6 Ways to Sell Without Selling Your Soul

image of locked door

What’s the scariest Halloween costume you can imagine this year?

The villain from this year’s hot horror movie?

Zombies, vampires, the devil? Fat Elvis?

Not for me.

The most terrifying specter that might show up on my doorstep begging for a Snickers bar is …

The aggressive, pushy salesman.


Do you feel the same? Does selling make you feel … dirty?

You’re not naïve, of course. You know that somebody has to put up a website, write an advertisement, or pound the pavement to drum up sales, or you won’t have enough money to keep the lights on.

But can’t it be somebody else?

The whole idea of putting on a fake smile, pretending total strangers are your best friends, and sweet-talking average Joes and Janes into spending their hard-earned money on your products and services makes your skin crawl. It’s just not you.

And if we’re being honest? It feels wrong. Like sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-and-go-straight-to-hell wrong.

Sure, you want to build a successful business, but not if it means losing who you are. Somehow, someway, you have to figure out how to make money without abandoning your values, and yet a part of you wonders …

Is that really possible?

The answer:


In fact, not only is it possible, but I believe it’s necessary.

And in case you think this just another piece of lame broke-blogger sales advice, I sold about $35 million dollars’ worth of real estate to investors over a three-year period. I’ve seen first-hand what works, and what doesn’t.

After decades of tolerating sleazy salesmen with sparkling smiles and you’re-my-best-buddy attitudes, people are sick and tired of inauthenticity. The moment you appear even the slightest bit fake, their BS detectors go off, and they cheerfully show you their middle finger.

Plus, let’s not forget about social media.

As people get more and more connected, it’s becoming harder and harder for scam artists and snake oil salesmen to hide. You put the squeeze on one person, and five minutes later they’re on Facebook telling the entire world you’re a scumbag. Before long, you’ve ruined your reputation forever.

A new approach to selling that keeps your soul intact

The truth is, the heavy-handed sales tactics of the past are no longer appropriate for most businesses. Not only are they morally repugnant, but they’re increasingly ineffective.

Which is why smart businesspeople are changing the way they sell.

The new approach is less about manipulation and more about genuinely helping people. It’s less about charm and more about empathy. It’s less about making a quick buck and more about building a brand people want to buy from forever.

And the best part is your soul gets to stay squeaky clean. Not only can you sell without changing who you are, but you can go to bed at night knowing you made the world a better place.

Sound cool to you?

All righty, then. Here are six strategies to help you get started:

#1: Forget about making the sale and focus on helping people

You hate the idea of selling? That’s fine — good, even — because the most effective salespeople are the ones who aren’t focused on making the sale.

Here’s why:

People can tell whether you care about them or not. Regardless of whether you’re in person, doing a video, or writing a sales letter, they are silently watching to see where your loyalties lie. And if they sense you care more about making the sale than helping find the product or service that’s right for them, they’ll immediately distrust you.

So stop trying so hard.

Forget about how much money you’ll make if they buy, and forget about sales goals or quotas or even your own objectives. Instead, focus on them. Make helping them your number one priority.

If that means recommending your product because it’s genuinely the best solution to their problem, great. Or if it doesn’t look like a good match, that’s fine too.

What’s important is that you care, that you be honest, that you tell them the truth, regardless of how it affects your bottom line.

Remember, the really good salespeople — the ones who make seven figures a year in commissions — aren’t pushy. They’re selfless. They’re so focused on the customer they almost cease to exist.

Almost. 😉

#2: Don’t even mention your product for the first 20 minutes

Lots of sales people pride themselves on the “gift of gab.”

They never stop talking from the moment you meet them, spinning stories, telling jokes, talking up their product or service, believing that if they talk long enough, if they push the right buttons, if they don’t give you a chance to object, you’ll finally submit, and they’ll make a sale.

That’s why we avoid them. We lie and say we’re just browsing, not because we want to deprive them of making a sale, necessarily, but because we’re sick of their spiel. If we let them get started, we worry we may never get them to shut up again.

The better approach, of course, is to say nothing. Instead of talking your customers into buying your products and services, do nothing but listen for the first 20 minutes. Let them do the talking. Make absolutely certain you understand their needs before you even mention what you have for sale.

Shockingly, you’ll find people want to buy from you. Not because of your charm or your wit or your knowledge about the product or service, but because they feel like you understand their needs, and so they trust you. That trust is worth more than all the words in the world.

#3: Put away your yellow highlighter and pick up the chalk

So, let me guess. Those long sales letters with big red headlines, yellow highlighter, and overblown promises probably turn you off, right?

Yeah. Me too.

For the longest time, marketers have been treating us like we have ADD. They feel like they have to make everything flashy, exciting, and aggressive, or we’ll get distracted and never buy anything.

But it’s just not true. Yes, that approach continues to be effective when selling to extremely unsophisticated people (or to distracted, ice-cold traffic from something like a pay-per-click campaign), but for most topics and niches, there are better options.

Like teaching, for example.

There’s a reason the flagship Copyblogger Media course isn’t called “Social Media Sells” or “Talking About Yourself Sells” or even “Content Marketing Sells.”

It’s called Teaching Sells.

Because a teaching-focused approach to business, where you think almost obsessively about how you can teach and benefit your potential customer, will let you stand out in even the most competitive environment.

Instead of trying to force people into buying on your first contact with them (which you’re not going to be able to do anyway), get them on your email list.

Give them some free training that proves the value of what you offer. Send out videos, free reports, and interviews showing them how to get results without requiring them to pay for anything.

If it’s good, they’ll want more, and that makes selling easy.

#4: Trade dollars for dimes

So, let’s say I’m selling dollar bills for $.10 each. How many would you buy?

As many as I’m selling, right?

Well, what if you could make essentially the same offer with your product?

Amateur marketers create a product that’s worth X, and then they sell it for X. So if you have an e-book, and the value proposition and market forces dictate it’s worth $100, you sell it for $100.

But if you want to create an irresistible offer, try this idea on for size:

If your product is worth $100, sell it for $10. Or better yet, figure out how to make your e-book worth $1000, so the $100 becomes a pittance. The 10X value differential makes it a mouthwatering deal.

And just to be clear, I’m not advocating lowering prices. That’s not what this strategy is about. I’m talking about increasing value.

It’s about always offering your customers more than you take, so that all of your products and services are irresistible. The best way to do that is to offer 10 times more than you take.

#5: Take responsibility for what happens after the sale

Imagine you just bought a new Apple computer, and you’re having trouble figuring out how to use it, so one day, you stop by the Apple Store and ask the guy at the counter for some pointers.

“Don’t look at me for help, moron,” he sneers, looking at you with disgust. “Our job is to produce a quality computer with quality software. If you can’t figure out how to use it, that’s your problem.”

Ridiculous, right?

The Apple Store helps create a great experience with their products, by making sure the customer gets full enjoyment and satisfaction out of the experience of owning that Macbook or iPad.

Yet countless marketers are guilty of it.

Take the average e-book author, for instance. She writes what she knows, packages it up into an e-book, sells it, and then that’s the end of the transaction. If the customer gets results after reading the e-book, that’s great, but if not, it’s not her problem. Her job was just to give them the information, right?


Smart e-book authors package homework assignments, checklists, and a quick start guide along with their e-book to help people put information into action. They know that customer interaction starts with the e-book, it doesn’t end there.

They might even take it a step further, and offer to pair customers as accountability partners, or maybe they also have a premium package that includes one-on-one consulting.

The result is happier customers, more testimonials. Eventually, you can charge a higher price point because people who are using your product are getting results.

#6: Guarantee their satisfaction (or their money back)

What’s the easiest way to separate ethical marketers from the ones just trying to take your money?

Simple: a strong satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason the customer is unhappy with the product, he can return it for a refund, no questions asked.

Here’s why:

Smart marketers understand they’re not selling products or services. They’re selling results. And if for any reason the customer doesn’t get those results, then the marketer knows they don’t deserve to be paid.

Not only is it good business, but it increases sales. Substantially. I’ve seen sales bumps as high as 80% when a client introduced a strong, no-BS guarantee for their product. It just makes people more comfortable buying, especially online, and that means more sales.

In fact, the stronger your guarantee, usually the higher your sales will go. With my guest blogging course, not only do I offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, where you can get a refund for any reason, but I also guarantee that if you do all of the exercises you’ll get a guest post on a popular blog of your choice within 90 days, or your money back.

The result?

An online business that grosses a healthy six figures per year.

Oh, and in case you’re curious, with more than 350 students now, no one has ever used the second guarantee. So not only does it improve conversion, but it also costs nothing. Makes it a no-brainer, if you ask me.

The Bottom Line: Selling Doesn’t Have To Be Evil

It can and should actually be the opposite.

If you’re genuinely trying to help people, listening with empathy, teaching your customers how to solve their problems, offering them awesome deals on products and services they love, delivering results that change their lives, and doing so with guarantees that remove all risk of them ever having to worry about being cheated, then I have news for you:

You’re not doing anything bad. In fact, we might even go so far as to say you’re making the world a better place.

And the best part?

You’re getting paid for it. Every day, you get up and make the lives of your customers better, and the better the job you do, the more money they’re happy to give you in return.

So, don’t get hung on a little word like “selling.” There’s too much at stake.

Not only can you make a fortune, but the world is full of people whose lives your products and services can change for the better. Every time you cringe, every time you procrastinate, every time you shy away from telling them what you do, you’re depriving them of a better life. The truth is, the world needs people like you out there selling, or the whole engine of progress comes screeching to a halt.

So, get out there.

Help some people.

Get rich.

And most importantly, sleep easy, because your soul is safe. You can tell the deity of your choice I said so.

About the Author: In addition to serving as the Associate Editor of Copyblogger, Jon Morrow is also on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging.

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Reader Comments (61)

  1. says

    Mr. Morrow, I think you write the best articles here on Copyblogger.

    Selling has really gotten a bad rep thanx to the snake oily creatures from the web’s darkest corners, and that’s why I rather use the word “influence” than “selling to people”, because that’s what it comes down to.

    Nothing’s new in this article, but it’s a great reminder of the important aspects that a soul keeping biz person should know.

    • says

      I take pride in my status as salesman. Without the sale, nothing else happens.

      I agree with you Mars. Selling is about educating the customer. The thing that keeps me awake at night is knowing that I’ve sold a product to a customer that is not ready to buy it. They will not feel like they got a good deal, because they don’t really know what problem the product is really intended to solve.

      Keep up the good work Mr. Morrow!

  2. says

    I just cant help but agree with #1. How many times I have seen people just trying to sell the product anyhow without paying attention to whether the client is interested or not.

  3. says

    Sorry Jon, I have to disagree with you on the key point of this post:

    “The most terrifying specter that might show up on my doorstep begging for a Snickers bar is …
    The aggressive, pushy salesman.”

    I can only assume that you’ve never been confronted by a Jehovah’s Witness? 😉

    Brilliant post, thanks very much.

  4. says


    Jeffrey Gitomer always says, “People like to buy but they don’t like to be sold.” He couldn’t be more right.

    When you focus on informing and educating the prospect then the product will pretty much sell itself if it’s of high enough quality/value.

    Thanks for the post!

  5. says

    Jon, great post- it’s Sales 2.0, right? :)

    What’s so great is that this philosophy (which is aligned with the principles of “The Go-Giver” by Bob Burg and John David Mann) is that it makes sales so much more comfortable for everyone involved. So many entrepreneurs are uncomfortable with the sales process, but when you actually stop TRYING to make the sale and start focusing on the other person and how you can serve them, the pressure is taken off of you and off of the person you want to do business with.

    Plus, it’s just good business to make sure that your client feels good about doing business with you- before, during, and after the sale.

    Great post!

  6. says

    Teaching sells.

    Ha. It’s genius and the cold-hard truth.

    This is also why I believe that blogs will become the lifeblood of free and powerful information. The Internet already is free and powerful, but it is rare to find websites that contain such great information. I went months not knowing what Copyblogger was, but after landing on it it has lead to me guest blogging class, understanding the craft, and making it a ritual to wake up in the morning and look for new posts and read old ones.

    Teaching is not only a powerful way of selling; it’s an extremely phenomenal way of building something from the ground up to something monumental and everlasting. The potential and opportunities are limitless.

    Love the post, Jon. Delightful.

  7. says

    What a great post Jon and I love that I can take your 6 steps and immediately put them into action. I really hate selling and I hate the big red header and yellow highlights even more. I am focused on helping people and hope that comes across. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Jason Bax says

    Brilliant article. The only thing that sells better than teaching is entertainment. Do you have to be SOLD to have a good time?

    So ditch your manipulative, old-school douche bag pitch and demonstrate in an entertaining way…people will line up to see you.

  9. says

    “Never Write an Advertisement Which You Wouldn’t Want Your Own Family To Read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine. Do as you would be done by.”
    -David Ogilvy

  10. says

    All great points – but #1 is by far the most important, in my opinion. To the extent that you are able to understand people’s pain points and help solve their problems, you are golden. No matter the industry, country, size of market or area of expertise – if your pitch is about the client, it really isn’t a pitch at all. It’s a solution.

  11. says

    Proof that this works is listening to the buzz around town when a chain of a popular franchise is about to open. You hear comments like “Wow – we’re getting a Target!!” not “oh crud! Target is opening a store here.”

  12. says

    Great ideas here, which good salespeople have always known. The bad salespeople, copywriters, bloggers, and marketers always give the rest of us a bad name.

  13. says

    You really hit this spot on; I recently asked a great friend of mine, who happens to be a sales-woman for a filter company, how she can sell and not feel bad. She in less words told me the same thing you highlighted in this post. Great article!

  14. Stan says

    Many of you may have read this, but I’ll mention it anyway. Look up “Joe Girard: How To Sell Anything To Anybody” for more about selling with dignity. He gives away the best advice from the toughest niche out there – car sales. The attitude and principles mentioned in Jon’s post made him “The World’s Greatest Salesman” (The Guinness Book Of Records) for many years.

  15. says

    At my old job that I had to quit to keep my sanity, I kept trying to tell the bosses that a hard aggressive sales pitch in copy or in person does not work. They told me they needed “closers” :)

    Now, I have worked in retail and in direct sales most of my life. I do know without a doubt that being overly pushy pisses people off even more than getting a fact wrong. Yeah, that’s right. Buyers are more likely to forgive someone for getting something wrong that is not too pushy than forgive someone who never shuts up but knows everything.

    My former bosses were “social media experts” that phrase makes me laugh.

    • says

      Yeah, some people get hung up on sale styles, totally forgetting that it’s only the results that matter. If you’re making sales, and your customers are happy, who cares if you don’t fit the mold?

  16. says

    Great points! Any good sales person should know these, but we may forget at times. It’s all about finding (listening) out what your customers need and how you can best fill their needs (honestly)! Thanks

  17. says

    In my sales career, I’ve found the only way to sell successfully is to bring more value to the customer than they are currently receiving. If you can’t do that, don’t feel bad about walking away. It’s the best thing to do to maintain high standards for yourself, as well as your offer to the customer….

  18. says

    I love this approach. I have been trying to do this for years of my business, and it had great success. You do not need to be a sleazy marketer to be a success in marketing. In fact, I think the opposite is true. The more honest and above board you are, and the more you really care and try to provide value for your customers the better you will do. If not in the immediate time frame, then without a doubt in the long run.

  19. says

    I love reading your posts, this one in particular in so relevant for online marketers today. gone are the days of ruthless marketing tactics, online and offline too! they simply will not be tolerated. Marketing has moved on considerably…and quite rightly so. searchers are more specific to what they are searching for .
    Your posts always over deliver and help considerably keeping me focused…Thankyou.

  20. says

    This really is a great article. I think a lot of copywriters are wary about the hard sell, but aren’t aware of the alternatives. This really makes them clear.

  21. says

    Fantastic post! Love your point about trading dollars for dimes. That’s a poignant, tangible example of value creation. I also like the idea of considering yourself a people-helper rather than a salesperson. The idea of selling puts a bad taste in our mouths, so if we think of ourselves as just helping, what could it hurt? Great insights!

  22. says

    Appreciate the clarity and spiritual aspects of your approach to selling. Selling ,is like a relationship and all good relationships are built up on mutual respect care and love for each other. Listening for 20 minutes..wow..I wonder how many of us do that in “real life” when with our families/friends.

  23. says

    It’s a relief to hear more and more people talk about selling without snake oil. Ick-free is easier on the sales person and the buyer, though it seems that part of us is programed to think we’re supposed to do it the pushy way. Thanks for highlighting what we all want to believe about selling–genuinely helping rocks!

    I think you’re on the money when you mention not trying to force people into buying upon initial contact. You mention trying to get them on an email list instead. That’s a great way to kick off a giving-not-getting relationship.

    Once someone is on an email list, the key to building that relationship is to focus on helping and serving that new subscriber. Selflessly sharing what one knows over blogs or email newsletters is a great way to do that. Then, when you have something valuable to sell, they may be interested. After all, you’ll have shown them the quality of content you provide.

    I realize this is considered standard practice among many in the online world today, likely because it works so well.

    Thanks again for sharing the anti-ick approach. It’s always a great to hear it.

  24. says

    Awesome points. To be successful in selling in this day and age, your approach should be less about manipulation and more about genuinely helping people. Showing people empathy is what will help you build your brand.

    Focus on helping your prospect find solutions to their problems. This approach makes sales much more comfortable for everyone involved.

    Thanks for sharing!

  25. says

    Obsess over #1 and you never have to sell again. Serial helpers turn away business…or at least, they never suffer. Give freely, receive generously.

    Thanks for sharing!


  26. says

    Great post. It’s always easier to sell my services to clients when they feel like I’m teaching them something. It also reminds me that I’m selling something valuable.

  27. says

    I’ve recently met one of the most enchanting salesman ever, who managed to talk me into buying a 3 year gym membership. I see all his techniques in your post. Now I shall look into how I can actively apply them at work. :)

  28. says

    Selling becomes evil only when some unethical salesperson destroyed the reputation of the profession. I admit that my sales techniques used to consists of some manipulation. As I grow as a person, I learned to shift my sales techniques. Now it’s less manipulation, more empathize and listening! It feels good to know that the prospect is making a decision without pressure!

  29. says

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for this great article. I suspect I will be reading it more than once to get it to sink in. I have a lot to learn in this area, it’s all new territory being on the selling end. I was a secretary working with a lot of salespeople a long time ago and I got to see the ugly side of sales which tainted my view somewhat. I am a terrible liar and one day one of the salespeople told me I was getting really good at lying for him. That really had me questioning my role.
    It helps to know that you can be successful in sales without being pushy and overbearing.

  30. says

    This is excellent, Jon. I do think there’s a bit of reframe that has to happen though. I find that new entrepreneurs often think of selling as if they’re asking for a favor. The imagine they’re saying, “Could you please help me with my business by buying this product or service?”

    When in fact, a good business is just the opposite, as you point out. It’s like you’ve seen someone carrying a heavy load and said, “Here, let me help you with that.” Nothing drove this point home like starting a business myself. I had so much to learn at once, it was so hard, and I kept wondering, “Why aren’t people pitching me? Can’t they see I’m struggling?!”

    As you know, I write about career change, where I hear all the time about how there aren’t any prospects for jobs. And I’m always thinking, “Are you kidding me? Peope are dying out there! Go help them!”

  31. says

    Hi Jon,
    Great Site and advice! There is so much out there, and I just started blogging. It is refreshing to hear someone just speak their mind, and tell it the way it is!

  32. says

    Great tips! I have to agree that if people get a trust in you, you’ll be able to make a better sale than you imagined. Have it be a person to person convo., not just a sales person hoping to sell and doesn’t care about anything except that.

  33. Henneke says

    Love this article Jon! Content marketing for sales people – it’s so true.

    I see it like this: Selling used to be about relationships.

    Salesmen used to pop in for a cup of tea. And to talk about the latest football match. They’d take their customer out for a boozy lunch. And then they sold some stuff because they’re nice guys (or girls).

    Quite a lot of sales people are still stuck in this relationship approach. But their nice chat might upset customers. Their customer may think they’re wasting their time. Their customer may be far too busy for a chat.

    Of course being likeable is still required, but a good relationship should be based on helping your customers to achieve their goals and solve their problems. And if you’re not sure what challenges your customers face, just do a survey and ask the questions. And find the solutions to their problems.

    Helping your customers be more successful is worth so much more than a free meal.

  34. says

    Jon, this article is gold! It’s great how you walk the reader through their sales inhibitions. You’re right. Most non-sales types shy away from this aspect of business building because of past experiences with overly aggressive sales people. Yes, sales must be made but the process is much easier when following the tips that you outlined above. Thanks!!

  35. says

    Oh! It is very interesting to read. Very important tips are provided. I hope these tips are more helpful to improve our business and sell the products very easily.

  36. says

    Thank you for the great insights. I will include your article in the December issue of Inventors News for the benefit of independent product developers. Thank you for keeping us on the leading edge of business.

  37. says

    This is one of the very best short and direct to the point articles I have read about sales.
    At the end of the day, this style offers a solution to a need with Ease, Integrity, and Detachment from outcome. The detachment from outcome while maintaining a mental vision of abundance & rewards for both prospect and sales person is a huge value because it provides a growth experience for both even if a sale was not made.

  38. says

    Jon, I breathed a sigh of relief after reading this article. You make “selling” sound like something I WANT to do instead of the disagreeable task I’ve always viewed it as. It’s paradoxical but true that the less you focus on selling and making money, the more you sell and the more money you make. And your article very clearly explains why this is so. Helping people and providing a service as the number one reason for being in business, whatever that business may be, has been too long absent from the selling equation. I’m glad the focus is finally shifting. Thanks for this inspiring article.

  39. says

    Two things keep me selling.
    1. The people who are counting on me to provide for them.
    2. The customers who thank me for selling them our services.

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