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?
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.
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.
#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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.