Do You Assume People Don’t Want To Buy?

A few weeks back, I shared that Sean and I went shopping for some kayaks.

I was nervous about the purchase because I knew it was going to be a significant sum to drop all at once. But I really wanted to have the freedom of owning our own equipment and I was prepared to make it happen.

Our boat man, Dale, walked us all around the showroom and talked with us about the kayaks he was recommending based on where we wanted to paddle and how often we wanted to get out on the water.

Then, he walked us straight into the office.

I am not kidding you when I say that he never asked us whether we were ready to buy that day.

He never asked us if we needed pricing or more time to consider.

He just assumed we were there to make a purchase.

So we kept taking the next step: figuring out what rig we needed for the top of our car (which ended up being the most expensive part!), then what colors we wanted, then how we’d (eventually) take delivery of our shiny new boats.

Finally, he handed over the order to the office manager who totaled it all up and asked how much we’d like to pay that day as a deposit. I handed over my credit card and the deed was done.

Now, there is absolutely a reading of this story that makes this sound a little presumptive or even pushy.

But I never felt like I was being pushed or that Dale wouldn’t have been totally fine with us saying, “Thank you, we just need one more day to talk it over and we’ll call you ASAP.”

I just felt like Dale knew we were there to buy some kayaks and was acting accordingly.

And that felt nice, honestly.

I didn’t have to convince him we were serious and he didn’t have to convince us that we wanted some kayaks.

I know there is a lot of fear and anxiety for small business owners when it comes to selling your products or services.

What I’ve observed over the years—and what I’ve experienced for myself—is that that fear and anxiety often grows out of an assumption that people do not already want to buy what it is that you’re selling. That your job—when it comes to sales—is convincing people they want or need your thing.

If we assume that we’ve created something people don’t want, then asking for the sale is understandably terrifying!

How would your approach to selling be different if you assumed people want what you’ve created?

Would you reach out to be more proactively? Would you send a few more emails the next time you had a sales campaign? Would you share your offers more enthusiastically on your social media channels? Would you be more willing to close a sale on a call?

Or maybe, the actions themselves wouldn’t be all that different—but your attitude would shift. You wouldn’t be expecting rejection. Instead, you’d expect to be met with an enthusiastic “yes!”

At this point you might be thinking, “Sure, that works great for buying some kayaks but what I do is different. People don’t just walk into ‘my store’ ready to buy.” 

Yes, what you do is different—unless you sell kayaks, in which case: very cool.

But this is the beautiful thing about marketing and sales today.

While you might not have a store front and you might not even sell a product or service that people know exists, you are constantly creating the environment that makes it easy for people to know they want to buy.

Every email you send out, every post you put up on social media, every article you write, every video you produce, every podcast episode you publish…

…it’s all helping to make sure people are ready and willing to buy when you’re ready and willing to make an offer.

(That might not be why you’re doing it—but that is the effect it can have.)

But if you never go from creating content, helping people figure out what they want to do next, and being of service to actually walking them into the office and totaling up the bill, you won’t make the sale.

So instead of marketing and selling with the assumption that people need to be convinced to buy, doing your thing assuming they do want to buy and see what happens.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support