[385] How to sell on Instagram Stories (without feeling sleazy)

Instagram Stories is a fantastic tool you can use to attract your ideal customers/clients.

But if you’re not familiar with how it works, it can all feel a bit confusing.

In this podcast episode I explain how to use Instagram Stories to make more sales in your business, including what kind of content you should be sharing (and how often) and how to use quizzes/polls and other interaction functions to find people who are interested in your products/services. PLUS how to get your Instagram followers buying from your stories.

{Click on the player above to listen to the podcast episode and/or read on for a detailed overview. Scroll down to the bottom to read the show notes including all the links mentioned in this episode}

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram has three main parts. 

  1. Your main grid, where you can upload photos and short videos. 
  2. Stories – which appear in a bar at the top of your feed – where you can share short videos, pictures and images (each Story is a maximum 15 seconds). You can also add text, gifs, polls, quizzes and other interactive features. Instagram Stories content only last for 24 hours (but you can save your highlights).
  3. IGTV – a long-form vertical video channel that is accessible from Instagram and as a standalone app

You can share your content between your grid, Stories and IGTV to get it in front of a wider audience. 

What is Instagram Stories?

Instagram Stories appear in a bar at the top of your feed. When there’s something new to see on an account of someone you follow, you’ll notice their profile photo will have a colourful ring around it.

To view someone’s story, you simply need to tap on their profile photo, and their story will appear full-screen, showing you all of the content they’ve posted in the last 24hrs.  The content will play in chronological order from oldest to newest.

Once you’re viewing a story, you can tap to go back and forward or swipe to jump to another person’s story. Unlike regular posts, there are no likes or public comments. Anyone who comments go straight into your DMs (direct messages). This can be a great way to build relationships with prospective customers/clients.

The great thing about Instagram Stories is that your content only lasts for 24 hours. This can be great if you’re nervous about putting yourself out there. But you can save your best content as ‘highlights’ (more on that later). 

How should the content you post in Stories differ from the content you post on your grid?

As with any social media, there is really no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do it, but my account is probably ‘typical’ of what most Instagram users do. The content on my grid is more ‘curated’ than my Instagram Stories and has a consistent aesthetic (i.e. I used the same brand fonts and colours).  My Instagram Stories is a bit more ‘rough and ready’ – and often features ‘behind-the-scenes’ content that relates to my life and business. 

What makes an engaging Instagram Story?

The clue is in the name: Story. And a story generally needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Or at least some kind of ‘narrative’  you can follow. 

One of the most confusing things about Instagram Stories is that you’ll often hear people talking about each individual image/15 second video clips as a ‘story’. So for the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to them as ‘chapters’ which make up a whole Story. 

While there are no hard and fast rules on how long your Instagram Stories, should be, it’s worth remembering that most people are scrolling through. So if your Story is too long and/or doesn’t grab their attention in the first few moments, they’ll scroll past and start looking at someone else’s story. For this reason, I’d generally recommend creating putting together no more than about seven to ten individual ‘chapters’ to make longer Stories). However, with some Stories e.g. if you are talking to camera, you may need to make them a little longer. 

Here are my tips for making them engaging.

1.Start with a question that introduces the theme of your Story and invites viewers to get in a conversation with you e.g. ‘Are you thinking of launching a podcast in 2020?’ ‘Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?’ or ‘Here’s my to-do list for today. What’s the ONE thing you absolutely have to get done today?’

You can use the question, polls or quiz function but keep it really simple. If people have to think too hard, they’ll be far less likely to respond.

  1. Use a variety of media within each Story e.g. video, photos, text, you talking to camera.
  2. Keep your story visually interesting by using gifs and borders and stickers
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one question in your story. This helps to keep viewers engaged.
  4. Have ONE clear call-to-action at the end of each Story you create e.g. ‘Swipe up to read’ or ‘DM me to find out more,.’ Any more than one call-to-action and you may leave your viewers feeling overwhelmed.

How to sell in your Instagram Stories

There is no big ‘secret’ on how to sell in your Instagram Stories. It’s simply about getting your viewers involved in a conversation about the product/service you want to sell. And the key to starting sales conversations is to focus on the problem your product/service solves. This helps you identify those who already have the desire for your product/service.  

So, for example, with my podcasting course How To Get Your Podcast Live in 60 Days, I might start my Story with a poll: ‘are you interested in launching a podcast in 2020?’. Then I might share some information about the course before finishing up with a single call-to-action: ‘Interested in finding out more? DM me for a link to the waitlist.’

This gives me two opportunities to identify the key element that is needed for someone to make a purchase: desire. Then I can simply reach out to them and give them more information. And they’re not going to feel uncomfortable about it – because they expressed their desire to start a podcast and/or their desire to find out more about my course. 

Similarly with my 2020 Social Media Diary & Planner, I’ll often start by asking a question e.g. ‘Do you sometimes find it difficult to stick to a content plan?’ Then I’ll share some pictures/video of the diary – along with some text that summarises what’s included.  Then I’ll give a single call-to-action e.g. ’DM me for the link to order’.

AsI have over 10k followers on Instagram, you might be wondering why I invite people to DM me, rather than just give them the link. This is because it initiates a conversation. If we’re already chatting in the DMS, it’s much easier for someone to raise a question/objection about the diary – which is far more likely to result in a sale. If I simply send them off to a link, I may never hear from them again.

Another powerful way to sell in your Instagram Stories is to share client/customer testimonials – ideally ones that address your most common objections. For example, if the most common objection you get for signing up for your online course/membership is ‘I can’t afford it’ – share screenshots from clients telling you how much money they’ve made from implementing your strategies.

And do remember that you can use Stories to ‘sell’ anything – and not just your products/services. For example, you can use exactly the same process to get people involved in a conversation about your latest blog/podcast and create the desire for them to listen to it. 

Dealing with objections in your Instagram Stories

It’s one thing creating a story about your product service with a call-to-action at the end. But if you really want to boost your sales, you need to create a series of Stories that address your ideal customers/clients objections. For example, one question I kept getting asked about my podcasting course was: ‘how will having a podcast actually help me in my business?’ So I polled my clients to find out how they found me. Most said they found me via my podcast, so I shared the result of that poll in my Stories.

I also asked some fellow podcasters how having a podcast had helped them in their business – and shared screenshots of their responses in my Stories. Their answers – which ranged from ‘it’s helped me make more money’ to ‘it’s helped me get booked for more speaking gigs’ are a powerful way to tackle that objection.

Even when you are tackling objections, it’s still important to keep your Stories interactive. So when I was tackling that particular objection, I opened my story by asking viewers if they ever wondered what was the point of starting a podcast.

Using highlights to sell on Instagram Stories

Although Stories disappear in 24 hours, you can save them in the highlights section (just about your grid) and continue to make sales. For example, I have a highlight for my 2020 Social Media Diary & Planner, which features dozens of pictures of people using their diary, along with a video of me giving a tour of the diary. People often respond to this highlight and ask me questions e.g. ‘Do you deliver to x country?’ or ‘what’s the delivery time for y?” Because their responses go straight into my DMs, we are straight into a sales conversation.

For this reason, I’d recommend having a highlight section for your key products/services.

Podcast shownotes

  • What are Instagram Stories and how do you use them/find them? (3:38)
  • What sort of content should you post on Instagram Stories compared to the grid (6:31)
  • What makes up an Instagram Story and what should you put in them? (8:25)
  • What should you put in your Instagram Story to make sales and how long should it be? (10:05)
  • How to ask questions in Instagram Stories and get people engaged in conversation (11:19)
  • Why you need to get people to DM (direct message) you to get sales rather than just send them a link (16:30)
  • Key tips for Instagram Stories and and why you should have one call to action for people to take (17:21)
  • How to start selling in Instagram Stories by finding out if there is desire for your product or service (19:01)
  • Key points for structuring your Instagram Story to make sales and start conversations  (22:48)
  • How to draw people to you in Instagram Stories by using using testimonials (26:23)
  • How to use FOMO in Instagram Stories to sell your product or service (29:56)
  • Why you won’t feel salesy or pushy if you’ve started a conversation with people from your  Stories (32:00)
  • How to address fears or concerns about your product by using Instagram polls to start conversations (35:08)
  • Why using Instagram Story highlights will make sales for your products or services (37:21)


Janet Murray Instagram  @Janmurrayuk

Want to start your own podcast? Sign up for my podcasting course. 

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