Door-to-door salespeople used to be rather common. These days, they’re antiquated … and often annoying. Today’s consumers leverage all sorts of tools to keep salespeople at bay, from Do Not Call lists to adblockers. Businesses that previously relied on floor sales, such as department stores, have watched their foot traffic decline.

Yet consumption is higher than ever, with global spending surpassing multiple trillions of dollars per year. People love to shop…but they hate to be sold to. What gives? Is retail going the way of the dinosaur?

Not at all. The answer lies in the dramatic shift toward e-commerce. People can now find what they need on their own time, which means they like retaining control. As a business owner, your role is to guide them toward solutions rather than pushing sales per se. Here’s how.

Skip the Sales Pitch

Both online and in the physical world, people are fatigued by constant advertisements. It seems that everyone is asking for their hard-earned money. Today’s consumers are tired of the pitches. They’d rather find their own solutions and make a purchase only when they’re ready. That’s especially true in e-commerce, where many people have been burned by unscrupulous online businesses.

That’s why it’s often more effective to build a relationship before you start promoting your product. Abide by the “Know, Like, Trust model”: people are increasingly skeptical of brands, so they must know, like, and trust a business before they buy from them. Even your well-intended sales pitch can come off as greed.

Remember, people want to feel like they’re making their lives better. Most purchases serve that desire in some way. When someone buys new clothes, they want to feel comfortable and fashionable. When they purchase a ticket to a tourist attraction, they want to have an adventure. When they book a massage session, they want to relax and escape the daily grind.

As the purveyor of any of these products or services, your role is to offer them a solution. “Selling” is rarely overt, at least not for the first few points of contact. According to the “hero’s journey” concept of marketing, your customer is the hero and you are their guide. The goal is to help them feel they’re discovering the path to a better life.

Selling Online to Modern Customers

That hero’s journey model is a bit easier when you can forge a community around your brand. Blogs, social posts, and videos are all great ways to start cultivating that “know, like, trust” effect. But what about your online store? How can you capture people’s interest? After all, there’s only so much you can say on your product page, which is obviously intended to sell!

Think of it this way: customers want to feel special — and in control. When choosing to buy something, they don’t like to be reminded that they’re spending money. The reward they get should outweigh the cost. When crafting your brand, focus on that reward. It can be tangible, emotional, aspirational, and/or logistical.

For example, a product description that simply lists all the features of an item is not only boring but also too sales-y. It’s not much different from the traveling salesman waving his watches in front of people’s faces.

Instead, focus on the benefits. What problem will your customer solve by buying this item? How much better will their life be with it? Would their life be more uncomfortable or inconvenient without the item? Let them remain in control. You want them to see value in their purchase, not another transaction on their credit card.

Let’s compare the following two descriptions for a yoga mat:

Product A

• Synthetic

• Made in USA

• MEDIUM THICKNESS: At 4.7mm in density, comfortably cushion your spine, hips, knees, elbows, or any point of contact on hard floors. Conveniently portable. Measures 71″ x 24″.

• NON-SLIP: Provides greater stability on any hard or soft surfaces. Proprietary bottom material allows its grip to improve with every use to help injury.

• SWEAT RESISTANT: Closed-cell construction blocks and moisture from sweat, making cleaning a breeze.

• NON TOXIC & 6P FREE: PVC yoga mat is a healthier choice for you and the planet and free of DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP and DNOP

Product B

• Don’t fall behind or miss another yoga pose to a workout mat that’s constantly curling up, too heavy to lug around, or distracts you with nasty smells. The lightweight composition of our natural yoga mat, and free yoga strap, mean you can roll and transport with ease. Your odor-free mat rolls out flat from the very first use.

• We know that our customers are conscious of their health, and just as concerned about their environmental footprint. Our eco yoga mats are free from harmful chemicals, latex, BPA, 6p phthalate, and heavy metals, and instead are made from the highest quality materials.

• We’re committed to providing an exceptional customer experience from start to finish, and believe that by doing so we can empower your healthiest, happiest self! Whether you’re just starting out, or are a seasoned pro, we’re confident that our mat and our friendly team have the integrity to support you on your journey.

Both these descriptions list key features of the mat: measurements, weight, non-toxic materials, and so on. But only Product B’s truly paints a picture for the customer. It speaks to their interests: health, eco-friendliness, ease of use, and so on. Best of all, it concludes by acknowledging the customer’s core desires and expressing support for their journey.

Now that’s how you sell something without “selling” it!

Wrapping Up

Especially when purchasing from small businesses, customers want to feel special, supported, and savvy. It’s natural for them to be a bit skeptical in this ad-saturated world. To truly reach them, put the heavy sales pitch on the back burner and instead position yourself as a trusted guide. Consumers who feel informed and inspired are more likely to buy themselves something…because it feels good to invest in themselves! By contrast, feeling like someone’s just after their money puts a bad taste in their mouths.

So, make great content, value-driven product descriptions, and brand community-building part of your e-commerce strategy. You will instantly stand out from the crowd … and earn yourself some loyal customers!