It’s Time To Get Over Your Fear Of Being Salesy

We've all had a bad sales experience.

I hear stories all the time from people where, after they purchased a product or service, wonder why the hell they bought the thing. Another common story, especially in the world of online sales, is being battered over the head again and again with upsell after upsell. Think GoDaddy – you can't go there and simply buy a domain name. That's why I use DNSimple.

We bring these experiences with us to our businesses, which is both good and bad. It's good because we know how we don't want to be, but on the other side it can prevent us from actually selling. It held me back for years until I finally understood that selling isn't a bad thing.

When I had my web development business I wanted our work and reputation to speak for itself. It did, but that only got my foot in the door with potential customers. I still had to sell.

Selling is not a dirty word. You shouldn't think of it as a dirty word.

Selling Defined

Selling is defined on Wikipedia as:

… offering to exchange something of value for something else. The something of value being offered may be tangible or intangible. The something else, usually money, is most often seen by the seller as being of equal or greater value than that being offered for sale.

When you are “selling” you are offering to exchange the value you provide – your services – for the money that the other person has. Is that wrong to do? Is that unethical? Absolutely not.

However time and time again I see entrepreneurs not doing everything they can to make the case that what they provide is actually valuable!

A crisis of confidence? Perhaps.

Let Me Ask You A Question…

Do you provide value to your customers? Can you help them make more money, save money, or better help their customers which in turn helps them keep their business going?

If you answered yes any of those questions then allow me to give you some advice – stop worrying about being salesy.

Easier said than done you say? Not so says I.

Email Marketing Done Right

Pissed off customer

Not the reaction we're going for...

I've been subscribed to a lot of email lists belonging to Internet Marketers, small businesses, and big corporations. Some send emails everyday while others send a few a week. What I hate is when every email is a sales message. You know the ones – they're annoying as hell and after the second or third one you unsubscribe.

Think of an email like an elevator pitch without the pitch. You have two minutes tops to get  your point across, the point in this case being a bit of information that's helpful, fun and informative.

What are you going to say?

A great thing about an email is that, like a web page, you can divide it into parts. The header contains your logo which links to your website. The main body of the email is your message. The footer is the magic place. In the footer link to your services and social media accounts. In this way you still have links to the main value you provide but you're not beating your subscriber about the head with it.

But Don't Get Me Wrong…

The reality is that as entrepreneurs and business owners we do need to make money. In order to continue to help people we've gotta pay the bills – we've got to sell.

It's okay to send messages that are sales messages, just don't do it in every email you send.

Advice on ratios of non-sales messages to sales messages vary and really there is no hard and fast rule. It's something to test. However as a general rule of thumb I've seen one sales message out of every eight or nine emails be alright if you send a few emails a week. However even then the sales message is always accompanied by additional useful information.

One definite rule is this: never start an email sequence with sales messages – nothing turns people off faster than to sign up for “more tips & info” and immediately be sold to.

Exceptions To The “Rule”

The exceptions here are e-commerce sites like Amazon and pure product companies like Apple. I don't go to either of these companies to learn – I go for the products they offer.

Amazon sends me fantastic recommendations for products that I might like. These are never annoying and always welcomed as they are highly relevant and based on what Amazon knows I like from my past purchase history.

Amazon Recommendation Email

Amazon Recommendation Email

Apple, while seeming to completely skip recommendations of any kind, send me new product announcements and holiday gift ideas.

Apple Valentines Email

Both of these are good e-commerce models to follow.

A Few Parting Tips

I can't stress enough that if you are worried about being salesy don't be. Assuming you are providing valuable services here are some additional tips:

  1. Educate in your emails – one lesson per email
  2. Send links to helpful blog posts and lay the foundation for the post in the email
  3. Ask your subscriber if they have any questions you can answer
  4. Write an email that has answers to questions others have asked
  5. If you're holding information webinars let subscribers know
  6. Major stuff going on in your industry that concerns potential customers? Let them know.
  7. Not sure of what to put in an autoresponder? Set up a blog broadcast instead. This is super easy with AWeber and allows people to receive (well formatted) blog posts directly to their inbox. That's what we have set up here at Dempsey Marketing (hint: subscribe below!)
  8. Mix it up with a monthly newsletter that has company updates, helpful information, and a sales message. Guess the order I'd recommend.

And as mentioned earlier don't forget to link to your sales pages in the footer of every email.

How Did You Get Over Your Fear Of Selling?

Do you have a story about how you overcame your fear of selling? Please share it in the comments below.

We look forward to reading it.


  1. Great article. I got over my fear of selling by focusing on the conversation. Making sure I have conversations with people more so than “selling” to people.

  2. If you feel good about what you have to offer and you are confident that you have something of value it becomes far easier to offer your services.

    If you can’t see the value you aren’t going to be effective. In an ideal world you would always be selling “the best” product/service.

    That doesn’t always happen nor does it need to happen. You can still have a quality product/service to offer and if you do there is no reason why you can’t offer it.

    I have also found that the more times you do something the easier it becomes to build your confidence. Same thing with sales.

  3. Great article, Robert!

    Most of my life, I absolutely abhorred being sold to. I was raised in a frugal household where all expenses were carefully considered. I never for a second thought that I would ever sell anything.

    Then in my mid-30’s I started a speaking, training and coaching business that was all about helping people present with power and effectiveness.

    As we built our company and worked with more people and business facing a greater variety of presentation challenges, we started to recognize that the challenges presenters face are extremely similar to the challenges that salespeople and networkers face.

    At the same time, we recognized how these challenges were in the same family as the challenges we faced as coaches and trainers.

    So a bell went off for me, and I recognized that selling is all about helping people, just like coaching is, just like training is, just like presenting is, just like networking is, just like leading is. And on and on.

    As soon as I recognized that, I embraced selling for what it was, and have enjoyed talking to prospects just as much as I’ve enjoyed talking to clients. It’s all really the same conversation for me. I’m just trying to help people get to the next level.

    Thanks for the great question, Robert!

  4. Terrific post, Robert! I am definitely one of those people who doesn’t like selling. Like others have already suggested, I think the main problem is that there are so many “professional” salespeople that are bad at sales. Their pushy and aggressive behavior leaves a bad taste in our mouths, and when it’s time for us to sell we can’t help but think back to those negative experiences and decide we don’t want to be like “those people”. The most positive experiences that I have had as a customer are those that left me feeling like I learned something new. As you said, we need to educate first and sell second. Great job!

  5. Probably we don’t like to sell because 90 percent of times we have always being faced by pushing sellers and we all hate them, as well as their emails or reports full of just affiliate links.

    I started using affiliate links after Adsense begun paying pennies and when I saw that people don’t really clicks on ads anymore.

    Great post Robert, really well done.

    • I’m with you there Andrea – many times sales people are pushy. It’s a bit different here in Thailand where I can walk into a department store and while the sales clerks are attentive (they hover continuously) they won’t bother you until you ask for their help – then they are very helpful. In other countries it’s the complete opposite.

      If you have a WordPress blog Andrea I recommend using a service like LinkTrackr to make adding affiliate links to your posts automatic. Well worth the small sum they charge.

  6. Hey, Robert! What a great blog! As a sales coach, I work with clients all the time who are afraid they will come off as pushy and aggressive if they sell. There are even companies out there that forbid their salespeople to use the word sell…We don’t sell, we just share. The truth is that we are all salespeople. Every one of us. My definition of sales is “transferring our enthusiasm about an idea, concept, product or service to someone else.”

    I even wrote a book called “Selling for Fun and Profit – Take the ‘Icky’ and ‘Scary’ Out of Sales” that offers some ideas (in addition to the excellent ones offered in this blog) that can help people get over being afraid to sell. Yep, I am selling right now!!!

    Keep up the good work, Robert! It’s only people like you and me who will change the negative attitude of the world toward sales by teaching salespeople to do it right!

    All the best,
    Hugh Liddle, CEO
    Red Cap Sales Coaching

    • Great definition of sales Hugh. It sounds like you book is one I should check out. Thanks for sharing that. And good sell there – context relevant, not pushy, and helpful. Well played sir!

  7. Hi Robert,

    I don’t necessarily have a fear of selling, I just don’t like to be pushed into buying something that I don’t want. Time and time again I’m being sold to in a pushy and intrusive way, either through email or over the phone or in person, so I don’t do that to my customers. I do offer great info and soon will offer great products and I know they will sell themselves. So while I don’t necessarily have to be pushy, I do need to SHOW how they will help people in order for them to buy.

    It’s a balancing act to be sure – we still need to make money, but we don’t want to push away our prospects.

    Great post, really got me thinking! 🙂

    • Great point about the balancing act Morgan. Finding how to strike that balance, to me, comes down to trying out different strategies and tactics with potential customers.

      Have you used any strategies not mentioned in the post? Sounds like there’s a bit of advice to be mined from your experience 🙂

  8. Absolutely fantastic post, sir. It took me a good 18 (probably) to have any kind of affiliate stuff on my blog, or recommend products. We seem to have this in-built mechanism that selling is bad.

    Yet if we’re providing useful content and recommendations that truly help our audience, wouldn’t they prefer to buy from us than some faceless ad on Google?

    Love it, mate, cheers!

    • It took me quite a while too Danny. As for recommending affiliate products I’m all for promoting stuff you use and love. Nothing wrong with that either. People can make up their own minds if they want to buy the products.

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