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How to Learn to Sell Online (2021)

By Luisa

Want to learn to sell? 

Too often, I hear people say things like, “I don’t want to come off as salesy” or “it must be nice to be born with your confidence and sales skills.” 

But guess what? Selling isn’t “scammy.” And it can be learned (few people are born with great sales skills). 

Today, you learn how to sell online, so that you can get similar results as my students get:

coaching client result

Want to get the strategies? Read on. 

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How do you learn to sell? 

First: You CAN learn how to sell.

Take it from someone who got 30 no’s in a row and was told on an early sales call that I couldn’t be taken seriously because I looked like I was 12. (Yes, it happened.)

Here’s what you need to know. 

Can sales skills be learned? 

“You’ve made a few sales?”

I was so surprised to be asked that. 

After all, we were at an invite-only mastermind for established business owners. At that point, I’d just crossed $1.7 million in sales in the last 12 months. So yeah, I guess you could say a “few.”

But then again, I was never a “natural” salesperson. 

I’m an introvert and when I started building my business, I couldn’t stop asking myself, “Am I cut out for this?” 

And I didn’t have any sales experience. I had to learn it from the ground up.

What’s more, I was brought up to regard selling as something “scammy.” (When I excitedly called my parents to tell them about my first sale, they said, “How did you scam someone into paying?”)

But by learning how to sell, I built my first online business, a digital advertising consulting business, into a 6-figure business in the first four months.

And today, I run a multiple-7-figure business.

All this goes to show that selling IS a skill you can learn. 

How? That’s what we’ll look at next.

How do you become good at sales? 

When I started my business, I needed to learn how to sell. My approach was that I didn’t expect it to be easy and I didn’t expect to succeed right away. I knew I’d have to try different things without thinking it would work on the first try. 

And I knew the fastest way would be to get help. So I hired sales coaches, took courses, and read tons of books (and re-read the best ones quite a few times). 

These days, there is so much more information out there and many more programs than when I got started. Like my own program, Employee to Entrepreneur, where I share the strategies I’ve learned over 10+ years in business and multiple 6- and 7-figure businesses (a tutoring business, a tech startup, a digital advertising consulting business, and my current business). 

These resources can help you jumpstart your business way faster than when I started (and without having to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars, as I did). 

A few results my own students have gotten using these strategies include…

ETE result
ETE result

A key reason these entrepreneurs succeeded while others don’t is that they don’t just work on the tactical stuff (what to say on a discovery call or how to get calls). Instead, they understand that results come from both tactical and internal work.

You see, your mindset is just as important as any of the sales strategies you use. 

That’s why these students didn’t give up when they faced setbacks. They worked through those setbacks and achieved results. 

The thing is: You will get rejected on plenty of sales calls. You will fail. It’s just part of succeeding. So expect failure, work your way through any obstacles, and you will get good at sales. 

The fundamentals of selling

To learn to sell, you need to understand the fundamentals of selling.

Contrary to what most believe, a sale doesn’t happen on the sales call (or a sales page). 

It happens way before.

Let’s take a look.

The #1 thing you need to make sales 

Think that to get good at selling you need a perfectly packaged offer?

A great email sequence, funnel, or sales page? 

A persuasive sales script?

None of those will be the thing that gets people to say yes. 

In fact, it’s something completely different. 

What most people don’t know is that your offer and marketing need to be good enough to sell. They don’t need to be perfect. (Good enough isn’t bad — it needs to be ok, at least.) 

Instead, the relationship you build with your audience is what matters.  

You see, early on in my business, I wasn’t great at selling or that confident.

I only learned how to sell when I focused on connecting with people. 

And the way I did this was by showing up every day in Facebook groups (that’s where my audience hung out). Today, I do it by showing up for my email subscribers, social media followers, and blog readers. 

And I didn’t make it complicated. I scheduled my tasks for the week and I spent just 30-45 minutes on my marketing activities every day. For example, I’d publish a post on Monday, answer comments on Tuesday, post a new post on Wednesday, answer comments on Thursday, and answer questions in groups on Friday. 

Business calendar first year

Sometimes you build relationships fast. 

Like when I personally helped someone for free over the course of two weeks.

One day, she came back to me and wanted to work together. She became my first client and bought a $5,000 coaching package from me. 

Payment first paying client

Other times, it might take years to build it. Someone will see your material, but not be ready to buy right now. When they are, they’ll know of all the great value you share. 

I’ve personally noticed that whenever I show up more, I see an increase in sales.

In other words: Show up every day. That’s how you get people to want to buy from you. 

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Don’t wait for sales to start rolling in

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t sell out your first service offer, group program, or course by announcing that it’s “here!” and sit back to watch the sales roll in. 

Quite the opposite, in fact: 

It’s more like you have to roll each sale in yourself. By reaching out to people who might be interested and talking to those who are considering buying from you.

I must have spoken to over 40 people (in less than 10 days) to sell 15 spots in my first program. Which was an awesome result. But left me with a not-so-awesome burn-out.

(Not only because my introverted self had to talk to so many people, but also because I was saying the same thing over and over! Here’s what this program is about. Here’s how the 7 weeks will play out. Here’s how much support you’ll get. You get the idea.)

Sure enough, results will start to compound over time. Sales WILL start rolling in.

That’s because ultimately, you’ll be able to take everything you learn and do and systematize your entire marketing, sales, and delivery process.

But up until that point, you need to build up those sales. 

Next, let’s take a look at some of the most important selling techniques. 

10 top sales skills and techniques 

What are the best sales skills tips? Here are the 10 best ways to learn the art of selling. 

Read on. 

1. Start with market research

Selling, however good you are at it, depends on how well you know your audience.

Because if you don’t know what your audience really cares about (that’s not always what YOU care about), you can’t show the benefits of your offer. 

You won’t know what to include in your content and sales calls to draw the right people in.

So without market research, you won’t get far. 

That’s why you should get on the phone with at least three people who could be your ideal customers. 

A great way to get people to agree to a market research call is to offer a short, free coaching call in return.

Facebook free call post

(You might even get your first client(s) from your market research calls. Case in point: I connected with my first client over a market research call and free coaching offer.) 

2. Build relationships

People think that by writing a post on social media people will magically find them. This rarely happens when you’re just starting out. 

In the beginning, before you’re established, you need to show up and actively build those relationships. 

People aren’t going to hire you because of your sales skills, but because of how you show up and how they click with you. Often, they’ll have decided to hire you before they even get on the call. 

My first client had already decided to hire me before we had our sales call. The reason? I had already given her so much value, so there was no doubt in her mind that I couldn’t help her get even better results in a paid position. 

And that’s where your strength lies as a new entrepreneur. More established people don’t have the same possibility to use as much time and attention on each client.

But you do. People who value more personal services will choose you rather than a big name in your industry.

So be there for your audience. 

Reply to every email and comment you get. 

Welcome them when they join your Facebook group.

Talk to your audience. 

Something I did early on in my business was to offer free, 30-minute coaching sessions. I offered around 40-50 of these calls and got my first five or more clients in this way. 

Plus, they helped me build my reputation fast. 

And for years, I did livestreams every week. Again, a strategy that helped me get lots of private coaching clients. 

3. Give free content

A question I get a lot is, “Luisa, how much free content is too much?” 

Here’s the thing:

There’s no such thing as too much free content.

Your clients don’t go off because you give too much. (Yes, some people just want your free content, but they’re not your ideal clients.)

And the more you give, the more they want to work with you. 

Sharing all that content helps you sell. Without it, selling is pretty darn hard. (Because as research shows, trust is a big factor in people’s decision to buy.)

You see, by sharing a LOT of top-notch content most people would charge for, I’ve had million-dollar launches year after year. 

4. Selling is not about convincing 

Back in high school, I had the option to buy a prom ticket (I knew my parents wouldn’t cover it) or sell pens to get a free ticket. Excitedly, I went to my dad and asked him to sell some at his workplace. 

But he refused. The reason? He thought it was “scammy to sell.”

But, it’s not, especially if you do it in the right way. Let me explain:

First: Selling is to be of service 

The belief I grew up with is that it’s wrong to sell. It was only when I started my business that I had to re-evaluate this and see sales for what it is — to be of service. 

Your customers are smart and they’re capable of making their own decisions.

You see, no one will be tricked to buy from you. In fact, they will only buy if they really want it.

Just think about how much time and money it took you to learn the skills you help your clients with now. You’re giving so much value!

(If you doubt that you ARE giving that much value, ask yourself, “how can I give more value than the investment is worth?”) 

For example, when I was doing career coaching, I had gone through many years of learning and making mistakes before I switched industries, managed a team, and made six figures. I knew that I could help people who were going through the same get those same results faster. 

Ultimately, the client decides if they want your offer or not. 

You can’t move that needle for them other than show the benefits of your offer.

I often mention my courses in my free content.

But I’m not saying, “you have to buy” or scaring people into thinking that their life will suck if they don’t buy from me.

And some people have been on my email list for YEARS before they buy. There’s no pressure on them and they make that decision when they feel ready. 

Second: How to not be scammy when reaching out to people 

But then, what’s the fine line between reaching out to someone and offering help versus doing it to be salesy?

Let me get on my coaching soap box. 

First of all, the latter? Does. Not. Work. Don’t do it. Just don’t be one of those people.

Contrary to what many business-coaches-who-shouldn’t-be-business-coaches will tell you, that is NOT how you get clients. That IS how you get banned from every single group or forum or thread you’re a part of. And make a name for yourself as someone no one wants to work with.

Plus, it just doesn’t feel good. I don’t know about you, but I definitely didn’t start a business to have to chase or *trick* people into working with me.

Aside from that being just straight-up bad, advice like this ticks me off. Because it’s what gives online businesses a bad rap. 

Let me tell you the real “secret” to building a successful business…

People WANT help with their problems. And they are smart. (At least the kind of people you want to work with are. And that’s all that really matters.) 

Which means that if they are given reason to trust that you can and want to help them, they will naturally be interested in what you have to offer.

The steps to do that aren’t complicated:

Share your solution to a problem that people want solved.

Lead with value (aka epic free content).

Share it with as many people as possible.

Repeat.

5. How to talk about money

New entrepreneurs tend to be incredibly uncomfortable when it comes to talking about money. 

Look:

If someone says, “I have to choose between this investment and paying my bills,” it’s pretty clear that they shouldn’t buy from you.

But if someone says, “I don’t know if this is worth it,” that’s when it’s time to talk about the money and their perception of the value. 

Talking about money is just you asking to be paid for the value you offer, like your experience and time. Pretty much like you talk about your salary at work. 

After all, your business is not a hobby or a charity. 

That’s also why you shouldn’t lower your prices (unless you’ve decided beforehand to hold a special promotion or to lower your price for the first few clients). 

Own your price. 

(In fact, research shows that people seem to enjoy expensive things more than cheaper alternatives.)

By the way, want to know what other selling mistakes you might be doing? Take a look at this quick video: 

6. Don’t end it on a cliffhanger

Too often, sales calls are left on a cliffhanger.

You know, when the person you’re speaking to says something along the lines of, “I have to think about it” or “let me ask my spouse.” 

A sales call that’s left this way doesn’t feel good to anyone.

It’s your job to take on your coaching shoes and coach people through their fears so that they can make a decision (either to work or not to work with you). 

Give them a next step. Ask them if they feel like you should work together. If they say yes, great. 

If they say no, also great (you don’t want to work with people who aren’t motivated enough to do the work). 

If they say that they need to think about it, ask them when you should regroup so that the both of you have a next step. 

7. How to meet objections 

A lot of people think that meeting sales objections is about convincing someone. 

Not true! You help people think through if your offer is the right thing for them (after all, they’ve already signed up for a sales call with you so chances are that they’re seriously considering your offer). 

They will say no if they don’t want it. You don’t need to convince anyone. 

Instead, reframe “convincing” to “coaching” or “teaching.” People who have objections tend to have a fear — maybe they’re not sure if you’re the right coach for them or maybe they don’t know if they can get the results they want. 

And remember: when you coach someone through their objections, they might come to the conclusion that buying from you is not the right thing for them right now. Either way, they (and you) get closure. 

As a result, you get better clients. If you have to convince someone to work with you, they are going to need a lot of “convincing” to do all the work. Your ideal clients WANT your offer. 

8. Don’t assume anything about the client

If you assume that your client can or can’t afford your services, you’ve already made up your mind about whether they will actually be able to work with you.

So don’t assume anything because you never know what a person’s situation is.

Early on in this business, I spoke to a woman who owned a few franchises. She said they brought in multiple six-figures every year.

As a result, I thought working with me was going to be such a no-brainer for her. But after saying she needed to think about it, she got back to me and wrote, “I don’t know if I can make this work.”

A short time later, I spoke to a single mom who had left her job. She told me that she had been trying to build her business and that she only had a few months left of expenses in her bank account.

I declined to work with her because of that. But she pushed for it, so I ultimately said yes. A month and a half later, she had made back the investment (and more). 

As you can see, what someone’s situation appears to be like doesn’t determine if they’ll be able to work with you. 

9. Show them the transformation 

“OMG. I get unlimited email support?!!”

Said no one ever.

And yet, of the hundreds of sales offers I’ve coached clients on over the years, that’s one of the most common mistakes I see.

Here’s the thing: 

If they’re asking about the calls, videos, and/or PDFs, it’s because they aren’t sure what they’re really getting and are looking for a way to measure it. Which means they probably don’t fully see the value of your product.

Instead of talking about the things your coaching program includes, focus on the transformation they get. Ultimately, your clients care about the results you help them get — not the number of PDFs you’ll send them. 

And I want to make something clear:

“Transformation” means THEIR results. Not your story, your mission, or anything like that. 

The often-parroted, “People buy your WHY” approach has never appealed to me.

That’s why you’ll never hear me talk about how “I was broke and now I’m Rolex-rich!” (I was never broke because I worked hard for my six-figure corporate salary and I don’t own a Rolex.)

Or how my “why” is to help you do the same. 

Here’s what this self-made, work-over-woo, Princeton-educated engineer believes instead:

People buy how your ‘why’ helps their ‘why.’ BIG difference.

10. Work past your fear

Finally, if you let them, your fears will keep you stuck. 

You know, I’ve been there myself. I let my fears dictate my life. 

Because I was afraid…

  • I talked myself out of showing up daily online and sharing what I had to say. Because I was afraid people wouldn’t like it. (And as a result, I watched others who didn’t give into their fears surpass me)
  • I watched a dream client decide to hire someone else… who I KNEW wouldn’t be as good of a coach. Because I was afraid of sounding mean if I explained that
  • I let someone I knew I could help, give in to THEIR fear instead of believing and investing in themselves. Because I was afraid of coming across as salesy or pushy 
  • I wasted tens of thousands of dollars hiring people who I hoped would “save” me (and my copywriting, funnel, systems, or sales). Because I was afraid to trust myself

Here’s the truth I had to realize the hard way:

Your fears aren’t going to magically disappear.

No one’s going to magically find you when you aren’t showing up.

Your dream clients aren’t going to decide to hire YOU when you aren’t owning your uniqueness, effectiveness, and power.

No one is going to “save” you or your business. Only YOU can do that. (FYI: Hoping someone is going to “save” your business is very different from hiring and outsourcing to delegate.)

So start working on getting past your fears. 

That’s how you learn to sell. 

Want to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business So You Can Achieve More Freedom?

Get Instant Access To My FREE Ultimate Guide Below!

When you sign up, you’ll also receive regular updates on building a successful online business.

Over to you!

There you have it. Now you know what it takes to learn to sell online.

Next, let me know in the comments below:

What’s your #1 question about selling? 

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The proven blueprint

for building a profitable online coaching business that frees you from the 9-to-5

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online business. Fun Fact: She's also a former International Space Station engineer.

The proven blueprint

for building a profitable online coaching business that frees you from the 9-to-5

How to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business - Luisa Zhou-2

Want to Build a 6-Figure Coaching Business So You Can Achieve More Freedom?

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