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How to Sell More in 5 Steps: The Essential Guide to Marketing

So, you have a product or a service to sell. And you know who’d benefit from buying it.

Are you constantly hiring more people due to the overwhelming amount of orders you’re getting?

If not, then check these five steps of marketing to see where you are going wrong and learn how to sell more.

Honestly, if you have something to sell that’s worth buying, there’s no reason you couldn’t sell more of it.

Or do you use any of these excuses?

  • “People don’t understand the value of my product.”
  • “They already own my product.”
  • “They’re using my competitors’ products.

These are all excuses and the five links in the chain of marketing will get you past them.

The links aren’t clearly separate; instead they all work together and build on top of each other. And you can’t skip any of them if you want your business to succeed.

1. What’s Your Problem?

The first link in the chain of marketing is interest. Without interest you will never sell anything. But you want to know how to sell more.

But you can also easily interest lots of people and still sell nothing. How? By interesting the wrong people.

So, you need to interest the “right” people and that’s quite easy when you understand these three points:

1. Concentrate on problems.

When you talk about my biggest problems, I listen to you intently. You’d do the same. And so does everybody else.

You attract the right people when you talk about the most important problems you can solve. Most people don’t actively look for solutions to their problems. But even when they do, they notice the problem more easily than the solution.

For example people with dandruff, Google the word “dandruff”. They don’t search for “The Miracle Super-Caring Dandruff-Killing Shampoo with The Secret Formula Found in The Tombs of The Forgotten Maya”.

So, even if you happen to sell exactly that, don’t lead with it (and consider a more Twitter-friendly name). Instead talk about dandruff, the problem.

2. Use your prospects’ language.

I know every respected marketing expert around has said this, but I’m still going to repeat it once more:

Forget fancy words. Forget sounding like an expert. Forget impressing your potential customers with your literary skills.

Well, maybe that’s not exactly what others have said, but the point remains the same: your goal is to create interest and you do that when you use their language. In other words, describe the problems like your potential customers would.

3. You must fascinate your listeners.

Your potential customers have the attention span of a gold fish (that’s about 9 seconds). If you fail to fascinate them in that time, most of them will move on.

There are seven triggers for fascination. Though they produce a slightly different feeling, the result is the same; you have full attention. And that attention translates into more engagement, which in turn leads to more sales.

Which trigger you should use depends on what you’re selling, whom you’re selling it to, where you’re selling it, how much it costs, and especially what your product means to the customer

If you already have a well-created framework for your marketing, then you know which triggers to use and what are the most effective problems for marketing your products.

So, the first link in the chain of marketing is attracting the interest of the right people. Here are the key points again:

  1. Talk about their biggest problems (that you can solve).
  2. Use the language they can relate to easily.
  3. Create fascination to keep people interested.

2. Are You Huggable?

So, you’ve got some attention. And not just any attention, but the attention of people who may actually buy from you.

Next, give your listeners a hug.

Would you buy something you don’t feel good about?

No, and neither will your potential customers.

In other words: Give your listeners a mental hug that tells them they’re in the right place, that your product is good for them, and that they can trust you.

This link is all about creating a connection – a connection between your product and the life your listeners want.

Understanding and mastering this link is the most important advertising skill.

Mental Hugging 101

There are countless ways to give mental hugs. Here are some of the most effective ways:

  1. Talk about the problems your product solves. Painkiller ads quite literally talk about the pain they solve. Note that the focus is usually the pain, instead of the relief (which is the benefit.)
  2. Showcase your product’s benefits. Pretty much every detergent bottle has a picture of a shining kitchen or a before/after pic. They both showcase the benefit of the product.
  3. Show how to become a “better” person. Clothing is almost always advertised with the idea that you become something “better” with the advertised clothes. H&M is young, cool, and trendy. Armani is classy, expensive, and prestigious.
  4. Engage with important values and tie them to your products. I can’t remember a car ad that wouldn’t be about values. The most common values in car ads nowadays are status, comfort, safety, and environmental thinking.

You start giving the mental hugs when you create initial interest (often by talking about problems or values). When you give all sorts of hugs, you engage all sorts of people, so try to include a bit of everything in your messaging.

But be consistent with your “main hug”; be clear whether you’re a problem solver (the first two types of hugs) or a trusted friend (the second two types of hugs).

People get easily confused, so stick to what’s most important to your customers and only hint at the other stuff.

3. Kick your Customers’ Butts

You’ve attracted the interest of the right people and made a connection with them.

It’s time to make an offer.

People generally thing that the offer is when you ask someone to buy your product.

That’s often a mistake.

Actually the offer is this: You ask your listeners to do something (not necessarily to buy).

In the online world that something could be subscribing to a newsletter. In the offline world it could be test-driving a car or just telling you what they want (in a store or over the phone).

What you can ask for with the offer, is proportional to how much trust you’ve earned and how engaged your listeners are.

If you ask too much, you lose the hard-earned trust, and the fascination you’ve created.

The point is to continue engaging your listeners and get them to engage you back.

As long as the engagement is unidirectional (they’re not engaging you back), you can’t sell anything. Conditioning people to engage you will eventually lead to buying your products.

There’s one more really important point here: Buying from you has to be easy and the call to action has to be clear. This is especially true in the online world where one click could either mean buying your product or leaving your site forever.

When I evaluate landing pages, poor call to action and not-simple-enough-buying are among the five most common problems. The problems are the same with opt-in pages, sales letters, and every other type of page/site. And they’re the same with offline businesses too.

For example clothing stores lose a lot of sales because of the same problems (poor call to action and difficult buying). They invite people to “browse” without the thought of selling anything. And they often don’t even train their staff to make buying easy.

So, this link is about three steps that will lead to buying:

  1. Make an offer that’s appropriate for the level of trust you’ve created.
  2. Build more trust and engagement.
  3. Repeat steps 1. and 2. until you sell something (for money).

4. Make Them Stop You

This link is an extension of the previous link. But this link just might be the best way to increase your revenue.

So, you got someone to buy your product. Congratulations for that, but just one question, “Why didn’t you sell more?”

Do you know what are the most common reasons for not getting return customer and upselling more?

1. You don’t have anything more to sell.

Lets say you sell billiard tables. You’d obviously upsell me billiard balls and a bunch of other stuff that you always sell with the table.

But what do you do after that? Do you say: “Thank you and good bye?”

After the basic stuff you could sell a floor mat (that protects my new balls if they drop on the floor…), some lights to put to the ceiling (so I can see my shiny new balls better…), and so on. You should always have more to offer until I say “no more.”

Use affiliations and other forms of cooperation to do that.

2. You don’t tell your customers what more they can get from you.

I hate to say it, but a lot of people suck at upselling.

The moment when a customer has just said, “yes” to buying something, is the best moment for upselling. Don’t waste the opportunity.

The principle from the last link still applies here: Your offers always have to meet the trust you’ve created. If you try to exceed the trust, you lose the sales.

5. Start the Party!

Want to know what the best source of new customers is? The source for the kinds of customers who ask few if any questions except for: “Where and how much can I pay you?”

Please don’t think this is easy just because it’s obvious; most businesses never learn how to do it well. If you really know how to use this one marketing method, you’ll never, ever run out of new customers.

The magic word is of course, “referrals.”

You can ask people to share your message (please tweet this post if you think it’s worth a tweet, and leave a comment too 😉 ) even before they’ve bought anything from you.

(BTW: Do you know the 5 reasons why you get your best customers by giving referrals?)

To ask for a referral or not to ask for a referral…

Asking for a referral or a testimonial is awkward for many. Sorry to be this blunt but:

Get over it!

There are two steps in getting referrals:

  1. Ask for them.
  2. Reward for them.

Fortunately you don’t have to sound cheesy when you ask for referrals. And you don’t always have to pay for it either. Here’s how to get referrals:

  1. Straightforward asking: It’s often totally appropriate to just ask for someone to refer you if they think you’re worth it.
  2. Encouraged referrals: This is very powerful if you do it well. For example you could give two discount coupons for every customer. One is for the customer, and the other has the name “Best Friend” on it.
  3. Affiliate programs. They’re simple to set up if you sell digital products, but you can use them with an offline business as well: “When your friends buy from us, you get a discount if they mention your name.”

And Finally…

I know most blog posts don’t really make a difference in your business. You know why? Because you don’t act on them. And you know why you don’t act on them?

Because when you reach the end (like now) you’ve forgotten where to start.

So, here’s what you can do right now for your business’s sake.

  1.  Find out what your prospects want most. One simple way is to use the keyword tool that comes with Google AdWords account (it’s free.) Just type in your most important keywords and see which related words are most searched. And then start talking (write a blog post, create ads, etc.) about related problems.
  2. Figure out ways to create trust. This is a part of your marketing framework, but if you haven’t created yours yet, then just guess which of these is most important to your customers: the pain caused by the problem, the solution you offer, how your product makes them feel, or what your product stands for.
  3. Create a list of offers you can make. Start from the smallest possible offer you can make (leave a comment if you found this article useful) and build from there.
  4. Get more things to sell. Find at least three related businesses you could partner with, so you could sell more to your customers. Use joint marketing, create your own referral network, or become an affiliate.
  5. Think how you would get more referrals. Who could you ask for a referral right now? Call them. How could you ask for referrals from future customers? Find at least three ways. How could you offer an affiliate “program?” If you sell online, check out ShareASale.com. If you run an offline business, think of ways you could give incentives for your referring customers.

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About Peter Sandeen

Peter Sandeen dreams of sailing with his wife and dogs on the Finnish coast-unless he's helping someone build a clear marketing message and strategy that creates sales consistently. Download the quick 5-step exercise that shows what ideas are most likely to make people want to buy your products and services.

41 comments

  1. Most important thing when selling products is to have a great line sheet to showcase and explain your product.

    Creativepile has a great article that explains everything about a line sheet.

    Enjoy!

  2. Thanks for the post Peter, your ideas about upselling are great and eyes openers. Why stop selling if I have the uphand on the deal?

    Again, thanks

    Matheus Frank
    CobertureCanoas.com.br

  3. Peter,

    These are great points and this was a very detailed post.

    I’m also liked the “mental hug” part.

    I know that if I get that kind of connection with the seller, it is much easier for me make the buying decision than if the seller is “cold and distant”.

    Cheers,
    Timo

    1. Hi Timo,

      It seems “mental hugs” is the crowd-favorite. And I think that’s for a good reason; many businesses don’t have that human face or connection buyers prefer.

      The point is to appear reliable, trustworthy, and relatable. It’s like becoming friends but with a brand or even a product. I guess “naked marketing” is about pretty much the same thing too: be honest about who you are and what you represent and the “right” people will find you and buy from you 😉

  4. Peter,

    Excellent post. I really took a lot from this one. I especially need to be more systematic about referrals so I need to go back and read your other post about them. Thanks for the great lessons here!

    1. Hi Tom,

      Thanks, I don’t think it’s too easy to impress you.

      Yes, I agree; referrals are important (surprise coming from someone who blogs about referrals often…) 🙂

      I think when you find a way to “integrate” (sorry, for the jargon-word) referral-generation into your marketing and products, you’ll get more of them. (I think I’ll write something about that soon 😉 )

  5. Great ideas Peter.

    Love the sequence — give your customers a big hug; then kick their butts. 🙂

    Tough love for sure.

    But just like you pointed out, it all comes down to figuring out the pain points of your customers and then delivering the cure in a unique and profitable way.

    Bingo. Billion dollar business. Right? 🙂

    Thanks Peter… Eric

    1. Hi Eric,

      I didn’t even notice that sequence 😀 But yeah, after hugging comes some tough love…

      There really is no other way to build a business. Sure you can try to create desire for something your audience doesn’t yet want, but that’s near impossible.

      Billion dollar business? Yes, if you solve a problem that many enough people are willing to pay to get rid of and you don’t have competition. That’s just quite rare 😀

      Thanks Eric

      -Peter

  6. Peter

    Really like the way you’ve chained these principles of marketing together. I don’t know of anyone who wakes up and says…I really don’t need any more sales. As I read through I could identify areas of weakness that I know I should work on..thanks for highlighting and bringing them to my attention.

    1. Hi Jackie,

      I’m happy to hear it helped even you 🙂

      I can’t believe there’s a person on earth who shouldn’t sometimes go over the list to see where they could do better. There’s always the weakest link, and for me this is the best way to find it. Do you have another way? I’m interested to hear.

      1. Peter I think its a matter of staying open to new ways of doing things, and In a way not getting to big for your britches. There’s always something to learn, from others ideas and strategies.
        You do that by being curious. Whether its spelled out in a post such as your own, or you read between the lines of someones story, there are always ways to improve your own situation.

        1. Somehow that reminds me of how Einstein defined insanity: “Doing the same thing again and expecting a different result.” 🙂

          I’ve always thought that the cleverest people are those who learn from not only their own mistakes but from the mistakes of others too. AND also from everything else.

          As you said, “be curious”. If you’re always looking for lessons to learn, you’ll always find them and become a better person and a more successful business for doing so.

  7. Hey Peter,

    This is awesome advice. I tell my clients all the time: “If you had just invented the cure for cancer, would you have a problem selling it?” Of course the answer is no, people would be banging down your door, you wouldn’t be able to manufacture it fast enough to meet the demand.

    That’s why your first point screamed at me. It’s not what your product IS, it’s what your product DOES, and if what it does is solve a problem you are golden.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Yup, that’s really important. It’s what every copywriter has to learn before pretty much anything else: you’re selling benefits, not the product (though we had an interesting discussion about this with Danny at Copyblogger’s comment section… 😉 ).

      Sure, you always know what it is you’re selling, and its features translate into benefits in your head, but your customers aren’t probably so well-educated about your products.

      Thanks for contributing 🙂

  8. Great post, Peter! You condensed a lot of marketing wisdom into bite-size pieces that are much easier to digest this way. And THANK YOU for the “get over it!” advice regarding asking for referrals. It really changed my business when I got over that fear.

    1. Hi Annika,

      Danny uses the “chain of conversion” and I talk about the “chain of marketing”. I created that “framework” to simplify marketing into manageable steps (and I’d guess Danny had similar reasons?). The difference between our frameworks is the last step, which for me is getting referrals. I know it’s difficult for many people to ask for referrals, but doing it can have a great impact on your business, as you noticed 😉

  9. Great breakdown of 5 essential elements of getting more sales. I think the most difficult issue is getting the undivided attention of your prospects. You may have the best widget in the world, but if no one knows about it, it won’t matter.

    Like you said, our potential customers have very short attention spans. We must grab them with fascination triggers and hold their attention long enough to make an impact.

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      The first step is the one that most people struggle with (or at least that’s what I believe), but it’s not necessarily the most difficult. When you know your audience well enough, capturing their attention isn’t that difficult. But you could say the same about any of the steps 😀

  10. Hi Peter,

    Great post, very informative and easy to read … You’re obviously practising what you preach and speaking my language!

    Love the action summary at the end of the post particularly, that really helps to keep things fresh in the mind and makes it all feel easy to do.

  11. There is lots in here Peter! I do love the concept of mental hugs. And yes, all the points you raised are a system, not one without the other, all need to be in place. Thank you. Dawn

  12. Peter, I got a lot of juice from this fruit. MY toughest challenge in the chain is actually link #1 – I’m pretty much invisible. I believe I could handle the rest, if I could just get in front of the right people (I sell software and my experience on Guru.com proves to me that I can close deals and get referrals.)

    I’ll begin applying your actions steps to get the party started! Thanks so much.

    Cheers,

    Mitch

      1. Hi Peter,

        From my testing on Guru.com, the right person is a solopreneur who has an above-average skill-set with Excel Spreadsheets. This person has reached the limit of what he BELIEVES is the proper use of the spreadsheet. He (all my clients were male) wants to automate his inefficient task, rather than take the time to learn another software package.

        My job is to show him that his process can be maintained automatically. I don’t aim to convert him to a more efficient system (the few times that I tried, I got burnt as far as time-vs-compensation goes).

        It turns out that my software really takes away clients’ perceived burden. I suspect that there are many such users of spreadsheets out there. they are just too busy to bother converting their systems.

        Cheers,

        Mitch

        1. Hi Mitchell,

          The question you need to answer is, “Who are these people?” And more importantly, figure out where they are (online or offline).

          I could imagine your target audience to work in small to mid-size businesses. Or am I wrong? If my assumption is correct then you could write guest posts about productivity to blogs that target those people. Or try to get influential people and websites to review your product.

          The point is to get what you offer where the people who could buy it hang out. Did this help at all?

          1. Hi Peter,

            Absolutely, this helps. In fact, I have sought out people to review my software. Guest posts would be the next thing to try.

            Thanks for your suggestions!

            Cheers,

            Mitch

  13. Thanks for a great article. There’s lots of good common sense, but so many people often miss or forget (including myself!). The delivery was quite refreshing too; the feisty in your face style makes it very immediate, less arm around the shoulder and more advice from a time-poor expert. For me, that intensity made me focus all the more.

    I particularly liked the way you summed up with such a positive and pragmatic move by giving actionable steps for your reader to take. The short exit synopsis is hugely useful and something I must integrate more with my own blog posts.

    Many thanks, I feel I’ve learnt a few useful things about both marketing and blog writing!

    AL

      1. Hi Peter,

        The first few suggested action steps I think we’re ok on. (They’re not perfect but good enough to move on to other things and review and revamp a little later).

        You’re post was fortuitous as myself and my business partner were in the midst of developing more up-sells, cross-sells and down-sells of our own. It really is one of those crucial points you make though. If your customer is needing other services and you can offer them, why not? It’s a win-win.

        Have something else to sell. The best time to ask your customer to buy something is when they’ve just bought from you. Ask yourself or better yet them, what else might they need from me? How else can I add value that they might want? If you can’t supply it, you can always refer them onto someone you regard highly and trust and take an affiliate fee.

        But you have to know they’re awesome, otherwise it will completely destroy any credibility and trust you’ve developed. That’s happened to me a few times and left a bad taste. But when you get it right it’s an excellent strategy.

        Thanks again!

        1. Hi Al,

          “But you have to know they’re awesome, otherwise it will completely destroy any credibility and trust you’ve developed.” So true…

          I wrote previously (here at Firepole Marketing) a post about giving referrals and how it leads to the best customers you’ve ever had ( http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/2012/01/13/give-referrals/ ): I wrote about the three requirements for giving referrals:

          1. It has to be relevant.
          2. It has to deliver.
          3. It has to feel authentic.

          If any of these is missing, giving referrals will do more harm than good for you and your business. Check that post out if you’re interested 😉

  14. Excellent piece! For me, the hardest link in the chain, I suppose, is #2. I run a website that teaches English as a Second Language, and although students pay to buy books and take offline classes, online sales are a bit tough because my info products are competing against all the other free info available online (a lot of which is disorganized and not well presented, but hey, it’s free).

    So I’d like to build enough trust/rapport with my audience that they are willing to buy products from me because they KNOW it’ll high quality and they can get support from me personally… even if they could find the same info through several hours of Google searching. Does that make sense…?

    1. Hi Shayna,

      I think you just pointed out exactly what you can use to sell more 🙂

      “a lot of which is disorganized and not well presented, but hey, it’s free” If you try to sell your books and courses as the “same content”, no one will buy it. But if you sell it as the well-organized high-quality content that anyone who’s at all serious about learning English should use to get what they need, your chances go way up. Show how easy it is to miss important lessons if you just “look for information” and how your books solve that problem. That’s what you sell; you don’t sell “information”.

      What do you think? Have you tried that already?

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