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Attracting Customers Without Selling

I just realized that even though I have made my living from customers buying my services for a while, I have never actually had to sell. This seems to me quite an achievement.

What got me thinking about this was I was just interviewed for an article for WordTracker by Rachelle Money. She asked how I got into this blogging lark, and during me waffling on I told her about how customers would come to me with their problems.

Back when I started out, the problems people would come to me with were programming related, now they are more likely to be online marketing or blogging issues, but still people come to me rather than me calling them. I think this is a nice place to be!

Cold calling has never been something I even wanted to try. Some people can do it very well, but all through my career I have avoided it. I am not the most forward person, especially on the telephone with someone who doesn’t want to hear from me. For me making a cold-call would be more a punishment than a useful sales tactic.

How to Attract Customers

The secret to attracting customers so you don’t need to approach them is based on the following factors:

  1. Awareness – People need to know you exist, and remember you in the correct context as someone who might be useful
  2. Belief, Credibility and Trust – You might be the best expert in the world but people need to know they can rely on you
  3. Evidence – Why should someone believe that you can do the things you say you can?
  4. Solutions – Have you got appropriate services and answers for their problems?
  5. Approachability/Personality – Very often the sale comes down to you being the right person as much on personality as skills. We want to work with people we like and feel we can talk to.

Of course now I call the solution Authority Blogging and I teach people how to grow their profile and engage audiences, but these factors worked in my favor long before I had a name for it or was even doing this consciously.

Creating the Opportunity for Opportunities

What I started out doing was answering programming questions on email discussion lists. People got to know me through my answers and discussions. To avoid repeating myself, and so I could write more in detail, I would write articles. After a while I wrote for the top ASP site, ASPAlliance, which made me more visible, brought me programming contracts, and eventually led to me doing speaking, teaching .NET programming, which led to me being awarded Microsoft’s “MVP” award, and book deals.

This same pattern has repeated in all the phases of my career, from programmer to project management, to webmaster, SEO, online marketing to blogging. Each stage I joined the niche community and got stuck in which led to opportunities.

It comes down to making yourself useful, creating the environment for opportunities and taking the opportunities that further your cause.

Making Sales

Many times I would go pitch some work with the marketing agencies I worked for and I would get a sense the winner had already been all but selected, the customer just wanted reassurance they had made the right choice. The same happens now, I talk through what I can help with, the options, and I leave it to the customer to decide to go with me.

When people do approach you with work, you could say that you have to “close” the sale, but personally I see it more as answering any questions and explaining how you can help. If you have done your content right then the customer will already be “sold”, you just have to clear up any missing information and take the order.

Improve Your Process

Every time you get approached, ask

  • where the customer heard about you,
  • what attracted them,
  • do they have any preconceptions
  • if they have any questions that are not answered in the content,
  • and if anything worries them or puts them off.

… then next time your job will be even easier. Knowing why you don’t get this sale and fixing your approach will make it more likely you get the next one.

In fact, being aware and listening really is half the battle. For example, for ages I didn’t have my service for creating flagship content as I assumed my ebook would tell people what they needed to know. Then I found out companies were hiring others to do the writing but using my ebook as part of the spec. By accident I had been creating work for others that I could do myself!

Summary

I hope that I have shown that you do not need to be a pushy sales type to get work, your blog can do most of the work for you. If you get out, get known and show your expertise through helping people, then customers will be more inclined to approach you. Most of the effort is in showing you are the right person for the job, this means writing content that solves problems and having your services on display.

Is this something you do? Have you got any tips? Are you planning to take this approach or one like it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments …

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Comments

  1. Nice – feels like a method of putting out a) useful content that smacks of value, and b) being visible/forward with what you can do for people. Then, letting that magnet draw people in.

    Much more attractive (double entendre there) than peddling a service, and bombarding people with so many, “Hey, look at me!” messages until something gets by their BS filters.

    And hey, the fact that you do this full-time, and your Feedburner chiclet, speak for themselves.

    Way to go, Chris. It’s a great recipe.

  2. Nice – feels like a method of putting out a) useful content that smacks of value, and b) being visible/forward with what you can do for people. Then, letting that magnet draw people in.

    Much more attractive (double entendre there) than peddling a service, and bombarding people with so many, “Hey, look at me!” messages until something gets by their BS filters.

    And hey, the fact that you do this full-time, and your Feedburner chiclet, speak for themselves.

    Way to go, Chris. It’s a great recipe.

  3. Hi Chris, Thanks for a great article. Very timely for me. I am in the process of evaluating my coaching services. Also looking for other ways to monetize my services. This article gives me a lot to think about. Some of the things I know I do well. Others I need to add. Thanks!

    Darlene
    Interview Guru

  4. Hi Chris, Thanks for a great article. Very timely for me. I am in the process of evaluating my coaching services. Also looking for other ways to monetize my services. This article gives me a lot to think about. Some of the things I know I do well. Others I need to add. Thanks!

    Darlene
    Interview Guru

  5. Exactly, Chris. I wrote about this in my article, The Secret to a Successful Business Blog: Sell without Selling last year. I think your readers might find it very complementary to this article.

    Most business blogs make the mistake of writing content as though they were personal blogs or monetized blogs, rather than blogs in support of a set of business objectives (you know, those pesky things called sales).

    The content you write should attract qualified buyers, and then your services–as you have noticed–practically sell themselves. It’s kinda spooky, actually. We never need to advertise or do any other kind of marketing.

    Great article. Your five content strategy points are dead on and your intake/pre-sales questions are vital. You have to know how people are finding you and what their expectations are.

  6. Exactly, Chris. I wrote about this in my article, The Secret to a Successful Business Blog: Sell without Selling last year. I think your readers might find it very complementary to this article.

    Most business blogs make the mistake of writing content as though they were personal blogs or monetized blogs, rather than blogs in support of a set of business objectives (you know, those pesky things called sales).

    The content you write should attract qualified buyers, and then your services–as you have noticed–practically sell themselves. It’s kinda spooky, actually. We never need to advertise or do any other kind of marketing.

    Great article. Your five content strategy points are dead on and your intake/pre-sales questions are vital. You have to know how people are finding you and what their expectations are.

  7. Chris

    You are describing the “soft sell” technique used in sales. You sell by getting yourself know in your market and building your business through word of mouth or referrals. Referrals coming from people that you have helped or know of your services. This is totally opposite of the rest of my comment below.

    I get flooded with email from IM gurus selling their next 5K dollar bootcamp or their monthly subscription for 297.00 a month or whatever they can sell. I will assume they provide that much value.
    But I generally don’t buy something from a 6 page sales letter I prefer to know the person first.

    But I have always wondered….if the knowledge they are selling is so valuable….why don’t they keep it to themselves and be the only ones making the money?…thats another subject or article.

    My wife has built her real estate business through the exact methods you described. By first building trust, credibility, experience and having a approachable personality.

    I prefer the soft sell, and the information you provided in your article is a great example of how to sell yourself without selling. By providing something of value first.

  8. Chris

    You are describing the “soft sell” technique used in sales. You sell by getting yourself know in your market and building your business through word of mouth or referrals. Referrals coming from people that you have helped or know of your services. This is totally opposite of the rest of my comment below.

    I get flooded with email from IM gurus selling their next 5K dollar bootcamp or their monthly subscription for 297.00 a month or whatever they can sell. I will assume they provide that much value.
    But I generally don’t buy something from a 6 page sales letter I prefer to know the person first.

    But I have always wondered….if the knowledge they are selling is so valuable….why don’t they keep it to themselves and be the only ones making the money?…thats another subject or article.

    My wife has built her real estate business through the exact methods you described. By first building trust, credibility, experience and having a approachable personality.

    I prefer the soft sell, and the information you provided in your article is a great example of how to sell yourself without selling. By providing something of value first.

  9. Greta article. When I arrived on the net a few years ago, I thought was a wasteland of Spammers and Novice Salesmen. Learning to move around it is a pleasure to see others realize the principles of Relationship Marketing which I have used off-line for 50 years.

    Thank you

  10. Greta article. When I arrived on the net a few years ago, I thought was a wasteland of Spammers and Novice Salesmen. Learning to move around it is a pleasure to see others realize the principles of Relationship Marketing which I have used off-line for 50 years.

    Thank you

  11. I was never comfortable being a pushy sales type. I was always just there, answering questions and providing information, no charge. It’s always a win-win situation. Thanks for reinforcing that.

  12. I was never comfortable being a pushy sales type. I was always just there, answering questions and providing information, no charge. It’s always a win-win situation. Thanks for reinforcing that.

  13. Sometimes to catch something, it’s best not to appear to chase it.

  14. Sometimes to catch something, it’s best not to appear to chase it.

  15. @Adam – Thanks Adam, it does work for me and I don’t think I have the personality to do cold calling or more obvious sales well.

    @Darlene – Coaching is ideal for this approach, particularly if your clients would allow you to talk about them

    @Michael – Thanks for the link, great stuff. We often seem to be in tune, we should work together at some point πŸ™‚

    @Steve – I can see this kind of approach working very well with real estate as there is both the expertise and the personal interaction elements that are vital to reassure home buyers

    @Chuck – 50 years! I bet you have loads to teach the rest of us πŸ™‚

    @Loraleigh – People worry that it is too soft an approach but you can always ramp up a little, I think that is far better than being in your face as a starting point isn’t it? πŸ™‚

    @Lyndon – Nice, can always count on you for a thought-provoking brain nugget πŸ™‚

  16. @Adam – Thanks Adam, it does work for me and I don’t think I have the personality to do cold calling or more obvious sales well.

    @Darlene – Coaching is ideal for this approach, particularly if your clients would allow you to talk about them

    @Michael – Thanks for the link, great stuff. We often seem to be in tune, we should work together at some point πŸ™‚

    @Steve – I can see this kind of approach working very well with real estate as there is both the expertise and the personal interaction elements that are vital to reassure home buyers

    @Chuck – 50 years! I bet you have loads to teach the rest of us πŸ™‚

    @Loraleigh – People worry that it is too soft an approach but you can always ramp up a little, I think that is far better than being in your face as a starting point isn’t it? πŸ™‚

    @Lyndon – Nice, can always count on you for a thought-provoking brain nugget πŸ™‚

  17. hey nice post and did definitely give me an idea! I have been a programmer for a while and i am thinking of doing some freelance programming, so this article will certainly help!

    Thanks a lot. You have helped me immensely and would definitely keep you posted!

  18. hey nice post and did definitely give me an idea! I have been a programmer for a while and i am thinking of doing some freelance programming, so this article will certainly help!

    Thanks a lot. You have helped me immensely and would definitely keep you posted!

  19. I like the part that says do they have any preconceptions? I think that is huge in my work and something I could speak to more when I write or sell. It’s partly understanding the competition too. When clients qoute readers digest as a source for what they might know about nutrition or something else for that matter, I question their know how – yet it gives me a great clue on how to educate them and assist them to understanding more. It’s having the grace not to judge them.

  20. I like the part that says do they have any preconceptions? I think that is huge in my work and something I could speak to more when I write or sell. It’s partly understanding the competition too. When clients qoute readers digest as a source for what they might know about nutrition or something else for that matter, I question their know how – yet it gives me a great clue on how to educate them and assist them to understanding more. It’s having the grace not to judge them.

  21. @Tech – If you choose the right place and are helpful and write useful posts, then you should be able to make a great start

    @Mother Earth – Indeed, I think too often we try to put people right where they should be all at once rather than meet them where they are and show them the way gently πŸ™‚

  22. @Tech – If you choose the right place and are helpful and write useful posts, then you should be able to make a great start

    @Mother Earth – Indeed, I think too often we try to put people right where they should be all at once rather than meet them where they are and show them the way gently πŸ™‚

  23. Great article Chris. I recently found your site and was scouting the archives when I came across this one. I’ve recently launched a new site and am working to find that Flagship Content. I was wondering when is the right time to do a work like an e-book? I guess I’m wondering at what point are you established enough for others to view your e-book as something they need. Thanks for the great posts. I learn a lot each time! Thanks.

  24. Great article Chris. I recently found your site and was scouting the archives when I came across this one. I’ve recently launched a new site and am working to find that Flagship Content. I was wondering when is the right time to do a work like an e-book? I guess I’m wondering at what point are you established enough for others to view your e-book as something they need. Thanks for the great posts. I learn a lot each time! Thanks.

  25. Belief, Credibility and Trust – You might be the best expert in the world but people need to know they can rely on you.

    I love this one. In my opinion, that is the step a lot of people skip. For example, Chris mentioned that he provides these solutions to his clients as “Authority Blogging”. These clients are happy to pay him for this information. However, he also doesn’t mind sharing a version of this idea with his readers at no cost to them. This in my mind helps to create the trust so necessary for online readers.

    A lot of people (perhaps because of an earlier experience) approach online transactions with trepidation. Whether or not it’s fair they sometimes assume that they are going to get scammed. This is an opinion that anyone hoping to make money online has to overcome. Thanks Chris for giving us all a way to do that.

  26. Belief, Credibility and Trust – You might be the best expert in the world but people need to know they can rely on you.

    I love this one. In my opinion, that is the step a lot of people skip. For example, Chris mentioned that he provides these solutions to his clients as “Authority Blogging”. These clients are happy to pay him for this information. However, he also doesn’t mind sharing a version of this idea with his readers at no cost to them. This in my mind helps to create the trust so necessary for online readers.

    A lot of people (perhaps because of an earlier experience) approach online transactions with trepidation. Whether or not it’s fair they sometimes assume that they are going to get scammed. This is an opinion that anyone hoping to make money online has to overcome. Thanks Chris for giving us all a way to do that.