How to Sell Without a Sales Pitch

image of lemonade stand

When you’re about to launch a new product or service, you need some buzz.

Sure, you can use your blog to mention your plans a few times leading up to the launch. You’ll probably ask some fellow bloggers to write reviews. You’ll use your best copywriting techniques to craft pitches for your blog and email list, and send as many people as you can to the sales page on the day of the launch.

That’s all good.

But there’s also a more subtle route.

You can generate interest in what you want to promote without actually mentioning it — and you can start building that interest long before you’re ready to announce it’s on the market.

Here’s how:

Blog about the problem

Every product or service should address a problem that your potential customers have.

(Note: if your product or service doesn’t address a problem, you don’t have a good product or service yet. Please go back and try again.)

Quite often, your customers don’t realize yet that they have this problem.

For example, my friend John Hoff created a product to help bloggers protect WordPress blogs from hackers. He knew that blog hacking is a problem many people have, but most bloggers don’t know they’re at risk.

For John, a bunch of guest posts around the web and a series on common ways blogs are hacked would have worked well to build some buzz for his product.

By the end of the series, readers would be getting a little concerned. “Hey, maybe this is something I should look into. This might happen to me, too.”

Then John could pop up with a nifty solution to the problem, and those worried people would be grateful.

A little education saves him the trouble of convincing customers that they need the product, and it benefits the reader at the same time. His sale gets infinitely easier — and he gets a bunch of informative blog posts, traffic, and readers out of the deal as well. Sweet.

Blog about the solution

When you blog, be sure to mention solutions to problems you’re going to solve.

You don’t need to go into step-by-step lessons and give every single answer away. That’s usually something you save for the product or service itself.

But you definitely should talk about what to do, and then sell how to do it. Blog about what solutions you think are best for different angles on the problem. Then sell them your expertise in the best way to go about carrying out those solutions for themselves.

This approach lets you show readers that you know what needs to be done. And your confidence lets them see that you have a very good idea of exactly how to do it.

Blog about the client

A good way to reinforce the impression that you have expertise is by blogging about clients you’ve already helped. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Case studies: Write up a story about a problem your client came to you with, and how you solved that problem. You don’t need to give away all your tricks, but be specific about what problem the client had (she had pests in her garden) and what you did (you eliminated pests completely). You don’t need to go into every nitty gritty detail of how you did it (you released ladybugs in her garden), but a few well-chosen specifics will make the story more compelling.
  • Interviews: If your client is willing, do a full-scale interview centered around the topic of the problem and post it to your blog. Ask your client what it was like to live with this problem. Ask her what she’s learned and what she would do differently next time. Her story will help your potential clients see the value of what you’ve got.

By the time you’ve spent a few weeks blogging on topics that relate to the problem you’re about to solve, your readers will be fully informed and ready to buy. And you won’t need to beat them over the head with pushy sales talk. That’s a win for everybody.

About the Author: For fantastic web copy that solves your problems without using any ladybugs, get in touch with James Chartrand at Men with Pens. Or skip right through the garden and grab the Men with Pens RSS feed right here.

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  1. Hi James,
    I really hate the idea of beating my readers over the head with a sales pitch. I want them instead to feel as if I’ve been providing valuable information that will put the choice in their hands whether or not they choose to move on a make a purchase. I don’t want anyone to feel pressured because I know how annoying that is. :)

  2. Good job James!

    Blogging is indeed an excellent marketing tool–but one that is not very well understood by many businesses.

    Your post here outlines a technique that virtually anyone should be able to take and apply to their own marketing strategy.

  3. Hey James,

    This is a great idea on how to promote. I’ve always seen it by promoting the product before it launches. But this is brilliant!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  4. James, this was a great article on being subtle in your marketing approach. To this day the formula for selling still comes down to the three S’s, Share, Show,and Sell.

  5. Mmmm… interesting concept, but how would this apply to say, selling jewelry online? I mean, it’s a fashion accessory, not a ‘must have’ and apart from selling custom sized jewelry or making pieces that help women with stretched lobes, or tiny or oversized wrists and necks (i.e. sizes that are not sold commercially), for the mainstream folks that can purchase commercial jewelry, how do you sell to them? They have no ‘problems’ that need ‘fixing’.

    Maybe I’m missing something. I’d love to hear what you have to say on this. Thanks :-)

  6. Nathalie, the first step in applying this is identifying the problems your prospective buyers have when purchasing jewelry. The first thing that pops into my mind is how to evaluate the quality-to-price ratio for precious gems.

    What does clarity mean? How do a I choose the right cut? Is bigger always better when it comes to carats?

    Follow that line of thinking and you’ll be surprised at how many “problems” you can solve with content that naturally becomes a pre-selling vehicle.

  7. This is the stuff I tell my clients all the time. It truly works. Thank you for reinforcing the message with extreme clarity.

  8. Selling by showing the problem is a great way to close in a more subtle way. People are getting tired of pitch after pitch when they are looking for solutions.

    I agree that you can show what to do without show HOW to do it, but we, as bloggers have to be weary about how much of the kitchen sink we give away.

    If your customers get into the mindset that you are going to tell them everything for free then you wil have a very hard time converting them into buyers later.

    Building relationships, inviting people into the conversation, airing out their problems to the rest of your audience, and then discussing solutions can be a very powerful way of selling a ton of stuff without selling at all.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  9. Hi James,

    This is a great post and I need to do more of this on my own blog. Thanks for writing this post, I have duly bookmarked it for future reference!

    David

  10. It all comes down to problem solving and filling a need. I need to remember this every day! (That’s my need.) Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Thank you Brian, but that would apply to jewelry that has gemstones in it. What do you do when most of the jewelry is metal only (Sterling silver, fine silver, copper). No gemstones discussion involved when it comes to all metal jewelry.

    I’m not saying that I’m not making and selling both types (with and without gemstones), but the ideas your brought forward are more about traditional jewelry with calibrated stones (diamonds, traditional ring settings, etc). Artisan jewelry is different from that. We normally talk about unique, one of a kind pieces of wearable art, but again, those do not solve any kind of ‘problem’ (apart from those who are looking for the unique and don’t want to look like everybody else).

  12. Nathalie, “looking like everybody else” is the problem you’re solving. The jewelry tells a story about the person wearing it.

    Now, how do you get them to want to tell that story by buying your stuff? A bit of a creative challenge, but you can figure it out if you work on it.

    Or maybe you can hire James to help you. :)

  13. Some great advice here.

  14. :-) If I could afford to hire James, I wouldn’t be here wondering how to market my creations better LOL

    I’ll keep working at it, thanks for your input my dear!

  15. Spot on post! I once had an industry leader discover my blog and Twitter handle and tweeted (paraphrasing) “does the fact that I don’t know about this entity my problem or his?”

    My initial reaction was hmm, maybe it’s my problem, but stuck to my guns re; building relationships without overt selling of my services. Now I have the buzz and getting more. So, thanks for the reinforcement :-)

    @umcle

  16. Even though the picture at the top of this post is probably stock photography, I really like it. It reminds me of the good ol’ days living in the country.

    I think building the interest before actually selling the product is a great technique. Building on a common theme or a thesis over a series of blog posts gives you the opportunity for more impact than a single post would, and let’s you flesh out your topic.

  17. Yep, points to what we learnt in Teaching Sells. Educate to dominate… help the buyer make an informed decision by educating them.

  18. Hi James, Brilliant thoughts on one of the best things we can use for marketing through a blog.It’s all about making sense of what we would be selling and it works because the readers are habitual of consuming content that is free of cost and a product might not receive the right treatment thus building a need is better the building sales buzz. Thanks for sharing the article.

  19. Nice article, James. I once heard Brian say that he tries to get the prospect to see themselves buying a product or service before he ever gives the pitch. So you can’t create desire, but you can channel existing desires and position your product to solve them — and then hit them up with an offer they can’t refuse.

  20. @Drew, case studies are especially nice for that — the prospect can see herself “in the shoes” of the person the case study is about.

  21. Glad to see this post hits a home run with so many people!

    @Natalie – You bring up a good question that I think many people struggle with. When something is a luxury purchase, it’s often seen as not necessary and therefore, not a solution to people’s needs.

    But there are many solutions that jewelry, specifically, offers, and there are many problems that encourage people to buy it.

    1. I want to show someone I care. It’s a problem, because I want to get the *right* thing for that person. Unique artisan jewelry is the solution.

    2. I want people to notice me, to get that second glance that shows them I’m special and different. It’s a problem when everything looks the same. Unique artisan jewelry is the solution.

    3. I want to mark a special celebration, a moment in my life, with something lasting, personal and intriguing. Finding that moment is a problem – but… artistan jewelry hits the note just right.

    4. I want something that makes me feel good about myself, a token that lights up my eyes or makes me smile when I hear it jingle. Yup. Unique jewelry.

    … and so on and so forth. These may seem trivial problems when compared to paying the bills or putting food on the table, but truthfully, these issues are just as pressingly important for people. They’re just… different issues.

    That make sense?

    (I’m sure that if it doesn’t, Brian will gleefully point out the error of my ways… ;)

  22. Nathalie,
    Study how J Peterman sells without selling

    Here’s a specific example of a product description that does just this:
    http://www.jpeterman.com/Mens-Jackets-Vests/Classic-English-Blazer

  23. @nathalie ps. Jeff Sexton had an awesome audio example of selling on his site: http://www.jeffsextonwrites.com/tag/emotion-in-advertising/ (scroll down and click on “daddy’s little girl” link) to see how this jewelry store did it.

  24. Some solid advice here. You always here that you should sell without “selling”. This post shows how to do it as a blogger. Gave me some good ideas. I think this would work all across social media and forums as well. Just something else to consider.

  25. I wonder how many times we are ‘duped’ by the big cooperations, bcs i am sure they use this technique.

  26. Love this article, James. I really need to work on this. I just started my blog, and I haven’t been clear on what I should write about. Yesterday’s and today’s posts on Copyblogger have just cemented it in my brain. Thank you!

  27. Great post James. Your post catches the spirit of real marketing strategy. You should sell in a way that the buyer should feel it is his decision to buy the product or service. This is the way you should mentally prepare your customer so that they make a buying decision. Unfortunately not many webmarketers and bloggers understand this and as a result they spam email boxes of their subscribers. I have seen this problem with some of the so called well respected and popular bloggers. I wish they could understand the great idea expressed in your post. Keep up the good work.

  28. It’s good advice and the perfect sales pitch.

  29. This is a great post! People are always looking for solutions to their problems in any market. It’s so easy to put a blog / vlog post together to help someone else and provide value.

    I found this increases the likelihood that your content will go viral and get picked up around the web.

  30. Hey there James,

    First of all I would love to say that I really love your ideas about this sales without a sale pitch. And actually this idea has been proven because nowadays people won’t easily attracted to the sales pitch, they love the individuals who provides P&S (problem and solution) through their blogs.

    By the way, feel free to drop by my blog because I also do the post exactly the same ideas as yours. Thank you.

    Excellent post James.

  31. GEEZ did somebody crawl inside my head or what?@! LOL
    Mens with pens is also a man with a brain! LOL Good job James!

  32. Hey James,

    Thanks for the article! I had been toying with some blog ideas along the lines of your articles. Your article helped me flesh out my ideas and inspired me to actually write them.

    Thanks and great article!

    Also, love your posts on Men with Pens and some of your other guest posts from around the internet.

  33. Shane & James, I love those examples of finding the “problem” for things like art, jewelry, etc.

  34. Thank you very much James, Shane, everybody :-)

    I really appreciate the help and terrific tips.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t get back here sooner to reply. This is excellent information… and yes, James, I was looking at it more as being a luxury and not really a ‘need’ IMO, but for many people, it is, so I’ll work that angle.

    Thank you!
    Cheers,
    Nathalie

  35. Thanks for this excellent article, James! Also for your helpful insights here in the comments section.

    Nathalie, one HUGE problem people have is the need to give nice, appropriate, meaningful gifts – but they don’t know what to give, where to buy it, etc.

    Often handmade jewelry is the perfect solution to people’s gift-giving problems. I peeked at your jewelry storefronts – and I’m sure your work would make VERY well-received presents! :)

    More than half of all the handmade jewelry I’ve ever sold has been purchased to be given as gifts.

    People like to give nice things in a variety of price ranges, so I find it’s a good idea to have pieces available for different gift levels.

    Three more helpful tips for solving people’s gift-giving problems with your jewelry:

    Offer multi-piece matching jewelry sets (such as necklace, bracelet, earrings) – and suggest that your customer give one piece of this set for each of the next three gift occasions (Mother’s Day, birthday, anniversary). Now you’ve solved their next 3 gift-giving problems for that gift recipient.

    Also, offer giftable jewelry in the under-$20 range. Now you’re solving the gift-giving problems of people who want to give something to teachers, co-workers, babysitters, etc. Put a sign near these pieces in your booth (or on your website) saying something like “the perfect gift”, to jog customers’ memory that they need to take care of their gift-giving responsibilities.

    And always be sure to provide lovely free gift packaging and free gift tag for each piece of jewelry bought as a gift. That’s because wrapping the gift is another problem for many people – so if you make sure your customer leaves your jewelry studio / booth / website with a gift that’s completely ready to give (all they have to do is sign the tag), you’ve totally relieved them of their gift-giving problem!

    I’ve had people stop by with their entire Christmas list of people to shop for, and leave less than an hour later with most of the folks on their list completely taken care of and nice gifts already packaged. They always appreciate having their gift-giving responsibilities fulfilled so easily. :)

  36. @Rena, thanks for such a generous comment! Those are excellent ideas.

  37. Matthew Needham :

    James, this is good timing for me. I’m about to launch my first ebook and this has proved very useful for my posts over the next week. Thanks!

  38. Its a great technique that you have illustrated, once u propose the solution to problem of customers, they are very likely to buy the product.

    Also, I saw the kink on wordpress defender as well, my own blog was hacked a few days ago and I can understand the pain.

  39. Hey James,

    Awesome post…

    “Blog about the problem” Grreat point.. I have seen many people, they just through the affiliates directly to the visitors and result they end with very less or no money.
    And Interviews is another awesome way to sell without a sales Pitch.
    Thanks for sharing this great post !!

    Thanks,
    Dev

  40. This is a very interesting post interviews without a sales pitch is a good idea. I’m new to affiliate marketing and am open to all ideas to promote my product – thanks for the post

  41. Thanks for this post, so refreshing to hear about this process, esp. with so many in your face offers, etc. This positions you as expert and educator and who doesn’t want to buy from someone like that!
    cheers
    Michael

  42. Claro la nota esta re interesante. Tienen que escribir muchas de este tipo.

    Felicitaciones sigan así!.

  43. I will be following this advice. Thank you!

  44. Hi Rena! I read your newsletter religiously btw… thank you for stopping by to comment and give more ideas.

    I only sell online (health issues prevent me from selling at shows), and 99% of my buyers are buying my jewelry to wear themselves, not for gift giving.

    I do package my jewelry to be ‘ready for gifting’ and I also include a pretty gift tag, ribbon, box or pretty gift pouch, etc.

    With the ever rising price of precious metals, making jewelry and selling it for under $20 and still make a profit is very much a challenge.

    I have 5 items that I am selling under $20, very simple pairs of earrings in sterling silver, and I am not willing to use cheaper ‘plated’ metals in my designs.

    I offer a wide range of prices (from just below $20 up to $700 per item, roughly – in my NG Originals line for higher end pieces), so I think that I cover all budgets.

    When it comes to making ‘sets’ of jewelry, I used to offer them in the past and the earrings would sell, or the bracelet would sell but I’d get stuck with the necklace or one of the pieces. If I list the 3 pieces as a ‘set’, I’d get requests to break it up so that the person would just get the one piece only, they did not want sets.

    Again, those were people buying for themselves.

    I will look at making designs and writing descriptions that target shoppers who are looking for gifts more.

    Thanks for your input!

  45. Hey I should have chatted more with you about my product launch, James! That’s awesome advice. So would you say I’d be “pre heating” or “warming up”? LOL

    Interviews are great, especially when the person you’re interviewing mentions it and links to it from their blog and social networks.

    Interviews are something I think I really need to take a look into. Oh and thanks for the mention!

  46. I was more interested in the “Blog Security” product you mentioned. It’s funny because my blog was actually hacked a week ago and it lost me alot of readers.

  47. @Tyler – Having your blog hacked sucks, sorry to hear that happened to you. It’s happened to me before, too, and like the article said, most people don’t worry or think about that kind of stuff until it happens to them (and too late).

    Not only can it lose you readers, it can also cause you to lose a little bit of trust… I mean, would you keep buying from Amazon.com if their site kept getting hacked all the time?

    … sorry Brian & James, didn’t mean to go off topic ;-)

  48. @Nathalie

    Using the problem/solution/client framework that James has described…

    Problem
    You can write about the problems that buying jewelry will solve (incomplete outfit, looking boring, etc) and/or talk about problems in the buying process (size, exact colour, returns policy, allergic reaction to some metals, etc)

    Solution
    Talk about how just one piece of jewelry can turn a good outfit into a great outfit, how it’s going to make the wearer feel special every time she wears it, how her friends will notice it and comment, how it solves a gift problem, …

    Client
    Some photos of people wearing your jewelry and their own words: “I made this for my school-friend Cammy to wear at her wedding. She says….”

    Or just a list of reasons why people have bought your jewelry could get some people thinking.

  49. @ John Hoff, it’s not off topic, it’s part of the main post, so it’s great to talk about it and I did have a question for you too:

    You talk about WordPress specifically, but what about people that have a Typepad blog, or a blog on another platform? Do you have a similar product that covers those? Typepad is hugely popular, big companies have their blogs on there, etc. Or is it just WordPress that has some security flaws in their default settings (I doubt it, but it begs the question)…

    @ John (York UK) – Thank you very much for your input. I really appreciate it. I do get lots of great feedback from buyers on Etsy (feedback is voluntary). I’ve seen some sellers who take a few feedback comments that are left about specific items that they remake-resell, and they include some of that feedback into their items’ description.

    I will start doing this, thanks for reminding me about this option.

    Cheers from across the pond,
    Nathalie

  50. I have been working on this myself. I’ve been writing a newsletter for a few years for current, past, and prospective clients. I recently realized with some coaching that I have been trying to give too much information. It’s more effective to give some answers but not all of the answers. Leave them wanting to talk to me more. To find the answers to their problems.

  51. Hi guys,

    In the selling world I always thought that you needed a sales pitch. Because this is what I was taught during my very short Sales Associate days. But now since I read this blog I have learned that you really don’t need a sales pitch. Thanks for sharing.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  52. Hi James,
    You’ve raised some useful points here, on how to avoid using the hard sell on your readers.
    I too try to avoid the hard sell, as its a quickest way to turn off your readers. Providing valuable information to my readers, is the best way to build and retain your readership, in my opinion.

  53. @Nathalie – Great question.

    First, sorry no I do not have a security product for TypePad, but that’s mostly do to the following point.

    As far as I know, TypePad takes care of their own security upgrades and fixes just like WordPress does for their bloggers who host free blogs on wordpress.com.

    With WordPress it’s not an issue of security flaws in their default settings, it’s more of an issue that if you decide to run and host your very own blog, then you assume the responsibility of maintaining and upgrading your very own blog.

    It’s kind of like renting a house vs. owning your own house.

    If you rent a house, the owner is responsible for making sure your air conditioner and other parts of your house stay in good working order; however, if you purchase your very own house, then you are responsible for upkeep.

    And as you know, in the digital world things get outdated very quickly.

    Unfortunately, malicious hackers are out there every day coming up with new ways to crack into WordPress, Joomla, TypePad, Drupal, etc. and for those of us who host our own WordPress blogs, it’s up to us to ensure we are monitoring our sites and prepared for the day when someone tries to take a stab at us.

  54. I’m definitely going to bookmark you! Thank you for your info.

  55. I have been marketing to high school students for 12+ years by offering presentations tohigh school students in their classrooms. If I ‘sell’ to students the students tune me out and the teachers (gate keepers) will never let me back to speak to their students.

    Thanks for the great tips to help me continue to get better at the no sell sell!!!

  56. @Byron – that’s a great example.

  57. Great post. Sometimes a gentle push is all that is needed.

  58. Thanks for your tips. It greatly helps the beginners like me.