Using Identity to Sell

by Scott - 16 Comments

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It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything, especially about BD/sales, but I’m going to start writing about things I’m learning and am being reminded of again more regularly .

One of the most interesting drivers for the people we try to sell and market to is identity. Specifically what type of person does the person you’re trying to influence say they are?

Example identities:

I’m a numbers driven executive.

I’m a doer.

I’m an early adopter of new tech that’s going to give me an edge.

Most people want to remain consistent with the identity they claim for themselves…especially when they declare it amongst their peers.

Smart marketers and sales people use this to their advantage when they communicate by linking the desired action they want their audience to take to the identity of the individual.

I was recently at a Tony Robbins event where he shared a story that demonstrates this beautifully.

How Tony Turned A Guy Using Identity

Tony initially made a splash by going on radio shows and declaring that he could cure any  person’s phobia in less than an hour.

When he started doing this a well known psychiatrist heard this claim and publicly refuted the notion that a 24 year old kid could cure phobias with such speed. His methodologies lacked proper research and science!

In response, Tony sought out this psychiatrist and asked to take on his most challenging patient to make good on his claim.

The psychiatrist rebuffed his request by saying,“No way, and that as a professional he wouldn’t dare entertain this idea.”

Tony’s response:

“You consider yourself a scientist right?”


“Well don’t Scientists usually like to test their hypothesis before making claims?”

Upon hearing this statement the psychiatrist changed his mind and agreed to bring his patient with a terrible snake phobia to Tony. Robbins ended up curing the person in less than 15 minutes..and by the end of night he had wrapped a snake around her head.

In this example, Tony used questions to highlight that there was an incongruence between the response and expected behavior given the identity of the person he was trying to get buy in from,

As a result, he was able to turn him and ultimately get the outcome he wanted.

Take a moment and think about common objections you often get. Does the buyer identify themselves as the type of person who should be interested in this? This might be an opportunity to exorcise identity selling.

Alluding to Identity in Sales Copy

Another instance where you can leverage identity to cajole action is copywriting.

I run these workouts here in New York called Peak State. They’re the most inspiring and motivational workouts for ambitious people who realize winning in anything starts on the inside.

I want everyone who puts themselves in the conscious, high achiever bucket to come try one out…and the first step in my funnel is getting them to join my mailing list.

I’ve tested 3 different headlines on my homepage:

H1: Live Everyday, Shout Out Of A Cannon

H2: The Most Motivating Workout In NYC

H3: The Most Motivating Workout For High Achievers

Guess which one had the highest clickthrough or conversion event of the 3?

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.42.28 PM

The one that integrates identity by 1.7x! – The Most Motivating Workout For High Achievers

The idea is to use copy that makes it easy for people to say “Yeah that’s me” and connect that to your content or sites’ business goal.

Another great example of this I’ve seen plastered all over New York on taxis, subways and their website is the burgeoning HR Platform Namely.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.44.53 PM

Regardless of the reality, what company doesn’t want to put themselves in the “Growing” bucket. Heck, I don’t have anyone to give healthcare right now, but this makes me want to schedule a demo!

How can you test the power of identity in your copywriting?

All you need to do is add a “for” statement + the aspirational identity your customer has to your value proposition.

How to Start Using Identity in Sales & Marketing

Before you do anything, you need to understand your customer. What do they value, how do they see themselves, and what do they want to be?

Note: this isn’t about what they really are, it’s about who they think they are and who they want to be.

Cults are built this way. Crossfit is a great example. One reason they’ve built such a strong following is certain people love what crossfit stands for.

“I’m tough. I’m healthy. I have blisters on my hands. I eat a certain way.”

From someone who drinks the crossfit kool aid, I’ll be the first one to admit that people who do crossfit love talking about it because they love the identity that it conveys.

This is why crafting a compelling identity for a brand or movement at the onset is often the best strategy for building WOM. People will share anything if they think it makes them look better or a certain way. See instagram, the platform that all makes us prettier and more handsome.

Once you understand your customer and how they want to be perceived, think about how you can link the behavior of that persona to your solution. This can be done by outright saying who it’s for or even by casually associating your solution companies that align with a certain identity.

“One of the reason that [aspirational company] loves us…”

A great place to think about weaving this in as well if we’re talking about pitching is a common objections sheet. Every time you write a new pitch you’ll want to create a sheet that lists out all of the rebuttals and objection prospects have then write out responses. In this sheet, see if there is anything that comes up that you can tease on this identity lever in a graceful way.

I say graceful because delivery can be everything when you go as far as an instance like the Tony Robbins example where you flat out ask someone if they are who they say they are. Like comedy, the way you say something can completely change the reaction so make sure to practice with someone on your team if you’re going to use this in a common objection rebuttal.

Also test this in your marketing and messaging. Do you talk about who your product is for as well as what it does? Why not do some split testing in your copy to see if you get a higher conversion rate on the top 5 most visited pages on your website.


Have you or someone you know leveraged the concept of identity selling to enhance sales and marketing? It’d be great to hear some examples in the comments if you have them.

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16 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. Dan Witmer

    Hey man 🙂 Great article and something that hits close to home with the identity I am trying to build for my clients. I find that more and more people join me because of the lifestyle / attitude of my brand rather than simply “I want this guy to help me get in shape because I saw his before / after pics.” Identity and belonging are things we all need to feel fulfilled. Well articulated!


  2. Ayi Etim

    Thanks for the post. Timely and very informative. I think it’s all about identity. And identity is key to designing successful brand differentiation strategy.


  3. Matt Cartagena

    Love this – I think there’s a bit of a lollapalooza of biases/instincts at play when it comes to identity. Pride + urge to be consistent and congruent = a strong movement towards certain reactions. I think this also reinforces the practice of REALLY understanding the archetype of your target market.


  4. Eric Roseman

    Scott, nailed it once again with your commentary. Really insightful stuff and holding people accountable to the things they lay claim to. I often hear incongruities in a prospects statements and tend to shy away from a challenge and error on the side of agreement and hope they will come to their own conclusion that my solution is right for them. We all know the challenger sales model works and it’s founded on psychology and emotional accountability. Once again, great piece.


    1. Post Author Scott

      Thanks Eric. I think the key with the challenger sale is doing it with grace in a way that doesn’t turn the other person off…the devil is in the details! Appreciate your support : )


  5. Pingback: Journey of the Do – Stage 8 – Where do I find customers? | effUmarketing

  6. Carter

    Great post Scott – I’ve used this with paid traffic and it helped my conversions a ton. Just clearly identifying who “this” is for is such a great way to help any audience understand you’re speaking to them. Thanks for the great read!


  7. Hannah Wiley

    Very perceptive article. I’ve written before on the power of self-identity – putting yourself into the identity that is the person you want to be. Self-“motivation” is hard. But acting congruently to who you know yourself to be comes naturally.

    I’m happy that we are at a point where marketing can be a force for good – a way to encourage people to step up into their higher selves.


  8. William Ryan

    I’m hooked. Identity and personal purpose are essential fundamentals for life happiness. Creating a Brand in business is akin to this. Pure genius to use this as both tool and hook in the marketing of a product, service or idea. I ‘chanced’ upon this website and you, Scott, this morning. Serendipity in an email splashing procrastination (not recommended).

    I look forward to devouring your site materials, and where possible, adding relevant comments.

    My new site? Perhaps a fit to work upon with you in the future: braintraincoach….. Alive? Mindfulness? Meditation? More tools? All of the above.

    Thanks!!!! Can’t wait to attend one of your events.


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