It’s OK To Sell Things

Think of the emails you’ve received that have really rubbed you the wrong way.

I bet you that they were trying to sell you something.

The takeaway from that could easily be that people don’t want to be sold to through email. But I’m here to tell you that in the right situation it’s perfectly ok to sell through email.

The problem with all of those other times where you received a sales email that got your goat was not that it was a sales email.

The issue was that it wasn’t the right situation.

So what is the right situation?

If I signed up for you to sell me something, it’s okay for you to sell me something. If my understanding of our relationship is that you make things or do things or know things, and I’ve signed up so that I can pay you for those things, then it makes sense for me to get emails from you where you offer to trade me those things for money. It’s okay for you to try to sell me something in an email if you said, “do you want me to try to sell you something in an email” and I said, “yes.”

It’s also okay to try to sell me something through email if the thing you’re trying to sell me is lights out fantastic and I’ve been following along. If I’m a fan of what you do and you let me know that there’s a way for me to support you and become a user or recipient of that awesome thing that you do, it’s okay for you to try to sell me something through an email.

It’s the Gary Vaynerchuk model. Jab. Jab. Jab. Right hook. If you’ve been consistently delivering me value, it’s okay for you to ask me to deliver some value back to you.

If I’m an existing customer, it’s okay to try to sell something to me through email, but you need to be cautious on this front.

If I’ve already purchased something from you, you’ve already won. Selling something is not easy. There is a lot that goes into that relationship, and if you’ve turned that relationship into a sale, you should be applauded for that.

But selling me one thing doesn’t mean that you can sell me anything.

I play hockey with the guy who sold me my first car. He’s a heck of a good guy, a very good car salesman, and an entertaining hockey player. He sells luxury sedans now, while my family is looking for a second-hand van to lug these monsters around to baseball, hockey, ballet, and climbing. So he’s not selling me a new car anytime soon, and the best thing about him is that he knows that.

The difference between him and so many businesses that send me emails after I’ve bought from them is that he knows when to quit. He knows that if I needed a car that he sells, I’m going to buy it from him. He’s confident. But he also knows that if he offered to sell me a luxury sedan every couple of minutes, I’m going to unfollow and stop listening.

This might seem obvious but if it’s so obvious, why am I still getting such terrible emails?

Two weeks ago I received an email from a digital marketing agency. I subscribe and sign up to a LOT of things, and so it’s not uncommon for me to get a sales email or two, but this one was amazing.

Let’s begin by saying that I had never purchased a single product from this particular organization. I had downloaded a very simple, 4-page lead magnet. I had visited their website. I didn’t follow them on social. I had only signed up for “keep up with what we’re doing”-style emails less than a week prior.

For the next week, I received several emails from them. Links to some high-value posts. A couple of simple options to join. All of the things one would expect when they sign up for email communications.

Then it came. The big call to action.

An offer I couldn’t refuse.

A bunch of random books, some DVDs (apparently those are still a thing), two cheatsheets, and access to a live (see: recorded) webinar all for the low, low price of $8K.

It’s okay to sell me something via email, but trying to take me from a free user to an $8K offer with absolutely no warning is not how you’re going to get things done.

Whether you’re selling via email, or simply providing compelling content and building a relationship, the foundation remains the same. You need to start with a strategy on why someone should be connecting with you in the first place, and then you need to ride that strategy until it’s dead.

Set the table and serve the meal. No tricks shots. No surprises.

If you want to sell, sell, but you’d better hope that you’ve made sure I understand what’s on the menu.

Mike Tanner is the co-founder of UnreadMailCo, an email marketing agency focused on reigniting our passion for our inboxes. Unread Mail Co provides email audits, strategic consulting, coaching, and management to help brands and leaders make mail matter. Mike has been working in digital marketing for almost a decade, focusing on creative storytelling in a variety of mediums. When he’s not helping brands find their inbox love he can be found writing books, designing games, and spending time with his family.

2 thoughts on “It’s OK To Sell Things”

  1. Linda, that was very interesting. Mike Tanner raised some good points. Although I am a retired small business co-owner/operator I still find business tips exciting and a way to keep abreast of what is happening now. I worked in retail sales for over 40 years and still find “selling” is necessary in my everyday life. It is how one handles it that makes or breaks the sale/situation. For instance, recently, I was in charge of a Silent Auction, locating donations, etc. My skills came in handy for that…it doesn’t always need to be a “business” setting. Do I miss person to person sales? Yes.

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