Deconstructing The Selling Process In Your Sales Funnel

Aaron Hoos

In your sales funnel, you ultimately turn leads into customers through the following process:

  1. generate leads
  2. qualify them into prospects
  3. convert those prospects into customers

The upper half of the sales funnel tends to be thought of as marketing and the bottom half tends to be thought of as sales (although truth be told, it’s more complex than that).

While many businesses allow their sales funnels to be built by default, the most successful businesses invest time and effort into intentionally creating, understanding, and optimizing their sales funnel and carefully running people through it.

So, it makes sense to dig into your sales funnel and break it apart piece by piece to understand what happens at each stage. After you generate a lead, qualify them into prospects, and then work to convert them into customers… what actually happens at this point? What is the “work” you do convert your prospects into customers? What are the tools you use to convert?

In this blog post, I want to look closely at the “sales stage” of your sales funnel and discover what the actual activities are. Think of this as the sales process deconstructed.

#1. Capture attention (and recapture it) over and over. Your prospects are busy, distracted, and perhaps not entirely convinced that they have an immediate problem that needs solving. You need to capture their attention so you can remind them of it. Shock them out of their zombie lives with something that breaks the pattern of their expectations; do something totally zany and the opposite of what they expect.

#2. Engage in an entertaining way. There are a lot of distractions in your prospects’ lives—from family to work to entertainment, and even your competitors. Each of these vies for the limited attention and time of your prospects so you need to engage your prospects in an entertaining way to ensure that they listen to you. The more interesting you are, the more they’ll stick with you. As copywriter John Carlton says, “Be the most interesting thing they encounter all day.” Use compelling copy and stories to entertain.

#3. Agitate: Remind them of their problem and its cost. If you’ve ever hurt yourself and then learned to just deal with it while continuing your life then you know what your prospects are dealing with right now. Everyone has problems, challenges, and pain in their lives and many people just learn to tolerate it. Only when they think about it will they consider taking action. Your job as the salesperson is to remind them of their pain and the cost of it… of course in a professional and empathetic way that empowers them to solve it.

#4. Build a relationship. The selling process should not be a one-way street of you telling them what to think and feel and act. Selling occurs best in a relationship (which allows for an emotional connection and more valuable communication). Invite the person into your world and build a relationship with them. Yes, this is still possible in a sales letter and seemingly “one-way” copy; you can build a relationship by telling people about yourself and asking them (rhetorical) questions that they’ll answer in their own minds.

#5. Present/show the value. Keep revisiting the value of the solution against the cost of the problem. If you agitate the problem enough, and if you show how the solution is effective but also cheaper than the cost of the problem, you’ll massively increase sales. Unfortunately, where a lot of businesses fall short is: they only talk in terms of dollars so that prospects only ever think about the money they’re giving up; but when you focus on the broader value—of money, time, effort, pain-elimination, pleasure, social status, etc.—you are able to show how the painful cost of their current problem (i.e. of pain, time, and effort) is much costlier than the relatively cheap solution you’re offering. But you have to reinforce that value over and over.

#6. Add value. Too many businesses wait until the sale is closed before they add value to their customers. But if you start early and add value during the selling process, you set yourself apart from competitors who refuse to add value before the sale is made; you win customers over to you and create a sense of reciprocity that makes more people want to buy from you.

#7. Demonstrate their importance. The customer may not always be right (in spite of what the experts say) but they are always important. Tell prospects that they are important to you… and then act on it. (Ugh. Too many businesses say that the customer is important but don’t act like it. How often have you heard, “your call is important to us and will be answered within 30 minutes.” haha!) Show prospects that they are important by making them feel important.

#8. Advise. Prospects don’t always know what to do—when to use your services, how to use your services etc. Advise them during the selling process. This positions you as the expert and creates a relationship where they learn to rely on your guidance.

#9. Ask questions. Questions are the secret sauce of every sales interaction. Questions demonstrate your interest while also eliciting information from prospects that will help you understand their needs and create a solution that is perfect for them. Ask a lot of questions… and then ask even more questions after that. (Be sure to check out these 61 questions to strengthen client relationships and build loyalty).

#10. Listen. Good communication is a two-way street: talking and listening. This is especially true in the selling process when you are asking questions and seeking to understand your prospect. Listen actively and repeat back what you heard; seek to understand what your prospect is saying and dig deeper into the things they say so you can help them further.

#11. Follow-up. Chances are, your lead-nurturing, prospect-qualifying, customer-converting selling process is spread out over more than one interaction. If so, then you need to follow-up diligently. The numbers vary depending on who you ask but expect to follow-up NUMEROUS times (more often for larger or less-pressing problems). Have a system in place to follow-up regularly for a year or more.

#12. Educate. Demonstrate your expertise and authority, and add value to your prospects’ lives, by educating them. You can educate your prospect on how to deal with the pain of the problem, ways to further benefit from the product once they own it, or how to solve other related problems in their lives.

#13. Connect in various places/channels. Be everywhere! Your prospect is busy and has a lot of distractions vying for their attention. You should connect with them often and in engaging ways… and you should connect with them in many different places so that they don’t develop a blindness to the one channel that you communicate with them.

#14. Show them other people who have been successful. This is one of the most powerful, hidden ways to get people to buy! When you show to your prospects all the other customers who have been successful with your products or services, you’ll tip the scales in your favor: you’ll solidify your position as the expert, your prospects will develop a sense of tribal belonging and desire to be among the special group of your customers, and they’ll gain the confidence that their problems can be solved successfully. Use case studies and testimonials often!

#15. Communicate excitement. Yes, I said earlier that you need to be engaging and this is related but I want to mention it separately: you need to be enthusiastic. You need to be excited that they could become your customer. Customers have busy lives and we are often inundated with pessimism and difficulty but when you show them authentic (not silly) excitement and enthusiasm, you bring a bright and optimistic light to their world.

#16. Assure. Assure your prospects that they are making the right decision. Yes, it might seem biased because it’s coming from you and you are trying to sell them something. However, if you’ve built rapport with them and you legitimately have their best interests in mind, they’ll see your authenticity and appreciate the assurance. (Of course, you have to believe it yourself!)

#17. Assure (part 2). You should also remove all worries and second-guessing by assuring your prospects in this way: assure them with warranties, guarantees, service promises, support procedures, return policies, etc. Have a strong guarantee with teeth! Take away all worries that they will lose out if they make a mistake.

#18. Position yourself as the best. Without being egotistical and self-centered, seed your own expertise (and the supremacy of your product or service) into every conversation. Help prospects see that you are the very best choice for them. (That last part is key; it’s a simpler route to tell prospects that you are the best in the world, and it’s okay to do that if it’s true, but it’s much more effective to show prospects that you are the best choice for them.)

#19. Share ideas and resources. Earlier in this list I suggested that you add value during the selling process to be proactive and to create a sense of reciprocity. But I’m also suggesting that you share ideas and resources, not only to add value and create reciprocity but also to expand your prospect’s mind about what is possible with the product or service they are going to buy. Show them ways that they could benefit further, or give them resources that will become even more beneficial when they buy. It’s like saying: “You want to buy a car? Here’s the winter tires you’ll need… as well as an instruction manual to become an Uber driver.”

#20. Confirm fit (and reconfirm it) over and over. One of the reasons that people don’t buy is because they are not entirely convinced that your solution will address their problem. Many people live under the notion that “my situation is different” or “my business is unique” and they fail to see that their problems are the same as everyone else’s problems. They don’t want to waste their money on something that turns out not to be right. Yes, you should set their mind at ease with an amazing guarantee

#21. Update the prospect about changes. Depending on how long your sales process is, there may be changes that occur in availability. Plan to update your prospect regularly to mention the scarcity of the product, changes in price, or other adjustments that might be different than when they first contacted you. Some of the changes could help close the sale (such as if the product is becoming scarcer or the price is going up) but others are simply a good reason to stay in touch.

#22. Set expectations. In nearly every purchase, there will be a process—a transaction, a delivery of the product or service, and perhaps the activation or execution of that purchase toward solving the problem. You should let your prospect know before the purchase what they should expect after the purchase; walk them through screenshots of the transaction process, let them know exactly how long until delivery, explain to them what is required to actually activate/execute the product or service to get the solution they want.

#23. Empathy. Empathize with the prospect as you interact with them. Seek constantly to understand what they are going through and to connect with them emotionally. Feel their pain with them and give them the support and hope they need. (Of course be authentic and legitimate about it!) In this way, you’ll build a strong connection with them that will help you make the sale (because you are providing a great solution to a pressing problem) and you’ll build a relationship that will last beyond this one transaction.

#24. Ask for the order. Of course all that relationship building and empathy will have not value or purpose to you if you don’t also ask for the order. Invite your prospect to make the purchase right now and give them a reason to do so. You may need to ask for the order more than once.


This is not a perfect list; no list could ever be completely comprehensive. Some of the items on this list are related (i.e. you could make the argument that asking questions and listening are components of empathy) but I’m trying to deconstruct them down into discrete parts so I think those could be understood separately. And in other cases, I skipped over some things (like “handle objections”) because I feel it’s covered with the points I mentioned. No list could ever be completely comprehensive but this is a solid start to understand the deconstructed sales process.

Want to become better at selling? Rather than just trying to “sell” to a prospect, break the sales process down into individual parts and focus on improving these individual parts; in doing so, you’ll improve your ability to close prospects and convert them into customers.

Want to dig into the sales funnel further? Download my Sales Funnel Quick Reference Sheet (PDF) and my Sales Funnel Worksheet (PDF). You might also want to pick up my book, Click here to learn more about The Sales Funnel Bible and find out where to buy it..

Here’s The Right Way To Do Extended Warranties

Aaron Hoos

Extended warranties.

They suck, right?

I should know, I sold ’em too. (Well, I sold a type of them when I was doing leases.)

Look, we all what the deal is: extended warranties are high dollar gambles that most often sit as piles of cash in a giant vault and the Scrooge McDucks that sell extended warranties just swim around in the money.

Last time I bought a laptop, I knew exactly what I wanted before going into the store. I went in, got a clerk to get me the laptop, and then braced myself for the silliness that would follow.

It was a dance: The clerk gave all the lines and I tried not to roll my eyes while I heard things like, “My customers are always glad to have it,” and “You just never know,” and my personal favorite: “more and more computers are breaking down these days.” Then I say no. Then they ostensibly go talk to their manager and come back with a slightly lower quote because they like me. Then I say no again and they wish me well and send me to the cashier.

Same thing happens when I rent a car. And when I buy one. And when I buy any major electronic equipment or appliance.

Sure, the money is good for the companies selling them but let’s face it, extended warranties are silly:

  • They are rarely needed
  • If a circumstance arises where they are needed, they are often forgotten

… they’re basically cash. And customers know it. So you either end up with a customer who begrudgingly pays, or you end up with a customer who chooses not to pay but is still annoyed anyway because they have to put up with the BS of the extended warranty sale pitch.

Every knows it’s just a bump in the price of whatever product you’re selling.

And if ever there was an opportunity for a company to innovate on the financial side of their products, extended warranties is the opportunity.

So, when I was bought a new freezer recently, I was pleasantly surprised…

I chose the freezer and braced myself for the inevitable extended warranty pitch.

I got ready to say “no” until the salesperson added: “If you don’t use it, you get 100% of it back.

That changed everything.

… If I don’t use the extended warranty, I get 100% of it back.

It works like this: I pay now for the extended warranty coverage. The freezer is covered for 3 years from all the various things that the extended warranty covers. And at the end of 3 years, if I didn’t use it, I get the money back. (Mind you, I get them money back as a store credit.)

This is a small change but it’s huge. I think it’s smart. And I think more and more companies should adopt it as a strategy to sell their extended warranties.

  • It’s still pure cash that piles up in your Scrooge McDuck vault so you can swim in it.
  • A few people will use the warranty, most won’t.
  • Those that don’t use the warranty feel like the store owes them money and will make a purchase at that store in three years.

So, this small change in extended warranties is a simple play to increase your income now but also lock in customers who will likely come back and purchase more. Because, chances are, if they have $50 or $100 or $500 that they think is owed to them by the store, they’ll purchase far more than that amount in a future purchase.

I’ve written before about how most guarantees are weak and I wished companies would give their guarantees some teeth. And this is a powerful extended warranty strategy that more companies should adopt.


Aaron Hoos, writerAaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He’s the author of several books, including The Sales Funnel Bible.

Here’s how to get consistent cash flow in your business

The number of businesses that fail within the first year or two is high. Massively high. There are many reasons for failure but one of the reasons is that the bills are consistent but the income isn’t. The income rises and falls as the business owner learns how to market, sell, and deliver their offering.

The sooner you can build your business to be consistent, the higher chance you have of beating the odds and surviving to year 3 and beyond.

So how do you get consistent cash flow in your business?

The only way to do it is to build a consistent sales funnel.

A sales funnel is the system in your business that attracts people toward you so they learn more about you and become prospects and then customers. I content that sales funnels are the most important part of your business because they’re the tool you use to get customers and make money. (I wrote an entire book on it called The Sales Funnel Bible #shameless plug)

So, how do you build a sales funnel that runs consistently?

You need clearly defined steps that are systematized (and preferably automated), and you need a way to keep prospective buyers in a holding pattern.

Let’s break that down…


Your sales funnel is made up of a series of steps. These steps are defined by the mindsets that your prospective buyers go through as they journey from “I have a problem” to “This company can help me solve my problem.” Along the way they’ll transition through mindsets like “I can live with this problem” to “I wonder if someone can help me” to “There are several companies that can help me solve this problem” and so on.

So, whether your prospective buyer has to transition through just a few steps or many steps, you need to figure out what those steps are (approximately) and then help the prospective buyer to move through them.

Once you’ve figure that out, you can systematize each step to some degree. Automation is one type of systematization but there are other ways you can systematize it — even if it’s just something as simple as writing out templates so you can customize them when a prospective buyer reaches a certain point in your sales funnel.

By systematizing, you attract people into your sales funnel and move them through with as little effort on your part as possible. (It’s a balance — you’ll want to maintain some visibility and control over the process and it might make sense to build a personal relationship with your prospective buyers. But all of this can be managed through some well-thought-out systematization).


This is the more challenging part. For consistent cash flow, you need to find a way to keep your prospective buyers in a holding pattern. By “holding pattern” I mean: you need to find a way to keep them in your sales funnel without necessarily buying from you today.

You do this through ongoing communication that adds value to them, and makes offers, and promises to add value in the future. My favorite way is to use email or print newsletters, although there are other ways to create a holding pattern.

You should do this while they are still in the Lead stage (that is: they’re learning more about your business and weighing their options). In my opinion, the Lead stage is the best stage to put people into a holding pattern because they are still seeking out information, which positions them perfectly to sign up for your newsletter or some other ongoing communication.

(If you wait until they are at the Prospect stage, they are already getting serious about buying and your newsletter will either entice them to buy right away or will push them out of your sales funnel because it seems to push them backward in your funnel).


By building a sales funnel that systematically attracts people in and puts them into a holding pattern, you create a list of people that you can sell to very easily whenever you want to. This will have a huge impact on your business and its cash flow: An inconsistent business realizes that it needs more customers so it goes out to find them, creating an inconsistent cash flow because of the time lag between finding a customer and getting paid; A business with a consistent “holding pattern” sales funnel already has a bunch of prospective buyers in a holding pattern and can just pluck out a few from the holding pattern when more customers are needed.

Artists: Selling your art is NOT selling out

A few years ago, my wife and I had just met another couple and we invited them over to our house. Since we were just getting to know each other, our conversation was marked with all those getting-to-know-you topics. Here’s a funny part of that conversation that I had with the wife of the couple visiting…

She: “So what do you do for a living?”

Me: “I’m a writer.”

She: “Wow. That’s awesome. What kind of writing do you do?”

Me: “I write sales and marketing copy for businesses.”

She: “Oh, so you’re not a real writer.”

That’s always a nice thing to say to someone. We’ve become friends with that other couple but I won’t let her live that comment down.

Then even more recently I had a similar conversation with someone else…

Them: “What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a writer.”

Them: “What kind of writing do you do?”

Me: “I write sales and marketing copy for businesses.”

Them: “Oh, so not the kind of writing that takes any creativity.”

Uhhh, yeah. Sure.

We tend to form these ideas about what art is and what it isn’t, and in both examples above, the person I had the conversation with was quite interested in what I do for a living for the short time that they thought I was an artist… and when they found out that my writing has a marketing and sales purpose, they quickly dismissed it as “not-art”.

I do not consider myself an artist. I write for a commercial purpose and I love it and I have no hidden desire to be the next great novelist or poet. The work I do takes an immense amount of creativity but the goal is to sell and to promote, and I’m totally cool with that.

But I mention these conversations because they illustrate something I’ve noticed pretty widely: People believe that art and commerce cannot coexist. You’re an artist or you’re someone who sells something.

I have a number of friends who are artists of some kind — painters, musicians, writers, etc. And, I sometimes hear from most of them that the life of an artist is a financial struggle. They are just getting by or they have other jobs to fund their art. But when I suggest that they could market and sell their art more effectively, they tell me that it feels like they’d be selling out.

I disagree. I think art can and should be sold, and I don’t think that becoming a great marketer and salesperson trades a piece of your soul or sells out your work. In this blog post I’m going to try to convince artists to fearlessly, boldly, and confidently sell their art without feeling like they’re giving up a piece of their soul.


We should probably first start with some definitions, partly for practical reasons to keep this blog post from becoming even longer than it’s going to be but also to address an interesting situation:

Let’s divide art into two different kinds…

  • There’s the type you might call “fine arts” or “visual arts/performance arts”, which are things like painting, sculpting, music, poetry, writing, acting.
  • There’s also the type you might call “practical arts“, which can still be very artistic but often have an obviously practical application, like cabinet-making, cooking, architecture, etc.

This isn’t a perfect distinction but I think that it’s clear enough. In broad terms, fine arts look and sound wonderful and/or provocative and they bring beauty and meaning into our lives when we encounter them; they connect us to a deeper humanity. Practical arts provide us with things we can use but can also be beautiful and/or provocative. That’s not a perfect distinction but good enough for the purposes of this blog post.

Interestingly, the fine arts people tend to be the ones who struggle with striking a balance between art and commerce while the practical arts people can make a living (perhaps even a very good living) by doing their work.

So the focus of this blog is on the fine arts or the visual/performance artists — to keep this blog post from getting longer but also because I think that’s the group that struggles most with the idea of marketing and selling their work.

Make sense? This might seem somewhat arbitrary but I need to draw a line somewhere.

Okay, with that somewhat arbitrary definition assisting us, let’s look at why artists resist selling.


Let’s start with some misconceptions about art and commerce/sales. I see a few. These aren’t always articulated in this way by artists but I see the common patterns of these ideas among many fine art artists:

1. The poor artist creates the purest art.

I believe this is the one ring that rules them all — the most potent, pervasive idea about the relationship between art and sales and the one idea that influences the misconceptions that follow. It’s believed that the struggling artist creates the purest form of art.

It’s easy to see how this idea has taken root: Poor artists seem to be the best artists because all the trappings of life have been stripped away and all they are left with is their raw, unfettered emotion, which puts them in touch with that part of life that most of us cover up with money and possessions. In that way, their poverty is the key to allow them to access that emotional center.

Compounding this misconception is our love of the underdog: Who doesn’t love the story of an artist who struggled their entire lives against an unappreciative world and only after their death was their work recognized for its brilliance and meaning, and gained worldwide recognition? For some reason, that appeals to us: The artist was able to deny themselves the financial pleasures of the world in order to create provocative art and then the world finally recognized the value of the artwork, but not until the artist died… leaving their artistic purity unsullied.

I’m reminded of a book I read recently about the search for the Northwest Passage: In spite of seeing Inuit people living comfortably in lightweight fur clothes and traversing the water in hide-covered kayaks, British explorers continued to explore the Arctic with the worst possible equipment: heavy woolen clothes that did little to protect from the biting Arctic cold, and massive wooden ships that were often crushed by ice. Some asserted that British explorers would be more successful if they adopted the ways of the Inuit but these voices of reason were drowned out because the British social psyche was built around the explorer enduring hardship while maintaining their Britishness against all odds.

When I think about artists I think about those explorers. Artists, rather than accepting and embracing a sales and marketing practice that could help them earn a living, seem to prefer to be defined by their struggle against all odds.

This mindset, I believe, colors everything — from how artists portray themselves to their goals with each piece of art, and even to their career goals.

2. Art and sales are diametrically opposed.

When I said “career” goals in the previous paragraph, did that bother you? Artist is a career but I think we can pretty broadly paint artist as a lifestyle while careers are reserved for those who work for someone else.

This illustrates the idea that art and sales are diametrically opposed: The more sales an artist makes, the less it’s art. (Consider the painter who struggles through life without the deserved recognition of his or her work, versus the financial juggernaut of Thomas Kinkade — someone that most painters would disdain). If we were to apply the label “artist” and “seller” to those two extremes, it’s easy to apply the artist label to the unrecognized person who doesn’t bow to sales pressure and apply the seller label to the one who gives up artistic credibility to make a buck.

It’s as if art is about what is true and selling is about what is false; as if art is an expression of the thing that makes us human while selling is the dirty task of foisting an unwanted thing on someone else. It’s as if art and sales are part of a zero-sum game and the more you get of one, the more you give up of the other.

That leads to the third misconception…

3. Art shouldn’t need to be sold.

The third misconception I want to talk about is that art doesn’t need to be sold; that if people saw it and were moved by it, they would buy it… because they were so changed by it. (And if they don’t buy it then the art didn’t move them sufficiently or they simply didn’t realize how potent the art really was).

We tend to believe that art’s value transcends financial value, and by applying any financial value to art, it lessens the quality of the art. And I’m not just talking about putting a pricetag on it but also the very act of promoting art as something that can be transacted in a financial exchange. Good art, we think, shouldn’t have to be promoted. The truest and purest of arts should naturally draw people to itself… or so we can lead ourselves to believe.


The blunt bottom line of these misconceptions: I think artists end up with the idea that they create the most meaningful art in an impoverished state, and then they need to whore themselves out to sell their art to make enough money to live and to create more art.

I believe these ideas are wrong. Starving artists do not necessarily create the purest art, art and sales can coexist, and art should be sold. I believe that these misconceptions are hurting artists — and society at large. I think there’s a better approach to art and commerce.


Artists have been making a living — sometimes even a good living — since there has been art. In fact, I believe there are four main business models artists use to earn a living:

  • Patronage: In this model, the artist is hired by a specific person or group to perform their art. We tend to think of this business model as a longer-term one, so the artist might be hired by a king or a count or some other wealthy nobleperson to paint or play music or whatever they do. Today, we still have some patronage business models in the form of grants or performance contracts (such as a band might have to work at a specific venue).
  • Performance/Experience: In this model, the artist gets paid to perform. That pay could come from donations (as with a performer in an ancient marketplace who earns a few gold coins while they play) or it could come from ticket sales (as with a modern band on a tour). Actually, this model is very similar to the patronage model above, except it’s shorter term and a wider paying audience.
  • Packaging: In this model, the artist sells a complete piece of artwork to someone else. This is the one that painters or writers might use, but musicians also do this, too, with albums and with other branded products (band t-shirts, etc.)
  • Self-funded: In this model, the artist creates art and releases it to the world without remuneration, perhaps because they have some other source of income.

There are variations to these models, of course, and blurry lines between each one. A portrait artist is, in some ways, serving a Patron for a very short time, although they are also Packaging their work and selling a single unit. And grants are somewhat of a Patronage in that they are (or often are) hands-off while some Patronage is a little more demanding and hands-on.

Even with today’s ability to conduct business online, artists follow some variation of these models: An artist might use Kickstarter to fund an album, which is basically the Patronage model. And even if iTunes pays notoriously little back to musicians for their music, it’s still the Packaging model.

We see these models present throughout history. Each of these models requires some aspect of selling or commerce: The Patronage model requires that the artist sell their ability to create art that the patron will like; the Performance model requires that the artist sell art that attracts people to view the performance; the Packaging model requires that the artist create packages of art that people will want; the Self-funded model requires that the artist give their time in some commercial organization in order to fund their art.


Since we see that business models have existed for artists throughout history, we know that business and art can mix. So let’s revisit those misconceptions I mentioned earlier and see if there is a better way to understand them to help alleviate the concerns of artists who are reluctant to sell.

1. The poor artist creates the purest art.
1. Artists who go deep create the purest form of art.

The purest forms of art are created when artists go deep and connect with that emotional core. It is emotion and the truth within that emotion, not financials, that create create pure art.

Would you say that Mozart was an artist? Or Hemingway? What about Picasso? Or Rodin? These artists achieved modest-to-substantial success in their lifetime and yet we don’t shortchange their work or its impact because of the money they made.

2. Art and sales are diametrically opposed.
2. Art needs to be seen by others to have an impact, and sales can be an honorable way to share it.

Art that is hidden because the artist does not want to sell it won’t be enjoyed by the right people. I listed Mozart and Hemingway and Picasso and Rodin above. These artists achieved fame in their lifetime and that fame grew after their deaths. But how many other artists have created works that have not been seen and yet could potentially be equal to or greater in quality and meaning than the works of the artists I listed?

Art has some value when it is expressed by the artist but I believe it has greater value when it is experienced by others. This requires a certain amount of effort to share that art with others, and that effort is the activity of marketing and sales.

Marketing and sales do not need to be thought of as inauthentic or false or forceful. Yes, some marketing and selling turns out that way but good marketing and selling should be authentic and honorable. Good marketing and selling should help people see how their problems can be solved and their life can be better; it’s about discovering a truth and sharing it with people who need to hear it.

3. Art shouldn’t need to be sold.
3. Audiences don’t understand the value of art and need to be told.

Money is the thing of value in our society and although we have other things we value (time, relationships), money has the greatest amount of immediate perceived value to people. So valuing art by money may not be perfect but it’s one of the only ways to show people what at is worth. (Curious side note: What if you valued a piece of artwork by the amount of time it takes to appreciate it? Van Gogh’s Starry Night might be valued at 100 hours while my highschool art project might be valued at 30 seconds? haha)

So money is the easiest way to attribute value to something, especially if you intend to sell it anyway.

And, most importantly, audiences need to be told why a particular piece of work has a specific monetary value. People don’t understand why one piece is worth one amount while another piece is worth a different amount. They don’t understand what art can do for them. And they don’t understand or appreciate all the work that went into that piece of art to create it. Think of a car: To someone who knows how to drive and who needs a car, a car is a valuable machine. To someone who doesn’t need a car or even know what a car does, it’s a worthless scrap of steel. The value of your art needs to be shown to others for them to appreciate its value.

I like the illustration of the person who hires a live band for a wedding and when they get the price quote, they say, “that’s too much for three hours of music.” And the band replies: “You’re not just paying for three hours of music; you’re playing for the decades of lessons, rehearsals, and equipment… the years of preparation leading up to the event.”

Why do we pay hundreds of dollars to see The Rolling Stones but only a few dollars to see someone play in a small club somewhere? Because The Rolling Stones have spent years promoting the value of their music and the entire concert experience — it’s a value that people understand and appreciate and they don’t yet understand and appreciate the artist in the smaller value to the same degree.


So you’re an artist but you don’t want to sell because selling feels like selling out. It’s commendable that you want to remain true to your art but what doesn’t help the situation is a lack of a clear definition of art and artists. You’ve chosen your own context and the art you perform as art and you’re defining other artists and their work around yours. This makes it more challenging to understand how sales can impact your art… and your soul.

Would you define an artist as someone who is in a stage play? Probably you would. What about if they were in a Broadway musical? What about if they performed in Vegas? What about if they performed in a film? What if they performed in a pornographic film? Or an art house film? Or an action film?

The same is true with music, poetry, painting, sculpting, and every other art. We have certain definitions of art and artists and these influence our idea of marketing and selling.

Think about a long horizontal line that will represent a spectrum: At the extreme left is a painter who doesn’t make any sales. They’re good; their art is high quality and provocative but nothing sells. At the extreme right is Thomas Kinkade.(Yeah, I’m using him again). He churns out work in an almost assembly-line fashion and although many people like what he does (me excluded) he’s more of a sales machine than a painter.

In between these extremes are degrees of sales. Closer to the left: “Barely scraping by” to “Making a decent living”. Closer to the right are “Making a good living” and then “Rolling in cash”.

This applies to any art, not just painting:

  • For music: On the far left is the garage band that makes tapes on their older brother’s ghetto blaster (old school!) and on the right is Justin Bieber.
  • For writing: On the far left is the unappreciated, unpublished writer and on the right is James Patterson.
  • For film: On the far left is the under-appreciated YouTube-only-release “art school” film and on the right is the creators of the American Pie franchise.

See where I’m going with this?

Regardless of the type of art you create, in between each of these extremes are the four degrees: “Barely scraping by” to “Making a decent living” to “Making a good living” to “Rolling in cash”.

If you’re an artist, where are you on that spectrum? Where do you want to be? And what is the point at which you feel like you’re selling out?

I’m using this spectrum to make an important point: It’s not the act of selling that sells you out. Historically there have been successful artists using different business models who have lived comfortable and even very financially successful lives who didn’t sell out. So it’s not the act of selling that sells out, it’s a certain point on the spectrum.

What does your art look like at each point? How do people discover your art and enjoy it? What do you do and how do you share it with the world? Each of the points along that spectrum represent parts of your potential artistic career. How far to the right do you go until you feel like you’re selling out and no longer living as an authentic artist?

No matter where you are on that spectrum, and no matter where you want to go to the right on that spectrum, it takes sales and marketing effort to move yourself there. And the act of marketing and sales doesn’t sell you out, it just moves you right. Selling out is when you reach a point on the spectrum when it’s more about the money than the art. You need to find that point and avoid it, but you can move to the right without reaching that point.


First, I think the concept of sales and selling needs to be redefined. This is not an issue of transaction (exchanging art for money) since that happens a lot. The issue seems to be one of promotion. So if the words “sales” or “marketing” offend you and I haven’t convinced you that selling is an essential part of art then reframe the term: Maybe words like “promote” or “share” or “evangelize” or “convince” or “persuade” or “position”. Can you do these things? Maybe one of these words can stand as a more palatable synonym to selling.

Second, the artist needs to determine how they can promote themselves authentically and legitimately. Marketing and sales can be a positive force when used appropriately. You need to decide for yourself what is a good and honorable persuasion effort for you (and what isn’t) and follow those standards.

Third, the artist should promote/share/convince others about their art with the purpose of (1) letting the world know that there is meaningful art to be enjoyed, and, (2) ascribing value to the art and educating the world why that value has been applied. Marketing and sales do these things — they tell the world and they help the world understand value.

All good sales efforts should do this:

Good sellers should find someone with a need and show them how their need can be solved. (Read more about that in this blog post about how to sell anything).

What does this mean for artists? If you’re an artist, you need to figure out what need your art fulfills and then help other people see it. Whether you intended it to or not, your art fulfills a need. That need might be entertainment or escape or challenge or inspiration (and the need is probably more specific than those few high level examples). You need to figure out what need your art fulfills and then you need to help other people discover that your art fulfills that need.

You do that by selling.


Artists have an important contribution to make and for years they’ve been doing it by selling. Even some of the greatest artists in history who we respect and admire have been selling through one business model or another. But artists face pressure to remain connected to the deepest part of themselves and it seems that the ideas of money and selling have somehow become perceived obstacles to that connection. As a result, artists draw more self-definition from the struggle than from successfully sharing their art.

I believe this needs to change. Our world needs art even though it may not realize or appreciate it. And artists need to find a way to share the message that they have a valuable contribution of work to offer to the world. And whether you want to call it “sales” or something else, that’s fine by me. But the act of marketing, selling, and promoting your work is essential… it’s not selling out.

The brain-dead simplest way to sell absolutely ANYTHING, anywhere, anytime

It doesn’t matter what you sell, I’m going to show you the easiest way to sell it:

Seriously, this is the simplest way to sell ANYTHING. Ever.

Here it is…

Solve a problem.

That’s it.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Marketers and sellers try to make it more complicated than that. They try to find tricks and gimmicks and clever jingles and compelling stories and sales techniques to close the deal. Sure, those tactics can help. They might sell a product now and then.

But absolutely NOTHING in the entire sales universe can sell products as well as solving a problem.

People learn to live with problems and annoyances and they might not even think of buying something because they develop unconscious workarounds. But their most pressing problems that smack them in the face are the ones they happily throw money at to solve. Everyone willingly spends money to solve their biggest, most burning problems.

“But I do solve a problem and no one buys from me,” the contrarian might say. (Actually, I know someone who has said this very recently to me about the struggling business they run). So maybe I should clarify: You shouldn’t just solve a problem. You should solve their specific, most pressing problem. That’s a huge difference.

Do your research, find out what problem/need/pain that your prospects faces, and then solve it with your product. Boom. Easy.

And here’s the best part: The more acute the pain, and the faster and more effectively that your product or service solves that pain, the easier you can sell (and the more money you can charge).

So, if you want to sell something, figure out what burning problem your product or service solves. And then show your prospect how it’s solved.

And if want to make more money, figure out when your prospect’s problem is at its absolute worst. Then offer to solve it.

And if you think you’re solving problem but you’re still struggling to close the deal then you’ve failed to either identify the most deeply felt problem, or, you’ve failed to show how your product solves it.

Selling is simple. Just solve a problem. It’s easy, fun, and feels good.