I’m Illana Burk, CEO of Your Life’s Workshop, coach to entrepreneurs and solopreneurs across dozens of industries and host of Good Business. With nearly 20 years experience helping hundreds of clients create profitable, ethically driven and sustainable businesses based on their life’s work, I’m here to teach you how to do great work, make great money, and make a positive impact without feeling like you need a shower afterwards.
Welcome to Part Two of our ethical selling series. Today’s focus is on love and money. We’re talking about how to love selling by loving your clients and potential clients. First, it’s the key. It’s the magical, special glittery fairy dust sauce on top that will make you not hate selling. Loving the people you’re selling to is a huge part of making and selling into something that you can totally adore. It’s not an esoteric concept. It’s crucial, and it’s also true for any business, whether you’re a designer or a podcaster, or a writer, or a service provider, or you sell physical products. You can do this. It’s possible. If you want not to hate the selling process, the first step is to figure out ways to love every single piece of it. The first major piece of that is quite obviously the person on the other end of the line or the other end of the transaction.
To figure out how to love your people, you first have to know them. As in really, know them, not what kind of cereal they have for breakfast or what kind of coffee they drink. You need to figure out what they value and what their values are. If you want to know more about that piece, definitely tune into the Values and Value episode (GB 04). Today we’re going to gloss over it a little bit. To figure out where values-based marketing comes in, it’s the intersection of where what you’re selling and the problems you solve intersect with what matters most to your people. When you understand your people, what matters to them, what they love, and how they move through the world, then the more intangible things you can start to connect with them.
A connection is essential. It’s everything to ethical selling and what most people do first when they’re trying to sell. “Sell.” I’m going to get on a consult call, and I’m going to sell. They make the mistake of making that the goal, first thing right out the gate. How do I get to the part where I pitch because they’re so nervous and so worried and so overwhelmed by having to put themselves out there and having to ask for the sale. They don’t even remember that there’s a real human being on the other end of the line who desperately needs whatever it is that you’re selling. When I say the other end of the line, let’s assume that means the other end of any transaction, because this can be done in milliseconds. It’s just a mindset. A simple understanding that you go into any possible transaction where somebody is going to give you money, and you’re going to give them something in return as a relationship.
It’s a start. Your whole relationship can happen extremely quickly, or it can unfold over months and months. It depends on the kind of business you’re in and on the person sitting in front of you and on you. When you ask yourself, how does the relationship change the way that you feel connected to someone? Think about that for a second. How do you behave differently when you like somebody? Like, like, like them? When you care about somebody, when you love somebody, how does that change how you interact with them versus a stranger or an acquaintance? It’s pretty simple and pretty straightforward. You personalize every interaction. You listen more deeply, you do everything you can to meet their needs, and they get to feel all of that. They get to feel seen and heard and understood.
When you feel seen and heard and understood, you don’t care how much dinner costs, just like you don’t care how much, whatever it is, they’re selling costs. You want to be connected. You want to feel like you matter. No matter what it is you’re selling. If you’re going to do it ethically, the first step is to make sure that the person you’re selling to knows how much they matter to you. That’s how you begin to fall in love because when they feel that you feel that, when you feel that they feel that it’s a reciprocal symbiotic relationship. Selling only feels crappy when you failed to create that. When you fail to connect, when you fail to fall at least a tiny little bit in love with them, that’s when it’s all about the manipulation. It’s about the pressure and getting to separate them from their wallet. I hear people say things like, “Go for the no,” meaning you keep pushing and pushing and pushing until they’re so overwhelmed and fed up that they tell you no. That kind of stuff makes me sick. It’s gross.
Instead, listen to what they’re saying because it is okay to push past a no. It is okay to push a little bit, but only if you’re pushing from a place of genuine love and kindness as in, this is going to be good for you. This is what you’re needing. This is why you came to me. I’m the person for this. I can give you why you came here. That’s where it changes. That’s where pushing changes, that’s where you’re challenging them to rise to whatever it is that you’re offering.
Take my business, for example. Over the past decade, I’ve worked mostly with brand new or aspiring business owners, entrepreneurs, mostly service providers, but in all kinds of industries. All over the place, from a local choir to a copywriting agency, to tons of life coaches and aspiring coaches to health professionals and creatives. I helped somebody once create a business around doing headshots for actors. You name it, I’ve worked with it. The thing that unites all of them is they got on the phone and went, I hate selling myself. I hate putting myself out there. They hate being sold to. That’s where the low then comes from because selling sucks, right? That’s what we all know. Nobody likes buying a car. Nobody likes being pressured. Nobody likes being pushed. Nobody likes the mile-long sales pages, but they exist for a reason because they’re effective.
If you’re only focused on the bottom line, that’s the only thing you’re ever going to see. That’s the only thing you’re ever going to do. My way is a slow way, the compassionate way that may or may not yield a financial result every single time. More often than not, though, it will. If the brand is doing the work for you, you’re going to get the right person in front of you. When you do this, it’s going to shift how easy it becomes to sell, to get the result you want.
I want to go back to my business for a second, though, because it’s really important to notice that just like relationships in your romantic life, your business will evolve. Who you fall in love with will evolve. It will change, it’ll shift, and you have to be paying attention. You have to notice that you, like your business, will grow. You’ll grow, and you’ll attract different people, and you’re going to have to notice and figure out how to fall in love with them, too. Especially as your audience grows, it gets harder and harder. The bigger you get, the less directly you touch the people that you’re connected with. People that have online stores, this becomes even more difficult because you do not have a direct interaction. You have to do it through branding, through visuals, through good copywriting, and through your customer service cycles. It gets more complicated.
My business is evolving. I’m working with higher level clients these days. They seem to be attracted to me, and I’m having a blast doing more big visioning leadership work. Not to say that I don’t still love my newbies and my aspiring folks. My business is shifting just like I’m growing. The most important point about this example is that I adore the enthusiasm of my clients. I can’t fall in love with somebody who’s not in love with their work. These are my qualifiers. We all have a type. Think of your target market. Instead of thinking of it as a target market, think of it as a type. Who’s your type? My type is somebody motivated, passionate, wildly ethical, and pretty rebellious. I’m interested in doing everything differently than everyone else. Swimming against the tide, making their way, looking for ways to revolutionize whatever it is they’re doing and is open to doing things differently than everyone else.
Those are the people I fall in love with. But the thing that makes me fall in love with them first always is the spark. It’s this fire. It’s this, “I can’t possibly do anything but this.” I look for that, and I love working with startups because I like starting things but not having to continue them. That’s my thing. We all have our issues. We all bring our crap to a relationship. That’s mine. I like starting stuff. I like helping people start new things, and that lights me up and is super fun. As my work shifts, I’m looking for visionaries and leaders that are constantly starting new things. It doesn’t always mean they’re always starting a new business. I work with clients for years and years, most of the time. They’re not in startup mode forever, but they’re always starting something new. That’s the thing. The energy I look for that keeps me in love. That keeps me willing to say the same things over and over again to many clients because they’re in similar stages, and there are only so many lessons. It’s what keeps me in the game.
So, how do you do this? How do you know who to love? How do you put yourself out there hoping they’ll love you back? I feel like I just quoted a Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant moment from the 90s. I’m just a girl standing here asking you to love me. The first step is to put yourself in their shoes. This is where empathetic marketing comes in. I’m not the only one to talk about this. There’s plenty of great people out there talking about empathy and marketing, but this is how it pertains to our conversation.
You have to put yourself in their shoes. You might be very different from your clients, but when it comes to your work, if you don’t understand what it’s like to be them, or facing the problems that they’ve faced, at least the problems that you’re offering to solve, you’re probably selling the wrong thing. If you want to do it ethically and if it’s the very first thing you’re selling. If you’re a little more experienced, you can start to extrapolate and see more because at some point in your business you’re going to diverge. If you’re the person who started a business because you a few steps further down the road than they are and you’re teaching to, “Hey, I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” that’s legit and fine. There will come the point where that’s still your target market, and you’re no longer four steps ahead. You’re 40 steps ahead or 400 steps ahead. Think about that as your first step.
If you’re listening to this and you’re aspiring, or starting, or in your first year or two, or still trying to figure out how to make a sustainable living at whatever it is you’re doing, make sure that you’re selling something that you understand down to your bones. I mean, really, really understand because that will give you the bone-level empathy you’re going to need. As you get more experienced, you can start to manufacture that effect. I don’t mean manufacture in a negative way. As you get to know your people so well, you’ll start to see the other problems they have that you can solve. You’ll start to see the permutations and opportunities that will allow you to expand your offerings. It allows you to expand on what you’re doing.
However, you can’t do that first. You can’t come out the gate teaching something that you don’t understand in a way that’s written on your soul. Let’s consider that the first date. You don’t pick a first date spot that you’ve never been to. If you’re the one picking dinner, you pick your favorite spot. You pick something familiar that feels like solid ground. Do that for this, too.
Again, all of these lessons only apply to those who are completely and utterly uninterested in selling whatever to whomever. These lessons are for the people who feel desperate to prioritize quality over quantity and who want to feel good about putting themselves out there because they know that love is what’s waiting.
If you want to sell, I’m not the girl to teach you how to sell. There are a million books and a million other podcasts that will teach you things like, always be selling, sell, sell, sell, that will teach you how to close, will teach you how to overcome objections and ask for the sale and push people into a corner. I’ve learned it all.
I remember as a kid growing up, my dad was a sales trainer, and he often brought his work home with him and would train people in our living room. I remember he used to do this card trick. I’m probably going to butcher this, but it was a way of getting people to select down to one card. You knew which card you wanted them to choose, and it was designed to be a magic trick, but he used it in his selling. It was a card trick to get people to go, is this your card? It was a way of asking questions in a certain way that only allowed one answer and only allowed the answer of the person asking, or selling in this case. For this demonstration, I learned it’s a manipulation. It’s a way to get someone to say yes when they don’t fundamentally want to. There is science to this. People like you are not immune.
I’m not immune. I know every trick in the book, every single one. And I have still gotten shafted buying a car. I’ve still gone for the undercoating. I’ve still bought the extended warranty. We are not immune. When you charge people up with adrenaline and dopamine, and you make huge promises that tap into things that are fundamental to our existence, you can sell anything. These are simple skills. That’s not what I’m talking about. If you want to do that, if making six figures or $1 million or a sustainable income is more important to you than how you do it, more power to you, I guess. I’m not your girl. You can stop listening. This isn’t for you. These are not the droids you’re looking for. This lesson is for the people who want to not feel gross about how they’re selling. This lesson is for those of you who get that this might take longer, who get that. This is harder. This is something you have to learn on an energetic level as much as a logistical one. These are not simply check the box tools. There’s plenty of selling cycles that can teach you how to do that. This isn’t that.
To sell well, you have to get where the person is that you’re selling to, both in a micro and a macro away. I’m going to break that down. The macro stuff that makes us up as humans, that’s your people’s big dreams for themselves. It’s how your product fits into how they see themselves in a universal or global context. It’s their image, their growth, their place in the world. The macro is usually where the root of their problems and gifts lie. Understanding the macro will help you make life-altering changes for people. It’ll help you sell things that feel like you’ve read their mind.
Usually, this isn’t what you directly sell to. It’s not where the messaging is. The macro is what affects your imagery on your website, your evergreen messages, your tagline. That’s what an evergreen messages, your tagline, your headlines, your brand name, sometimes your brand, is how you deliver on your promises. It’s the special sauce. The macro needs are directly tied to how you deliver what you deliver. The how.
I’m going to focus on that for a second. It’s how you deliver what you deliver. You don’t have to tell anyone about this. It’s like a magician showing how they do their tricks. You don’t have to show anyone that stuff. You don’t have to talk about your methodology. You don’t have to talk about the results that you get or all of your education or whatever. It’s simply what makes you, you. Their macro is tied directly to that, in you as the purveyor. As the seller. The micro is what’s true for them right now. It’s the acute challenges they face and is usually directly related to the symptom or problem you are addressing in your marketing. The micro is what dictates how you sell it. It’s what dictates your tone. It’s what dictates how you approach them and talk about your work. It’s the more surface level stuff. Think of it as the conversational pieces.
I get that this is hard to understand. You’re sitting there thinking, great, how do I do that? I get the concept, but that’s all well and good. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to put that into action for my business. I’m going to go through some examples. The first step is thinking hard about what it felt like to be them. ]What were the conditions? What did it feel like to be in their shoes? Were they scared? Were they overwhelmed? Were they upset? Think about their emotional state of being when you were them. That’s going back to that empathetic thing, putting yourself in their shoes.
Here are some examples. Let’s say you’re selling a course on Instagram for new business owners. How do you use Instagram? for newbies. What did it feel like to be a new business owner when you were trying to figure out what platforms to be on and you thought that you needed to be everything to everyone and all over the place? Were you broke? Are they? Were you overwhelmed by the number of choices? So a marketing message for something like that might look like, “I’m doing an awesome simple course for new business owners on how to set up and use Instagram. It’s super affordable because I want to help as many people as possible.” You price it at $47 and make it simple and accessible, and you say, “I get where you are.” That’s one example.
Another example, let’s say you sell tee-shirts with cool slogans on for snowboarders. You resonate with your messages, and your people are snowboarders too. You’re a snowboarder, or your people are snowboarders. Chances are you’re not going to start a tee-shirt company with cool slogans for snowboarders if you’re not a snowboarder yourself. You know what the language is that they’re going to need to hear. How do you talk about your stuff in their language? Don’t talk about it in marketing speak. Don’t talk about it in a selling speak. Don’t try to copy what Nike’s doing or Burton, talk about it in your language, in a way they can deeply connect with. A marketing message for this might read, “wearing our shirts feels as good as laying down on fresh powder.” For those of you that are snowboarders, know that I’m not one. That was the first thing that came to mind. If laying down fresh powder doesn’t feel good, forgive me. I think you get the point, though.
What if you’re a life coach? Here’s another example. I bet a lot of you listening are coaches because that’s a big part of my community. If you’re a life coach and you want to sell to people on the idea that you can help them live a happier, more balanced life, what are the pain points? Then highlight their unhappiness. Yes, you have to figure this part out. The ethical part happens when you don’t use these pain points against them. Understanding how they’re in pain, examining it, paying attention to it, getting it, that’s crucial. The yucky part happens when you hear, in a lot in traditional marketing and traditional selling, find their pain points and then tackle them. That’s where you’re awful. That’s where you’re creating a trigger moment, and you’re highlighting a problem painfully and then selling them a solution. It’s effective, but it makes you an asshole. We’re going to avoid that. Instead, a marketing message for that might look like something to the effect of, “you don’t have to feel like the walls are closing in. I get where you are, and I want to hold the light that guides you out of the dark.” That’s showing that you understand what it feels like to be unhappy, what it feels like to struggle, without making them feel they should be ashamed of it or like you have some magic pill.
As we wind down, I want to recap some lessons from our first selling episode, episode five. If you haven’t listened yet, take a listen. Ethical marketing means that you tell people they’re being sold to. Don’t be afraid of that. We’re being sold to all the time, literally dozens of times a day. Saying, “I’m running a webinar where I’m going to teach you a bunch of stuff and then sell you something at the end” is completely acceptable and refreshing. Frankly, it’s allowing them to say no before their resistance makes the whole fit thing feel like crap for all parties. It’s okay to let people walk away. There is a lot of money and a lot of prospects and a lot of people out there. It’s okay to let people say no before they’ve even heard your pitch. Just make that all right with yourself.
It’s hard to get butts in the seats. I know that. Giving people agency and sovereignty over their decision-making will gain you respect and love and care. You never know how that might pay off later. I can’t tell you the number of people who I’ve done consults with over the years who appreciated my approach so much that they referred people to me, even though they decided not to work with me. Or they circled back years later when they felt like they were ready. It happens again and again. Respect people as humans, not as leads. That means that you love, respect and are kind to the people you sell to first and always, you help first. You sell second.
That means you never use tactics like false urgency or scarcity to manipulate people into buying. This is a big one. You guys, I have friends who do this, and it sucks. I hate that they do it. I hate that they push it. I hate that they make people feel that way. I hate that they make people feel like they’re in a funnel. It’s not a thing I love. I do know that lots of people do it ethically and they do it in a way that they’re delivering on their promises — that sort of makes it a little bit more okay in my book. There’s plenty of people who have funnels that sell you deeper and deeper into things on the hope that you might get some actual content. That’s certainly the darker side of this.
I think anything that pushes urgency and messes with how our brain chemistry works and our sense of desperation for help and love and care is kind of shitty and should be avoided. It means that you approach every new client and customer like an opportunity for a relationship. Be helpful, be authentic, honestly be your best self. That’s what you do when you start a new relationship. You put on a little sheen, that’s okay. You put on your best makeup, wear your nicest suit or you take a shower. You put in a little breath spray, and you make yourself look nice and pretty or handsome. It’s okay to dress yourself up and put your best foot forward but go with an open heart. Go to every relationship with an open heart because selling shouldn’t hurt. If it hurts either you or the person you’re selling to, you’re doing it wrong.
I love every consult. I do my consults that last an hour or more because I’m as interested in getting to know the person as I am in selling to them. My big pitch takes about 30 seconds at the end, and it involves something to the effect of, “Hey, if you want to do this, here’s how much it costs. I’m not going to put any pressure on you. Let me know if you are interested. I know this conversation was great and I don’t want you to feel like you’re under a microscope or like I’m putting you on the spot, so there’s no pressure. If you’re interested in working with me more, if you want to continue this conversation, here’s how much it costs. Just send me an email.”
It’s simple, you guys. It’s not hard. Treat people with kindness and respect. Treat people how you want to be treated. Treat people how THEY want to be treated. Look at the things that people complain about. Look at the ways in which selling messes with people’s lives. You don’t want people wringing their hands, lamenting a rabid dose of fear of missing out, right after interacting with your product. They should feel excited about getting more, not pushed into wanting more. You want them to walk away, whether they buy or not, feeling heard, understood, and connected to you and your work.
Let’s say that one more time. You want every single lead to walk away from every interaction with you, whether they buy or not, feeling heard, understood, and connected to you and your work. Figure out the ways to do that, and you’ll be fine.
That’s it for today. Everybody join us for the third part of our selling series. The topic will be all about how to create a healthy sales pattern instead of a marketing funnel. It should be super fun.
Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. For more information, visit www.thegoodbusiness.co or www.yourlifesworkshop.com.
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