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Selling your services without feeling sleazy

I just completed a big season of selling my digital course for healthcare practices and businesses to plan and schedule a year’s worth of social media content. It’s a two week direct selling campaign on social media and emails that can be exhausting.

I basically shout from the rooftops to anyone who will listen about my course. Here’s what the sales campaign entails:

  1. A one-week social media challenge where I encourage people to join a week of learning and then an opportunity to continue working with me

  2. 3 live workshops that provide training and then an opportunity to work with me

  3. Multiple, simultaneous email campaigns totaling 47 (!) emails to my list

  4. Social media posts, live videos, training videos, Stories, Reels and ads to my cold and warm audiences

  5. Direct messages to my warm audience to join the challenge or workshops

  6. Follow up BombBomb videos to audience members who show interest in joining the program

See why this is tiring?

But I’ll tell you what it’s NOT. It’s not soul sucking. It doesn’t feel sleazy. And I only feel a little bit of pangs over being sales-y.

I hear from a lot of people–ahem, women–that they don’t want to do direct selling online. They’re uncomfortable any time a post on social media or an email feels self promotional. It feels a lot safer to hang up a shingle and let people come to you.

But for most of us, we have to let our audience know what we’re offering if we want them to come to us. It no longer works to just pop up a social media profile, add some content and expect people to see it. Even if they do see it on crowded social media channels, that doesn’t translate into them flocking to your services.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s mostly women who feel uncomfortable shouting “Come buy my stuff!” or “Come schedule an appointment!” to everyone we know. Even though women typically outperform men in sales, they tend to be underrepresented in sales, according to Harvard Business Review.

And as practice owners, when women find themselves navigating new territory as entrepreneurs when all they really want to do is counseling, dentistry or pediatrics, direct selling can be particularly uncomfortable.

How to sell services without feeling uncomfortable

Sales today doesn’t have to feature the smooth talking door opener or the pushy closer personality. Sales can be either soft or more direct and most definitely should be about helping people who need you most. Following are four ways to reframe selling your services that can be quite natural.

Provide value before and during selling your services

If you lead with value, online selling feels like a a service. My digital course sales campaign I mention above is full of value. I offer a 5-day free challenge on social media where I teach tips throughout the week and then offer my course as one solution to get more step-by-step, detailed training and support. The actual workshop where I promote my course, opens with 40 minutes of social media tips and strategy. Those who join the workshop but not the course, still leave with helpful information.

Outside of this sales cycle, be sure to support your audience in other ways with valuable insights and information. Social media posts, live videos and regular emails are key to building a relationship with your audience. This makes them more open to hearing what you’re offering because they already know, like and trust you.

Don’t be that guy who only calls when he needs a favor.

All of my mentors provide consistent value in podcasts, blogs and videos all the time. You can learn nearly everything they teach in courses from their free content. Here’s an example from Amy Porterfield.

If your service helps others, you’re helping by selling your services

An important mindset shift for selling your services is to realize that you’re actually helping your audience by letting them know how they can work with you. If you never let anyone know about when you have openings, they might assume you are full and aren’t taking new clients or patients.

And while subtlety is an art, it’s most definitely not on social media or in emails. Your audience is distracted, busy and being bombarded by everyone else on social media or in their inbox when they’re glancing at your content. This means that if you don’t feel like a broken record, you’re not saying something enough.

I once heard Donald Miller from Storybrand compare social media to shouting at your audience while they go through a carwash…without a car. We think we’re sitting down for coffee with our audience while they patiently hear how we can help them. Really, they’re barely listening.

Giving a clear call to action and a way to easily reach you for a service your audience needs is just plain helpful. Doing this often means they might actually hear you.

Know the difference between soft selling and hard selling–and use both

Selling doesn’t always have to be the loud “BUY MY THING” that I was doing over the last few weeks. This is necessary when you have a limited cart open period, but a lot of selling can be soft selling. Offering advice on a social media post and then adding a line at the end about how you help clients in this specific way is a great opportunity for soft selling. You have to be sure to add a way for them to reach you, such as “DM me to chat.”

Here’s a great example of soft selling on Instagram from Tarzan Kay:

Include an opt-out call to action on emails when selling your services

When you’re sending a lot of sales emails for a sales campaign, be sure to give your audience a clear way to opt out of the campaign without unsubscribing from your list. I always put a link to update your preferences and opt out of the campaign in every sales email. I’ve added it to the bottom of the emails, but I really like how some marketers have added it boldly to the top, like Zafira Rajan does below. I plan to do this next time.

The top message in a sales campaign from Zafira Rajan.

Being in business, whether you’re a therapist or an internist means putting in your business hat once in a while. It means selling directly and indirectly–and often. If you started your practice or healthcare business in order to make an impact in the world, you’ll have to master the art of selling.

It doesn’t have to be so hard.

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