“Nobody likes being sold to, but everybody loves to buy,” the saying goes. It’s true.
Just look at the popularity of TV home shopping networks and infomercials. People watch them for enjoyment and often purchase products they would never buy if they were sold to directly. This is how to sell without selling.
But it’s a fine line between selling someone something valuable and being pushy or even manipulative. That’s why I wrote this article: to give some tips that you can use on how to sell without selling.
What makes a sales message feel pushy?
First, there is too much pressure on an immediate call to action.
This causes a sense of urgency because the buyer is being told they need to decide right now. On the other hand, it also feels like you’re trying to manipulate them into agreeing, or something terrible will happen.
Second, opinion statements cause disagreement with your buyer’s existing view of the world, triggering resistance and discomfort in their limbic brain.
Most sales messages are full of opinion statements.
The trick is that the perspective you share with your buyer needs to be a safe one so that they don’t feel any resistance from it. A common way this is done is by using tactics such as social proof and authority links (e.g., “we’ve already helped thousands of people” / “according to Harvard Business Review…”).
The solution is more subtle than just replacing opinion statements with facts. You need to put yourself in the same mental position as your buyer and provide them with arguments they would accept for your claim.
When poorly done, selling often feels pushy because, by its nature, it’s an attempt to influence someone into buying something, when done well, it can feel like exchanging value and advice with a peer.
The problem is not in the message but in how you deliver your message.
There are two main ways that a sales message feels pushy: Either you give the buyer an unexpected call to action, or you give them an unexpected opinion that they did not ask for.
Doing one or both of these things causes your buyer’s limbic brain to feel uncomfortable, triggering the fight-or-flight response, which is inherently pushy.
The problem can be solved by adding trust and rapport to your message. This reduces the perceived risk from your message and makes it feel safer.
How to qualify prospects
Trying to sell to someone who isn’t interested in what you have to offer will create an unpleasant experience.
That’s why it’s important to qualify prospects to determine if there is a good fit so that you can avoid wasting everyone’s time.
One way to do this is with content marketing to help your prospects solve one of their pain points or educate them about a potential issue they’re not aware of.
Another one is by providing more accessible information for your prospect. You need to prepare answers to questions that might come up in conversation so that the buyer doesn’t even need to ask them because he already knows (e.g., what happens if I sign up now but don’t like the course?).
Putting yourself in your buyer’s shoes means understanding why they would say no and finding ways around it. It also means your message should be as short and concise as possible.
If you can put your buyer in a state of trust, they will be open to receiving an opinion from you because their “rational brain” will see it as safe.
Once the decision is made that the opinion is safe (and the benefit has been proven), then the “emotional brain” won’t interfere with them using it.
To work, you need to be seen as an expert authority in your field.
Present yourself as an expert
People tend to gravitate toward experts because they feel safe around them. People don’t know what an expert is, but they know when there’s one nearby, and it feels good to be in their presence. It makes people feel like the future will be better than the present.
Experts are trustworthy because of how long they’ve spent refining their craft through dedication and experience so that even if you don’t understand everything they say, you trust them not to lead you astray from your goals.
When you’re perceived as an authority by others, others will believe what you say more quickly because they’ll “feel” that this must be true since someone with all this expertise would not lie about it or make stuff up.
Stop selling, start educating
As a salesperson or small business owner, it’s your job to educate your target customer, so they can make an informed decision.
This sales process uses the “formula” below. The more you follow it, the less pushy your message will feel.
1) Present a factual opening statement.
2) Present an opinion sentence that is justified by citing the facts.
3) Present another set of facts that can (eventually) to your proposed call to action.
4) Repeat this process for each central point you want to make, and wrap it up with a conclusion sentence, with your call to action.
This way, every time you present an opinion or call for action, there are already several pieces of evidence in place behind it for your buyer to accept it.
Since they haven’t had time yet to form opinions on those ideas, their limbic brain doesn’t feel uncomfortable with them, and so the conflict between perception and reality does not trigger resistance as much as if you tried to push an opinion directly onto someone else’s view of the world.
If you can present your message in this way, it will feel less pushy to your buyers.
They are more likely to accept it instead of feeling like they’re being manipulated into buying something.
You still might have some objections to handle, but at least now, the conflict between reality and perception isn’t as great, so you can use tactics such as rapport-building and storytelling to help make those objections feel safer by reducing their perception of risk.
You can even use this formula to sell your own ideas and opinions to people with different viewpoints.
If you do it right, they will feel like you’re just helping them make good choices about what’s best for them instead of feeling like trying to manipulate them.
With these sales tactics, you might feel like you’re very subtle about this. Still, suppose you are communicating your message as a set of facts instead of an opinion and a call for action too early. In that case, people will be able to understand your points and your thoughts without feeling like they’ve been manipulated into it.
As a result: They’ll be more likely to buy what you’re selling. They’ll be more likely to trust you and buy.