee of the product’s effectiveness, and concrete examples of the application in action.

Is Your Website Solution-Oriented?

You can have a thousand people opt in for your newsletters or other forms of follow-ups. You can excite people and make them very curious about purchasing your product. You can even work to build trust and have people believe that your product does work. But if it’s not providing a direct solution to an immediate problem, you’re never going to sell. People need to be inspired to purchase. You have to give them a reason to say yes to you. Everything else is simply leading the horse to water. If you can present your solution as the solution the customer needs, the inspiration is there and you will sell.

There is a very fine line between operating a colourful online brochure and a functioning sales system. If your site doesn’t operate as a sales system, you’re obviously missing out on some key traits.