Pre-selling — the what, the how, and the when

The number one reason why most websites fail to sell

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People "buy" from those they know and like. They resist sales effort from everyone else.SBI! Action Guide, DAY 1.

Everywhere we see websites that try their damnedest to sell, sell, sell. They put up awesome (and not so awesome) products, product descriptions and pictures, do usability testing, streamline their order process, sign up affiliates, and in general do everything that is necessary to hasten and ensure the sale.

And yet they don't sell. 99% of the websites fail. Why?

Because they forget that people only buy from those they know and like. And because they don't do anything to make people know and like them.

Pause here. Take your time to digest this concept. It's very important. Everybody KNOWS it. But very few people actually "get it."

I repeat — Most websites fail because they don't do anything to make people like them.

In other words, they fail to sell because they fail to pre-sell (or PREsell, as Dr. Ken Evoy likes to call it).

OK, so what is this pre-selling thing?

When visitors first arrive at a website, the site is like a stranger to them. It's the job of the website to turn itself from a stranger into a friend in the eyes of the people that visit it. Because these people are going to buy from a friend, not from a stranger. They will follow the recommendations of a friend, and an expert, not someone who is trying to push stuff down their throats.

Pre-selling is how you make your visitors like you. Pre-selling is how you establish yourself as an expert in the eyes of your visitors. Pre-selling is why they think you are their friend, not a salesperson. Pre-selling is why you will ultimately be able to sell successfully.

Put very simply, it's everything that you do to create an open-to-buy mindset in the minds of people. Things that you do before the selling even begins. Things that happen before your visitors are even aware that they are going to buy something from your site.

Only after you create an open to buy mindset, can you make your visitors buy anything. And what do I mean when I say "open to buy?"

An open to buy mindset is when a person is willing to consider buying something from you. Not necessarily this product or that service, but something. When the guards are down. When the resistance to a sales effort is at its minimum. When they have started trusting you because of your obvious expertise.

But how do you create this "open to buy" mindset?

I'll answer that, but are you sure you have understood what pre-selling is? Yes? OK then, you go and get coke for both of us, and I'll get some pizza. I'm hungry. Can't talk to you on an empty stomach.


Alright, I'm back. Wake up and gimme the coke! And here's your pizza.

How to pre-sell

For the answer, you must get into the minds of your visitors. What do they want?

Contrary to what most people think, most people do not look for products or services on the Internet. They look for information.

  • Information on how to manage their time. Not a time management software.
  • Information on how to go about filing a divorce. Not a divorce attorney.
  • Ideas and recipes for their next fancy dress dinner party. Not your e-book.
  • Things to consider before designing or redesigning their site. Not a web designer like me. (Yeah, too bad, I know. But that's life.)

So how do you know what your visitors want? Simple really...

If they are on a page that is about time management, it's probably because they are interested in managing their time. If they are on a page that talks about divorce in any way, they are likely contemplating a divorce, or know someone who is. And so on.

So now that you know what your visitors want, give it to them! Yeah, give it to them before you ask anything. Let them have their "Hmmm..." and "Ah!" and "Oh!" moments first. Warm them up. By giving them what they need before asking anything, you establish trust in their minds. If they view you as an expert on a topic that interests them, they will be more open to your suggestions. Better still, if they think you are their friend and look after their interests, they might even be willing to jump off a cliff if you ask them to. (Some friend you would be though, if you really make them do that!)

When they are open to your suggestions, you have basically done your pre-selling successfully. Time for someone to start selling now.

Recommend them your products or services, or those of others you are an affiliate of. But be sure to tie in the product or service with the needs of your visitors. Make sure it solves their problem. Or all your hard work will come to a waste. They won't buy something they don't need.

Make friends. Give first, then try to take. Put an appearance that is in tune with the subject you are discussing. Make your visitors comfortable. Talk in a tone of voice that appears friendly and reassuring. Be honest with them; it shows. And last but not the least, recommend only great products or services. Don't recommend something just because the manufacturer bribed you with a large commission.

That last paragraph told you what pre-selling is, in a nutshell. And how to do it. The only remaining thing now is to know...

When to pre-sell

You must obviously distinguish between selling and pre-selling. Both have their place and time.

This is again related to understanding what your visitors want. If they are already inside your online store, they don't want to learn the top ten techniques to apply a hair remover most effectively. They want the hair remover itself.

If they are near your web store, they are looking to buy something. They are already warmed up, and pre-sold. If they aren't pre-sold, and just stumbled across your store somehow, it's still not proper to try to pre-sell here. This is no time to do your pre-selling. This is the time to sell. Just do your best.

Use pre-selling to send visitors to your web store, or to a merchant's site. Use selling when visitors are at your store. Try not to send people to your store without pre-selling, unless they are just dying to buy. When done effectively, this can make or break the success of your site.

There are more aspects of pre-selling than I covered here. In future articles, I may write more about pre-selling. In addition, there is this awesome but free e-book on pre-selling that you most definitely want, if you are interested in warming up your visitors to your sales message.


Is your site making money?

If not, try these:


51 Ways To Make Money From Your Website: 51 ideas and tips to help you monetize your website.


Make money with SBI!: Outlines several ways SBI! can help you make money, no matter what your age, profession, or abilities.