Internet marketing types know that the only thing that matters is the sale – all that build up, spammy sounding long form sales copy, and gut wrenching emotional hot button pushing is about the sale and little else.

I get that, you get that, but you’ve grown up online in the more genteel social media environment and you’ll go to your business grave before coming off salesy in that kind of way.

But here’s the problem – many of you are going broke because of the belief that you can’t sell and still be social media pure. I attended BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles last week and, while I thoroughly enjoyed the people and the content, I was amused by the gyrations that speaker after speaker went through to assure us that they were not going to try to sell us anything.

One speaker even said – “I can talk about this one product of mine without being sleazy since it’s no longer on the market.”

Look, selling and selling your soul are not one in the same.

I buy stuff from people I know, like and trust. If you send me something out of the blue and I don’t know you, there’s a good chance that I’ll ignore it and maybe ignore you, because I don’t know, like and trust you. You may or may not be a spam sending sleaze ball, I just don’t have enough data to really make an informed call.

Each speaker that I experienced at this event, however, had earned the right and the opportunity to sell me something and, in my opinion, did me a disservice by not helping me understand how I could get more of their brilliance.

It’s time to stop being so sensitive about promoting what you do for a living. If you’ve built trust you owe it to our relationship to move beyond and your business will fail if you don’t.

I know people that have grown to household name status in social media circles who can’t pay their bills and it pains me to see the waste caused by the lack of a financial conversion component to their community building.

You’ve got to create content that educates, content that builds trust and content that closes if you want the content creation aspect of your business to do what it’s suppose to do.

If you yourself are struggling with this notion, here’s my formula for selling with complete integrity.

1) Tell your audience as you’re building it that you have something for sale – don’t hide it until you decide to roll out a new product or campaign. In fact, you can go as far as telling every new follower that you expect to earn the right to sell them something at some point in time and that they’ll be happy when you do.

2) Make your free stuff better than your competitor’s paid stuff.

3) Educate and give with every interaction in every network and through every vehicle.

4) Give people a way to try and experience you and your products live and in person.

5) Remind your followers that you’re going to sell them something, tell them they are the first to get access to it, and then show them how they can acquire what you’ve been sharing with them all along.

I know this sounds simple, but the only way this works is if you create the expectation that they will want to buy what you have to sell and then you earn the right to ask for the order.

There are people we all follow that have our permission to send us a one line email that says something like – hey, I’ve got something new for you, click here to check it out, and we gladly click here – get to that place with enough people and you know you’re doing the five steps above right.

The problem most people have is that they give and give and forget to build the case for the value that comes with becoming a customer. Then, when finally ask for the money, it’s too late.

This isn’t a trick of any kind, this is a simple acknowledgement on your part that you’re serious, you have a business to run, value to offer and a deep burning desire to work with people that appreciate that.

Now, tell me this – what part of that sounds even remotely spammy or sleazy?

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Wise words- it’s one thing to talk yourself up, but quite another to back it up with a valuable product!

  • “Now, tell me this – what part of that sounds even remotely spammy or sleazy?”

    Not one damn word. THANK YOU.

  • Great Article John

  • David Lutz

    Nice post, John! What I’d add is that many need to do a better job of influencing people higher up on the food chain. It’s much better to influence or help the budget maker than the budget spender. 

    I work in the convention space. Having conference sessions that are free of bias or that include proper disclosure is real important to organizers. They have an obligation to protect those that they serve. It’s a fine line to walk. Speakers that have strong opinions do tend to be a topic of conversation in the hallways. Speakers that blatantly sell without earning the trust, reflect badly on both the organization and themselves. 

    Thought leadership and content marketing strategies rarely deliver quick wins. But any business that is interested in the long term and delivering deep value is wise to invest!

    • David – certainly not suggesting you pitch away at any event – my entire point is that if you earn the right you do get a win and you darn sure better cash the win instead of hoping people will figure it out.

  • AJ

    Great tips to make sure your marketing will deliver ROI at some point.

  • Carmen Sognonvi

    This is SUCH great advice! It’s all about managing expectations. I think that bloggers in particular can be too sensitive to criticism about “salesiness” but one thing you need to understand is that the squeaky wheel doesn’t necessarily represent the bulk of your audience. Just because one guy complains about being sold to, doesn’t mean anyone else minds. Most likely they’re happy to find out about an opportunity to support your work.

    • Thanks Carmen – we do tend to react more to one negative comment than all the good ones combined – got to get over that first and then just keep delivering value and you’ll find your community that gets it.

  • Thanks for saying this, John! I think bloggers need to be more willing to sell and people need to be more forgiving of bloggers trying to sell. It helps when someone like you writes a post telling people it’s ok!

    • Let’s hope a lot of people say it then

  • What a great post … and so true! Not only should we be clear about what we have to offer, what value it is to the potential buyer … but also that it’s available and here’s how to buy!
    Really good points made about being clear from the beginning. It’s such a big gap with small business people who think they should just be found and appreciated for what they have to offer, without being clear about their value and how to buy.

    • Probably starts with the fact that so many of us don’t place a high enough value on what we provide – I could certainly title a post Sell Me Something at the Right Price Damn It – too

  • I guess many of us struggle with that part but you just made it easier once again to focus on the sales part. 

    • It is a bit of a mind set, but it all starts with setting the expectation.

      •  think that is where I need to work better on it on Setting the Expectation! 

  • I think many of the people who are uncomfortable “selling” knoq they’ve made money by leveraging their social media status, not because they always had something of value to offer.  

    I think people confuse selling with selling crap.  One is a good, beneficial thing for both sides of the transaction – the other only benefits the seller.  

    Easy to see the difference. 

    • This is true, once you could no longer make money off of the fact that Twitter had no user guide, you had to start doing something of value 🙂

  • Amen. If you really believe you have something of value, you are doing your audience a disservice NOT to make it available to them!

    • You don’t have to hit them over the head with tricks either – simply lead them down the path to how they get a result that desire.

  • D T

    Well said! There is a big difference between interacting with your following (including sharing details about your product) and forcing a sales pitch to fill up their feed.  

  • michele

    Very well said.  There is no reason to trick someone, let them know whats up is all they really need

  • There’s nothing worse than someone saying to you “I’m not going to try and sell you anything” because they are!

  • This is an interesting subject because in my experience many business owners want to use their website and social media to drive business, but they don’t know how to convey value in their products or services and convert prospects into leads.  They either forget the basics like asking for the sale or overcomplicate things by blogging around the issue and never getting to the point.

    For me, it’s all about points 2 and 3 – educate and give away your best content.  This is the foundation for building trust so when it’s time to sell you have the confidence and credibility to close the deal.  It’s not easy … it takes guts and patience for sure.

    Thanks for sharing John!

    – Steinar

    • Barbara Reed

      I coudn’t agree with you more, Steinar…especially on the part about business owners not knowing how to communicate value or convert prospects into leads. If you understand who you audience is and what their needs are, you can tailor your web content and social media efforts to provide them with the information they need to move them through the buy cycle. And that’s what selling is all about. Thanks for the great post, John!

  • This is great stuff John! A lot of sales people forgot how fun and exciting it is to sell because they’re all surrounded with new stuff that were suppose to make their lives easier as they were made to believe. It’s all true and thank God for all the new technologies that helps us all in keeping up with the fast pace of life today.  But all these gadgets, software, social media, new technologies will mean nothing, and will just make all the sales people of the world tired, weary, stressed out without peace of mind – – if they do not know the key ingredient in selling. They have to go back to basics, they have to apply the simple and fun tips that you’ve listed, combined with all the tools that they’ve been provided in this present time – -and with all these, their sales are definitely going to shook-up sky-high.

  • I belive point 4 is crucial. As you say many will not buy from you as you are a ‘nobody’ to them. You have to be trusted.


  • Totally agree!  I am a Professional Organizer and Bookkeeper that works with several small business owners in their home and office.  I noticed the same thing, we forget that we are in business to make money.  I love to give free organizing and small business tips but sometimes forget to mention my services.  You reminded me to do that!  Thanks for your post!

  • Robin Ahn

    A friend of mine whose background includes a career in enterprise sales
    remarked at a startup pitch event that nobody really got around to The Ask. “What are you looking for? What do you want from us?” People can be very shy, I’d argue, because they haven’t laid the groundwork for a relationship so they feel like they’re coming in cold. BUT….why would anyone begrudge you for trying to make a living?

    Robin Ahn
    Community Manager

    • Unfortunately there really are people out there that will tell you it’s evil to sell something, but they were never going to be your customer, move on!

      • Robin Ahn

        These folks are driven by idealized fantasies and will never be satisfied anyway. I agree – move on!

  • James Debono

    I agree set expectations from the get go and then earn the right to win the sale

  • How utterly refreshing!  I love it!

  • This is a serious brilliant post! There is hundreds of marketers faking it right now! No one has a clue anymore!

  • Clovia

    Good stuff John!  Most will advise not to sell in social media outlets. I think you do a few shameless plugs because at some point no one will know what you sell.  I also like to build rapport with sharing content and then later follow up offline with calls and visits (the know, like, trust pieces).  Most folks have not captured their Facebook Friends, Linkedin Connections, and Twitter followers into a contact system.  We just did it – 7500 and lead scored them!  Time consuming but so worth it!

    Clovia Hamilton
    Lemongrass Consulting

  • Great tips! I think some of us who wear most of the “hats” in our small businesses may not necessarily be as skilled in sales and marketing as in other aspects of our businesses (I’m not, which is one reason I like reading this blog), so we simply err on the side of caution in not wanting to drive our audience away. I thinkit’s that fear of coming off like a smarmy used-car salesman that makes us shy away from the actual selling.

  • John and excellent post and just what I needed to hear. I worked in sales for the majority of my career and then decided to do something totally different at the same time I lost the selling Gene. Glad you reminded me to find it again!

  • Ted Kolovos

    I was hoping somebody would say something about this problem because it is rampant, especially in the “blogging” community. There is some kind of silent rule out there that selling is evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. People will value your business more if you let them know about your products and services.
    Amen to your article 🙂

  • Peter Johnson

    Some might think it is hard to justify providing good customer service when each customer has only spent a few dollars on your product, but I like to think that isn’t the case (even at the low per-unit pricing that is typical of the Apple App Store that our development company markets to.)

    It is amazing how many of our customers say its unusual even to get a reply to an email, but I just find it incredible that people would waste that opportunity.

    We try to support our apps just as we would a much more expensive product. Partially this is because its the “right thing to do”, but more practically because going above and beyond the call of duty is a great way to turn a potential bad review into a fantastic one, and great reviews help drive sales in our market.

    Once a problem is resolved for a customer, we always now politely ask if they would review us if they get the chance, and a fair proportion of them are kind enough to do so when you ask at the right time. A combination of those user reviews and word of mouth has helped our main product (“MailShot Pro”, a group email app) to grow steadily month by month, whereas it is much more common to see sales fall on the App Store over time.

    I believe that the money and effort we put into support will pay off in the long run. It does take time every day, to the extent that we have even now written our own app, “FAQ”, to handle customer support. This new app lets us build up our reply from a bunch of stock answers and opening and closing phrases to create a customised reply with just a few clicks, and using it over the past months has gone some way to help reduce support costs, whilst increasing response speed.

    If you’d like to find out more about FAQ, and try it yourself, you can see it at

    ITunes link:
    More info:
    You Tube video

    Soluble Apps
    Full disclosure: we are the developers of “FAQ” and may benefit from its sale, but then so might you.

  • Great post, always enjoy reading your commentary.