Why am I afraid to Sell?
September 25, 2000

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Reaching Great Minds Online
September 25, 2000 Issue #62
Mike Valentine, Editor,

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Editors note:

This week I've decided to provide you with a guest article
that is longer than usual for your business education, both
because things are particularly hectic for me this week and
because this is an excellent article on a common issue for
many small businesses. We often want to appear to be entirely
uninterested in making a sale, when in fact, it is all we
really care about. Be honest with your visitors and sell!


Why Am I Afraid to Sell?

2000 Elena Fawkner

Relationship marketing. It's the backbone of a successful
online business. Fail to forge online relationships and your
business will suffer. Simple enough concept, right? But what
does "relationship marketing" really mean? Simply put, it
refers to the principle that, in order to be successful in business,
especially online since it's such an anonymous medium, you
need to establish a relationship of trust with your site visitors
and ezine readers before you can expect them to do business
with you. It requires a commitment to customer service and a
willingness to help others for no certain reward other than the
satisfaction of helping another and building for yourself and
your business a reputation of credibility and trustworthiness.

At the end of the day, though, if your business is to be
successful, you have to turn a buck. One of the most
common anxieties expressed by new (and even not so new)
online entrepreneurs, though, is that they don't want to come
across as "selling something" to those with whom they have
forged the very relationship that is a prerequisite to actually
making the sale!

In other words, the focus on "relationship marketing" has been
so much on the relationship that the marketing begins to
feel crass and a violation of trust. Many new online business
owners report that they feel like they're taking advantage of the
trust of those with whom they have forged a bond. Of course,
there's no reason to feel any such thing so long as you believe
in what it is you're selling and that it's something that will
benefit your customers. If you don't feel this way, then your
bad feelings are well placed. You ARE taking advantage!

The discomfort associated with selling is not restricted to the
business owner, either. I have received several indignant
emails over the course of the past year or so from readers of
my ezine in response to promotions I have run for programs I
actively promote. The recurring theme of these sorts of
communications is that I have a "responsibility" to my readers
because they've come to rely on me as an authoritative source
of information and I have somehow breached this responsibility
by doing something so crass as to actually market the
programs I promote to earn part of my online income. Some
have even gone so far as to suggest that, since I accept paid
advertising in my ezine, I should be content with that revenue
stream and not seek to make money by promoting outside

My response to this line of reasoning is simply that I'm running
a BUSINESS. I'm not working nights and weekends on my
site and on my ezine out of the goodness of my heart. I'm just
not that noble, believe me. I have a profit motive. Despite
what some people seem to think, a profit motive is NOT, in and
of itself, a Bad Thing. A profit motive is only a Bad Thing when
one misleads, deceives and otherwise takes advantage of the
trust of another to pursue that profit. There's no reason to
apologize or feel guilty for wanting to make an honest profit.

How about you? Do you have just a twinge of uneasiness when
it comes to marketing your products and services? Here are
some ideas to help you overcome the reticence you may feel
in pursuing sales from your prospective customers and how to
manage these relationships so that your customer understands
that, although you are there to help them, you are also out to
help yourself by earning an honest living.


The very first thing you need to do is decide what it is you're
really doing when you create your website or publish your
ezine. Is it a hobby or is it a business? The difference,
respectively, is the absence or presence of a profit motive. If
it's a hobby, fine. Don't try and turn a profit, just enjoy yourself
and make just enough to cover your expenses if you can. But
if it's a business, understand that making a profit is non-
negotiable. It's the reason for your business's existence. You
will no doubt have several purposes. But the profit motive is

Do whatever it takes to crystallize your purposes. For some
people, just thinking about it and making a mental decision is
sufficient. For others, crystallization requires seeing it in black
and white. If that's you, write down your purposes. Again,
though, if you're running a business rather than indulging in a
hobby, turning a profit must be on your list of purposes (unless,
I suppose, you're running a non-profit business but we'll leave
that aside for present purposes). Recognize that purpose for
what it is. Embrace it. PURSUE it with a vengeance. It's
nothing to be ashamed or coy about. So long as you intend to
do so, and actually do so, by legitimate, honest and ethical
means, give yourself permission to aggressively chase a dollar.
Why crystallize your purposes in this way? Because they'll
keep you on track when you're confronted by the naysayers
who'll inevitably pop up in your porridge.


The concept of "relationship marketing"; does NOT mean
getting up close and personal with your customers. You'll save
yourself a lot of grief and angst if you just keep things
businesslike and professional - friendly to be sure, but not
*overly* personal. It's possible to be friendly and helpful in a
professional, businesslike manner without stepping over the line
into the personal. The people you're dealing with are not your
friends, they're your customers. Of course, over time, you may
become friends with certain people who started out as
customers. But don't start from the position that you have to be
friends with your customers in order to engage in relationship
marketing. You don't. Keep it businesslike and professional
and you won't raise any unrealistic expectations.


One way of keeping yourself in check is by constantly testing
your decisions against the criteria "is this decision in the best
interests of my business?". If so, do it, recognizing that
something can be in the best interests of your business even
if it doesn't involve cash flowing in your direction. If not, don't.
Occasionally, it will be in the best interests of your business
to do something that may be perceived by your customer as
a personal favor. An example might be giving a refund for a
purchase under circumstances where the customer is not
strictly entitled to one and where you have an ongoing
relationship with the customer. You do so in the interests of
customer service and this is certainly an example of something
that is in your business's best interests.

Sometimes, however, customers can take advantage of such
a policy. To forestall this type of problem, if you decide to do
something that benefits your customer/reader/visitor over and
above what they have an entitlement to, make it clear, in a
subtle way, that you are doing so for business reasons. Be
prepared to set limits though. Know how far you are prepared
to go before it stops being a business decision and becomes a
personal one and to the detriment of your business interests.

Being uncomfortable saying "no" is not a good enough reason
to sacrifice your business's best interests if that's the right
decision in all the circumstances.


Don't be shy about promoting your products and services and
letting your prospective customers know you would like for them
to purchase from you. Be direct, open and honest about it. For
example, if someone emails me and asks for my advice about
how to get started in an online business of their own, I'll
recommend products that I think will benefit them. Typically, I
recommend Cookie Cutter and Cash Cow if they're new to internet
marketing. Why? Firstly, I believe in both products and think
they give the newbie an efficient, cost-effective way of learning a
lot about how online businesses work in a short period of time.

Secondly, I am an affiliate of both programs and earn $20 a pop
each time I sell one. Would I recommend any products that
are directly relevant to my business that I don't have a financial
interest in? No. Why? I have a profit motive. My time is money.
The key is, I believe in the products. If I thought there were
better products out there than the ones I was promoting I'd
recommend them too. But only after I signed up as an affiliate
so I could make a profit from my recommendation.

On the other hand, occasionally I'm asked to recommend a
webhost. I'm an inactive affiliate of one of the major webhosting
companies but I never recommend them because I think they're
too expensive. In this case, I refer the enquirer to the webhost
I use for my own site. I'm not an affiliate of theirs and I have no
financial interest in making the recommendation. I'm not
particularly interested in webhosting as a product to promote so
I haven't bothered (yet) to sign up for my webhost's affiliate
program. It's just an honest recommendation, just as Cookie
Cutter/Cash Cow is an honest recommendation. The only
difference is, I make money on the latter and why not?
The point is, so long as you're making an honest
recommendation, there's no reason why you can't make a
profit at the same time. It's a win-win situation. So stop being
afraid to sell. It's the reason your business exists and it won't
if you don't.


Elena Fawkner is editor of the award-winning A Home-
Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas,
resources and strategies for the work-from-home
<a href="" target="_top"> </a>


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Copyright 2000 Mike Valentine

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  June 10, 2001