How to Sell When You’re Not a Salesperson

by Abby on January 25, 2012

As I may have mentioned a time or 50, I published an ebook recently. Since I would like for people other than my blood relatives to buy and read this book, that puts me in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of being not just a writer but a… salesperson. I’ve got to actually try to sell the book myself since – and this may come as a huge shock to you – I do not employ a sales and marketing staff. Believe me, a housekeeper, chef, and nanny would come WAY before a salesperson on my priority list.

Cheesy salesman gives the thumbs-upFor some reason, the word “salesman” always makes me think of a guy in a bad suit trying to sell me a used car. Can you picture the combover and the finger guns? “Do I have a deal for YOU!” This is ironic, because I am married to a salesman. A very successful software salesman who has neither a combover nor a cheap plaid suit, and is about as far from a cheesy sales guy as you can get.

Since I’m in expert-advice mode this week, I decided to ask my better half for his thoughts on how a non-salesperson can get comfortable with selling. These tips can benefit anyone from a book author to a jewelry designer selling their wares on Etsy to a volunteer asking for silent auction donations for the PTA fundraiser.

Q: Hi, hon! Thanks for being here. I think we all know “that guy”–that person who is always selling, selling, selling, whether it’s their business, product, book or whatever. No matter where you are—even a kid’s birthday party—they never give it a rest, constantly talking about how awesome their product is and how you MUST buy it. It’s off-putting to those of us who don’t like the hard sell. Sometimes it even makes me NOT want to buy from them just because they’re annoying. What is that guy doing wrong? And how do you market and sell something effectively without being “that guy”?

A:  I think the most important factor that goes into being a good salesperson, whether it’s in person, online, or over the telephone is developing trust. No one will ever buy anything from you if the cost of your product or service outweighs the perceived risk involved in buying something that will fail to satisfy them or fail to do what was promised. This is solved by trust. If they don’t trust you as a person, your company, or the shady-looking online storefront you’re using, then it’s highly unlikely they’ll give you their credit card number.

Cheesy salesguy pointing the finger gunsQ: What are 3 things bad salespeople do, and how do good salespeople do things differently?

A: 1. Bad salespeople do not listen. Good salespeople do. Most salespeople talk way too much (usually about themselves) and listen way too little to their client/audience. I think social media is a good example here: If you go onto a blog and make a sales pitch for your book in the comments without having read the blog post you will actually be spamming the readers.

If you read the post and comment on the content tying it back to a relevant point on your blog or in your book, people will happily follow you there and start listening to you. If your content is relevant to them they’ll start to trust you. Same goes with Twitter: if you are constantly talking about yourself or promoting what you have to sell, people will tune you out.

2. Bad salespeople do not focus 100% on the buyer. Good salespeople do. Whenever you are selling something, you should put yourself in the shoes of the audience or potential buyer. Think about how you make purchases or what you like or dislike when someone is selling you something. Then focus on how to get the message across that purchasing your book or product will benefit them. Spell it out in simple terms. Don’t make them have to read through mountains of information to get to what’s most important. Use as few words as possible, because people’s attention spans are miniscule, especially online.

To prove I am listening to customers I always try to repeat their words back to them in a sales pitch. For example, if you listen closely to what your target audience is saying on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, you can then craft a tailored message to them that ties into what you are trying to sell. If what you say does not appeal to them immediately or clearly seem beneficial to them, they are gone because that “back” button is all too close.

3. Bad sales people do not ask for the business (or ask for it too early). Good salespeople do. If you have listened to your audience, clearly delivered a simple message with benefits and gained trust, you’ll only get their business if you ask for it. This is especially important online as you need to have a clear call to action that is not buried under mountains of information. It may take repeated exposure for them to finally hit the “buy” button, but if they become fans of yours and it’s clearly available at the right moment then they’ll buy.

Used car salesman, plaid suitQ: If someone is not used to being in the role of salesperson, how do they get over that hurdle of feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed about hawking their product?

A: First off, never try to act like a salesperson or it won’t be authentic. Also, people hate being told what to do. People buy when they think it was their idea to make the purchase, not because some salesperson told them to.

I live by a saying that I once heard: “Sales is simply a transfer of enthusiasm.” When you are an expert on something and you are passionate about what you do, it should be easy for you to speak or write about it enthusiastically. Your enthusiasm will translate to excitement in your audience, which is what will get them over the hump to make the purchase. So if you focus on being passionate and enthusiastic about your content, then you are selling.

Just don’t forget to make it about them: focus on how they’ll benefit from what you’re offering. If you take this approach, you’ll find that you don’t have to ask for the business, as people will be asking you to buy.

Q: Can you elaborate on this “asking for the business” thing you mentioned?

A: Far too many salespeople ask for people to part with their hard-earned money too early. But you’ll never get what you don’t ask for. So success comes when you have had an open dialogue with your audience, developed their trust, and gotten them excited about what you have to offer so that the timing is perfect to ask for their business. Most people will be asking to buy at this point, but you need to have a clear call to action asking them to make the purchase. At this stage, make sure that you show gratitude because you are truly thankful that they are buying from you. They’ll feel great about their purchase and will probably tell someone else.

So, did I mention that my ebook of funny, true-life parenting tales will CHANGE YOUR LIFE? And, uh, BTW, you can buy it here. It only costs as much as a venti vanilla latte. Tell your friends. Thanks! 🙂

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali/Alessa January 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

Love the sales pitch, but, Abby, you had me at “I’m publishing an e-book”. Your blog has already built trust in your readers (like me).

Sorry it took me so long (new-mom brain); I’ve purchased it today! I wish you success with it. Maybe I’ll do an informal review of it on my blog and get my… oh, five or six readers to buy it 😉


Abby January 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

I would love that, Ali! Thank you so much.

New-mom brain is a perfectly acceptable excuse. 🙂


jetts31 January 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

From one salesman to another, that is very sage advice. Trust is huge. Especially in my industry, cars. Keep working on your sales pitch and if all else fails, buy a plaid blazer and a pinky ring and own that bad used car salesman schtick. 😉


Abby January 25, 2012 at 9:34 am

I could rock a combover.


Angie Mizzell January 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

I love this post and the advice. “Salesperson” has a negative connotation but there’s nothing negative about having a product to sell. You are currently “selling” “offering” “presenting” — whatever you want to call it– a service, a useful product (in that it’s entertaining and also helpful) to an audience you’ve spent years building a relationship with. You are “transferring enthusiasm.” My husband is an operations manager for a high end video production company. They have network, national, big-time clients. He travels and tells people why they want to work with Go To Team. But he had an “aha” moment the other day. He realized that the motive is to profit, sure. Who wants to work hard and go broke? No one. But there’s a true passion for “making cool TV” at the center of everything they do. If you love your e-book and believe in the message it contains, it will show. I have no doubt the “enthusiasm” will grow!


Eric VanRaepenbusch January 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

This was a very timely post. I am working on my own ebook and am feeling very nervous about selling it. I found all the responses very helpful. Thank you!


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