I’ve been interested in business and selling ever since I was a lil’ tot.
I once parked myself on the edge of our quiet suburban driveway with some of my old toys piled onto a red wagon, and a carefully crafted sign to sell them:
I wrote “for your kids” because I figured the parents were the ones with the money!
I used to drive my parents crazy by gathering random things from around the house, putting them on a table with a toy cash register, and trying to sell them their own stuff. They were always kind enough to oblige the ruse, of course.
As I grew up, I wanted to learn how to really persuade people. In my teen years, I wanted to know all the “dark secrets” of marketing and persuasion. I was looking for “the key” that would allow me to persuade people to buy whatever I wanted them to.
After leaving my teens I realized that this little pursuit of mine was unethical and gave up searching for some sort of dark persuasion magic.
What I learned from reading countless books and articles: there is no key. There are some ways you can increase your chances, but people will ultimately make their choice. All you can do is hope to lower their inhibitions a little bit.
In my opinion, the best way to sell something is to make the thing itself desirable. Once you’ve got the persuasion basics down, all you can really do is make your product or service so good that people can’t ignore it.
Good marketing is really about:
1. Making a good product (yes, this is part of marketing…)
2. Calling attention to something
3. Quickly showcasing why it’s important
4. Answering objections
5. Giving people a reason to buy it now instead of putting it off
But if you ask most people about marketing, they just think of ads.
The problem with ads
Everyone seems to hate marketers as a species. Honestly, I kind of hate our species too, you know?
For me, being in marketing comes with some fun cognitive dissonance. Because while I understand the need for certain tactics, I also really despise them.
I’ll be watching a calm video of someone farming in the German countryside at 20% volume, and then suddenly get pelted by a full-volume Taco Bell 5 Layer Burrito with Extra Crunch and Doritos plus Brownies Mixed In. Or a medicine ad that solves a mild issue but includes a side-effect of death by asphyxiation.
I get that you need to collect your paycheck at the end of the day. But if my paycheck was earned by producing this type of stuff, I’d immediately try to find a different paycheck.
Here’s what I know is true: if I need to annoy a bunch of people in order to make money with a business, I do not want to be in that business.
Which brings us to the point of this little romp of an essay.
I want to make money without groveling, and I think you do too.
There’s plenty of advice online about how to persuade people, counter their objections, negotiate difficult deals, etc.
But in my experience, people that were hard to convince are usually the worst customers—especially if they stretched their budget to buy what you’re selling.
When you first start out in business, you will likely have to pull strings you don’t want to in order to make it. You might even have to—gasp—offer a discount to close a deal.
But once you reach the point where you are too busy to handle the volume coming your way, consider doing your future self a huge favor: stop trying to convince people that they should buy your product or service. Instead, raise your price a little and wait until you get too busy, then do it again.
In my opinion, this may be the only way to scale your business without losing your actual sanity and humanity.
And the best part? You never have to feel guilty for making a sale because you weren’t pulling any strings. It wasn’t a tactic. You were straightforward and honest, and people wanted what you had to offer.
That’s a great feeling, and that’s why I’m done with coercive sales.