When you think of sales, you probably envision that high-pressure salesman at a used car lot.

The stench of discount cologne hitting your face as that tight-gripped, over-exuberant handshake discombobulates you, rendering your Carfax reports and KBB print-outs useless against the pushy, hardnosed tactics yet to come.

In those situations, you, as a buyer, are so utterly turned off, that you vow to never be pushy when it comes to selling your own products and services.

Sales may have a negative connotation, but it doesn’t always have to be so direct and intrusive.

How can you increase sales without being too pushy? Use these three creative ideas:

1. Ask for referrals

For as long as people have been selling, they’ve relied on word-of-mouth to increase their sales.

People do business with people, so they want to know how their friends, family, and colleagues have experienced your products or services.

In fact, according to a recent Harris Poll, 82 percent of Americans say they seek recommendations from their personal network before making a purchase.

As a small business owner, your time and resources are limited. You can only do so much in a day, and interacting with every single customer may not be possible, right?

Actually, you can interact with every single customer in a seemingly personalized way through email marketing:

how to increase sales -- referrals

Once you read the above email, read it again with these key points in mind:

  • We placed the branding at the top, so they know who is sending.
  • We set a time expectation by using the word “quick” in the header.
  • We personalized by using a custom greeting in the body of the email.
  • We thanked them and explained how their referrals help us to keep the lights on. (Again, people buy from people.)
  • We’ve included my photo, so they know it’s coming from a real person. (Yes, I did write this myself.)

And what were the results? The proof is in the pudding here:

  • Five clients asked for maintenance to their existing WordPress sites
  • 12 clients referred us to a total of 26 prospective clients
  • Three new WordPress websites were purchased and are in progress

Clearly, a simple ask can go a long way in getting your existing customers to introduce you to your next best customers.

2. Use a loss leader

If you’ve ever offered prospects or customers a product or service at below-market rates, then you have used the loss leader pricing strategy.

Business owners like you will use a loss leader in hopes of stimulating other sales of more profitable products or services.

It’s important that you don’t offer a product or service as a loss leader if you don’t have the inventory or resources to deliver to your customers because you’ll alienate prospects and customers and lose considerable future business as a result.

Your loss leader item ultimately depends on your industry, so there is no one-size-fits-all. That being said, here are some examples to inspire you:

  • Pub: 25¢ chicken wings
  • Grocery store: 50 percent off past-season candy
  • Sporting event: $1 domestic beers
  • Landscaper: $50 gutter cleaning
  • Yoga: 1st class for free
  • Consultant: Free 30-minute strategy session

Another example of loss leader pricing is the group buying sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

These services can be great vehicles to driving new customers into your business, but you want to make sure that you’re not alienating your existing customers or over-extending your business to the point where you can’t fulfill the orders and must close your doors instead.

In the end, choose a loss leader within your means and promote it on your social media channels, on your website, and, of course, in your email campaigns to increase your sales.

3. Educate your audience

Again, people buy from people. Whether you’re a food truck owner or a concierge doctor, you need to connect with your leads and prospects and convince them to do business with you.

In my humble opinion, educating your audience is a very effective way of showing them your skills, knowledge, and expertise while giving them something of value.

By providing them with value through educational content, they now know you, (potentially) like you, and can begin to trust you because you have their best interests in mind.

You can educate your audience by writing blog posts, curating interesting articles on social media, publishing eBooks, or producing video segments. At BJC Branding, we find video marketing to be a really effective medium to educate our audience and increase sales.

We like to create videos of varying lengths, from 30 seconds to 3 minutes depending on the subject matter and how in-depth we want to go. To get the most mileage out of our videos, we host them on our website, share them on social media, and include them in our digital marketing email newsletter.

how to increase sales -- videos

(Click here to watch the video)

Notice how I mention my company as a provider of Facebook Ads design and strategy, but I don’t push it. If someone wants to pursue Facebook Ads and has the right budget, then they may just come to BJC Branding for help, or they can have my tips for free.

For those of you who are camera-shy, check out some of these great video marketing tips learned at Social Media Marketing World.

Increase sales without being pushy

As you can see, you don’t have to be high-pressure or disingenuous when trying to increase sales for your business.

From a simple, personalized referral request to discounting your offerings to giving away some knowledge and expertise, you have plenty of options.

Go try these out and let me know how it worked out in the comments below!

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About the Author: Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. CEO of BJC Branding and professional speaker, Bryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics.

Bryan is also one of the nation’s first Master Certified Local Experts with Constant Contact, having provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010. Bryan is a guest lecturer at the Sawyer School of Business and a contributor to several websites including Constant Contact, BlueHost, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.