I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these words, not just from musicians but other creatives:
“I’m not a salesperson.”
Most people don’t like selling.
It has a lot to do with how we look at selling and how we feel about it, which is usually some combination of pushy, aggressive, pressuring, manipulative or irritating.
If that’s how you’re selling, you’re only making the situation uncomfortable for yourself and your audience.
So, let’s look at how you can overcome your fear of selling.
Understand That You Have A Choice In The Matter
First, it’s important for you to understand something:
You have a choice.
You can choose to sell.
Or, you can choose not to sell.
And, your choice will have a dramatic impact on your career and the level of success you achieve.
This isn’t to say that selling will lead to a better career.
This is only the case if you actively sell, learn, adjust and improve intentionally (unless you happen to be a natural salesperson).
But learning to sell well can only benefit you.
You’ll make more money, book better shows, line up better partnerships and create better industry connections.
Keep in mind – this is what you say you want.
The very fact that you’re reading this guide tells me you have greater ambitions and you want to make more money doing what you love to do.
But when you chose what you wanted, you didn’t necessarily realize what it would mean.
It will likely mean enduring some discomfort or embarrassment and stepping outside your comfort zone – that’s the price of success.
About eight years ago, I recognized that I was not meant for traditional employment and I started freelancing, building businesses and investing in companies.
When I signed up for it, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
That path has been full of surprises – obstacles, challenges, heartbreak, failure and more.
And, so it is with building a profitable and sustainable music career.
But if you’re unwavering in your commitment to building the career of your dreams, then it’s time to accept the necessity of selling.
Of course, as I said, you always have a choice in the matter.
You can sell or not sell.
The road to the success you desire is paved with selling.
The path to mediocrity and failure requires nothing of you and you will get there by default.
Assume Your Fans Are Interested
Stop assuming your fans aren’t interested in your merch or music.
Instead, come from the space that they want to follow you on social media, join your email list and purchase everything you’ve got.
Come from the space of “yes”.
The funny thing about confidence is that people can sense when you have it and when you don’t.
It’s not right to have confidence and wrong to be lacking confidence, just as it’s not right to sell or not sell.
But if we adjust how we listen to others and listen for the “yes” rather than the “no”, even if we don’t get a “yes”, we aren’t as put off when we hear “no”.
Whether it’s in your social media posts, emails or in conversation or at your shows, don’t expect “no”.
And, create everything you say from that space of “yes”.
If fans come to talk to you after the show, assume they’re interested.
If you see fans hovering at your merch table, assume they’re interested.
If onlookers are sitting in their booths, drinking and eating and talking to themselves, assume they’re interested.
You have nothing to lose by assuming they’re all interested!
Further, when you get a “no”, and you will, recognize that you’re no worse off than where you started.
You lost nothing.
Meanwhile, if 20 people came to your show and you didn’t ask them to buy anything, you would have walked away not knowing whether they would have bought.
For all you know, maybe you could have walked away with $400 in merch sales.
You won’t know unless you try.
It’s more exciting to try than to sit on the sidelines waiting for people to give you the response you want.
Keep in mind – people are relatively checked out these days.
They spend at least half of their days behind a screen (if not more) and many are too scared to socialize.
Do you think you’re going to need to do any convincing?
In many instances, the only thing you’ll need to do is make the ask.
Simple enough, right?
That segues nicely into my next point, which is…
Recognize That You Don’t Need To Convince Anyone
Let’s make a distinction.
I believe it’s important to be persuasive.
But you don’t need to be convincing.
Being persuasive, to me, means you can influence choice.
Convincing is just trying to get someone to believe or do something they’re not interested in.
If you don’t have the ability to influence choice, you’re not going to have a great music career.
You must recognize that everywhere you go, you’re already influencing choice.
When you ask for a date, you’re influencing choice.
When you apply for a job, you’re influencing choice.
When you ask for an album review, you’re influencing choice.
Meanwhile, convincing can leave you and others feeling powerless and annoyed, because it involves trying to get someone to do or believe something they don’t necessarily want to.
There are some situations where convincing is good and necessary.
I don’t believe it’s essential with selling.
If you let your fans know at a show that you’ve got your merch table set up in the corner, all you’re doing is influencing choice.
If a fan asks about your music and you place a CD in their hands, all you’re doing is influencing choice.
Now, some musicians will take this to mean they should say a sentence that takes this form:
“If you’re interested in X, you should check out Y.”
Nope – this doesn’t come across persuasive at all.
If there are people at your show or on your email list, they’re interested – why else would they be there?
If they’ve been listening to your music and haven’t left the venue, they’re already into what you’re doing.
“If you’re interested in X, you should check out Y” is just convincing, isn’t it?
You’re basically trying to convince them to do something based on their interest level.
Do you see the difference now?
So, be persuasive.
You don’t need to convince anyone of anything – it’s their choice anyway.
I’ll share some practical ways you can do this now.
Put The Pressure On Them
In everyday conversation, we say a lot of things that could be considered neutral, passive and uninspiring.
To be honest, a lot of what we say is lifeless.
We don’t say anything that causes action.
We hold back because of our consideration for others and how we’ll come across if we say something that offends.
But if you’re not putting the pressure on others to give a clear “yes” or “no”, you’re a long way from reaching your potential in selling.
Here’s an example of something that’s ambiguous and ineffective:
“Are you interested in our album?”
This is not a “yes” or “no” question.
It leaves a lot of room for people to say “maybe”, “yeah it’s kind of interesting”, “not if it doesn’t have that song on it” or otherwise.
What’s the problem?
You didn’t take the pressure off yourself!
You did absolutely nothing with the pressure, so it couldn’t go anywhere – it stayed with everyone in the conversation or it just disappeared into thin air.
Now, here’s another important distinction.
I’m not talking about pressuring, which is just more convincing.
Pressure, meanwhile, is not good or bad.
You face pressure all the time – practically every day.
When choosing whether to eat Chinese or Italian, you faced pressure.
When asked a question via email, you faced pressure.
When deciding whether to attend that event this weekend, you faced pressure.
Pressure is what we feel when we know a choice needs to be made.
So, how can we speak in a way that creates pressure for others and produces action?
First, we can ask a more direct question.
“This is our album. Will you be buying a copy?”
“Will you be buying…” isn’t the same as “Are you interested in…”
Can you see that?
When you say “are you interested in…” you aren’t asking your fans to buy anything – you’re merely gauging interest.
People are interested in all kinds of things, so that puts no pressure on them whatsoever.
“Will you be buying…” is direct.
Second, we can make a request.
“I have a request – buy a copy of our latest album.”
The message is unmistakable, and the audience is left with the pressure.
No need to add “please” here because you’re not begging (i.e. manipulating).
This doesn’t mean you would phrase your request in this matter without a deeper conversation that leaves the audience feeling inspired first.
But if they’ve been sitting there listening to you for a while, they already like what you’re doing, and that could take the place of a “deeper conversation”.
I could offer additional examples, but I think you get the idea.
The point here is to stop beating around the bush – ask for what you want!
Please avoid doing what a guitar salesman once did to me (a lot of us do similar things without thinking).
I was at a guitar store trying out guitars and I had enough money to buy most of the store (literally).
I sat down and jammed on a Strat that I liked a lot.
He came up and asked me a few times:
“So, what do you want to do with that Strat?”
Great question – I have no idea what that means!
Then, exacerbated, he just said:
“Well, if you’re not going to buy the guitar, we don’t just let people sit here and jam so…”
Couldn’t you have said that earlier?
Beating around the bush is a good way to turn someone off from ever coming to your store again.
It reveals your hidden motives, which you gave no voice to earlier, because you were concerned with how you came across.
When selling, we need to put the pressure on the audience.
But when we’re indirect, we are being manipulative, whether we realize it or not.
“Oh, I’m not a manipulative person.”
I see where you’re coming from, but like I said, we do this unconsciously and it’s not your fault.
When you think about it, we make commands (oftentimes under the guise of a question) all the time.
“Can I go to the bathroom, please?”
That’s not a question but a command – do you see that?
So, the best way to sell is first to let people in on what you’re doing, and if possible, leave them feeling inspired.
If people are inspired, they will naturally want to respond to your requests.
Then, you can sell.
Make A Genuine Connection
Hopefully you’re beginning to see some things about human nature and the way we do life.
That’s the key to unlocking the sales machine that lives within you.
This section is also about human nature.
Inevitably, human beings hide behind words that are meant to cast them in a good light.
Have you ever noticed your tendency to:
- Defend your music when no one is even criticizing it?
- Blame the weather for the lack of turnout at your gig?
- Fault others for missed notes on stage?
- And so on.
We are deeply insecure creatures.
This extends well beyond taking responsibility for yourself and your performance.
Fundamentally, we are driven by the need to belong and to look good or avoid looking bad in front of others.
I have one question:
Does this create a connection with people?
In my experience, being authentic, vulnerable, honest and transparent about your situation creates more of a connection.
“We wanted to hire a sound guy and get some lights for tonight’s show, but we just didn’t have the money.”
God forbid you be that refreshingly honest.
The problem is that it’s easy to get stuck in your head and intellectualize everything.
But we must remember that we are all emotional creatures.
We make up our minds about things based on how we feel about them – not based on how we rationalize them.
First, we feel something.
Second, we decide.
Third, we rationalize the decision.
Rationalizing doesn’t even come into the picture until the end.
But when you create an emotional connection with others, they can’t help but respond to you in a favorable way.
If you create this context first and then sell, you can’t fail.
The problem is we try to sell without connection.
So, your audience is always left wondering whether you care about them.
If you asked them, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to put their finger on it, but they would know something is missing.
So, be willing to share yourself with your fans first.
Stop trying so hard to look good.
Focus instead on creating an emotional connection.
That comes from being truthful and honest about who you are and what you’re up to, even what you might consider your shortcomings.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Selling Your Music; Final Thoughts
In case you missed it, I want to restate the key takeaways from this guide:
- If you learn to sell well, you will make more money, book more gigs, create better connections, generate more opportunities and more. You are always selling – it’s just that you haven’t realized it yet.
- Practically everything you’ve learned about selling is wrong. Selling is about influence, not about trying to convince people of something they don’t believe in.
- Learn to cause action with your speech. If your speaking does not produce action, you need to get comfortable with the idea of taking the pressure off yourself and leaving it with your fans.
- Be human. Be real. Be vulnerable. Create a real connection with people, not so you can manipulate them, but so you can stop hiding behind words that are meant to make you look good.
This probably wasn’t what you were expecting when you found this guide, but I have no doubt you found it helpful.
Start selling from the new context you discovered.