The Top 5 Strategies To Sell Without Selling

You need to make sales if you want to stay in business.

But we all get defensive when we realize that we are being sold to. So how can you convey the value of what you offer without the potential customers getting their guards up?

This is where the “selling without selling” comes in. You don’t need to be super aggressive about promoting your product and pitch it at every opportunity. People get tired of that really quickly.

Instead, you should presell potential customers by:

  1. Providing value.
  2. Providing social proof.

Today we are going to share five strategies that will help you do exactly that…

#1 Build in Public

Building in public is a trend that was pioneered by startups like Buffer that publicly documented their journeys.

It simply means openly sharing:

  • Relevant data such as revenue, the number of users, website traffic, etc.
  • Your failures and your successes.
  • Lessons learned.

Today it’s a popular marketing strategy in the tech scene that was successfully implemented by companies such as Superhuman, Fast, and Lambda School.

This approach can be used by pretty much anyone whose ideal customers might be interested in the subject of building a business.

For example:

In March 2018, Andrey Azimov announced his “Hardcore Year” challenge, the goal of which was to get to $1,000 in monthly recurring revenue in 12 months by building software products.

Andrey was living in Bali at the time, which meant that an income of $1,000 per month would have allowed him to become a full-time indie hacker, which was his dream.

So he quit his job, kept his expenses low (hello, $2 bowls of ramen!), and focused on creating software.

He made seven apps during that year, one of which was acquired, and won the Product Hunt “Maker of the Year” award.

Andrey didn’t reach his goal in 12 months. It took him 14 months instead! Now he’s creating software full-time.

So how did a guy who barely knew how to code become a successful software entrepreneur in just over a year?

He used a “build in public” marketing strategy which allowed him to:

  • Keep himself accountable. 
  • Get other people invested in his goal. 
  • Promote his products.

Andrey shared his journey on Twitter, wrote about it on Medium, and even had a revenue dashboard on his website.

Monthly Total Gross Revenue chart.

Don’t hesitate to give building in public a try if the idea appeals to you.

Just note that for this marketing strategy to work, your ideal customers need to have an interest in making money online.

Otherwise, there will be a mismatch between:

  • The target audience of your product.
  • The target audience of your content.

This means that you will end up attracting people who are interested in following your business journey but don’t have much use for your product. You want to avoid that.

#2 Provide Valuable Content for Free

It’s important to understand that people use your free content to evaluate the quality of your paid products.

This is most obvious with info products such as online courses. If the content you share on your blog, YouTube, and social media isn’t valuable, then potential customers will assume that the same is true for your premium content.

Conversely, if you deliver a ton of value with your free content, then potential customers will be much more open to buying your courses.

For example:

Brian Dean from Backlinko has built one of the most popular SEO blogs in the world by writing incredibly valuable articles on the subject.

Here’s what helps him stand out from the myriad other SEO blogs out there:

  • He gives concrete examples to illustrate the concepts that he’s discussing. 
  • He conducts original research, then shares his findings (e.g. his team analyzed 502 B2B companies, then published a B2B content marketing report).
  • He discusses his own experiences. This includes sharing both what worked and what didn’t. 
  • He uses top-quality visuals, including screenshots, charts, and custom graphics. 
  • He doesn’t pad his articles with fluff to increase the word count.

As a result, Brian doesn’t need to aggressively promote his products on his website, since his free content is doing the selling for him.

If you visit the Backlinko homepage, you won’t see anything for sale above the fold:

Backlinko homepage example.

In fact, if you want to find information about his online course, you need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page:

Backlinko homepage below the fold example.

And when you click on “SEO Training”, you are taken to the “SEO That Works 4.0” sales page… But you can’t just go ahead and buy it, you need to join the waiting list!

Join the waiting list, training example.

The takeaway here is that the more value you provide in your free content, the less aggressive you will need to be when selling your premium products.

3 Publish Customer Case Studies

Let’s keep it real:

You are biased when it comes to your own products… And everyone knows that!

That’s why you should provide your potential customers with as much social proof as you possibly can. Let other people sell your products for you!

Consider using case studies for this:

  • Identify the customers who have gotten the most value out of your product.
  • Reach out to them, interview them, and write up a case study.
  • Publish that case study on your website.

It’s best to create a separate tab in your navigation for customer stories.

For example:

BigCommerce has a “Customers” tab on their homepage:

BigCommerce homepage, customers tab example.

When you click on the “Case Studies” option, you are taken to a page that features a bunch of case studies:

Case study page example.

This reassures entrepreneurs who are considering using the BigCommerce platform to power their online stores that they would be making the right choice.

Moreover, these case studies provide value beyond that, since they take the reader behind the scenes of various successful ecommerce businesses.

#4 Build Connections in Your Industry

Connections are important for everyone because a robust personal network can bring you life-changing career opportunities.

However, they are especially important to entrepreneurs who sell expensive products, such as high-end consulting or enterprise software.

The higher the price tag, the more trust is required for the potential customer to make the purchase, and the most powerful way to build trust is through personal connections.

Ramit Sethi, a New York Times best-selling author and a popular blogger, has valuable insights on connecting with busy people.

Here are some of his tips:

  • Start building your network by reaching out to approachable people (e.g. if you are in the fashion industry, email a fashion blogger, not Calvin Klein). 
  • Reach out through a warm contact. Don’t have one? Find one. 
  • Connect by appealing to similarities between you two (e.g. you went to the same university, worked in the same company, enjoy the same hobby, etc.).
  • Keep your email concise.
  • When you meet with someone, ask insightful questions. Don’t ask something that can be answered with a simple Google search.
  • Spend 90% of the meeting listening. “As for the other 10% of the time, you should spend that telling them what you’re working on and asking for specific advice.”
  • Follow up after the meeting. “What does a VIP want from someone who asks for his advice? He doesn’t need your money or introductions. He already has those. A VIP wants to know that you listened to his advice and actually followed through.” So implement their advice and share the results with them.

Networking can be scary, but as Ramit explained, “the biggest mistake people make when connecting to busy people is simply not doing it.”

So start building those connections.

#5 Become a Recognized Expert in Your Industry

Finally, one of the best ways to “sell without selling” is to become a recognized expert in your industry, since that will give you a ton of social proof.

For example:

Joanna Wiebe is a copywriter.

She also runs a popular blog called CopyHackers.

But there are loads of copywriters out there, some of whom also have their own blogs. So why do people happily pay for Joanna’s courses, some of which cost almost $2000?

Yes, she’s a master at her craft, but a person who doesn’t know much about copywriting can’t accurately assess her skills.

But they can tell that someone who has spoken on 100+ stages must know what she’s talking about.

Joanna Wiebe, Copyhackers bio example.

You can establish yourself as an expert in your field by:

  • Publishing a book on the subject.
  • Speaking at industry events.
  • Hosting your own events.

And yes, It will take time, energy, and money…

But the credibility that you acquire will be invaluable down the road.

Conclusion

The #1 mistake that people make when selling online is trying to sell a product or service without establishing trust first.

You can’t expect someone who has just discovered your company today to hand you their hard-earned cash.

You need to show them that you are the real deal first. The five “selling without selling” strategies outlined in this article can help you with that.

But you can take it to the next level with sales funnels.

Our co-founder, Russel Brunson, has developed a system for building relationships with your ideal customers, from the moment they first hear about you to the point where they buy your most expensive product.

It’s called the Value Ladder sales funnel. Want to set up one for your business?

We created our 5 Day Challenge to show you exactly how to do that.

It will help you to:

  • Generate unlimited leads.
  • Create your first lead magnet.
  • Build your first sales funnel.
  • Create a simple 6-email follow-up sequence.
  • And launch your funnel!

…in just five days.

So don’t hesitate.

Join our 5 Day Challenge. It’s completely free!

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