How to Sell Something When You're Not an Expert

Note: this is the second post leading up to the launch of my new Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course. Read on for details of the launch coming Tuesday morning, June 22nd at 9am PDT.

Here’s a typical problem: you want to sell something through your website, but you feel awkward about it because you’re not an expert. With so many authority figures out there on every topic, how can you possibly compete?

The simple answer is: you don’t compete with the experts, because you don’t have to.

It’s natural to think you have to become the best at something to compete, or that you have to know everything before you can create or sell a product. Our world is filled with competition and this-side-versus-that-side thinking.

But when you’re just starting out, trying to measure up directly against the experts in your field is a quick road to failure. If you allow the conversation to be about how you compare to the best in the business, you’ve lost right at the beginning.

Take a unique angle

Luckily, you can shape the terms of the conversation in your favor. Don’t lead your potential customers to a direct comparison between you and the experts. Instead, create a unique selling proposition that makes people want to buy your products for different reasons.

One of the best ways to avoid having you or your product compared to an established standard is to come at the topic from a different angle. Merge two topics together, or form a thesis about the topic that’s far from normal.

Look at Everett Bogue, for example. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s by no means a business expert. And yet, he sells enough books on the subject of business to support himself. How does he do it? He talks about business from his unique perspective as a minimalist. By combining minimalism with business, Everett has positioned himself as an expert in the category he defined. It’s brilliant, and well deserved.

Chances are, you have some interest or expertise that you could combine with a popular topic to make it unique. If you’re trying to sell something, just make sure there is an audience at the intersection of your new niche large enough to support your goals.

Call in the experts to help out

Another way to avoid competing with experts is to deny that you’re trying to be one in the first place. Instead, position yourself as a facilitator.

Don’t preach expertise yourself, get the real experts to share their secrets with your audience. Your audience will appreciate what you’ve delivered, and look to you as a “leader among us.”

There are countless examples of this from around the web. Dave Navarro pulled together 12 experts to teach you how to get more buyers for your products, and now he’s a product launch expert himself. Sam Rosen and Steve Hasse asked 16 experts to share their thoughts on turning your passion into a highly profitable & purposeful online business.

What’s cool about this approach is that you can learn from those experts along the way, and eventually your audience will start seeing you as an expert as well.

Give 'em your take on the subject

This works best when you’re selling to an audience who already knows you. This is the approach most bloggers are taking these days.

Create a following who respects you and trusts your opinion. Then, you can create products and services on topics that already exist in other places, because your audience wants your opinion. They would prefer to buy a product from you because they know you and know what they can expect from you.

Don’t aim for the best take on the subject, give them your take on the subject.

Partner up with another expert-in-the-making

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but do two up-and-comers make an expert? They definitely do when they join together on a project and define a unique new space.

Just look at what Johnny B. Truant and Lee Stranahan came up with in Question the Rules. Not only did they work together and leverage their combined audiences, but they also defined a new “punk rock business” niche, and brought in about 15 experts to help out.

Combining more than one of the techniques I’m sharing here will definitely get you past the expert problem.

Aim at helping beginners

One of the most inspiring takes on this entire subject came to me last year from Dave Navarro of The Launch Coach.

Dave explained (forgive me, but I can’t for the life of me remember where he explained this) that no matter where you fall along the continuum of expertise, there are always people who could learn from you. You might not be a “10” on a 1 to 10 scale of expertise in your field. You might not even be a “7,” but even if you’re just a “4,” there are all those 1s, 2s and 3s who could benefit from your knowledge.

This is a really powerful way to see the world. I think a lot of us get caught up on feeling like we have to learn everything before what we know will have value to anyone. We’re afraid of being seen as frauds because we don’t have all the answers.

Well, guess what? You don’t need all the answers. You just need to have enough answers to help someone else get to the next stage in their journey. A stage that you’ve already worked hard to surpass.

How does this apply to my new Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course launching Tuesday?

I’m no expert in affiliate marketing, but I know that a lot of you don’t need an expert. A lot of you just need to learn the fundamentals first. That’s where I was about a year ago. Now, I’m making affiliate sales every day by applying everything I’ve learned so far.

This whole issue of expertise is something I had to get past to create this product. For this course, I decided to take the approach of giving you my personal take on affiliate marketing, and focusing on how I can help beginners with what I know.

So, this course isn’t called “expert affiliate marketing,” it’s called “Affiliate Marketing for Beginners.” It might also apply to intermediates, but you’ll have to check out the details Tuesday morning to see if your definition of intermediate applies.

The goal of the course

My goal for the course is simple. I want to give you an honest overview and solid foundation that you can build upon. In the course, I will lead you through the entire process of building a website from the ground-up that sells affiliate products on a specific topic.

The course includes a complete example site that you can follow along with, seeing exactly how I do all of the things the course covers.

How to know if the course will be a good fit for you

Last week, Fabian asked some great questions about the course in the comments on a post. Specifically, he was worried that to make money from affiliate marketing, you have to either grow slow and organically and wait a year or two to see results, or that you have to either find some hot under-served niche, or get spammy or pushy to make money fast.

I had all the same doubts and questions myself before I dove into learning affiliate marketing. What I found is that there are lots of ways to apply it to existing businesses or to build new sites from the ground-up.

This course focuses on teaching you how to build a new site based on free search traffic. There’s nothing pushy or spammy required. Finding a “hot” niche is helpful, but not required either. Just simple, repeatable actions that add up over time.

How much time really depends on what you put into it. If you’re hoping that this course will get you earning $10k a month next month, that’s not the case. In fact, I would run from any course that claims something like that.

Instead, you’ll gain a foundation and well explained understanding of affiliate marketing so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you long term. If it is, you can figure out what a realistic goal for yourself might be.

As I mentioned last week, I’m making about $3k from affiliate marketing now, about six months after really digging in. That’s in addition to maintaining two blogs, creating a free book and this product and working with clients through Think Traffic. Without all those distractions, you could do better.

What you'll get

Here’s what this initial version of the course contains:

Why I'm only launching for 24 hours this time around

I mentioned last week that the launch of the course will start Tuesday at 9am and last for just 24 hours. After that, I’ll close the doors and won’t be letting anyone else in for at least a month. Maybe two.

The reason is, this is my first course of this size. I want to work with a manageable group to start out with so I can collect feedback and refine the course before opening it up to a wider audience.

I know the course is already good (I’ve had one total beginner go through it successfully already, and the course is based on the exact process I’ve used to create half-a-dozen affiliate sites), but since I’ve been building websites since the mid-90s, I want to make sure I didn’t gloss over any important details.

In exchange for your participation in this first group, I’ll be offering a seriously discounted price for your consideration Tuesday.

Sound good?

I hope that covers everything. If you have more questions, feel free to ask me in the comments. I hope to see you Tuesday morning, June 22nd at 9am PDT!

You can also sign up to be notified of the launch.

photo by Joe Shlabotnik

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