The Perfect Sales Offer For Your Online Course

The Perfect Sales Offer For Your Online Course
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The hardest part of being an online course creator is selling your course. You need a perfect sales offer to convince people to take the plunge. This journey starts with building an audience, which will be the topic of another blog post. But once you have fans interested in your content, you need to provoke action in your prospective buyer. To do that, you must accomplish two monumental achievements:

  1. You must first move the prospect emotionally.
  2. You must then persuade them intellectually.

This is the way the brain works: when it comes to making most decisions, we begin by generating an emotional preference and only then subject that preference to logical debate. Another way of saying that is that first, we find ourselves wanting to buy a product, and then only begin the rationalization process of deciding if we should buy it. You can achieve both these steps by crafting the Perfect Sales Offer.

Table of Contents

  1. The Perfect Sales Offer Contains Only One Big Idea
  2. What Does Your Student Prospect Already Know?
  3. The Awareness Spectrum
  4. Direct or Indirect?
  5. Six Ways To Write A Perfect Sales Offer
    1. Offer Leads
    2. Promise Leads
    3. Problem-Solution Leads
    4. Secret Leads
    5. Proclamation Leads
    6. Story Leads
  6. How Do You Apply The Perfect Sales Offer To Your Course?

The Perfect Sales Offer Contains Only One Big Idea

To write the perfect sales offer, the challenge is to find one good idea that your student prospect can grasp immediately, then stick to it. Lead your sales offer with one, and only one, powerful idea. The idea has to be strong. Yet, it also has to be easy to understand. And easy to believe. That last part — being easy to believe — is key.

  1. Make sure that the idea creates an emotion, a single emotion, which will compel the reader to respond.
  2. Support that idea with one engaging story or compelling fact.
  3. Direct the reader to one, and only one, action.

A Great Idea Is…

  1. Big (enough to stir interest)
  2. Easy to understand
  3. Immediately convincing
  4. Clearly useful (to your prospective student).

What Does Your Student Prospect Already Know?

The starting point for how to write a perfect sales offer is to answer this question about your prospect. Ask yourself what they know about:

  • Who you are?
  • Your course and the curriculum behind it?
  • Themselves, their own problems, and the other possible solutions available?

With this information, you can decide on the best way to approach them in your message. For example, if your prospect is:

  • Aware of your course and realizes it can satisfy their desire —> start with your course.
  • Not aware of your course, but only of the desire itself —> start with the desire.
  • Not yet aware of what she really seeks, but is concerned only with the general problem —> start with that problem and crystallizes it into a specific need.

Write Your Perfect Sales Offer Using The Awareness Spectrum

In their excellent book on copywriting Great Leads, Michael Masterson and John Forde outline six points on the awareness spectrum that your student prospect could fall into.

Great Leads Book
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Most Aware

Your future student knows your course, and only needs to know “the deal.”

The most aware customer can be a very active, even assertive kind of customer. This is where you’ll find your repeat buyers. These are the people who feel loyal to your brand, who DM you on Twitter and comment on your YouTube videos, and who send you “fan” emails. In the best case, these are the customers who even recommend your course to friends. More often than not, to this crowd, all you’ll need to do is offer them something new and they’ll buy.

Product Aware

Your future student knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.

These are the prospects that just aren’t sure what you’re selling is right for them. First, you’ll need to win their trust. And, because they’re not completely decided, they’re skittish. So, you’ll have to make sure you don’t scare them away. Even though they’re close to a purchase, they crave reassurance. They want and need to know you sell not only what they need, but that they can trust your claims about what your course can do for them.

Solution Aware

Your future student knows the result she wants, but not that your course provides it.

This prospect knows that somewhere out there, somebody has a solution to her problem. She might even know vaguely where to look. Beyond that, she’s not so sure where to look next. To make the sale, you show her you’re able to help her reach that outcome. But, before you can do that, you’ll first need to convince her you understand what she wants and needs.

Problem Aware

Your future student senses he has a problem but doesn’t know there’s a solution.

A “solution-aware” customer has hope. But, a “problem-aware” customer has only worry. They know something’s not working, but they don’t know yet there’s a way to fix it. The key with this customer is to show you “feel their pain.” Not just that you know they have a problem, but that you know the frustration, desperation, or even fear and anger it causes. In the book they call this the “point of maximum anxiety.” Once you identify it, you’ll find an open avenue for making an emotional connection.


No knowledge of anything except, perhaps, his own identity or opinion.

Not only does this prospect not know who you are, but they also don’t know about online courses. They don’t even know courses like yours exist. Nor do they know they have a specific problem worth solving.

Here, you’ll need a lead that grabs future students without letting on the least detail of what it is you’re trying to do. Winning the attention of your most unaware customers can be especially difficult, as they have no reason to trust or even listen to your message. Come on too strong with a pitch or course mention, and you could chase them away. On the other hand, once you’ve won their attention and moved past that initial resistance, their lack of awareness can make them more receptive to an offer that is, to them, unique in a very real way.

A Perfect Sales Offer – Direct or Indirect?

By far the easiest way to figure out if you should write a sales pitch head-on or sidle up to it indirectly is to figure out where your prospect falls on this scale of awareness.  The more aware they are, usually, the more direct sales lead works best. The less aware, the more indirect you’re going to want to go.

For instance, you’ll hear that directly stating the benefit of getting right to your offer in the lead works best when:

  • You’re selling a course that’s easy to understand.
  • You can make a transformation promise that’s large and easily accepted.
  • You’ve got an exceptionally good deal or guarantee to offer.
  • Your future student knows and trusts you and deals with you often.
  • You’ve made a course improvement your market was already waiting for.

The less your customer knows about you, what you’re selling, or their own needs, the less effective a direct lead is likely to be. You might want to try one of the more indirect kinds of leads when:

  • You’re pitching to a customer who knows little or nothing about you.
  • You’re selling a course that needs explanation.
  • You’ve got a jaded customer with a lot of skepticism to overcome.
  • Your course has a timely news connection too big to ignore.
  • You’re ready to reinvent or elevate your course or the idea behind
The perfect sales pitch spectrum for identifying your prospects level of awareness and how direct to be in your approach
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Once you have an understanding of the awareness level of your prospect and you know how direct you should be, you can use one of these six types of sales pitches for your outreach.

Six Ways To Write A Perfect Sales Offer

Based on the level of awareness of your prospect, choose one of the following six approaches to write your Perfect Sales Offer.

A Perfect Sales Offer Using Offer Leads

Offer Leads share a similar formula:

  1. Immediately focus on the most emotionally-compelling detail of your offer
  2. Underscore the most valuable benefit of that deal
  3. Elaborate on that same deal-benefit in the lead that follows
  4. At some point, include a compelling “reason why” you’re offering that deal

In each case, you must offer your future student something to answer the question that’s inevitable, in response to an offer that sounds too good to be true: “Okay, that sounds great … but what’s the catch?

What’s most important in an effective Offer Lead is that the prospect feels immediately that the benefit he’s about to get is both valuable and a “steal” by comparison to what he would normally be willing to pay. Again, that value could be connected to the quality of what you’re offering, the promise of what it will do for them, or even the availability of what else is on offer. And, what makes it a “steal” might be a low price or a discount — often that’s the case — but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes emphasizing a higher or more elite price is what will get you the sale. Many high-ticket courses charge more simply because of the signaling value of being a student of that course.

Offer Lead Example
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Three offers packed into one

A Perfect Sales Offer Using Promise Leads

“Your safest opening,” says Drayton Bird, a copywriter for Ford, American Express and Proctor & Gamble, “ … is your prime benefit and offer … an instant statement, instantly comprehensible.”

To find the real reason why customers buy is to find the emotional core of the promise your sales offer needs to make.

“It pays to promise a benefit that is unique and competitive, and the product must deliver the benefit you promise. Most advertising promises nothing. It is doomed to fail in the marketplace. Headlines that promise to benefit sell more than those that don’t. The only reason any rational human being ever purchases anything is to derive a benefit from it! That means … any scrap of sales copy that fails to clearly, dramatically, emphatically, credibly, and repeatedly present the benefits a product will deliver is destined to fail miserably.”

As far as online courses go, your benefit is the transformational promise of your TOC.

But, suppose you’re talking to someone who’s interested, but not quite sure yet whether the product can deliver. For this kind of prospect, the promise is tempting. Yet, revealing the offer out of the gate might come on too strong. In that case, it may need to be that you’ll want to develop anticipation with just the promise first. You might even do it without mentioning the course at all. Of course, opening with a pure Promise Lead like this one has gotten a little harder recently. The reasons for this are almost directly tied to the Promise Lead’s unique success in the past. In short, more and more prospects today have become “hyper-aware.”

Promise Leads work best with “mostly aware” prospects who are almost ready to buy.

Emotions To Target With Promise Leads

  • Friendship and status among your peers.
  • Confidence and freedom from worry.
  • Inclusion.
  • Safety and security.
  • The feeling of association with people you admire and respect.

The bottom line is that the most effective part of Promise Leads — and, in fact, all promises you’ll make — is that what your course will do for students is only as important, or maybe less so, as to how you’ll make them feel about themselves while taking it. Or, even more importantly, how they’ll be seen by others while taking it.

When Writing a Perfect Sales Offer Using Promise Leads

  • Start with the course’s biggest benefit.
  • Hit the targeted promise right away.
  • Connect the core benefit to the prospect’s core desire.
  • Be as new and original as possible.
  • Be bold but believable.
  • Follow with even bigger proof.
  • Focus on speed, size, or quality of results.
  • Usually won’t work to skeptics or highly “unaware” prospects
  • Can work very well with “on the fence” prospects.
Perfect Sales Offer Promise Lead
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Clear and simple promise

A Perfect Sales Offer Using Problem-Solution Leads

Deciding whether to use the Problem-Solution formula hinges on the idea that you’re writing to prospects who know what they’d like to change. The pulling power isn’t in educating the future student about a problem. It’s more in the idea that his or her troubles are heard and understood. Once the future student feels that you’ve heard them, that you understand their problems, and their need for a solution, then they’ll be ready to listen to your solutions to those problems — solutions that come through your course.

Problem-Solution pitches that target both big and small, get the biggest impact when you can first sum up the core worry in as instant a phrase as possible.

First Identify the Problem

  1. Target those worries that keep prospects up at night.
  2. Make sure they’re worries that carry deep emotional weight.
  3. Prove you feel your prospect’s pain.
  4. Don’t linger on the problem too long.
  5. You must offer hope of a relevant solution at some point in the pitch.

Your Solution Must Then Promise the Following

  • erase your prospect’s fears and frustrations,
  • ease feelings of guilt, shame, self-doubt, and inadequacy,
  • soothe nerves and ends shyness and embarrassment.
  • prevent future humiliation,
  • deliver blessed relief from loneliness, sadness, or depression, or
  • protect them from future feelings of regret.
Problem Solution Lead
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Starts with the problem and then offers the solution

A Perfect Sales Offer Using The Secret Leads

The Secret Lead really connects to a deep instinct in people to feel that there are secrets to things; that the things that are obvious to everybody don’t give you any edge. What everybody knows is what everybody knows and once you know what everybody knows, you’re just like everybody else. But what if you know the secret?

To write the perfect sales pitch using The Secret Lead, create emotional tension by talking about the benefits of your course without showing it. Keep your course hidden. Your prospect’s instinctive desire to discover what is hidden plays in your favor. The longer you can get the prospect mesmerized by the hidden vehicle for the secret, the greater the chance they will close. By telling the prospect what the secret is not, you give them the feeling they are closer to finding out what it is.

The big secret with The Secret Leads: Specificity is absolutely key to overcome the skepticism that secrets automatically evoke.

Key features of The Secrets Leads:

  1. The secret is intriguing and beneficial
  2. It is introduced in the headline
  3. It is not disclosed during the lead
  4. As the message progresses, more clues are given. These sorts of clues give the prospect the feeling that she is getting closer to discovering the secret.
  5. The secret is connected to a major benefit of the course right away, to make it easier to complete the sales message.

How To Find Your Secret

  1. Find a secret already in your course.
    1. Make a list of all the ideas, outcomes and components of your course.
    2. Ask yourself which, if any of these, is not well-known.
    3. Decide if the benefit provided is enough to drive the lead. If it is, you have a good secret to start your promotion with.
  2. Take one of its benefits and neologize or transubstantiate it into a secret — that is, to take something familiar and rename it and reposition it so it seems new and secret.
Secret Lead
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Implying that he knows something you don’t know.

A Perfect Sales Offer Using Proclamation Leads

A well-constructed Proclamation Lead begins with an emotionally-compelling statement, usually in the form of the headline. And then, in the copy that follows, the reader is given information that demonstrates the validity of the implicit promise made. The Proclamation Lead, though very simple, is primarily indirect. It is indirect because it distracts the reader from the sale by forcing them to pay attention to the point suggested by the proclamation, without revealing exactly how it will lead to the essential claims of the actual sale. Because it’s more indirect, the Proclamation Lead gets a lot of its strength from taking the prospect by complete surprise.

To be effective, Proclamation Leads must:

  • Be big and bold. They must not only grab attention but also stir up thoughts and excite emotions.
  • Make or at least imply a promise.
  • Underscore the main theme of the proclamation. You can even connect the guarantee to the proclamation: “If you’re not happy with the product or what I’m telling you simply doesn’t play out the way I’ve described, you can apply for a full refund… ”

Finally, great Proclamation Leads almost always come from research. Cite studies, facts, data, and statistics in your headlines and leads to reduce the skepticism naturally building up within your prospect.

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If 1M businesses use it, shouldn’t you?

A Perfect Sales Offer Using Story Leads

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” — Plato

In any good story, the reader wants to know what happens next. That is called the hook. For example, if a reader finds out how a young man becomes so successful in a story that starts out describing a classic rags-to-riches story, he can apply that strategy to his own life and enjoy success, too.

Grabbing the prospect’s attention with an entertaining story or idea or photo is essential but, you have to do more than that. You have to sell the product. And to do that, you must link the initial sentiment created in the headline with the final emotion needed to close the sale at the end. But, beware, this does not mean you should put the name of the course in your headline.

Golden Threads

In Story Leads, there should be a golden thread. The course is at one end of the thread. The prospect’s heart is at the other end. Every element of the copy must be connected to the course as well as to the prospect. And, the connection must be taut. If the thread goes slack, even for a second, you lose the sale.

There is a fundamental ambivalence we all have: we want to buy, but we don’t want to be sold. Since we don’t want to be sold, we will emotionally resist the sale, even as we feel it tugging at our heartstrings.

Adhering to the “rules” of good storytelling will produce the greatest effect:

  1. Beginning in the middle with a conflict — expressed or implicit — that affects a protagonist the prospect can identify with.
  2. Offering an emotionally satisfying solution.
Story Lead
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Don’t you want to learn from Sue too?

How Do You Apply The Perfect Sales Offer To Your Course?

Use the customer awareness spectrum to come up with ideas for content that meets your prospective student where they are.

Here are some examples of the types of messages and content types you should be thinking about at each stage.


  • Message
    • “Does this sound like you?” Help them recognize the problem you solve using their own words.
  • Content Types
    • Paid ads
    • Search engine optimized articles
    • Podcasts / YouTube Videos
    • Free Workshops
    • Any medium that reaches an audience not already familiar with you.

Problem Aware

  • Message
    • “I know how you feel, because I was once just like you. Here’s how I fixed the problem.” Sympathize and show them you understand their problem.
  • Content Types
    • Your personal story
    • Guest posts
    • Epic Long Blog Posts
    • Search engine optimized articles
    • Stories of failures or mistakes (and how to turn it around)
    • Toolkits and checklists that solve high-level problems

Solution Aware

  • Message
    • My solution is the best because…” “Here’s what you can expect when you work with me…” They know they want help, so show them why you are best placed to offer it.
  • Content Types
    • Twitter threads demonstrating your expertise.
    • Tutorials and How-To posts
    • News and research about your topic
    • AMAs
    • Community stories, questions, feedback, etc.
    • Success stories and case studies
    • Challenges to get them trying your solution

Product Aware

  • Message
    • “It’s time to buy, and here’s why…” They are almost ready to take action, but they need a last little push.
  • Content Types
    • Email sequences priming them to buy and announcing your course or that your cart is open
    • Sales pages
    • Calls to action

Most Aware

  • Message
    • “Take action now; don’t wait!” They are ready to take action, it’s time to close the sale.
  • Content Types
    • Your Perfect Sales Offer


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