If you’re anything like me, when you first thought about selling your work, your worry was: “I have this work that I want to get out into the world… but how will I catch anyone’s attention long enough for them to buy it?!”. After Googling, attending free workshops and completing more worksheets than you care to think about the internet had an answer for you: tell people how your work saves them time or money.
And it works! Kind of. (Just like any other tactic kind of works for all businesses.)
But I think you’re reading this because you want to do better and get better results. You respect your audience, and you don’t want to tell the same “Save time! Save money!” story that makes other business owners sound vaguely like an infomercial.
In marketing speak, the better / faster / stronger kind of value is called functional value. And we talk about it because it’s a relatively easy place for writers to start, and it’s easy for customers to understand. It’s hard not the feel good about reducing expenses, earning more or finding some extra time, right?
But honestly, most products and services have more to offer than this. I’m pretty sure yours do!
I’m willing to bet that saving money or time isn’t the only reason why your best customers decide to buy.
Meaningful products or services usually do a lot more for us than save time or money:
- They create stress-free weekends full of family time because that nagging issue in our life is finally solved.
- They’re an object that sparks an invitation to have friends over, to share stories and spend time.
- They give customers a simple path to follow so they can meet their financial goals or wake up feeling energized and aligned with their goals every day.
So why don’t more sales campaigns talk about other benefits like providing hope, reducing anxiety or creating sustainability?
I think that limiting our work to most obvious benefits means we’re speaking down to our audience and, in the process, self-sabotaging our results. This post shares the three most common ways that this sales self-sabotage shows up for entrepreneurs, and how to avoid it.
The three most common forms of sales self-sabotage, and how to avoid them:
1. Skipping value that customers care about
Selling can be intimidating, and doing it well means you need to share the results it delivers for people. But results that aren’t so obvious to us as creators are often the ones that resonate most with customers.
When you exclusively focus on skills mastered, money earned, and time saved you can miss the big picture impact of those results on your customer’s emotions or identity.
If the result of your work generates hope, creates peace of mind or helps others feel mastery over their hobbies or business, skipping those is a lost opportunity.
If you aren’t sure you can confidently promise these things it’s tempting to skip them and, and only describe the value that you can easily prove. But you can go deeper with a little confidence boost.
How to stop sabotaging sales by sharing deeper value:
Unless you’re selling a new product or service, your work has generated real results for real people. Your testimonials should reflect back just how they’ve achieved more, reduced anxiety, or improved their life or business as a result of your work. You just need to tap into that when you’re in marketing mode.
- Go back to the testimonials you’ve received and draw from them. You’ll be amazed by the real value you’ve provided. Pay attention to the words your customers used. “I feel” “I am” and “Now I can” statements are what you should be on the lookout for.
- Have an established offer, but you don’t have testimonials? Then start requesting them from customers, and even consider sending over prompts for them to fill out. (Bonus points if those include “I feel”, “I am” and “Now I can” statements!)
- If you’re offering a new product or service, consider offering a beta version for a reduced price or free in exchange for feedback. You get a chance to make your work more useful, and if the feedback is positive you can turn praise into testimonials.
You CAN talk about higher value. Grab that positive feedback and use it to move the conversation past the superficial and into the real, sustainable value you provide.
2. Letting lack of time eat the better story
In my dream world, my life is perfectly planned, and every action I take is intentionally optimized for maximum results. The reality (especially now that I have a new baby!) is often more of a hot mess. There’s simply no time for perfection. Good enough is all any of us have to work with.
When you’re launching, writing a campaign or just living your daily life, there’s never enough time. And being a business owner, side hustler or freelancer means you will always have un-done items on your to do list.
So when you (inevitably) run short on time, it’s tempting to tell a simpler story with your marketing messaging. After all, telling the story of saving time or money is fairly straightforward.
It’s tangible, understandable, and has immediate appeal.
But it also puts you at risk of being forgettable or sounding like an infomercial. You can do better by making the time to go deeper!
How to stop sabotaging sales and take more time for your marketing:
The obvious solution is to calendar more time in for marketing, but for most of us, the problem isn’t scheduling. It’s sticking to our best-laid plans when real life hits. To go deeper with your marketing, we’ll focus on making you more efficient and giving you more chances to recover when real life interferes with your plan.
- Add more whitespace into your calendar. When you have more to do than there are hours in the day, part of the problem is that your expectations don’t jive with reality. You can get around this by limiting the number of tasks on your to-do list in a given day, like letting yourself plan only three work tasks a day. Or you can schedule whitespace – “no activity” time – into your calendar, with recurring calendar events, so you don’t over plan.
- Brainstorm with a partner. If you find yourself lost for words, grab a business buddy to brainstorm with. Many masterminds and podcasts were born this way! Bring a topic to talk through, send over some notes in advance, and get the input of a boss or freelancer you trust on your project. If you want a more formal arrangement, business coaches are perfect for this too.
- Train and automate every month, or after every launch. If you don’t get in the habit of actively taking jobs off your plate, you’re never going to have more space in your workday. Delegating is a muscle, so use it. Start by automating tasks to services using tools like Zapier or IFTTT, and then get yourself a virtual assistant and keep up the momentum. Document the training through screencasts or writing somewhere central – even just a google doc – and you’ll never have to re-train the people around you because you’re slowly building a business asset.
A deeper conversation takes more thought and effort. Your audience will need to think about anxiety, remember the sleepless nights, and moments of confusion they’ve experienced to put the benefits of newfound peace of mind into context. They’ll need to know you understand their frustration at always re-inventing the wheel to catch a vision for the value of sustainability. It’s your job to give them this context.
3. Selling an idea you’re in love with.
Passion is often touted as the holy grail for entrepreneurs. Passion is important, but just like in relationships, it can blind you.
When you assume there will be buyers lining up around the block, it’s easy to skip steps that could help you course-correct and stay profitable. Instead of finding out too late that there isn’t demand for your work, it’s important to double check that your passion lines up with your customer’s concerns.
How to stop sabotaging sales before you’re carried away by passion:
Don’t let misplaced enthusiasm convince you to skip reality testing your work. This step is all about doing your due-diligence and putting trust in data from your customers over your feelings. If you build up a fact based case for your work, you can move forward with enthusiasm – and certainty.
- Get input from your audience. Your audience, even if they’re small, is capable of telling you who they are and what they need help with. You just have to ask! Set up a poll or autoresponder for new subscribers that asks what is the #1 problem they want to solve. With every answer, you’ll know more about what your audience wants you to help them with.
- Thoroughly research demand. Search Amazon, Etsy, Google, Pinterest and anywhere else you can think of for products that solve similar problems. Don’t find a lot? That doesn’t mean you’ve discovered something new, it means proceed with caution! There’s probably a good reason, and it’s likely that demand is too weak to sustain businesses.
- Stop trying to teach everything you know, start solving customer problems. Building offers based on what you want to teach may feel exciting, but it’s a shortsighted way to come up with profitable business ideas. People spend money to solve problems, every time. If you start brainstorming based on problems that your audience wants to have solved, you’re more likely to be helpful and profitable than passionate and frustrated.
Leave self-sabotage in the dust and sell with stories that matter.
How do you demonstrate higher levels of value with confidence? Tell a transformative story. Show how your work helps your clients move from moments of despair to hope in their abilities, potential, and possibilities. Talk in real ways about the reductions in anxiety that come from applying your solution to complex problems. Share how sustainability is a result of taking the steps you teach, working through the material you provide, and finding community as a part of your tribe.
Storytelling is the real difference between functional value and a deeper, more meaningful conversation. Not sure where to start when telling the story of your business – Let me help!