How do I balance authenticity with selling?

Simon with Selling on one hand and Authenticity on the other asking can I balance these?

A lot of people don’t like the idea of ‘selling’. There is a particular feeling that arises in people if you talk to them about ‘making a sale’; and I would say that for most people it’s not a feeling they like.

It can be even less appealing when what’s being sold is intangible – such as when you’re a coach, consultant, or freelancer and what you are selling is the work you do.

And yet, you’re a business trying to make money and selling your service is how you do that.

Hence, there is a natural, often pressing need to ‘make the sale’ which can feel in conflict with your desire to be authentic. In other words, if you’re at all ethically minded, it can feel like selling is ideologically opposed to how you work.

In this blog, I’ll explain how you can balance being authentic with selling in a way that doesn’t feel conflicting.

Selling doesn’t have to be ‘bad’

I think it’s the stereotype of the used car salesperson that has given selling a bad name. Most people have been on the receiving end of relentless persuasion, pressure, and even outright false promises from someone desperate to make a sale no matter what. It’s not fun.

There is another way to make a sale. It’s not talked about so much because it doesn’t actually focus on the selling bit of sales. It’s more like trying not to sell anything and I find it feels a lot better for the seller, and when a sale is made, the client is delighted.

Instead of a sales pitch, offer them a journey

This ‘non-selling’ sales technique is not quick and that’s why it works so well for considered purchases. The idea is to focus on the questions the client may have, then answer those questions to guide them to a point where they understand what change they want to make, they trust you to deliver on your promises, and they want to know when they can start.

The process is like a journey that the client goes on:

  1. Unaware: They begin by being unaware that there is something in their life that they might like to change, either personally or in their business. This could be an action, thought or process they are repeating. This is how most people are most of the time.
  2. Curious: At some point they become aware that this thing in their life is something that is connected to another way of being and they are curious to find out more. By this I mean they see an opportunity for change. They see that with the right change they can get to a place they want to be.
  3. Inspired: At this point they feel inspired to find out more about this change and how they might get from where they are now to this new desirable destination. Their questions tend to focus on what the process of change involves and how much effort, investment and time it will take.
  4. Motivated: At this point they are likely to be motivated to look for someone to guide them in making this change, someone who knows the process and has guided others before.

Ethical marketing is all about providing what the client is looking for at all four stages of this journey. This is how you sell without selling. The journey itself attracts the clients you’re looking for, not a sales pitch or special offer or ‘opportunity of a lifetime’. You set up a journey and then act as a guide for those who want to know, explore and discover more.

Once they understand and believe that the change they have discovered is the one they want to make, they will naturally progress to finding a guide. This could be a coach, a course, a book, a video, a podcast or consultancy.

To create a compelling journey, start with the destination work back…

By reframing the selling process into a journey for the client (rather than a single, high-pressure sales conversation) it becomes a lot more enjoyable for both the client and you.

  1. Start with the endpoint and create an offer that your ideal client is looking to buy. This way, you’re not trying to persuade them to buy what you want to sell; you’re offering something they’re already interested in. It’s the best place to start because when people are motivated to change, you have something to offer them.
  2. Next, explain how the process of change works. How could the client go from where they are now to where they want to be? What are the steps involved, and how can they move from one to the next? You can then point to your offer to guide them to their destination, which you created in step #1.
  3. Next, create content that links together ideas or concepts that the client might not have already connected. Explain the key principles that underpin the work you do. Offer up answers to the common questions you get asked. For those who want more, you can point to the explanation of the process that you’ve already created in step #2.
  4. Next, think about people who are looking for change but maybe don’t yet know what changes are possible. Grab their attention with some short, simple and thought-provoking ideas that are quick and easy to understand and consider further. You can then point to the content you’ve created in step #3 for those who want to do more.

But… I still have to make a sale at the end of it all, don’t I?

Yes, that’s still the overall goal for ethical marketing.

However, without all the high-pressure manipulation it will feel a lot less like ‘selling’.

When I explain all this in a workshop, at this point, someone will ask without me trying to ‘sell’ them: “How can I work with you to make this happen?”

Why does this happen? Because they understand the change they want to make and are ready to take the next step. And I’ve just guided them through a process that will get them to where they want and need to be. Instead of trying to sell courses, sessions or programmes to people unaware that they even want to make a change, I’m just confirming their understanding and making the next step available to them.

It doesn’t really feel like selling. In fact, it isn’t ‘classic’ selling at all. And yet… a potential sale.

Focus on the steps and not making a sale

Help the client understand more about the change that is available to them.

Help them see where they are now and how it can connect to where they might want to be.

In doing so, you will end up talking to people who are ready to do the work involved and are ready to invest in making their change happen. You’re not ‘selling’, you’re being authentic.

This is a very brief overview of how this process works. I go into a lot more detail in my book Reframing Marketing: A 3-step guide to effective and ethical marketing. So if you want to create a journey for your ideal client and go on to have more conversations with people who are ready to do the work, give it a read. You can order your copy directly from me at