Selling by Serving: The Myth of the Righteous Marketer

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selling by serving myth

Never, ever, ever read the comments.

That right there is the golden rule of selling yourself on the internet for good reason, dear reader.

I’m sure, if you’ve ever clicked the comments on a FB ad from one of your friends or industry folks you’re a fan of, you’ve seen ’em among the nice, supportive comments sprinkled in.

Stop trying to sell me!!!!!!”

What are you even offering here?! Here, try my method or FB ads that convert, I can help you…”

(^^^ This one always amuses me when I know the ad’s creator is a seasoned pro, and these ads are running because the numbers/results for it are likely proven.)

And, in one case on an ad from my mastermind buddy – and email marketing wizard – Tarzan: “Eat sht.*”

Everyone’s a Critic

Whew, y’all. W h e w.

But look, while these comments are at best unfortunate and at worst cruel personal attacks on people trying to make a living, there’s a reason why they happen:

There are a lot of shady folks and false promises, yes.

Consumers are jaded and hyper-critical because they’ve had their trust broken, of course. (I’ve written about it several times and stand by what I’ve said.)

But another huge reason for this behavior that we don’t discuss as often is this:

It is very, very easy to be critical of someone else’s sales process and strategy from the outside.

Especially when we have yet to try and sell something of our own, on our own.

I would know.

Hello I’m Hillary and…

I’m a recovering critic of what I considered to be “clunky” sales processes (“Too many emails!”, “Ugh, not another webinar…”, “A countdown timer is manufactured scarcity!”) until it came time to put my first course out there.

Make no mistake – I’d never sent an angry email or left a rude comment… but when it came time to walk my “I’m better than this” self talk, I discovered an unfortunate reality:

I searched high and low for the fabled tools or processes my fellow critics and I seemed to think existed.

A promised land of audience engagement levels where we could sell out without sending too many emails, pitching too hard at the end of the webinar, annoying a single soul, or inspiring a single person to unsubscribe.

As it turned out, that was all a mirage.

Crow…It’s What’s for Dinner

I was gonna have to humble myself, roll up my sleeves, and follow the sales processes that worked – which were the very processes I’d freely made fun of and complained about.

I’d also like to add (ahem!), that I created my version of that sales process very carefully.

I made sure I offered a truckload of value before the pitch, tried to keep my emails to the point and not send too many, made sure I could back up my claims with social proof, and set a timer on a special price point I genuinely wouldn’t – and couldn’t – offer again.


You bet my unsub counter ticked wayyy up, and I got angry emails poking at me for trying to sell something anyway.

Ah, the Elusive Marketing Unicorn

This is the nature of the beast, and the ultimate impact of what I call “the myth of the righteous marketer“.

Definition: the belief that SOMEHOW there is a way to sell that doesn’t turn anyone off, or feel like anything but a smooth, uninterrupted ride of, uh… service.

Or something.

And, as I’m sure you’ve already predicted, it’s the topic of today’s #HAMYAW episode: “The Selling By Serving Myth

Tune in to watch us pick apart the truths, falsehoods, and unfortunate realities of this myth… and some tips for handling yourself as you wade through your first or next launch.

A Few Choice Cuts:

2:05 The Problem with “If You Just Show Up And Serve, People Will Want to Buy From You”

4:40 The Difference Between “Best Practices” And Bull$%#^ Trends That Don’t Work

5:20 The ESSENTIAL Reframe You Need To Be Able To Do This

6:00 How Do You Know The Difference Between When You’re Being Annoying vs When You’re Legit Showing Up And Doing The Work?

6:35 The behavioral change equation that will change how you think about sales

8:15 Hillary Explains the REAL reason people hide

13:15 Why We Will NEVER Criticize Someone Who Is In The Arena

15:30 If You’re Judging Someone Else’s Hustle – This Might Be What’s Really Happening…

And before I go, even if you never watch this video, I want you to know:

Welcome to the Sands My Friend!

If you’re choosing to put yourself out there, and stick your neck out to sell something you designed or made?

Welcome to the arena.

I’m so, so proud of you for doing this.

Stay the course. Find your way.

And never, ever, ever read the comments. ;)

Love, H

Episode Transcript

I just don’t wanna be

You’re right that should be on, yeah it’s on full.  

Okay let me see

(Margo groans) Bring myself down

Every fricking time, every fricking, no don’t bring yourself down!  

Let me

Do not dim your sparkle! (upbeat music)  

Welcome back marketing nerds of the world. It’s time for another episode of #HAMYAW, and today, Margo and I wanted to talk about haters. Or more specifically, the myth of righteous marketing. And this sort of came up for me because a hobby of mine lately has been, when I see ads from my friends or people from my industry on Facebook, for example, one of my hobbies is to go and read the comments.

Just to see what’s going on, what people are saying, how people are interacting, and more and more often, I have seen people just leaving these sarcastic, you’re doing this wrong, like in one instance it was “Eat shit”, which I was like oh my god, all of these comments, maybe somebody saying “You’re doing this wrong, this is too salesy”, or “This doesn’t provide any value”, or “I went to the landing page and I have no idea what you’re talking about”.

So those people are going and looking for problems.

But it got me thinking because we’ve talked about this a few times on the show and in passing, and especially on Voxer actually, this whole episode was because I sent Margo this four-minute Vox about this.

It’s this idea that there is a belief that somehow you can be successful in the business world without using traditional sales tactics, without ever having to feel salesy, without ever having to send multiple emails in a row, without ever having to do a webinar sequence or a sales email sequence, or make anybody feel uncomfortable, or make anybody feel like they’re getting not as much value from your free stuff because you’re selling. 

There’s this myth that it’s possible to do that.

And the myth that is propagated is if you just show up and serve, serve, serve, people will wanna buy from you. And what I asked (laughing) those haters and those people on the damn comments is, “Have you ever actually tried that?

Have you ever tried to sell a product by just serving, serving, serving, giving stuff away, giving stuff away, and never actually selling with any kind of intention or consistency?” And the answer is, it doesn’t happen, it’s impossible.

I have a lot more to say about this. It fills me with feelings, but first I wanna hand the mic over to Margo, because I know she has a lot to say about this too. (laughs) Take it away.  

Deep breath, deep breath, the serving thing drives me insane because then it becomes a semantics game, where it’s like well you’re not defining service right. And then they start defining a sales process. (Hillary laughs) It’s like, you ask them questions about their problem, you show up every single day, you give a deadline. And I’m like, “That sounds like sales!”  

(cackles) Yeah, there’s basically this idea that again, if you just show up enough and people trust you and like you enough, you aren’t actually going to have to do a traditional sales process. People are gonna be primed to buy from you.

And as much as I wish that were true, we’re seeing this again, and again, and again in the market with a lot of business owners who have given away a lot of free content, looking to do their first launch. And they’ve got a couple thousand people on their list.

They feel like they should be making certain numbers, and then it doesn’t happen, because their list is not trained to buy, or they have been targeting different people with their free content then are a fit for the program or offer. It’s just a really tricky thing, and my biggest issue with this kind of attitude, and this actually, my friend Shenae Howard, who we mention a lot on the show…

Whoo, hi Shenae.  

We’ll hopefully have her on in the near future, I think she has deigned to bless us with her presence, so we’re very excited about that, but she calls them the anti-marketing elite, and I think we can sort of think of some people who fall under that category.

And these aren’t necessarily people that are espousing, yeah exactly. (Margo chuckles) These aren’t necessarily people that are espousing that, never sell ever sort of attitude. But they have abilities, due to their audience size in launching, to try different things, to experiment, and to create experiences that feel different.

But, however, I find that where people get caught up is they want to be this righteous marketer and they want to be this person that doesn’t irritate anybody, that never feels super salesy, that never feels too shiny or whatever, and so they have this mentality, and so psyche themselves out of showing up and actually doing the selling.  

Yes, yes, okay, let’s break this down a little bit. Because I think we’re conflating a few things, not us but the criticizers, and well actually no, us.  

Us, why not.  

I have definitely been that person that’s like, “Oh I don’t wanna do that”. I

mean you and I were joking about webinars, where it’s like (groans) not another fucking webinar. And then of course we do them, right?

So it’s easy from the outside to decide what’s working and what’s not. Especially if you are a niche expert. Which a lot of us are, a lot of people watching are marketers and so we know what works and doesn’t.

We know best practices, and there is a difference between best practices that are the trend du jour, that everyone’s doing, that doesn’t fucking work. There’s a fair criticism, and then there’s best practices that are there for a reason, because they’re important, because they’re based in some tenets of human psychology. 

For example, my least favorite one is deadlines, right. Like I wanna believe that I am evergreen. And I hate having to rely on deadlines. And I have a lot of friends that are like, “It’s too sleazy, you’re manufacturing scarcity, “it’s bullshit”, but here’s the thing.

After having sold several things I can tell you if you don’t have a close cart date, and you don’t invoke a sense of urgency, people are not going to move. And so there is a reason to engineer that into your sales.

And you have to get comfortable with not thinking about it as oh my god I’m duping people because this thing is really open all the time, you have to think about it as in like, yeah actually, you are not going to get off your ass and do something unless I give you a reason to. 

You know why, because of this thing!

Because we’re all distracted, we’re on the toilet, Hillary’s texting me, I don’t know, stuff is happening. And so there are certain things that you need, like deadlines, persistence, consistency. All the things that feel annoying. And here’s an important distinction I wanna make.

There’s a difference between I’m being annoying of someone who’s actually being annoying, who is missing the mark in their marketing message, and I’m showing up consistently to (clears throat) serve my audience, and actually talk about the problem they have, and I just have to keep showing up a lot.

Because that’s how you encourage someone to remember and then take action. Because that is how behavior change happens. We have behavior equals, you know the equation? Behavior equals motivation, times action, times trigger. It’s B equals M-A-T. So if you have a market


BMAT. (Hillary giggles) Thank you BJ Fogg, that’s the researcher out of Stanford.

But listen, if your market is motivated and they have the ability to take the program, or whatever your selling, your marketing is the trigger.

Think about it this way, I might be motivated to go to a dance class, I might have the ability to because I have the money and my feet aren’t broken. Right, so seriously, you can’t go to a dance class if your feet are broken.  

That’s true.  

And then what I need is a trigger. I need a reminder, I need to see the ads like 50 times.

Do you know how many times I’ve walked into the Subway and been like, “Oh that’d be so great”, and then I forget. Part of what you’re doing is showing up day after day, after day, after day, to remind people of the thing that they actually want.

That’s not annoying, it’s only annoying if you’re not in the market, or if you’re doing it badly.

And so that’s where we get confused, is that we start to hide, and so there’s a difference between being out there with a marketing message that’s really annoying, and then hiding. And this is where it becomes self-righteous, and being like, “No I’m better than this”.  

Yeah exactly. What’s especially frustrating is people are saying “I’m better than this” when they haven’t actually had to sell anything before. And this is where it gets particularly irritating. And I was like this, before I started to get active


Oh, I mean weren’t you? Before you sold your first thing, you were like, “Oh another webinar”, there are valid criticisms to traditional sales tactics in an online space, of course. There is a big problem with webinars delivering a lot of hype, and no value, and leading into a pitch.

There is a problem with sales emails not necessarily being well-written or well-constructed. And so they keep falling flat and turning off your list or market, instead of turning them on, I guess. (laughs)

Mm, and then there’s a problem of course with ads, same story, however, I think people don’t realize how difficult it actually is, in the name of Margo’s former coworking space, until you are in the arena.  


It’s easy to criticize, and easy to react to people who you feel are not doing it correctly when you have no skin in the game.  


And again, that kind of criticism, fear of that kind of retribution, whether it be from a stranger on Facebook, or from somebody you actually know, hitting reply to an email saying “Stop trying to sell me”, I think that makes people hide.

It makes people afraid, and it puts a lot of pressure on people in their sales process, when the sales process is always trial and error, you’re always gonna be experimenting and tweaking. There’s always something you can do better, so I think that is so important, and why the myth of the righteous marketer does so much damage. To bring this full loop when we talk about people who are sort of crowned righteous marketers, people who can sell out a program with two emails.  

One email, yeah.  

And Margo made a great point on this on Voxer. People who are able to experiment and move markets like that so quickly it’s not because they showed up for a year and wrote a bunch of blog posts. It’s because they’ve been there for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, have huge list sizes, and have reached critical mass of buyer and buyer attention.

So they’re not easy to forget, and once they put a product out there, it has that brand equity built behind it that it is elite. Or it is the best of the best because of the individual behind it, but that does not happen by writing a bunch of blog posts and giving a bunch of free shit away. It happens with time.

That is because it begs persistence.  

Yeah, persistence.  

Think about, let’s think about our favorite actors or our favorite authors when they come out with a new book or movie, they don’t tell you once.

You are seeing junket, after junket, after junket. You’re seeing interviews, they’re being like “Hi I was on E! “Hi I was on Bravo, hi I was on The Today Show, “hey look at this thing, by the way, my book comes out tomorrow, by the way, it came out today, by the way, look here’s a picture of me in Barnes & Noble”.

They just keep hawking their shit, it just doesn’t feel annoying because you want to see the movie, or you want to buy the book, and we are not labeling that marketing, we’re just labeling that as like, “Oh yeah, Chris Hemsworth, obviously he’s gonna be telling me about ‘Men in Black’, that’s fun”.

No, that’s marketing, that’s what you’re doing in your funnel, and we think you’re somehow exempt.

You’re not exempt, they’re just doing it. And it’s not labeled necessarily, webinar, but it is 30 minutes of a Facebook Live talking about their shit, like (laughs). Right, so some of this is just a botched execution, I think.  


So we’re seeing a lot of that.  

And that’s, which is part of the process, you know. And I think it’s again, really easy to get on someone on a Facebook comment on an ad for someone who looks more successful than you and release a little bit of your rage valve.

If you had a hater day, that’s fine. We all sip a little bit of haterade every now and again.

It’s a human thing to do, but I think the problem is that people are so afraid of being told that they are doing it wrong, that it keeps them from ever getting started.

But the people who are accusing others so often of doing it wrong when they are just following traditional sales tactics, they’re not actually doing anything too far out of the ordinary or negative, is just because they don’t know what they’re looking at, they’ve never tried, or they also have something to sell the readers, so they wanna bring people over.

Dude, let’s talk about this.  

Their profile.  

Yes. Because this is the thing, someone who’s truly in the arena, hustling to get their shit out, Hillary and I will never criticize you.

Someone who’s actually been there, who’s done the work is never, ever, ever, ever, going to judge your hustle, they totally understand.

We are gonna understand if you’ve had to do 600 sales calls.

We’re gonna understand that you’re gonna do your first webinar, it’s gonna be awkward.

We’re gonna understand, we get it. That’s the thing, is that when you’re actually in the arena getting your ass kicked, by life, by products, by sales, by failure, by success, all of the things, you have immense respect for the process and what it takes to get there.

But that said, I fall for this all the time, where I will hold myself back because I’m so afraid of all of my colleagues watching, all the people watching, I know you’re going through my funnels, being like “What’s her auto-response sequence like”, you know?  

Don’t tell people when you’re doing that by the way. (laughs) There’s nothing more annoying then getting an application or a sign-up, being like “I’m not buying, but I wanted “to see how you do this”, like shut up.

For Ignition. I put it on Instagram. I’m just putting them up, I know when it’s a marketer.  

Name and shame, no I’m just kidding.  

It’s funny when it’s your friends.  

Yeah, it is funny when it’s your friends. But it’s also like, don’t get me excited about watching the subscriber count or sales count go up when I know it’s just people rubbernecking my funnel.  

There’s a very big difference between doing things that make you uncomfortable, and putting yourself out there because you believe in something and you’re hawking your goods, and you gotta be out there in the arena.

There’s a difference between that and consciously deceiving people and putting shit out that doesn’t work, or thinking that you’re better than it.  

Yep, yep

That’s the difference. You are not better than deadlines, it’s okay. It’s okay

You don’t have to be.  

You don’t have to be, it’s totally fine. And we will support you, remember your customers are not your colleagues.  

Yep, that’s so important to remember, and those are mostly the haters I see in the comments, these are people who are also marketers.  

The thing that’s crazy, when you have friends or colleagues in the arena, when I am on an email list, and someone starts selling, where they’ve gone from content to sales mode, do you know what I feel?  

What do you feel?  

Good for them.  

Yeah, exactly. I’m like oh, get your money, I see you, yeah exactly.  

And it’s not just transactional, get your money. It’s like yeah, you saw an opportunity, good for you. This is adding more value, this is adding more content. It’s (clears throat) serving like you can do it in lots of different ways and we are fricking rooting for you because guess what?

These things don’t come free. It costs money to produce content. It costs money to, and time, to put things out into the world that you care about and that you enjoy. So if someone is going to find a way to support themselves, why are we not excited about that? Why does it have to be…

It costs money to have an email list, I’m with you. Why aren’t we more excited for people?  

Because people do it badly.  

Yeah, people do it badly.

And there’s a lot of envy I think, there’s a lot of envy in looking at other people’s papers, and feeling intimidated by someone’s Facebook ad, or email sequence or something like that, or having it make them feel less bad because again, I’ve been the critic.

I still remain a critic, because I’m just a critical person. But, I think that’s why we have this show. I think it’s, I have so much more reverence and respect now for the sales process, that when I see people just blindly saying “You’re doing this wrong” when the person’s doing it correctly is just making that other person uncomfortable for one reason or another, makes me roll my eyes and wish there was some education around patience with people going through the sales process.

And people don’t understand how vulnerable it is, and how deep of an impact comments and emails complaining about that can really be.  

It’s so derailing, we need to be on each other’s team.

Listen, you know, I’m on the show, I make fun of people all the time who are being shitty. But here’s the difference. If you’re lying, that’s the thing I have a problem with.

I don’t really have a problem with how you run your funnel. I feel a little differently than you. But like, at least in my past life when I wasn’t in the arena, where I am now is like, I’m always critical if you’re promising something you can’t deliver.

If you’re telling me that it’s a bulletproof business model, and you just follow my 12 steps, you’re gonna be a millionaire this weekend, then fuck off, that is a problem. So that is a claims issue, less a tactics issue. 

I think there’s also a certain, once you’re actually in it, you start to learn things, you need to learn for why people do things a certain way or don’t. And when you start to feel that envy, I am not immune to this, if I start to feel that envy, I have to pause and go “Okay, what is that about? “What are you envious of, what is the thing?”

Because the truth is, if you are paying attention to someone’s launch, or ad, or approach, and it’s making you feel self-conscious, number one, their ad is probably not that good, because you shouldn’t be paying attention to how the ad is written, remember great copy is invisible, so if something’s really, really good, you are going to be wanting the thing, not thinking about how it was produced.

So that’s one, and the other thing is it’s a good gut check for you to go, “Okay, what do I need to fix? “What do I need to make better? “What am I not focusing on? “Why do I think this is so great?” And then edit from there, because I don’t want my opinion or Hillary’s opinion, or anyone else’s opinion to be the reason why you don’t launch.

You should launch, we are not your market. Launch to your market, who gives a shit what we say? Use our stuff insomuch as it helps you, but you know your market, trust yourself.  

Yeah, yep, absolutely, and I think that’s, just to bring it back to your point, there are of course problems in sales and marketing in the online space, definitely not disagreeing with that, and I think the shady tactics, the ridiculous claims, all of that is a problem, and the biggest problem about it is that they are following sales tactics that work.

When other businesses who are honest are following those same tactics, it can get confusing.

When you’re seeing people use the same process that these dishonest people have used, and that’s what I used to have a problem with, and why I was so turned off to selling for a long time. Because I was like “Well these assholes are doing this. And I’m seeing these people who are awesome doing this. Oh, what happened?” 

And I think that is the disconnect, and a huge misconception is that you can use sales tactics that work in a really great, beautiful way that is in integrity and can help connect your buyers to things that they really want.

Are there people who are always gonna come in and create some fuckery? Yeah. It’s the world, it’s full of humans, we’re like that.

But I think that causes the confusion. I don’t want to play anybody up here, about necessarily being critical or looking at anything with a sharp gaze, because I think we always need to be discerning because it teaches us about sales and marketing in business as we go.

But I think that is so important just because two people are wearing the same jeans, and one of them’s a serial killer doesn’t mean all serial killers are wearing those jeans.  

Correlation causation.  

Yeah, there we go. Those are the words I was reaching for.  

No, I think I would like to call for you guys to be the Robin Hoods of the internet. You can steal from the shady, give to the good.  

Yes, I love it!  

That’s what your assignment here is, and of course, take my sales course on honest selling secrets, just kidding. But wouldn’t that have been perfect?  

I don’t even have one of those. But go, it’s on Skillshare, go shameless plug.  

Oh my god, be shameless but in the right ways. No, listen, we can have fun with these things. What I don’t want is for people to hold themselves back in this self-righteousness and learned false humility. If your stuff is good, I don’t think Hillary could ever get loud enough that I’m gonna be sick of her stuff, there’s a certain point

Challenge accepted. (giggles) Sorry, go on.  

No, I love it. I love it, no, okay we can talk about this for hours. But the main thing here is, you guys keep your eyes on your own paper, if you are a good person who is not duping people, then use the tactics insomuch as they help you, don’t view them as icky just because they exist, it’s icky in the application.

So if you are selling snake oil, then it doesn’t matter what you do, you are gonna be shitty. It’s not annoying for the people who are your market. Remember that.  

And also, don’t let the need to be persistent discourage you. You need to keep showing up, you need to keep sending those emails, you need to create those ads in order to stay top of mind, because how many times in your life have you looked around and been like, “Oh shoot, I need that, squirrel”, and then moved on to something else, and then saw it again and was like, “Oh thank god I saw this again”, I was shown the same Facebook ad of this pair of sneakers for like six weeks until I remembered to buy them.

And I love them, and they were beautifully made. So I think a lot of people get discouraged in the sales process when they send out an email and get no response, or it’s day one of the launch and they have no sales, day five of the launch, they have no sales, stay persistent, stay consistent, this is part of the grind, the mission and the arena.  

Yes, and it’s why you need creative allies. I mean the amount of times that I freak out because I sent one email, and then I’m like “Oh god, must abort because nothing happened”, and I text Hillary or Sara, and they’re like “Great, day one, when does cart close?” And I’m like “Oh shit, cart closing, right. I have like seven more days”. 

I will share one story before we close out though. I recently just wrapped up a launch for my writing accountability group, and the first four days, fricking crickets. I was out there, I was hawking the goods. I was sending emails, I was on Instagram, I was on Twitter, I was on Facebook, all these places talking about this, and it was crickets. And I was feeling so self-conscious. And I was like, “I need to bail, I need to bail and safe face, everyone’s gonna know”.

And here’s what’s crazy, minimal likes, minimal engagement, minimal shares, like really, truly. I was crazy, DMs out the wazoo, I was getting DMs, but not till like day four, and then buyers! The buyers just showed up by day seven.

They were like “I’ve been watching”, and not who I expected. It was people who were like “Hey, I saw this on your Instagram feed four days in a row, and now I’m thinking I really need it”. And I’m like “Yeah, I think you really do”.

And so you just don’t know who’s paying attention. I also found out that people were sharing my things in Facebook groups I wasn’t a part of, because I was hearing eventually, through the grapevine. These things take time. To bring it back around to how Hillary opened this with the marketing

The myth of the righteous marketer, the myth of the righteous marketer, the path of the righteous marketer!  

Right, I am telling you, one day I will aspire to get to the point where I can send one email and everything is gonna sell out. But I don’t know anyone who can do that, even, I know some people with some pretty big lists, and they need more than one email.  

Never, yeah. It’s just not a thing, Margo said one keyword that I wanna bring your attention to before we close here guys, and that is this idea that these people are telling her “I have been watching”. And that is part of being of service during a sales process, people are watching you, people are looking at what you do.

You are giving them time to get acquainted with it through the sales process, so keep that in mind. You are not pounding on doors, you are telling a story, and people can remember it, latch onto, digest, connect to, and then eventually invest in when they’re ready.  

Thank you guys so much for watching. If you like this episode, please like it below. Leave a comment, we love the dialogue that’s happening there and share it with your friends. If you’re not already subscribed to our channel, make sure you click Subscribe, and I am Margo Aaron.  

And I’m Hillary Weiss.  

You’ve been watching #HAMYAW, and we will see you in two weeks

And we’ll be watching! (giggles) Bye guys. 

Photo by Juliet Clare Warren

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