In this post I outline the evidence-based approach I've used to sell over 1 million dollars of online courses, consulting and coaching.
When I first started online, I had to figure out how to sell.
Most of what I found wasn't suitable for professionals like me. It was cheesy, pushy, fake, manipulative, and cringe-worthy.
So, I used my expertise in human behaviour change to develop a 'selling' process that not only makes sales, but also extends my professionalism and enhances my reputation at the same time.
I call this approach AIM ACT, and the people I teach it to, love it.
I'm sure you will too.
Developing the Process
It was 2009 and I had to figure out how to sell my first book, Anxious but Happy.
I decided to self-publish and had to learn how to build webpages and get my site ranked in google.
Even though I did all that, I didn't make many sales of my book.
I'd been to some 'internet marketing' events to learn the common approaches to selling, but I couldn't bring myself to use those approaches.
You probably know what I mean.
They were dodgy, obviously manipulative, and unprofessional. They went against all I stand for.
So I was left in a world of doubt about my ability to sell my book because I didn't want to sell it the way everyone was telling me to sell it.
I was up late one night trying to figure this out ... and I had one of those moments when you 'escape your perspective' and have an 'a-ha' moment.
I wrote down what I wanted ... "I want someone to buy my book".
Then I wrote the question, "What needs to happen for someone to decide to buy my book?"
And that's when the obvious thing hit me.
No-one was going to just 'buy my book' ... they had to be 'ready to buy my book'.
Just the same as no-one is going to 'just give up smoking' ... they have to be 'ready to give up smoking'.
And no-one is going to 'just start exercising' ... they have to be 'ready to start exercising'.
If you want someone to 'change their behaviour', there is no point trying to get them to change their behaviour unless they are 'ready' to change their behaviour.
This is a core principle in behavioural medicine, and something I'd been working with for years.
It's called the 'trans-theoretical model of human behaviour change'.
That night it occurred to me that getting someone to 'buy my book' required them to change their behaviour.
It sounds obvious now ... but at the time this was the realisation that got me started online. I used the expertise I had in human behaviour change and applied it to online selling.
It provided me with a professional and ethical way to sell, that was also aligned with my values.
In other words, I didn't have to become a 'used car salesman' just so I could sell my book.
In fact, I stopped thinking of myself as 'selling', and instead thought more about the people who would be doing the 'buying'.
What's Happened Since Then?
So, for my book, I followed the principles of the model, and wrote a persuasive 'essay' that would lead people from not even being aware of me, to the stage of being 'ready' to buy my book.
And only when they were ready, did I give them the opportunity to buy.
I changed the copy on my website and emails and it all worked pretty well. I ended up doing around $20,000 in sales of my book, including the online course I'd developed to go with it.
Presenting AIM ACT for the first time (2010).
And even though it was only $20,000 ... this got me noticed.
I was asked to speak at events for entrepreneurs who were also making their start online.
Since then, I've used this approach to sell online educational courses, group coaching, consulting and live events.
I've helped clients sell everything from software apps and subscriptions to supplements and clothing.
It doesn't matter what you're selling, this approach works ... and it works because it's based on how humans change.
It just needs to be tailored to the business.
AIM ACT: How To Sell Anything Online
I loved coming up with this acronym because not only does each letter stand for something, the acronym itself has meaning.
First, it reminds us to Aim for what we want ... which is opposite from the gimmicky "ready, fire, aim" idea that plagues entrepreneurs and tells them to take action before aiming.
Second, it reminds us that to makes things happens, we need to Act.
Let's go through the details of what AIM ACT stands for.
A = Awareness
I = Imagination
M = Motivational Direction
A = Action
C = Consumption, Consistency
T = Target
The people in your market will have different levels of awareness.
Some might not be aware that they are 'in' your market. They have no awareness about the problem they have, or the benefit they could experience with your product or service.
Some might have a general awareness about the topic or area of interest, but have zero awareness about you.
So, the very first step is to choose who you're going to help?
Will you target people who have zero awareness of the problem or benefit?
Or will you target people who are already aware, but just aren't aware of you?
A common idea in business is to sell to a 'hungry' market, which is just another way of saying that you'll sell to people who already want what you're selling.
This is a good idea ... except that the downside is that the total group of hungry people is smaller than the potential group of people who aren't hungry ... yet.
These other people might become hungry if you make them aware ... and if you're the one who makes them aware, then they'll also trust you to provide the solution.
So, the task at this stage isn't to sell your course or consulting or coaching ... the task is to increase peoples awareness about a problem or a benefit they could be experiencing.
But just because you increase their awareness, doesn't mean they are considering buying anything ... let alone buying it from you. You have to lead them to the next stage in an ethical and professional way that empowers them to make every choice along the way.
The next stage is to shift someone from being aware of a problem or benefit, to imagining themselves solving that problem or having that benefit.
They need to shift from general to personal awareness.
For example, I might be aware of sky diving, but I haven't imagined doing it. And since I haven't imagined doing it, I'm unlikely to respond to a someone who shows me an ad that says "Click here to book your first sky dive".
Before I'd consider paying to sky dive, I'd need to first imagine myself doing it.
Awareness first, imagination second.
People need a good reason to start imagining themselves doing something different to what they are currently doing.
Why might I make the shift from just being aware of sky-diving, to imagining myself doing it?
There's a fair bit of psychology at play ... but the key thing is that the 'new' thing I imagine doing has to be 'better' than not doing it ... it has to be better than 'staying the same'.
Once someone imagines themselves solving the problem or experiencing the benefit, the next step is for them to feel motivated toward taking action ... and I call this motivational direction.
At this point, they aren't just browsing your website. They want to buy your products, contact you, or find out how to work with you.
They are motivated in your direction.
At each stage of AIM ... there are things that need to happen to help people make the shift. And there are also things that will stop them.
But the greatest resistance will come when they need to take action, and that's because at this stage, the whole thing stops being a theory in their mind, and starts to become very real.
For them shift from just thinking about it, to acting on it, the upside of taking action needs to be at least twice as good as the downside.
This is the magic moment ... the moment when they take action on the idea in their mind.
This is typically when they pay you, but it also might be when they take up a trial that you're offering.
This moment is over quickly. As soon as they've taken the 'buying action', it's done.
And for many people in business, they see this as the main event.
"I got the sale".
But it's not the main event at all.
The main event ... the most important event ... is for people to get the outcome you promised, to solve their problem, or to experience a benefit. The main event is for them to hit the target.
This is what you get paid for in the first place ... and they can only get that promised outcome and hit that target, if they consume your product or service.
Consumption and Consistency
This isn't so much about 'after sales service' as it is about your leadership.
Once someone has trusted you with their actions, you need to ensure they get the outcome and hit the target.
Your product or service needs to come with built in strategies that help people consume, use, take, make, apply, follow ... or whatever it is they need to do to get hit the target and get that outcome.
For example, if you're coaching someone in their fitness and well-being, it's obvious that when they make their buying decision and invest in you ... this doesn't give them the result you've promised them.
It's also obvious that just telling them what to do wont give them the result that you've promised.
It's clear that for them to get the result you promised, they have to consume your coaching advice and consistently take action on it.
You can be one of those coaches who says,
"Well, I showed up and coached ... it's up to them to do the work ... you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"
... and you'll find you get some results with clients.
But what if you were the coach who not only taught them what to do, but also helped them consume your coaching and consistently apply your suggestions so they hit the target and got the results?
If you do this, you'll build a more valuable business.
Only after people have consumed your product or service, will they hit the target. But this is more than the end of the process ... because the end is also the beginning.
If you're smart, by the time they hit the target, they'll be aware of something else.
They'll be aware of another problem they need to solve, or a new benefit they could experience.
This is how clients become long term clients, because your product or service can take them further.
You took them to Step 1, then now you can help them to Step 2, and then Step 3.
Take me for example.
I help CEOs and entrepreneurs turn audacious goals into remarkable commitments they are sure they can achieve.
And once I've done that for them ... eg hit the target ... they become aware that this is also something their business partners or executive team needs to do.
In fact there are two key things that are important to pick up on here.
1. When you help people hit the target, they are more likely to become long term clients.
2. When you help people hit the target, they are more likely to refer other people.
These last two points add massive value to your business and help you become certain about revenue from repeat sales and referrals.
Over to you ...
So, there you have it. An overview of the process I use to sell online coaching, consulting and courses.
When you do it this way, it takes people on a journey from pre-awareness ... to awareness ... imagination ... motivation ... action ... consumption ... and finally, the outcome you promised them ... the target.
This is one of the processes I take people through in the X10 Entrepreneur Intensive ... except we go into detail for your business and apply the principles to your products and services.
And this is only part of what we take you through in the X10 Entrepreneur Intensive. To find out more, you can watch the latest masterclass here.