Fake It ‘Til You Make It: The Art of Pre-Selling

Fake It ‘Til You Make It: The Art of Pre-Selling
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You are already pre-selling, you just don’t know it (or maybe you do). Your profile on social media, the way you dress, the way you talk, and even the way you walk is pre-selling. As a startup founder, you are constantly in sales mode. When you walk into a networking event with potential investors, your pitch is pretty much either the confirmation of what they already thought of you or the nail in the coffin.

However, the art of pre-selling goes beyond personal appearances. Pre-selling is the exact thing many startups need to determine whether or not they actually have a viable idea. Could you be so bold to offer an idea you haven’t built yet in exchange for commitments or money? If no one is willing to actually take money out of their wallet and pay for it, why bother? At least, get an email address!

My favorite example of pre-selling is Dropbox. Dropbox founder Drew Houston didn’t actually have the technology fully built when selling his idea of Dropbox to potential early adopters. So he made a video pretty much “faking it till he made it.” That video is still online today:

One of the largest pre-selling machines today is Kickstarter. If crowdfunding had been big back when Drew made this video, it could have been a great way to raise funds. The elements of a great Kickstarter campaign are the same when it comes to pre-selling.

The purpose of [pre-selling] is not to deceive people. The purpose is to verify the idea matters to your prospects and get revenue first so you can build something awesome. – Dane Maxwell

I have personally and successfully taught pre-selling to my clients and several entrepreneurs. But the success heavily relies on two things: Is the demand big enough? Can the founder deliver on the promises? Keep those in mind.

The recipe is simple…

Great Copy

The best pitch is usually the product by itself. Someone has a problem that is so bad, you present your product which just solves it for them. Once you pass that point, it’s all about the sales copy. Learn how to use words to get people excited and ready to buy. I review how to do both of these in my idea validation post.

Know How Much It Will Cost

How much will this project cost to make? It matters. You will have to factor in how much a developer costs if you aren’t coding it yourself. The same goes for designers, marketers, etc. Knowing your number can also give you a good picture of how many people you need to pre-purchase. Have to sell at least $10K to make this dream real? Get 50 people to pay you $200.


Just like Kickstarter funders, people expect and need rewards. If you are using Kickstarter to fund your business, great, you have no choice but to give people something. If you’re not giving anything, you’d better consider creating some kind of bonus offer to the people who show up first. The more rewards, the merrier. Feed me!

Social Proof

People want to know who they are dealing with. What have you done before? Have you been featured in any major news outlets? Have you partnered with any big clients? Did you even work in the industry before pitching this idea? Who cosigns you?

The answers to these aren’t necessarily going to break you, and they can help tremendously.


If your idea doesn’t work out, can you be honest with your customers as to why? Can you give the money back? Definitely do not consider pre-selling if you can’t say “YES” to those two questions.

Take what you just learned and apply it to your latest project. Feel free to give me a shout on Twitter at @anthonyfrasier if you have some ideas you want to run by me. Best of luck!