I started my weight-loss blog, MasalaBody.com, as a hobby. I didn’t even think about making money from it. I simply wanted to help other women feel like I did after losing 40 pounds: energized and confident.
Today, my site brings in more than $10,000/month — while I’m busy enjoying my full-time job and two kids.
But before I could turn my blog into a profitable, automated business, I had to learn how to sell.
And I hated selling.
I thought selling meant you had to scream at people in ALL CAPS. I didn’t want to do that, so instead I barely sold at all! I might add a line at the very end of an email once in a while.
The results: Some months I made a couple thousand dollars. But other months I made $0.
These inconsistent sales weren’t going to cut it.
So I learned to overcome my fear of selling — and ended 2015 with four consecutive $10,000+ months.
Total 2015 sales: $66,475 — more than double 2014.
Today, I want to give you the three techniques that took me from inconsistent sales to making more than $10K every month.
1. Get inside your customers’ minds
If you want to sell with confidence, before you do anything else, you need to understand your customers like they are good friends.
The reason is, you already know how to sell to your friends. You sell them on what TV show to watch next and what restaurant they absolutely need to try. And it’s not sleazy. Part of that is because you have their best interest at heart. But it’s also because you know them so well you can make valuable recommendations — aka, offers.
Selling to anyone involves the same building blocks.
To sell, you need to know four key things about your customers: their hopes, dreams, pain points, and fears.
|HOPES||What are their goals?
What do they hope to achieve?
|DREAMS||What will happen once they reach their goals?
How will their life change?
|PAIN POINTS||What challenges do they face?
What is getting in the way of reaching their goal?
|FEARS||What are they scared of if they don’t achieve their dream?|
These are the things you want to talk about on your website and in your emails. Doing that will establish trust and make readers more likely to want to buy your products.
There are three easy ways to get the answers to these questions:
- Talking to your customers in person
- Good old fashioned research
Sending a survey to people in your target audience has two benefits.
First, you’ll get a lot of insights about what they’re thinking. Second, you’ll get the exact words to use in your copy so that your audience will listen to you.
Before you start writing questions, think about when you get a survey: What’s the #1 thing that determines if you’re going to answer it?
Length, right? So why would you create a 15-question survey and think anyone will answer it?
I recommend 5 questions at the max. Make 2-3 of those open-ended. You learn so much more when people explain their answers instead of just selecting “Yes,” “No,” or “C.”
Some questions that give you the best insights include:
- What do you want for yourself [in specific topic]?
- What are you doing now? How does that make you feel?
- What’s your alternative? How does that make you feel?
Here’s part of the survey I sent out when I was developing my online business idea.
It’s not fancy, but it works.
You’ll see I kept most of the questions open-ended so I could capture the person’s words and feelings.
I also provided specific examples of answers. People will usually follow your lead for how much information to provide. So anything you can do to clearly state what you need will help you get better responses.
Follow these two steps to create a survey in minutes:
- Don’t overcomplicate things. Use a free survey tool like Survey Monkey and move on.
- Email the survey link to your friends or readers.
You don’t need hundreds of people to answer your survey. I sent mine to 40-50 people, and 15 completed it.
In general, expect a 20-30% response rate. That’s enough to give you a good understanding of your target audience.
Surveys are valuable, but you also need to talk to your target audience. You can learn as much from a 1-hour interview or conversation as you can from 100 survey responses and weeks of online research.
The key is to ask open-ended questions and let them talk. Take notes as they talk, or, if you have a good memory, record the conversation in a document after. You want their words — not your interpretation of them.
As a weight-loss coach, I talk about food a lot.
Be shameless. Start these conversations when you’re with anyone in your target audience.
For example, one day I went to drinks with 3 friends, and I started a discussion that went on for more than an hour.
I simply asked, “Are you able to control what you eat at night?” This is a pain point I discovered through other research, so I thought it would generate a lot of conversation.
And it did! My friends starting talking over each other about how they sneak to their kitchens at night to get peanut butter and chocolate. One even told me that she made her husband go buy Haagen Dazs Caramel Cone ice cream.
After I left that night, I typed our conversation into the “Notes” app in my phone so I didn’t forget anything.
Later I did some research and discovered that the Caramel Cone flavor my friend couldn’t stop talking about was the brand’s #1 selling flavor.
So in a blog post, I called out this ice cream and talked about how, even though we try to control ourselves, something happens at night that removes all logic.
This email got incredible engagement. People sent me replies saying, “It’s like you’re reading my mind” and “I relate to your stories so much!”
Use the notes from your conversations in the same way. When you notice that a certain word or phrase keeps popping up, use that in a blog post, in an email, or on your website.
This level of detail makes your readers feel like you understand exactly what they’re going through. And that’s far more influential than any facts or data you could provide.
As a bonus, you’ll also discover a lot of ideas for blog posts in these conversations.
One last note: If you can’t think of anyone to talk to, look for Facebook groups that match your target audience. Then reach out to people in those groups to ask about chatting with them.
Though it’s not as personal as surveys and interviews, you can learn a tremendous amount about your target audience with online research.
You want to look for the same four things you ask about in surveys or in-person conversations: their hopes, dreams, pain points, and fears.
Again, look for overall topics that keep appearing and also document the exact words and phrases you see over and over.
Here are some of my top places to learn about your audience:
- Amazon reviews of similar products and books
- reddit or other online posting sites
- Facebook groups
For Amazon in particular, Tim Ferriss recommends that you read 3- and 4-star reviews, as those have the most insight about what the reviewer liked and didn’t like.
I used Amazon to research Spanx, because the people who use it want to slim down. Here is one of the reviews I found, with key phrase circled.
It’s helpful to record these reviews in something like an Excel document and highlight the key terms you see and want to remember. Then everything is in one place, and the most important phrases stand out.
I used my Amazon research to help develop my first product.
My first idea for a product was an ebook showing people how to eat healthy. In it, I planned to share 40 recipes that helped me lose weight.
After doing online research, I found that people said that they needed more tactical information to help them eat healthy. They didn’t only want recipes, they also wanted menu plans and grocery lists.
Because of this research, rather than creating a $9.99 ebook, I sold a $5K premium coaching product. Although I had only a very basic website, I made my first $10K a month after launching the program.
2. Become a master storyteller
You’ve gathered all this great data. Now it’s time to use it to tell stories.
Storytelling is proven to help people learn and remember information.
The key is to hook readers from the start with a surprising or interesting statement. Then throughout your story, speak to readers in their language, and address their hopes, dreams, and/or fears.
You can tell the stories that you capture from others through your research (steps 1 and 2 above). Or you can share your own stories about those same experiences.
Since I live near New York City, I often heard women talk about feeling out of breath when they climb the subway stairs. They said this trigger makes them wish they weighed less and had more energy.
After a recent trip with my daughter on the subway, I noticed how energetic and light I felt as I walked up the stairs. I wrote about that trip as an inspirational story. I compared how I used to feel and how I feel now that I’m 40 pounds lighter.
I wrote every sentence with my ideal clients’ pain points and dreams in mind. I knew that the way I felt is how my target audience wants to feel.
At the end of this email, I offered my coaching program to help women feel the same way.
The result? $4,000 in sales from just this email.
One of my new clients even told me that she decided to work with me because the story about walking up the subway stairs resonated with her.
The final change I made to my copywriting was to stop writing about the “how” and instead write about the “why.”
Here’s my first sales page from 3 years ago. See how much I focused on the “how”.
No wonder people weren’t buying.
The writing is almost like a science lesson. Yes, flavors and low-sugar foods help you lose weight. But this is not what convinces people to take action to lose weight.
When you focus on why someone wants something — what’s driving them to go after their goal — you persuade them that it’s worth changing. And that makes them more likely to give your solution (i.e. your product) a shot in helping them change.
Here’s part of my sales page today. You’ll see I talk about why people want to lose weight. These points are all based on the research I did.
Craft your sales page like this, and — because you talk about your readers’ wishes — they will likely click to learn more about your products. My page helps generate more than $10,000 every month now.
You don’t need to scream at people in ALL CAPS or tell them to “act now!” to sell online.
Genuine selling starts with truly understanding the needs of your clients through surveys, conversations, and online research. Then you use that research to write engaging, inspiring stories. Lastly, you address why your clients want to change so they’re motivated to take action.
This is a formula for long-term growth. Once you can make your readers feel like a friend, grab their attention, and inspire them, they’ll crave more content and also the products you have to offer.
Take the first steps now. In the comments below, tell us:
- Who are 5 people you can interview? If you can’t think of anyone, where are 3 places you can you look to find people?
- Who can you send a survey to? Do you have a group of people you know, a FB or online group you’re in, or a posting site where you could ask people to complete it?
Then go do it!