Selling is not reserved for people with the title of “salesperson.” We are all salesmen and saleswomen these days.
People who sell things come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. You probably purchased something from one of them in the past hour (without thinking you were buying from a salesman/woman). Every time you spend a dollar, it’s because someone convinced you that you needed to buy that thing. Unless it’s food. Then you don’t need convincing, that’s survival. Well, maybe not donuts? Actually, yes. Donuts = Survival.
Let’s break down what it actually takes to sell a product or service and how to overcome the fear of selling.
Stop letting your assumptions drive your decisions
“People are going to think I’m selling out.”
“What if someone doesn’t think I’m a good person once I start asking for money?”
“What if I put something up for sale and no one buys it and I look like a complete fraud??”
These are things we’ve all thought, they are also all assumptions until they actually happen.
Selling out is only a bad thing when you get paid money for doing something you don’t enjoy.
If you work at a dead end 9-5 job and hate your boss, you’re a sellout. If you feel like you’re asking people to pay for a product you don’t believe in the product, you’re a sellout. If you get paid to smuggle rare Indonesian birds, you’re a sellout (this one might not apply now that I think about it, however, still bad).
Assumptions suck and can derail your future success if you let them. So guess what? Don’t let them! Acknowledge your assumptions, write them down if you want to get them out of your head, and then move on. Want to feel empowered over your assumptions? Write them down on paper and then burn that paper! Just, you know, burn it in a safe place.
Create a realistic schedule for selling
Selling can feel daunting and overwhelming because we leave it as an undefined thing. There are so many ways you can sell something, especially online. It’s incredibly helpful to pick a selling schedule that works for you.
1. Do an open and closed launch, and don’t plan anything after that. Sell something for a certain amount of time (say, two weeks), and then “close the cart.” Assess how things went, especially if it’s a new product or your first time selling. Having an open and closed launch can help keep your sanity and encourage potential customers to purchase. Then, launch again when you’re ready!
2. Have an evergreen product that you want to have for sale year-round? Awesome. Plan to do quarterly discounts or mini-launches that include extra goodies. This can create nice spikes in your sales and you can control when they happen (and surprise customers with them). Just know if you’re going to have something for sale year-round, it’s going to take year-round marketing and promotion (which we’ll get to in a moment).
3. Want to do an annual launch of a product? That’s a great way to sell and gives you the opportunity to focus on creation, support, and enjoying your life the rest of the time. Sure, it may add a little pressure to your once a year selling schedule, but that also creates urgency and scarcity for your potential customers—two things that can really help a customer make a purchasing decision.
4. Don’t follow a specific schedule of any kind, but create a schedule on your calendar that gives you something to stick to and look forward to. I tend to loosely plan out my product launches 3-6 months in advance. These can be put on the calendar and moved around as you see fit. But doing the initial planning will help you have some semblance of an idea of what’s on your sales plate (which is obviously made of very expensive and ancient materials).
No matter what sales schedule you pick, you can always change it. You can always mix things up and learn from your experiences. The most important part is that you sell and give people the opportunity to put money in your bank account for the thing you are creating.
No matter how you sell, the pre-marketing is the most important marketing you’ll do
No one, and I mean no one, just puts up a sales page and has money rain down upon them. We’ve all seen the Kickstarter campaigns that bring in millions of dollars. But those campaigns? They had months and months of pre-marketing. Many of them are brands that have built small niche audiences and have found a product that works and sells well in small doses first.
Here are the exact steps I took to pre-market BuyMyFuture in 2015 and generate $178,000 in sales when it launched:
- I spoke to 49 previous customers of mine on the phone* (yes, actual human interaction!)
- I shared over 30 updates on social media that teased the project (photos, logos, short videos)
- I created a specific pre-launch website that captured emails of potential customers
- I wrote 60 daily journal entries leading up to the launch date of the project (over 40,000 words written)
- I coordinated 26 podcast interviews to go live at launch (recorded before the launch date), including Being Boss Episode #38: For Creatives Who Hate Selling with Jason Zook
- I reached out to 52 friends who I asked to be affiliates (14 of them ended up bringing in sales)
- I hired a Facebook Ads specialist to create a retargeting campaign
- I started a podcast for the project and recorded 21 episodes of my own
- I mentioned the project and the launch date in my weekly emails to my existing email list
I share this as an example to show you how many things you can do. There are so many more things I could have done, but this was plenty. And you, certainly, do not need to do this amount of pre-marketing work if you don’t want to. Just remember one thing:
If you put in part-time results, expect part-time returns.
*49 phone (or Skype) calls is A LOT. You don’t need to do this many. I’d recommend 5-10 calls, but be sure these folks are your potential customers for what you are selling (don’t have a call with your Mom, unless you’re selling a product targeted to people like your Mom). Tell them about your product/service and listen to how they repeat your project back to you and the words they use. Also, listen for what features or benefits stand out to them, and make sure to highlight those when you’re selling.
A trip down Email Marketing Boulevard
I believe email marketing is the absolute best way to sell something right now. Don’t waste time on social media. Don’t waste time or money paying for ads*. Build a quality email list of highly interested people, and sell directly to those people.
What problem is your product or service going to solve for your potential customer? Did it solve that problem for you? Share that story! People love to hear stories, especially ones they can relate to.
Does your product or service do something unique? It better. If it doesn’t, it’s not going to stand out, no matter how many emails you send to people about it. Find the unique angle. Hint: It’s usually something your potential customers will point out to you (which you’d find out on your customer calls).
Create real urgency. Open and closed cart? A timed discount? Annual launch? Limited number of sales? These are things that create urgency and scarcity. These will motivate people to make a purchase. Do not, however, say something is “only available for the next week” and then people can still find it for sale a week or two or five later. That’s bad business and will hurt your reputation.
Here’s an example schedule** for sending sales emails to your list, based on a two-week launch window:
- Day before: Launch is coming tomorrow! Feel free to share the details of the product/service and the cost, or you can save these for launch day.
- Launch day: Your thing is available! (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Don’t just say “Buy Now!” but bring some story or problem-solving example into the email. Then make sure you have multiple buy links throughout the email.
- Day 7: This is a great time for a mid-launch bonus. You can plan ahead to do this! Have something cool you can add for people who buy? Include it in this email. You can also include some buyer testimonials (or simple quotes). Also, you should give this bonus to all buyers who’ve already purchased or will purchase.
- Day 13: The cart is closing tomorrow! Have another story to share about the uniqueness or awesomeness of your product or service? Share it. Remind people the cart is closing tomorrow.
- Last day (morning): This is it! Urgency! Scarcity! AHHHH!
- Last day (evening, Clicked only): This is for the ConvertKit tag I’ll mention in a moment
Here’s another article about building audiences, if you want to dive deeper into that.
*Paid advertising is great for products that are already selling or if you know an expert in the paid marketing world. Sure, Facebook Ads seem attractive, but they can be a huge distraction and waste of money if you don’t know what you are doing.
**This schedule assumes that you’ve done lots of pre-marketing. Pre-marketing could include many mentions of your launch date leading up. You could mention it as early as 6 months ahead of time if you like, but do at least 1 month of lead-up mentions in your emails.
Some advanced email marketing tips/tricks/hacks/tactics/more buzzwords here
One thing that can create a lot of complications and consternation when it comes to selling is trying to automate things too early. I’ve seen it time and time again, people shoot themselves in their email marketing feet because they try to overdo all the email automation stuff. Sure, if you know how to do this stuff, continue reading this section, but if you’re new to email-marketing-land, it might be best to skip this.
I’m going to mention tactics for ConvertKit since that’s the platform I’m most familiar with (I’m sure you can use similar tactics, like segmenting, with other email providers).
1. Creating tags
Setup a new Tag called “ProductName – Clicked.” Then, create a new Automation for a Link Trigger. The link should be the link to your sales page for your product/service, and when clicked, it should add the new tag you just created (ProductName – Clicked).
Setup a new Tag called “ProductName – Purchased.” If you’re using Gumroad to sell things, ConvertKit makes it super easy to create an Automation that adds a tag. You can also use Zapier to create an automation to add the purchase tag if you sell using Stripe (and other payment processors). You can also manually add the tag as people purchase.
2. Using tags
Any time you link to your sales page in your email broadcasts, make sure to use the Link Trigger you created. This will continue to collect clicks (potential buyers!) and add them to the “ProductName – Clicked” tag you created (more in the next step).
When you setup your sales emails, go ahead and send them to your full email list, but when you’re selecting your subscribers for a new broadcast, add the filter group “Matching none” and select your “ProductName – Purchased” tag. This will exclude people who’ve already purchased from getting the rest of your sales emails.
3. Sending the “Final call!” (evening) email
I like to send this final sales email broadcast only to the folks who’ve clicked the sales page link in previous emails. You’d be shocked at how many people just need a final nudge, and the ones who will become paying customers are the ones who’ve already shown interest (clicked!). In the final broadcast, select only to send to subscribers with the tag “ProductName – Clicked.” You can even mention that you know they clicked (which is Internet wizardry) and that this is their very final chance to buy the thing they showed some interest in.
The good thing about creating these tags is that you can use them for future launches and future sales emails.
Don’t be afraid to ask your audience to share
You’d be shocked at how a simple sentence in an email or on social media can help to get your existing audience to help you share the thing you are selling. An important thing to consider: Is what you are selling interesting? Because, be honest with yourself, you don’t share things that aren’t interesting.
Simple phrases like, “Want to help spread the word? Share this!” or “Would love if you guys could lend a hand and forward this email to a friend or share this with your friends on the social meeds!”
Don’t get crazy and write “pls RT” after every tweet. Don’t hit up all your friends on FB Chat and ask them to share your status. Just make a simple ask and let people help you out if they want to help you. Word of mouth is powerful, but organic word of mouth is the MOST powerful. Sure, making the simple ask is okay, but it’s also okay to give people the benefit of the doubt that they’ll help you if they find what you’re selling interesting enough.
What about affiliates? Truthfully, I don’t do a lot of affiliate marketing with my audience, so I wouldn’t be the best source of information for this. If people are asking you if they can help you sell your products/services as affiliates, then you may want to investigate this further.
This article has given you tons of fear-fighting ammo!
But… You might be overwhelmed? That’s okay! And normal. The point here is to show you a bunch of options. To lay a handful of ideas (that work) out on the table for you. You get to treat this like a Sizzler Buffet and choose the items that make the most sense for you and the way you want to sell your product or service.
If you’re getting started, be okay with a small launch. Learn from your experience. Don’t get too distracted by all the options and all the money-making potential. The money will come. Focus on getting your first sale. Then your second. Then your third. Treat your customers amazingly well and go above and beyond for them. The rest of your sales will come with time.
If you’ve been selling things for awhile, maybe you now have some fresh ideas? Maybe you’ve gained a few nuggets of information that create more income for you? Great! Stop reading this and start working on implementing those ideas, especially the ones that involve the pre-marketing stuff. And, don’t forget to talk to your existing customers!