I have been running a pretty successful business for the last 3 years and wanted to share what I've learned during that time. Actually, I wanted to give you the one thing that had the most impact and allowed me to make more revenue than anything else. All of the bigger names in this forum know how to do this, and it's the main reason why they are able to consistently make revenue over and over and over again.
Now, before I tell you the secret... I want to tell you what it is not:
It is not passion. Passion for what you do is great, but you won't make a dime if you able to translate that passion into a product or service.
It is not creating a product or service. It doesn't matter how many things you make or promote if nobody is willing to buy them.
It is not SEO. I have a number of niche sites and while they do make me money, they also fluctuate and my success with them is dependent on search engine algorithms.
It is not having a big email list. Tons of people on this forum say that the money is in the list. Yes, there is money in the list, but with the one thing I can make more money from 1 person than I can with a 10K list in most cases (big lists are awesome though).
Okay enough lead in... want to know the secret?
Learn how to sell!
I don't see this talked about too much on the forums - and when it is, it's usually in relation to copywriting. However, there is so much more to selling than just copy. Selling is a mindset that works with every product or service whether they are online or offline.
For example, I sell a lot of my premium Wordpress plugins simply by answering customer support questions a certain way that come from free plugins that I have. I also routinely sell web development services that range from 5K - 15K when my competitors charge in the hundreds (*shudder*).
So... how do you learn how to sell?
There are a ton of resources out there, but let me share some quick tips.
1. Sell something that you believe in - If you are in business just to make money and not to benefit people, you will lose 95% of the time. If you are selling a product or service (even if it isn't your own) make sure that you truly believe in the product and that it is something that you would tell a family member to buy.
2. Realize that selling isn't dirty - This follows from #1. There is nothing wrong with sales. In fact, if you are convincing someone to buy a product that will improve their quality of life, that's a noble thing! Get in the mindset that you are helping people.
3. People only buy for 2 reasons - No matter what you are trying to sell, all of your prospects will buy for one of two reasons. The first reason is for pleasure (e.g. "Buy this trip to Hawaii now and enjoy a relaxing week). The second is to relieve a pain (e.g. "Tired of spending 60 hours a week trying to get your business of the ground? Angry that you can't support your family? Try this push-button automatic method to success!"). People buy for no other reason.
4. Prospects buy because of pain more than pleasure - Why is the insurance industry booming? Why do online backup services do well? Because people don't want to feel pain and will buy to relieve that pain far more than they will for pleasure. If you don't believe me why aren't you in Maui right now?
5. Ask painful questions - The more painful questions that you ask, the more your prospect will see that they have a big problem that only your product can solve. With all of your products or services, have 3 -5 earth shatteringly painful questions that you can ask to make then need what you are selling (e.g. "How much revenue do you think you lost last year because you didn't have a membership site that upsells every customer automatically?")
6. Never give anything away for free - When you give things away for free there is no value exchange and it's human nature to devalue the person giving away the free product or service. What you make is too good to give away for free. Now, does that mean you shouldn't give away a free ebook in exchange for emails? No, there is still a value exchange when someone give you the permission to contact them.
7. Never discount without value exchanges - I have prospects asking me to lower my prices all the time - and the answer is no! Never lower your price without something in return. Think about it, if you are working with a vendor and they lower their price because of your haggling - they have effectively told you that their product isn't worth the original cost and that they are just trying to gouge you. If you are going to discount anything always ask for something in return (guaranteed reviews, testimonials, a service from them, 3 referrals to other business owners, etc). Aside from avoiding the chance of devaluing yourself, it makes them want to deal with your more because by saying no you become the hot girl at school. (note: #4 and #7 alone allow me to charge more than 6x my offline competition and 2x my online competition).
8. Build relationships - When all things are equal, people want to do business with people that they like. When things are unequal, people still do business with people they like. The reason why big lists aren't what you need to succeed is because if nobody trusts you on that list, nobody is going to buy from you. Teach them to trust you by finding out their pains and pleasures and by listening to them - even through your autoresponders.
Anyway, long post short - learn to sell and you will be successful. Find your prospect and convince them as to why they need what you have to offer.
Now, a lot of smarter Warriors can chime in and offer more valuable tips .