Non-Sleazy Sales: Reframing Selling For Entrepreneurs With Annie P. Ruggles

ethical selling loyb podcast Feb 14, 2021
LOYB 7 | Non-Sleazy Sales

Without sales, you don't have a sustainably successful business, yet many entrepreneurs suffer from sales aversion and avoid or dread selling, which hurts the business’ profitability.

But what if there was a way to do sales in a non-sleazy way that feels true to your ethics?  In this episode, Crista Grasso is joined by Annie P. Ruggles, Founder and Dean of the Non-Sleazy Sales Academy, where they dive into the truth about sales, and how to sell in a way that serves your customers and your business. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • 1:20: Some of the most common mistakes Annie sees people make when it comes to selling
  • 7:30: Annie's explains sales avoidance
  • 8:54: How to get inspired to sell in a way that feels authentic to you
  • 16:10: How Annie addresses pain points in a sales call
  • 20:16: Shady sales tactics you definitely want to avoid
  • 21:20: How Annie handles the 'I need to talk to my husband' objection
  • 24:04: How Annie helps people with sales and how you can work with her
  • 26:05: Annie's biggest tip for working smarter, not harder


Listen to the podcast here:


Non-Sleazy Sales: Reframing Selling For Entrepreneurs With Sales Aversion With Annie P. Ruggles

(00:42) I am super excited to introduce you to Miss Annie P. Ruggles. For almost a decade, Annie P. has harnessed her Hulk-like disdain for hard-sales, tacky self-promotion, and overly competitive sleazeballs as inspiration to help people find better ways to grow their small business. As the Founder and Dean of The Non-Sleazy Sales Academy, she's guided hundreds of people towards making deeper connections, lasting impressions, and friendlier, more lucrative transactions and conversations. Annie P., I am so happy to have you on the show. How are you? 

(01:18) I'm thrilled to be here. 

(01:21) We are going to talk all about how people can sell their services in ways that do not feel sleazy and do not feel untrue to their ethics. That is so incredibly important.

My first question is, what are some of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to selling? I'm sure you see all of the mistakes. 

(01:45) One of the most beautiful, horrible, painful, nauseating, fabulous choices I ever made was that I was going to offer a service where I listened to people's sales calls and review their sales pages. I have seen all the horrors. If I had to distill it down to three major errors, the first error I see is they don't ever sell. They never get there. They write this giant Great Wall of China of beautiful copy that leads to absolutely nowhere. You get them on a discovery call and they are so excited to have a lead that they babbled the whole time and never actually sell.

That's number one, avoiding the sale. That's normally caused by what I call sales avoidance. That's the first thing that I see. The second thing that I see is selling but in a tone that is accidentally apologetic. You see this a lot, especially on sales calls in the form of awkward, anxious, babbling. Let's say I'm selling you a product that's $2,000. We are vibing the whole freaking time. We're having the best time. You're loving it. You're totally onboard. It comes to the big, bad wolf of sales, also known as naming the price.

I say, "The price for that is $2,000." What most people will do that is wrong is they will freak out about the fact that they themselves said the price point because it makes them in any way uncomfortable. What they do is they go, "The price is $2,000 and I know that may seem high. Maybe that seems high or it seems low. Some of my competitors charge way more. That's okay. If they want to do that, that's totally fine. Mine is $3,000 and it used to be $16,000. For you, I know that you're a referral and you came in nice. You're a good person, Crista. I like you so I'm going to give you my friends and family discount even though we just met. I said $2,000, but what about $1,000?" 

(03:58) I feel like I've been on these sales calls. 

(04:04) It's so freaking painful or on the same version, you get a yes and you don't even hear it. What are the famously bad examples of selling that ever happened to me? I had a service provider that I had graduated from who I was happy with the brand of have a sales member of their team. Not cold call me because I'm a returning client but lukewarm call me and say, "As a graduate, I wanted to make sure you're aware of this new offering that so-and-so has come up with."

"Boldly, bravely, compassionately and ethically ask for the sale." - Annie P. Ruggles - Click to Tweet

I, positive brand experiences only, got the value I paid for the previous time only was like, "Yes, that sounds awesome. I have a need. Now let me ask you some questions to make sure that this is right for me." The second I asked any objectional question at all, the second I showed not even hesitation but curiosity about some of these things, I had previously said, "That sounds good. I want to double-check some things." They totally changed and started assuming that I was going to say no. I kept saying yes and they kept hearing no to the point where I said, "Let me go get my wallet and credit card. It sounds good. Sign me up." She said, "I don't want to rush you into a sale. Why don't I check up with you maybe Tuesday?" I had my credit card in my hand and to make things worse, that girl basically hung up on me. Do you think she called me back on Tuesday, Crista? 

(05:52) No follow up after losing the sale on the spot that she could have had. 

(05:57) On the spot. Here's the thing. The audience have known me for five minutes. They can already tell I am not a discreet person. When I said like, "Sounds good," that's exactly how I said it. I was like, "Let me go downstairs." She got to hear my chunky little butt trot down the stairs, open my purse, and she's still not getting it. The accidental apology or assuming a no. That's the second one.

The third one is not having any sales training, not knowing where to find sales training, and assuming that the only thing you can do is cobble together the sleazy practices of your competitors into some mix where you modify them but don't and hope that they work.

  1. The first one is avoiding the sale altogether.
  2. The second one is assuming the no.
  3. The third one is selling with sleazy because you haven't found out how to do it differently.


(06:53) When you say it that, it sounds so obvious. You think people have got to have more common sense than to do this. If I've been on the receiving end of this, I can't tell you how many times, I'm sure everybody reading has as well.  Some of us may have done some of these things. 

(07:11) I have done these things. I'd say all of these things out of love, compassion, and empathy because I have been there. The first person I noticed sales aversion or sales avoidance was myself. As such, I had to stamp that out because what I was doing was offering value all day long and never letting anyone get near to it. I talk about this all the time as a big, beautiful chocolate cake. If you have your grandma's family recipe for chocolate cake and you decide that it is your dream, your passion, your life's purpose to make and distribute this cake to the people, then you're going to start marketing the cake on social media talking about it.

You're going to go to three different grocery stores in a pandemic to get the right ingredients. You're going to special order the plate. You're going to get the right camera. You're going to get a ring light for that cake. You're going to do all this stuff. You're going to run Facebook Ads, do your SEO, and tell everybody to come to experience this cake. When they get there, there's going to be pictures of the cake everywhere. The center of the cake flooding into the room. It's all overwhelming. The cake finally comes out, it's half an hour late, and it's in a glass box that's locked. You can see it and smell it but you can't taste it.

That is sales avoidance to a tee. You're saying, "I have all this value for you but not for you."


(08:54) Help us to avoid sales avoidance. Tell us all of your ways here because I love what you do. I've shared with my audience that I'm declaring 2021 the year of inspired growth. We should do things that we're inspired to do. The reason why so many people push against sales is because they feel like it is sleazy to your point. They don't feel very inspired to go out and sell. How can somebody who is a little avoidant to sales feel inspired to sell and do it in a way that feels authentic to them?

(09:30) I love that question because first off, I want people to know that when I'm talking about sales avoidance, I'm not making fun of you because it's not your fault. In that, we are conditioned by pop culture and bad sales that have been thrust upon us to have a negative connotation to the idea of selling. Everybody has that to some degree but if your business is your baby, dream, and this is what you think that you are doing as your purpose, you're understandably going to be very protective of your reputation and how you come across in the world.

Sales has this negative stigma against it so you're going, "I don't want any of that up involved with my baby." I get that. I totally do. The first thing you have to do is redefine what selling is and what selling isn't. 

Getting someone to buy something no matter what they need because it's what you happen to be selling is sleazy selling, not normal selling. Listening, prescribing, and collecting currency in exchange for what you have prescribed, whether it's a vase, coat, or a year of coaching, that is non-sleazy selling because you're basing it on their actual need.

If we can reframe selling as, “Let me build up all of the evidence that I am a great solution for you and in exchange, I'm asking for this.” The best way for me to encourage others into inspired growth is to inspire yourself to include yourself in the equation because sales aversion is not a victimless crime. It keeps you from your clients and it keeps you from having a profitable, sustainable business because you're constantly mired in the muck of shout and pray.

That is not a good use of your time. Inspired growth to me means I'm going to find a win-win here. I'm going to find the right clients at the right time. I'm going to wait my turn until that time is right. I'm going to make sure that I present my case well whether that's on a call, a website, Etsy, or wherever and then I'm going to command a price for that offering. That's it. There's nothing intrinsically bad with that as long as we're not selling a Tesla convertible coupe to a welfare mother of four because your boss will think it's great.

That's disgusting. That happens all the time which is why we all have a negative idea of sales. If you're saying, "You're coming to me with a problem, I'm going to solve that problem. I'm going to give you my currencies of effort, time, energy, expertise, love, joy, artistry, whatever you're providing." All they're giving you back in return is money then they got the sweeter end of the deal. You're given all that, you're getting some money.

(13:05) I like the way that you framed that because the right clients is the key there. When you are trying to be all things to all people, you end up trying to over convince because you aren't speaking to that one person where you understand their problems and how your solution is solving their problems, which makes it a no-brainer and you're excited to be helping that person. You're excited for them to not give you the investment and working with you but for the actual result that they're going to get based on that investment. 

(13:38) That will get people into business in the first place. That is wanting to offer that result to people. Offer that result to people and be appropriately compensated for it. 

(13:53) One of the other things I want to dig into with you is types of selling. Quite often, we hear you have to agitate the pain, you'd have to bring out people's fears, and you have to, what I call take people to a place of negativity to make them realize that they need the solution that you have to sell. I personally am a sell from a place of possibility kind of person. I like to paint the bright, shiny future. I like to have people see what they want. I'm like, "Why do I have to bring people down and make them feel terrible in order to sell something?" There's probably a balance there. How do you usually describe that and help people with that in selling?

"Sales is not sleazy unless you try to get someone to buy something no matter what they need." - Annie P. Ruggles - Click to Tweet

(14:34) You hit the nail so on the head which is that the number one reason why sales aversion has a tendency to rear its ugly head is because we don't like talking about pain. That's understandable. We don't like being vulnerable in talking about our own pain and trying to make people feel crappy and into their stuff. I'm violating this person's boundaries or this or that. The thing is agitating the pain and breaking someone down are not the same thing. They are often taught as one and the same, especially around money objections.

One of the most common money objection answers that I see being used all the time on people is they'll compliment you and they'll say, "Crista, that's a nice top. How often do you go shopping? Maybe you think you could not shop for a while and then you can afford me." That is basically saying, "Idiot, you mismanage your money. You’re vain and stupid. You should hire me and stop being stupid." A lot of people that are using that tactic have not gone far enough because they were taught it to go, "This is making someone feel bad." Insulting someone to prove a point is never required but addressing the pain is required.

That's why they're not the same thing. I love the other way that you said that you come at it from a point of possibility. Where I come at it is I need my client to know that I understand their pain. If I can't understand their pain, if I can't sympathize with it because it's not my world, I need them to understand that I see them. That's it. I either see them, I understand the pain or both. That's the box I have to check. It's not, “Let me bare my soul and tell you every single thing that's going on,” or it's not “Let's retrigger you. Remind you of everything going on in your life.” The way that I get around this, I love it so much.

It is the best and most effective thing for dealing with the pain point. It's recast the play. If you are tearing someone else down, you have cast yourself as the hero and you have cast your buyer as the idiot villain of their own story. They're like a self-loathing villain even worse. The problem is the villain. The emotions tangled up in the problem are the villain. The pain point that gets swirled around after the initial pain point. Those are the villain. Now, you are not the hero. The client is the hero bravely facing the pain but you can't tell the princess got rescued story without the part about the dragon and the thorns. You can't. They got rescued from what. If you're looking at it that way then they are the hero bravely facing the pain. You are insert role here, the cheerleader, the big sister, the mentor, the sage.

You can go to a book of archetypes and find whatever role you want. You could be a wizard, an elf, Jiminy Cricket, it doesn't matter. The thing is you are there as a service to the hero or heroine. You are not there to be the hero. If we build them up in the face of pain and address the pain fully so they know that we understand how big the dragon on their back is, they're not going to feel beat down. They're going to feel supported when we say, “We've helped people slay dragons before, we will do the same with you and for you.” It's all about how you cast the play.

(18:56) I have to say that may be the single best description I have ever heard on selling and how to position something. That's great and that I completely and entirely resonate with. That makes so much sense because you're sharing the pain, you're getting them to see where they want to go through it but you're not trying to make them feel bad. That's what I don't like about when people say, "Agitate the pain." There's so much emphasis on it. You're trying to make somebody feel so incredibly crappy about themselves that they eventually go ahead and invest and buy. I think that is shady selling. To me, that is sleazy selling. I love the way that you positioned it.

(19:38) It's completely the same thing as when the pickup artist was a big thing. It would send guys into bars to be like, "You're cute for a fat girl, Annie." You'd be like, "What? Did you say that? I can't tell if that was a compliment or an insult. I'm very unsettled and I don't know how to handle that. I guess I'll sleep with you because I don't know what my emotions are." That logic is the exact same thing as, "What do you need to talk to your husband for? You're the business owner. Aren't you independent? Do you have separate checking? Why wouldn't you have separate checking? What are you? Stupid?" It’s the same thing.

(20:16) I was in a program that I stepped away from. I mentioned in one of my prior episodes with my year of inspired growth. I stepped away from a lot of groups and programs that I was in because there was a sea of sameness but there were some shady sales tactics and I didn't like it. There was one person that would talk all the time about doing exactly what you said. When somebody brings up the husband objection, here's what you do. I messaged someone 37 times and I keep messaging them. I'm like, "I would block you so quickly. Who are the idiots that said yes to you on the 37th time?" Everyone is like, "I want to be more like this person." I was like, "I have nothing to do with this person. I am out." 

(20:59) I'm out. Number one, 37 times is like seven times spam. Thirty-seven times is rotten spam that's been left in the sun for two weeks. What I do for the husband objection, major spoiler for all of my trainings forever because people find this terrifying. I find it hilarious. If someone gives me the, "I need to talk to my blank." I am also, “I need to talk to my blank.” Now, I'm a one-person business in terms of one-person C-level. I have a team of part-timers. They're not helping me make these decisions. I need someone, whether it's a mentor, advisor, my husband, you, to vet these ideas before I take big leaps.

What most people are taught is like, "Stand on your own two feet. Come on, make a decision," or they go, "I understand that you want to think about it. If you book in the next five seconds, it's cheap. If you don't book in the next five seconds, it's going to triple in price." Freaking gross. When I get the objection again, I told you, go boldly and take a stance in the opposite direction.

If someone says to me, "I need to talk to my husband," I go, "What's his name?" "His name is George." "What's important to George?" "George wants me to be happy."

"What does happy actually mean? What are the metrics of happiness in you to George?" "He wants my business to be profitable." "There we go. We need to convince George together, you and I, if you want to go through with this, that this is going to help you become happy and therefore profitable. Do you want me to talk to him or do you want to talk to him and I can help you figure out what to say? If you can make that conversation easier instead of blasting the conversation, it's amazing." What I normally do is I'm like, "What's your husband's name? George? Is he around?" 

They'll get their husbands. What's hysterical is sometimes, when I do talk to the husband immediately, they're like, "What the hell am I talking to you for? I told her this morning to sign up." If it's a selling-up situation, I needed to talk to my boss. I needed to talk to my board. I needed to talk to my whoever then I make sure that they have a solid argument for what they want when they go in to talk to the possible opposition. They come back and they go, "They said yes with flying colors because I made a good case." That is way more fun, easier, more personable, federally up for the lifetime of value of a client instead of a one-time nasty transaction. Yet, 99% of people are still taught, "Stand on your own two feet, you don't need to talk to your husband."

(24:04) Let's talk about the Non-Sleazy Sales Academy. How do you help people with sales and where can people find you and find more about you?

(24:14) My crown jewel, my most beloved program is called Sales for Empaths. It's a complete selling system specifically for coaches, healers, and service providers. Before you even consider hiring me for anything, if you like this concept and you want to dig in more, if you're bumping up against sales aversion, sales avoidance, or you aren't sure what strategy you should implement, you should start with my free training which is called Making Selling Easy Without Getting Sleazy. That is available 24/7, 365 on my website which is That's the best place not only to hear about how I can get you across the finish line of sales in a way that feels beautiful and genuine both to you and to your buyer. We'll get there. For right now, let's get you out of sales avoidance.

(25:09) I absolutely love it. I love your whole approach and everything that you do. You are always keeping things super fun. Annie will be back on this show again because we are going to dive in and talk about the creative strategies that she leverages for her podcast, which I'm obsessed with. You will all enjoy as well. In the interview with her, we talked about Bret Michaels as well as leaning out your business. I have to say, it was not only the most fun podcast interview that I’ve ever been on. I don't think I will ever be able to top it as far as the combination of something that was both fun but super value-packed for business owners. You’ve got to stay tuned. I will let you guys know when that episode comes out and Annie will be back.

(26:03) It was a blast.

(26:05) It was amazing. Before we take it away here, I want to ask you our final question which is, how do you work smarter, not harder in your business and lean out?

(26:17) I make sure that I'm not over-marketing and underselling because over-marketing is expensive, shiny, fun, time-consuming, and it will kill your business. It has almost killed mine more than once. What I have to keep doing to work smarter not harder, is I have to make sure that I am boldly, bravely, compassionately, ethically asking for the sale. Pretty darn often. Again, 4:1 is the ratio that works for me, but find the ratio that works for you. Make sure that number is at least pretty close because otherwise, you're going to wind up over-marketing, exhausting yourself. I’ve already done that. Spoiler, it's not fun. I did it for years. Don't do it. Work smart.

(27:11) I absolutely love that. Guys, no over-marketing, no underselling, find your ratio and go find Annie P. Ruggles. 

(27:21) You work smarter instead of harder. Hire me. No, kidding. 

(27:27) With that, we are going to round things out and I will see you all again next time. Annie, thank you so much for being on the show.

(27:35) It’s always a pleasure to be anywhere near you.


Important Links:

About Annie P. Ruggles

For almost a decade, Annie P. has harnessed her Hulk-like disdain for hard-sales, tacky self-promotion, and overly competitive sleazeballs as inspiration to help people find better ways to grow their small businesses.

As the Founder & Dean of The Non- Sleazy Sales Academy, she's guided hundreds of people toward making deeper connections, lasting impressions, and friendlier, more lucrative transactions and conversations.


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by Crista Grasso

Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through the noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact RIGHT NOW to grow and scale your business. As a lean business consultant, she specializes in helping businesses gain clarity and focus through strategy, planning, and lean practices. She is the creator of the Lean Out Method and the 90-Day Lean Out Planner, and is also the founder of the global accessories brand Criscara Jewelry.


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