How to Sell Without Feeling Like a Sleazeball

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Reading time: 5 minutes

Here’s the problem: you don’t know how to sell. Even worse, you hate selling. It feels sleazy and icky. If we’re honest, you wouldn’t buy from someone like you either.

I know the feeling. Although I don’t sell stuff for a living, I am a creator. I want to sell you something I made, something I believe in, something that can positively impact your life. Even if all you’re paying are 5 minutes to read this article.

That’s why I set out learning how to sell. After spending an unreasonable amount of time on this, I came away with 3 conclusions:

  1. There’s a process to this. Follow it to make people buy and feel happy they did.
  2. There are only 3 people you must listen to. Many others have interesting things to say. But if you don’t want to go down a rabbit hole, stick to these 3. By the end of this article you will know who they are.
  3. If you do it right, you will not only be a better marketer. You will also become a better creator. And, by analogy, a better human.

The Mistake Every Rookie Makes

I know it’s tempting. It seems like the right thing to do. Everyone around you is doing it. But it’s wrong. So please, stop going for the easy win.

We’re living in a connected world, which is great. But it also means that we’re trying to sell in a crowded market. Thousands of people are trying to produce a toaster that’s one cent cheaper than the competition.

That’s is a race to the bottom. Don’t play that game.

Instead, be the one who’s willing to go further. Be the inventor who adds a wifi receiver to your toaster, so people can integrate it with their smart home. Put your customer’s dreams first.

Create a product that offers an unforgettable experience. Then sell the experience. Sell the dream of waking up to freshly baked toast bread. Sell the image of the perfect crisp every time your customer sits at the breakfast table.

If you do it right, the right customers will find you. If you do it perfectly, they will grab your shirt and scream: Take my money!

The Mistake Even Big Firms Make

If you’ve ever seen Steve Jobs presenting a new product, you’ve seen expert selling technique. And if you’ve ever watched an IBM ad, I’m sorry for you. Let’s see what we can learn from both of these experiences.

Real people don’t buy specs. We don’t buy a Mercedes for its high torque. We also don’t buy a Harley Davidson because it has better mileage than a Suzuki.

We buy a product for the experience it offers us, the signal it sends to others, the way it makes us feel, the story it tells about us… and a host of other reasons. But specs aren’t one of them.

If you want to sell something, don’t start by describing it. Start with why.

Why should I buy your product? Why is it better? Why should I believe you? Answer these questions first. Then move to how.

How is your product special? How will it make me feel? How does it stand out from the crowd? Cover this second. Only then do you get to the what.

What are you selling? What is this great thing you’re raving about? If you’ve covered the why and the how, the what becomes almost irrelevant. And so does the price.

How to Train Your Lizard

Whenever you’re making something worth selling, you’re taking a risk. A big one. You’re exposing this creation to the cold judgmental world. And all you can think of is this:

What if they won’t like it?

What if I will get attacked or criticized? What if I get rejected? Getting rejected by your peers used to be a death sentence. But your lizard brain doesn’t know we’re past that. So I have two responses for you:

  1. Nobody ever died from a Twitter attack.
  2. The first version doesn’t have to be perfect.

Perfect is the enemy of done. It’s procrastination in disguise. It’s the lizard brain telling you to crawl back in the cave, where it’s safe.

Perfection isn’t your goal. Your first objective is to just ship.

Shipping is more important than perfecting. And shipping regularly is more valuable than endless tinkering. So learn to ignore the fear and just ship.

Your Secret Weapon Against the Big Players

What do Stripe, Warby Parker, and Airbnb have in common? Yes, they have disrupted giant industries. But they also show us how being small can be a huge advantage.

Big companies have departments for customer relationships, support, and marketing. But you have something they can never have: a close connection to your customers.

Your customers are people, not numbers. Overwhelm them with care and attention. Listen and they will provide the map and fuel to reach the heights you’re dreaming of.

The map is stitched from feedback and suggestions. Listen to the wants and needs, the hopes and aspirations. They will tell you what needs improving, what’s missing, what you should focus on next. Follow this map to get from the rugged version 1.0 to the polished, finely-tuned version 12.9.

But even the lightest and most aerodynamical product needs fuel to run. Here’s how to get it.

Use the Most Powerful Customer Acquisition Method in History

It’s been around for millennia. And no modern technology can compete with it. But only the best marketers in the world know how to use it.

Is this mushroom poisonous?


How do you know?

‘Cause I’ve eaten it before.

OK, then I’ll eat it too.

This is the survival technology behind our success as a species. It’s how we’ve managed to keep evolving. It’s word-of-mouth marketing.

Have you ever seen an ad for a Michelin 3-star restaurant? No, because there aren’t any. Those people focus solely on offering you an amazing experience.

If they succeed, you will gladly tell your friends about it. Some of them will seek out that experience too. And the cycle keeps going.

This is more effective than the most expensive ad campaign out there. And it costs zero dollars.

If You Want to Learn, Seek Out the Masters

Researching this article has been great fun. I’ve discovered some very smart, generous, and kind people, who also happen to be exceptionally good at what they do. All the ideas above stem from the following three people. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend you check out their work.

Seth Godin – a teacher, a creator, and the OG of marketing. Read his blog, listen to his podcast, or read one of his books.

Simon Sinek – the optimistic teacher of leaders. Check out his site, listen to his podcast, or read one of his books.

Derek Sivers – successful musician, programmer, philosopher, and one of the kindest people on the web. Read his blog, listen to his podcast, or read one of his books.

Now go create something and sell it. If you do it right, you will make the world a tiny bit better.

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