How to sell online and maintain your integrity

As a small business owner, you’re going to be selling something online eventually. Here’s how to use the tools out there to your advantage, while remaining true to your company’s values.

1. Firstly, forget social media

For selling, social media is going to disappoint you. Social media is ‘social’ – it allows you to humanise your business and chat among your friends and prospective customers. It’s great for nurturing relationships, building trust and growing your audience, which are definitely important.

But it won’t drive sales. It’s not the right place. It’s like trying to close a business deal at a birthday party – it’s nearly always inappropriate. You want to close deals in a business setting. Email.

2. Email marketing is where the action is

No joke, when it comes to making sales, email is at least 20 times more effective than Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn combined. You’re building your permission email list aren’t you?

But the big question that remains is how do you sell online without alienating your audience? Here’s how.

3. Keep your same voice

Your tribe of followers will be familiar with your tone of voice and personality. If you suddenly go from Mr Friendly Trusted Advisor to Obnoxious Salesman, you’ll lose your audience in droves.

Unfortunately, too many people suffer from a personality transplant when they decide to sell. They start pressuring potential customers with hard-sell techniques. Lots of CAPITALS, exclamation marks, hype-filled headlines, yellow highlighter and red font.  The transformation is frightening!

4. Remember, you’ll be back tomorrow

I understand why some people become pushy. Historically, marketers have only had one chance to close (think infomercials, advertorials and long copy sales websites) so they crank up the pressure to buy and make you feel guilty or ashamed if you don’t.  They’ll never see you again, so they don’t care

But you’re in a different boat. You have a relationship with your audience, and you’ll be back.

5. Be yourself

Scarcity, urgency, a value proposition and honest promises are still critical ingredients to a successful online sale, but you don’t need to be pushy.

Follow the same principles, but just be yourself and ease up on the pressure, okay?

Definitely explain the value, tell us how long your offer lasts, the reasons why we should buy it, share your testimonials and your guarantee, but do it like you are telling your best friend, not a stranger you’ll never see again. Honestly.

6. Serve first, sell next

To succeed online, you need to genuinely put the interests of your audience ahead of your own agenda. The key is relentless generosity.

If you haven’t built up trust by serving your tribe with loads of great value, you cannot expect to extract any value for yourself.   Not only is it greedy to expect it, but it is a damaging exercise. People who feel that their trust has been violated won’t be back. Ever.

7. Give freely nine times out of 10 and sell once

Remember when you’re selling, it’s really not much different to usual, except your customer is giving you money as well as their attention. The only real difference is you need to deliver significantly more value when you want people to type in their credit card number!

8. Selling online shouldn’t strike fear into your soul

What I find is that we often underestimate people’s willingness to pay a fair price for something of value from someone we trust. And your tribe should trust you, so give it a go!

Adam Franklin is a social media speaker and marketing manager of Bluewire Media – a web strategy firm in Sydney and Brisbane. 

This piece first appeared at StartupSmart.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments