“Understand that you need to sell you and your ideas in order to advance your career, gain more respect, and increase your success, influence, and income.” – Jay Abraham
As we keep telling you, just about anyone can start a business. But there’s an important caveat – and it jumped to mind when I got an e-mail from Lynn, who wants advice on starting a newsletter. She writes:
“I’ve worn many hats, juggled them off and on in my years as Mother, Grandmother, Realtor, Concessionaire, and Artist Retailer/Wholesaler. Love, divorce, custody issues, death, inheritance, bankruptcy, accidents, health issues, friendship, betrayal. I’ve either been through it or carried someone through it.
“What I seem to do best is calm nerves and give good advice, to the point where it often interferes with other endeavors. I’ve seriously thought about ETR’s copywriting/ Internet ideas, but I’m wary of selling things. It seems that, among family and friends at least, I am the oracle of issues, the witchy woman matriarch with the final answer. The trendy term ‘life coach’ isn’t quite it. I want to be like an e-mail comforter. A listener of last resort. A sounding board.
“It’s the only thing I think I’m really quite good at. Could this be a business?”
Yes, it could be a business. But not if you are leery of selling.
Business is selling. You can’t make money unless you sell something. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I find it useful to remember, everyone lives by selling something.”
So the first thing Lynn needs to determine is what it is she is going to sell.
People will pay for comfort… but not if it’s billed as comfort. Think about what therapists do. They charge pretty good money to give people comforting advice. Yes, there are some who deliver discomfort, but they don’t stay in business very long. People pay money to have their therapists make them feel good. If you’ve ever been in therapy with a successful therapist, you already know that.
But if therapists said that they were in the business of comforting their clients, no one would take them seriously and no one would pay them good money for their comforting advice. Rather than advertise what they are really selling, therapists advertise their methodology (Freudian, Behaviorist, etc.) or the type of “problems” they deal with (addiction, obsessive compulsive disorders, etc.).
Since Lynn isn’t a trained psychotherapist, she can’t honestly advertise those sorts of things. So she will have to come up with her own ideas about why people get themselves into trouble and how they can find solutions. These ideas will form themselves into a unified whole, if she thinks about them long enough. This unified whole is what we call an “intellectual franchise.” That’s what Lynn needs to develop. And then she needs to test it and see if it sells.
Remember, starting a business and making it a success is not just a matter of having a good idea. The idea has to be one that people will be happy to pay money for.
So if you are in Lynn’s position – looking to turn your idea into a profitable business – you have to become comfortable with selling.
How do you develop the skill of selling when you are “wary” of selling, as Lynn puts it?
The first step is to understand that there are really two kinds of selling:
1. pushing people (to buy things they don’t want)
2. helping people (to select those things they do want to buy)
Pushy salespeople – the telemarketer who calls you while you’re eating dinner, the broker who calls you on the weekend with a “hot deal,” the proverbial used-car salesman – take delight in persuading you to do what you don’t want to do. Such salespeople see the selling process as a kind of battle where they bully and beat you into submission. It’s an ego game for them, and your acquiescence – even if you really do want the product – is an indication of submission.
Such salespeople should be tarred and feathered, run out of town, dunked, and pilloried. They are the same people who delight in not letting you merge in traffic and cutting ahead of you in the supermarket line.
Helpful salespeople are actually more common than their obnoxious cousins.
If you understand that the job of a salesperson is to solve a customer’s problem or help him meet a need, selling won’t seem so odious to you.
Let’s say your prospect’s main concern is the future of his marriage. What you would do, in this case, is ask him questions about it and find out, in as much detail as possible, what his worries are. Having done this, you are then in a great position to address each one – to explain how your product (in Lynn’s case, her advice) can give him effective solutions. By driving home the benefits of your product that the prospect cares about, you are making a very strong sales presentation. You are telling him exactly what he wants to hear.
Remember – your prospect wants to be sold. So long as you help him understand how your product can help him achieve his desires or solve his problems, he will be prejudiced in your favor. You lose your prospect when you start talking about other things – your interests, for example, or product features that he doesn’t really care about.
So don’t sell him, help him. Begin by finding out what he wants and needs. And then (if and only if you can really help him), make the strongest, most specific case you can make to convince him that his desires will be achieved and his problems solved.
Once you’ve figured out how to sell your product, and have gotten over your distaste of selling, you need to start testing… preferably on the Internet… until you find some way to position the product that catches on.
And then, to grow your business, you will have to produce lots of products that tie into your initial business idea and lots of sales letters to convince people to buy them.
Does this sound like something you can do? If so, you are on your way![Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]