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EPISODE 15: How to Sell with Integrity

by Jan 5, 2021Copywriting, Podcast

Learn how to sell with integrity by avoiding four common sales strategies. In this episode we will cover:

  • Making sales with integrity by eliminating four common tactics
  • How to avoid the bait-and-switch
  • How to avoid false urgency
  • How to avoid false promises
  • How to avoid overusing pain points

Sales are about relationships.

Whether you find selling comes naturally to you or every new offer feels like a challenge, we can all agree there are good sales tactics and bad ones.

Here are four common — but sleazy — sales tactics to avoid, so you can sell your offer with integrity.

AVOID: The bait-and-switch

From fake “oops” emails to subject lines that start with Re: when they’re not actually replies, to misleading images of “ideal” products that look nothing like what’s actually being delivered… no one likes falling for a bait-and-switch.

INSTEAD: Focus on snappy subject lines

You can {and should!} write subject lines that encourage people to open your emails without flat-out lying to them.


AVOID: False urgency

The “LAST CHANCE!” refrain is a pretty common one in sales. But if your ticking clock winds down and with no real opportunity lost, you’re probably engaging in a sleazy sales tactic. Remember, you’re building a relationship with your audience. If you say it’s the last chance to get something and they catch you selling the same thing again next week, you’re going to lose your credibility {and quite possibly, future sales}.

INSTEAD: Actual urgency

If there really IS a real ticking clock, definitely let people know! The last chance to get something before the price goes up? Only two spots left in the next course? Almost sold out of a limited-edition product? Totally valid and important reasons to encourage urgency.


AVOID: False promises

Again, you want to hype up your offer… but you don’t want to outright lie about it. We see this a lot with misleading or outright false guarantees. {Guaranteed results are impossible about 99% of the time.} Remember, what works for one person might not work for another, no matter how good your product or service is. You’re going to lose customers — and maybe even face legal action — if you make promises you can’t keep.

INSTEAD: Use storytelling to show value

Lean into the power of storytelling, using case studies and testimonials to prove your offer’s worth. Instead of saying, “I guarantee my process will make you a million dollars,” say, “This former client saw revenue increase to 7 figures.”


AVOID: Digging the knife in to pain points

Pain points are an important part of sales. After all, if you’re not showcasing how your offer can benefit someone, why would they buy into it? But over-emphasizing pain points is a sleazy sales tactic. If you’re making people feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with them in order to sell your offer, you’re not marketing — you’re being a bully.

INSTEAD: Lean in to empathy points

Instead, think about reframing pain points as empathy points. Don’t dig a knife into the pain. Ask what’s wrong, and how you can help instead. Address the pain by showing a willingness to support, understand, and assist with your offer.

Remember, selling with integrity means valuing people over profits. But you’re running a business — it’s still important to be profitable! Using the tactics we discussed, you can have it all: the sales AND the audience relationships you want.


Have you witnessed some sleazy marketing in the past?

Tag us on Instagram @northstarmessaging to tell us about it —  and how you’re going to avoid using the same tactics to sell with more integrity!



Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates, from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

All right, welcome to episode 15. Today, we're just talking about how to sell with integrity. And this is a topic that's really near and dear to our hearts, because we really are focused on building relationships throughout the entire marketing process. And nowhere is that more important than during the sales portion of the relationship. Sales are about relationships. It's not about sounding like Saul from Better Call Saul and offering cheap tricks and sleazy ways to get someone's money. We put people over profits all the time, which doesn't mean that it's not important to be profitable. So today we're going to be talking about four different sleazy tactics to avoid in your marketing and what you can do instead.

Exactly. And just a small note here, if you are an experienced business owner or you're right at the beginning of this, even if you're a freelance content writer and you're listening here to help you get closer to the mark with your clients, sales, people have very different reactions to sales. Some people, even a decade in and with millions of dollars in revenue under their belt are still nervous every time they get into a sales conversation. And for some people, it's pretty comfortable and it feels like they can just be there in that space and not feel weird or like they're posturing. So just want to normalize that for you if you are feeling nervous about it, these four tactics to avoid. It's not just that, we're going to give you what to do instead, so that you have a direction to go so that selling can really feel like something you can do with integrity, something that is really aligned with the values in your business.
And I'll say this to you, my first job and something that I've had a lot of years of experience before and during this company was grant writing for nonprofits. And I remember being about a week or two into that job because I was like, "I don't know what this is. It has writing in the name that's exciting to me." And it was about a week in when I realized, "Oh, this is sales, this is sales, except this is sales for donations." And so, they're literally not getting anything in return, which isn't true. They were getting satisfaction or their name on a building or things like that. But, it's not like I was shipping out a product to them or providing a service for them in return. So if you believe that nonprofits can ask for donations in a way that can be done with integrity, then I promise you if you have a for-profit business can also do so.

Yeah, absolutely. So let's dive into a few things that we've seen in content marketing around sales that are not so great and what you can do instead. And I'm going to start by talking about email marketing. So these would be emails that show up in your inbox that are offering a product or a service. And one of my biggest pet peeves, I just had experience with this a few weeks ago and it almost gave me a heart attack because I got an email and the email subject line said something along the lines of a missed payment. And the from person said, "Failure notice." And so of course I immediately was like, "Oh no, what did I forget to pay? What am I overdue on?"
I opened it up and it was someone selling a course and they had changed the name to be "Failure Notice." And the subject line to make it seem like I had missed a payment. This is what we like to call a bait and switch. You're getting this very strong, emotional reaction out of your reader and trusting that they will act on that emotional reaction and then being like, "Well, actually this is what we're offering you." And it feels really gross. And it did make me take action. And that action was to unsubscribe from that email list very quickly, because I don't need that.

Exactly. This doesn't just happen in emails either, sometimes you'll see this in ads for like, maybe there'll be a particular image of something. And then once you click into it, you realize that that image is really just there to grab your attention. And the thing that they're selling over here is like the watered down sad version of that, whatever that was. So yeah, so it could happen in a lot of different venues.

Yeah, absolutely. And so, this is also for example, switching back to emails, if you send an oops email out, like, "Oops, I messed this up," but you didn't actually mess anything up. You're just pretending you did because you know that oops emails get higher open rates. That's gross. Please don't do that. Some people talk about this as being good savvy marketing, but for me and for North Star, we feel that this crosses the line into manipulation. And so, what we want to do instead is yes, we do want to be eye catching. We do want to have images that get people to click, and we do want to have subject lines that get people to open and we want them to be snappy and we want them to be encouraging. And we want them to be curious and help people to think about things and want to know more, but we don't want to do it in a way that intentionally creates a negative emotional reaction that is totally unrelated to the thing that you're selling or that is intended to deceive.

Yep, exactly. So couldn't have said that any better myself. I'm going to go ahead and migrate onto the next tactic to avoid. So we talk about urgency being a really great angle to take with our marketing, but only when it's real, so let me give an example here. Let's say you go into a sales page from an ad and there's a countdown timer at the bottom and you're like, "Ooh, okay, I've got five minutes to make my decision here, an hour or whatever it is." And so, you feel pressured to make it, but then if you're a savvy marketer and you've been in this for a while, you're like, "Hmm, I wonder." And so you open up an incognito window or maybe a different browser and look at that. What do you know? The timer is reset and it's counting down again. Now, sometimes this means that somebody is using a platform that knows you, knows your IP address or whatever.
And it can say like, "Yeah, for real, you have five minutes. And once this timer runs out, this discount isn't going to be available or this offer isn't going to be available anymore." And it truly shut it down. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about when it's really just there for no reason, it's just false urgency, right? This isn't just a problem with countdown timers. This happens during launches all the time. Yes, it definitely does happen, I think more in evergreen stuff, but it still happens in live launches as well. So instead of encouraging you to infuse actual urgency into your sales, have some integrity with when you say a deadline is, actually hold them to that deadline. This is going to help you in two ways. One, it does promote that trust between them and you, that they really believe you, what you say that this deadline really is a deadline and for good reason.
Right? And secondly, well I'll say too, that the good reason on that is we've all heard about people who, and maybe you've experienced this ourselves, have thrown so much of ourselves into a launch that then when it comes time to actually deliver the content we're exhausted. And so we have to have a cutoff so that we can actually serve the people who did make the investment. So that's a legitimate reason to have urgency. We have to cut it off somewhere. But the other piece of this is, it also shows that you have boundaries for your business. And if somebody comes to you after the fact and wants to come in, you can make that choice whether you want to allow them in or not. But if you do, maybe it's because you actually had a real conversation with them. It's about the relationship. It's not just because, you just threw out that deadline there to have something on the books.

Yeah. And we're talking about this in the context of launching, but I want to give you an example from something that may not be attached to a program, maybe you do a lot of one-on-one sales and you hop on calls with people to sell, for example, into a coaching package or something like that. False urgency would be something like saying, "Oh, well I only have one seat left." So you need to make a decision now, when you actually don't, you actually have five seats left or 10 seats left. And you're just trying to give them a reason to make a decision quicker. That's based on a lie. So when you're thinking about adding urgency, just think about actual, genuine urgency, things like bonuses that you can offer, things like real cart closing dates, how many seats you actually have until you're at capacity, so that it's still adding urgency, but you're not lying.

Exactly. Again, it just says like, "Does this pass the sniff test for manipulation?" Okay. Next up is avoid making promises that you cannot keep. So we see this a lot with guaranteed results. Look, it's not possible to guarantee results unless you put in a caveat where it's like, if you do the work, if you show up, if you bring yourself fully to this experience, whatever it is, then sure you can do that and you can offer a money back guarantee. But, we get asked a lot or, well, I suppose we used to, I think we have maybe more qualified leads coming our way these days, but they're like, "Well, what kind of sales can you guarantee from my launch?" And we're like, "Well, the copy is just one piece of that. I can guarantee we're going to do our very best. I can guarantee that we're going to leverage all the tools and experience that we have and really just put our best foot forward for you. But we can't guarantee you that six figure launch you're looking for." There's 5,000 other elements in play here.

Yeah. And I think that this actually goes beyond copy. This actually goes into the legality of what you can offer or not. And we're not lawyers and please consult with yours before you put anything out there that is guaranteeing anything. Because if you're saying, "Hey, if you work with me, you'll earn a million dollars next year." You don't know the future. You don't know that you can offer that. And so there's a lot of false promising that happens when you're making these guarantees.
And so instead, what you can do is look at the stories that you can tell, look at the testimonials that you can build, the case studies that you can build as people take you up on your offer. As you build up a rapport with clients, you can say something like, "Instead of you will earn a million dollars next year if you work with me." You can say something like, "Well, look at this person who worked with me and grew their business from 500,000 to a million, here's an example of what can happen if you work with me." It's not guaranteed because every one is different, but you can see an example of some of these results in action.

Right. And you can use qualifying language too, to say something like, "You'll get access to the exact same framework that Laura did when she was able to grow her business by two X in one year." Something like that.

Yeah, absolutely.

Okay. Last but not least in terms of our selling with integrity, tactics to avoid would be avoid overusing pain points. Pain points are useful. There's a reason that people teach them so much. And a pain point, if you're not up on the copy lingo is just the frustration that someone's experiencing, that you and your offer or your product can help relieve. So it's great to point those out, but what we want to avoid is jabbing in the knife and twisting it, just really harping on their misery and their frustration to the point where they just feel like they're a bad person. Maybe they're the cause of their suffering. That they're a failure, that something is wrong with them fundamentally. That is where we do not want to go. Again, this goes into the manipulation land and we do want to avoid it. So instead, we have a strategy for that.

Yeah. I like to think of this as instead of being the bully on the playground, being the person who is inviting someone who has been bullied out to coffee to sit down and chat with them about their experience. And so, we think about it instead of in terms of pain points and being like, "Hey, this is a thing that is really bothering you. I'm going to keep talking about it over and over and over again." Saying, "Hey, I noticed that this is the thing that's bothering you. And I understand. I understand where you're coming from. I can see why that is a struggle."
It's really coming together to offer empathy, to offer the idea of, "I know what it's like to be in your shoes, and I want to help move you along and get you out of this situation." Pain points and empathy points are very similar. They're different frames of looking at the same thing and from a copy perspective, it is important to talk about the frustrations, but we want to talk about the frustrations in the context of, "Here's how we're going to help overcome them." Not in the context of, "Let me just keep reminding you how much it hurts."

Yeah, exactly. All right. So some quick homework for you today. We want you to take a look at your selling language. This could be just looking back at a recorded sales call that you've done recently, taking a look at a sales page that you have, some sales emails, whatever the case, and just making sure that you can sign off and say, "Okay, cool. None of these four tactics are here." And those four tactics, just to remind you, are baiting and switching, false urgency, making promises you cannot keep or really shouldn't be promising, and overusing pain points to the point of agony for your audience. So A, just make sure that they're not there and B, take these instead strategies and make sure that they are there. Or double down on them, if you already are starting to use them, but you haven't really thought about them consciously before, go through and see like, "Hey, can I really lean into this empathy? Can I lean into the relationship a little bit?" It's going to cause some vulnerability for both of us, but that's how we form a stronger relationship.

Absolutely. So go ahead and give this a try, take a look at one of your offers and see if you can really build a more robust sales strategy. That feels good.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice podcast. Make sure to visit our website NorthStarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

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For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 

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