The days of door to door salesman with slicked back hair and ill fitting khaki suits might be a thing of the past, but for a lot of us, when we hear the word “sales”, that’s where our mind goes.
After all, the last thing we want to do is come across as a slimy salesperson. We make art! We’re here to change the world! But the reality is if you aren’t making any money from whatever you’re doing, it’s a hobby, it’s not yet your career. And that’s ok! But, if you want to be a true ‘career musician’, you’re going to have to change the way you think about sales.
When done right, sales is an incredible tool that can change not only your life—but the lives of those around you. And who are you to rob them of a better life?
Ok, are you ready to embrace the unknown world of sales? I promise it’s not as scary as you think and actually, you might find it kind of fun.
Let’s dive in.
Understand what sales is—and what it isn’t
Sales gets a bad rap. On the surface, we tend to think of it as someone trying to swindle us out of our hard earned money, which means that when we become the person needing to sell, a lot of times we fear that makes us the person trying to steal the money of good people who simply don’t have enough to spare, especially for whatever frivolous thing we’re selling.
Now, there’s a lot to unpack there. A lot of misguided beliefs, most of which you probably picked up as a kid and just haven’t been able to shake. (if you want to dig deeper on money mindset in a totally non woo-woo way, Jen Sincero’s “You Are a Badass At Making Money” is a quick and transformative read).
Know that the first step to getting past your fear of sales is to get past your own limiting beliefs. Then, it’s time to embrace everything it can create for you and those around you. Because what selling is, in its simplest form, is you offering something that is uniquely you—your music, your merch, your live show experience—something only you could create in that special way you do—and giving someone that joy, that peace of mind, that sense of belonging.
And you are not required to feel bad about earning a living from that. Because you know what?
The world benefits from your success—the more money you earn, the more music you can make, the more charities you could give to, benefit shows you could throw, songs you could release, fans you could inspire.
But doing all that when you’re burnt out and not making money? That’s going to be a lot tougher.
Know who you’re speaking to
If you’re having trouble finding your brand and identifying your target audience (or ideal fan) start here. This is an important step to making sure you’re selling to the right audience.
To be good at sales, you have to speak directly to your target audience, and that’s tough to do when you’re trying to please a large demographic—this is why narrowing it down is so important. Not because everyone can’t listen to your music or go to your show, but because your music and message likely speaks to a core demographic, so that’s who you want to focus on creating content for.
For instance, the way you would talk to a woman in her mid-20s who is going through a recent heartbreak is a lot different than a 40 year old man who just got a job promotion in the corporate world.
So now that you know who you’re talking to, how do you get in front of them? Direct messages are GOLD here (as is talking to fans at shows). Getting to know who your fans are, what they like and dislike, what keeps them up at night, and what gets them excited, is an integral part of knowing how to sell effectively.
An easy way to do this is when you’re not in selling mode (which 75% of the time you won’t be) you talk to your audience—you build your brand through social media, live shows, and different experiences, and you reply to every comment, every DM, so that when it comes time to sell, you know what they need from you. You can use the same words they’ve used in your Instagram posts, and your emails to address their fears or concerns, and create solutions to their problems. And because you’re using language they know and use, they’ll know you’re talking to them and it will resonate.
Embrace the “no” factor
In sales, getting to a no isn’t always a bad thing.
Here’s why getting to a no is actually really great:
1.) You don’t want to waste your time with people who aren’t a fit for what you’re offering. Not everyone will be right for it, and that’s ok. Focus on the people who are.
2.) Getting a ‘no’ means getting clearer on what you can do better. Don’t be afraid to ask why they’re not interested. Sometimes it will relate back to something you can’t change, but sometimes it leads to really valuable feedback that can help you improve in the future.
Be creative in your tactic (creative ways to sell)
Lastly, get creative in your marketing! Sales doesn’t have to be boring, and in fact, this is where a lot of people trip up, because they’ll throw a post on Instagram that says, “New song is out, take a listen!” or “New merch is up, check it out!”, but they’re not really telling a story, or building up to it, or offering the reader anything to connect with. And people need to connect before they buy. Even if they’re already fans of what you do, they need to be warmed up first.
They need to feel seen, and heard, and understood.
A couple ways to do this:
Create hype around the upcoming release (song/merch/show) with a week or two of content building up to it. For instance, if it’s a Halloween show, you do content around Halloween—sharing photos of you dressed up as a kid, your favorite candy, favorite memories, ask the fans what their favorite costume/candy/memory is, share their photos to your story… and then announce the show at the end of it, and DM people as talked about above.
Use urgency. There’s a reason things like “sale ends tomorrow at midnight” or “first 100 customers get ___”. It’s because our brains are wired to respond to that urgency. This doesn’t always have to be a gimmick though. It can be something like “the first 20 people to grab our new merch get a 20 minute group hang/private concert with the band” or “anyone that shares our song by midnight gets entered to win ___” This way, you get to add urgency while also making your fans feel a part of the process.
Collaborate. With another band, a fan with a large social media following, a blog, etc. This allows you to get more eyes on your music or offer, to a wider audience
These are just a few ideas—the best ideas of course will be those that make sense according to your brand and message. For instance, do you talk a lot about mental health in your music? Maybe you want to offer 10% of all profits to a charity of your choice. This is about thinking outside the box and making it fun for you and your fans.
I know selling might not feel like the most natural thing right way, and that’s ok! Like anything, the more you practice, the more you begin to embrace all the good it and you can do when you get comfortable with it, the easier it will get and the more you’ll begin to see the true, lasting impact that your music has on the world.