If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that selling your coaching programs and offers can bring up a lot of resistance.
It feels like a necessary evil – something to get good at so you can get more clients and do more coaching, even though you can’t stand doing it.
And I’m not excited about mastering specific sales strategies to become great at selling.
Because selling is not exciting to me.
Marketing absolutely is, which is why I dedicate so many strategies to creating great marketing.
The kind of marketing that shares value and creates connection, both of which are at the heart of sales too – but I just like to do it in advance of a sales conversation, and that sometimes means I don’t have to practice selling so much – mainly because the marketing does it for me!
But I do believe that connected conversation with potential clients has a role in moving your life coaching business forward and given that it’s tough to convert $5K plus coaching packages on webinars and in launches, sometimes you need to build some selling skills.
And I know that most of you are probably like me and feel that sales aren’t something that comes naturally.
If you’re generating leads and having enrolment conversations to get new clients, getting better at sales is a means to an end because when you get better at it, you get more clients more easily and you can quickly move to help them transform through your coaching, skills, and expertise.
And you avoid spending more time on calls that go nowhere rather than an end in a paying client.
I remember my very first full-time job out of university was in sales.
I was 20 years old and I finished my Bachelor of Business in Property, a real estate degree that actually could have opened doors to a high-level career in a corporate property (and it did), but the role that made sense at the time was selling land packages to families looking to build a home in the brand new area of Golden Grove in South Australia.
Now, I had never sold anything except shoes at a clothing store and my classes at school or university never covered the topic of sales, so to say I was green was a complete understatement.
I had zero clue how to effectively sell more $50,000 parcels of land than what the people who walked through the door to the sales floor were already going to buy anyway.
Essentially, I was an order-taker, but my best friend’s mum also worked on the sales floor and while I made a couple of sales a month, she regularly made 15 or more.
And given her commission was about $1500 a block, she was making great money for 1994!
And I used to look at it from the outside in and I couldn’t really understand why she was getting those results and I wasn’t.
But now that I look back on it, this is the best kind of sales, the selling you can’t see.
Selling that builds connection and empathy and earns natural influence is the kind of selling that feels aligned, is sustainable, and gets results for you AND your clients.
And regardless of your thoughts about sales, that’s the approach we can all get behind as life coaches.
Because despite our hopes and dreams that our coaching, services, offers, and programs are so good they should be able to sell themselves…
Everything needs to be sold.
There’s a legendary advertising campaign in Australia for fly spray.
It’s all about Louie The Fly for Mortein Fly Spray.
Yes, even fly spray needs to be sold.
Something with a clear and effective solution to a common problem needs to be sold.
And so does your coaching.
But just as the Mortein campaign resonated because of creating a personality and story for a fly, you too can make selling fun, interesting and engaging enough to dramatically improve your results, get more clients and make more money.
Like Zig Ziglar says:
“You can have everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.”
So, I challenge you to embrace the art of empathic selling for the benefit of removing some of the barriers between your prospective clients and your coaching, so that they can have an easier and more clear path to working with you, learning from you, getting the benefits of the transformation that you offer.
I really resonate with empathic selling more than straight-out traditional selling which can often feel pushy and manipulative.
Empathic Selling is the willingness and ability to put yourself into the mental and emotional position of your potential client when you make offers – either on a call, a face-to-face conversation, or even a webinar.
You not only acknowledge their current position but also invite them to step up and practice being their highest self, so they can move towards their true potential by owning the barriers that stand in their way to move past them and get what they want.
The reason they’re connecting with you is that they’re unhappy with their current situation, and most of us know that we often need guidance, support, or assistance to move past a painful problem or to overcome a persistent block to success or positive change.
And they do too.
They’re usually unhappy with something in their life and long to change it and your coaching presents an opportunity for them to make that change.
By sharing your value in your marketing and really understanding what is going on for them, you will stand out as a desirable opportunity for them.
Empathic selling will help you facilitate that change by empowering them instead of persuading them.
You aren’t a manipulator or force for change, rather you become the inspiration and guide to them owning the change.
You don’t want to position yourself as a saviour, because that brings up their victim identity – and this is easy to create when you use some traditional marketing and sales techniques.
Things like big money promises, bold claims, and heaping on tons of scarcity can all activate a victim identity in your clients which can be hugely problematic not only during the sales process but also through the coaching delivery and final results.
It adds unnecessary pressure to you and your clients and will only reinforce your aversion to selling.
But when you start making offers using an empathic selling approach you avoid this dynamic and instead empower yourself and your clients towards the results they are longing for.
It also takes your marketing and messaging full circle, by bringing them to the decision that’s right for them.
Your marketing has spoken to them in a way that makes them feel seen, heard, and recognized as part of your mission, and then when it comes time to make the decision to join you in your offer, this should feel like a natural step with maximum comfort and security.
It works beautifully with those leads that come naturally to you via social contacts and referrals, but when it truly becomes magical is when you combine it with the kind of connected marketing that does so much of the selling before you even talk to someone.
And that’s the approach I teach of super-targeted messaging and value-led marketing that delivers massive amounts of value and shifts towards transformation before anyone even buys from you.
This improves your opportunity to move people from interested to paying coaching clients because it builds desire and creates demand for you and your coaching before you get to the point where they actually say yes and invest.
But even when that is done well, you will still encounter some shifts and when they happen, they cause great conversations to go nowhere and you miss out on the potential clients because of something you said or did in a conversation.
And although we don’t want to be attached to an outcome, discovery calls take time and energy, and if many of these are leading nowhere, then you need some direction.
Because when you’re sharing your approach, ideas, and value in webinars, podcasts, videos, posts, and blogs it’s like your audience is totally connected and inspired – even enough to apply to have a further conversation with you about coaching together.
It’s like they’re nodding up and down and feeling connected and excited for the change.
And then, when you get them on a call and ask that question that says, “Let me invite you to decide to move forward with coaching together,” this is where the conversation begins to twist and turn.
Anybody can take a connection up to that point, but once you reach that point, all of the things that you’ve said before have built the foundation for where you go from there, and all of the things you say going forward make a big difference to whether or you bring on this person as a paying client and also to what extent they will create the results you promise.
When we get on a discovery call with a potential coaching client, we spend time talking through their barriers, challenges and obstacles from their unique perspective.
Not as a way to “twist the knife” but instead as an opportunity to build connection and recognition of what their problem is blocking them from.
To build empathy for them.
It’s important here to release yourself from what you want the prospect to say, and listen to what they are saying – in their own words.
And just as in a coaching session, hold the space for that and take note of how they describe what’s going on so you can discern between fact and perception and get curious about what’s really going on for them and what they believe is possible
When you empathise and seek to find out what they want, rather than trying to twist and turn and move their agenda around to align with your best outcome you will enjoy the process so much more.
Of course, it’s uncomfortable to ask them powerful questions about what’s going on for them with the problem they’ve been dealing with, but together you walk through what’s going on and how they’re showing up in the problem so you can investigate the solution together.
Then we get to the point where we go to make a decision and we share with them: “I have an idea.”
Then we propose our idea in relation to what that client has shared and your assessment of the opportunity for transformation for this specific person based on your offer.
If you share with them, “I have a coaching program” they immediately switch out of their emotion to process this new information.
They’ve acknowledged what’s not working and how that’s blocking them from the success they want and how working together with you could be the next big step.
They’ve identified the solution together with you.
You say, “I have a program,” and their brain processes: “What do I think about coaching programs?”
Or maybe you say “I coach my clients one-on-one for 6 months.”
They then go into “What do I think about committing for 6 months?”
Perhaps you offer “I have my course.”
They think “I’ve bought so many courses and I’ve never done anything with them.”
We want to make the information as much about what the client wants and eliminate conversation about what we are DOING.
The prospective client does not want what we are doing.
They want what they need DONE.
Our doing of things is a means to that end.
At the time you make an offer, you need to be clear and compelling as it relates to the client’s perspective and point of view otherwise we risk a disconnect and slipping into pushy energy.
You want to pull back from any complexity, logistics, or unnecessary facts at this stage as it will block the flow that leads to a paying client.
And expect your resistance to increase to making offers in this way.
It’s uncomfortable, not because you are asking them to pay you for coaching, but because you moved into offer details rather than staying in the natural flow of desire and inspiration that the client is connected to.
It’s like a barrier goes up as soon as you make an offer and you undo all the good work you’ve done up to this point.
When I’m making my offer, I coach life coaches in groups to get more high-paying clients or privately if they want a more custom solution. I just tell the client, “I have a small group of about a dozen coaches that I meet with weekly.”
Now they know what’s going to happen from their point of view. They can come together with a dozen coaches weekly.
“We all come together on a call and discuss some things.”
Oh, I will get to ask questions and discuss my business with other coaches like me.
Then the results that I share with them that we are going to get, my focus is going to be on the results that they’ve said they want, provided I can deliver those results and those results are within my capability and expertise.
I don’t spend equal time going through all the results because they said they want to get a specific result.
Provided my program can get that specific result, I tell them, we’re going to do this particular thing and it’s going to get that result that they wanted.
This is only at the end of the conversation and for the shortest possible time.
So many sales conversations start when your potential client asks how they can work with us and what it costs in the first few minutes of the conversation.
And then we believe that’s a green light to go ahead and describe all the details of our offer.
The potential client is not even aware of what they’re missing out on and whether moving forward with you is a good fit or not, until we have the conversation around how the problem is showing up in their life and investigating the solution.
Before we make an offer we must eliminate the expected tendency to “turn away from the problem”.
Before you make the offer, in this decision phase, we have to find out what it costs for that person to stay where they are.
And this takes time.
So when they want to ask you about your offer straight away on a call, especially if they ask how much you charge, you say, “I don’t sell a financial offer.”
It’s not about the price.
There is always a cost to staying where they are.
And it’s our role to explore that without getting distracted by commerce.
Empathy is about understanding motivation, thoughts, and desires – not whether someone wants to pay a certain amount of money or say yes.
The details of the offer are a distraction that blocks your understanding, them feeling understood and the building of desire to move forward if it is the right move for them.
If someone is single and they think they’re unlovable and they’ll never meet anyone, then the cost is not how much your program is, it’s how many more days are you willing to get ignored when you send a text message to that attractive person you’re interested in, or to be the only one who isn’t approached when you head out for Friday night drinks with a bunch of girlfriends?
How many more days are you willing to experience this before you make a shift?
That’s what it’s costing, in the order of days. How much longer are you willing to carry this, then state what the explicit cost is to them.
How do we know what it’s costing them?
They told us earlier in the conversation.
You have asked them exactly what their challenge is, specifically how it’s impacting them, and precisely what some of the feelings are that they feel when they experience this.
They know what it costs. They’ve told us what it costs them.
We just ask them, “How much longer do you want to experience this cost?”
They tell us.
We decide whether that client is a great candidate for the work we do and the offer we have.
Not how we can bend over backward and build something new that fits in with them, not that we need to meet a sales target so they better say yes, or that we’d be crushed if they said no.
Instead, from a place of certainty, you say to them, “I’ve got an idea. I don’t want to see you keep doing this.”
It’s the comparative cost of where they are. “I don’t want to see you staying in that situation where you’re constantly getting passed over and counting yourself out from the connection you long for.”
“I’m not satisfied with knowing that you continually get passed over for dates because of something that is in your power to change.”
“I’m disappointed that the potential dates you are reaching out to aren’t moving to a place of more connection, despite your best efforts.”
“I’m disappointed that you’re not finding the best potential partners out there”.
“I am not happy with this any more than you are. If you’ve said that you want to make a shift and get these results immediately, then let’s work together to get these.
I have an idea.
I’m bringing a few people together in a group.
We’ll learn how to get past the invisible barriers we build to lasting love. We’ll learn how to get you back into a space of dating confidence that doesn’t have this pain you just described that you’re trying to get rid of.
If your offer has a specific start date, you’re going to share the date and make sure that the date itself is not a challenge. We don’t want that brought back up later. We want to eliminate that as a challenge.
It’s much easier for them to remove all of the go-to objections before sharing the price, so you know you are actually dealing with a price objection.
There’s nothing that your prospect wants more than to gather information about what you have to offer.
Especially the price and logistics.
And until you have revealed all that information, they are as connected and focused and likely inspired by the desire for change and how you can help them transform.
They’re going to give you this information or they’re going to give you a question: “Wait just a minute. I have another question about how your program works.”
You can address those questions but realize there are typically only about three general categories of objections I’ve ever heard.
The first of those is, quite simply, “I don’t trust you.” They can state that in several different ways, but that’s what they’re saying. Listen carefully for that.
Ensure that during your conversation you don’t do anything that gives them cause not to trust you.
We often set up a lack of trust by being casual with our conversation.
And that leads to them not trusting us because we didn’t offer what they wanted to buy.
Instead of listening to them, we were so ready to talk about how we can help them that we forgot to listen for what they actually wanted.
They can’t trust us because we didn’t listen and hear them.
Be inquisitive. Find out exactly what is going on for them and what options they are open to.
Make sure that you diagnose what their current situation is blocking them from and how it is holding them back before you prescribe your coaching.
Before you make a prescription, make sure that you make a specific diagnosis. What is it you’re using this for?
And when you let them realize the cost of staying where they are is far more than the cost of moving forward coaching with you, based on their discussion with me in the moments prior.
I’m being very clear in my language and not giving them any reason to distrust me by being very careful in my language.
What’s even more powerful, more believable, and leads to more trust is, “Based on what I’ve heard, this would be great. I think this would help a whole lot with that challenge that you’re facing. I think it would be worth the investment. I feel quite confident you’d be happy, should you move forward.”
All of those are far more truthful statements than, “This is the best thing for you. This always does this, this always does that. This never does this, this never does that.”
The second reason many of our calls go nowhere is that the potential clients don’t trust themselves.
And rather than jumping in to rescue them, you can agree with them and probe and explore using their statements, much like you would in a coaching scenario.
Getting them to see their thoughts and look for their solutions.
Like with money…
Or if they’ve tried things before and don’t know if they can make it work.
Don’t try and push them on this, just ask questions to get their beliefs and statements and agree if necessary.
Don’t try and explore ways to solve their objections, just illuminate these and ask if that’s a belief they want to keep.
So when they aren’t trusting themselves and rather than jumping in to rescue them, you can agree with them and probe and explore using their statements.
Listen for how you can agree with people and allow their own response to that agreement back to where they start seeking to become a better person.
Potentially you could ask something along the lines of:
Is not trusting yourself going to get you the result that you shared earlier on our call?”
“Have you considered finding a scenario where you could trust yourself?”
The third common block to the flow of a conversation with a potential client is their option to choose to wait and decide at a later date.
This is common, even when you know they would be a good fit as a client.
A thought has popped up in their mind and they want to buy time because they feel scared, and we understand this.
You can explain that progress and momentum and taking the leap to transform will always feel uncomfortable and often scary, but it doesn’t mean it’s a reason not to move forward.
And you can also share with them that their choice to wait does not get the result or the specific benefits they shared that they wanted so much at the start of the conversation as you diagnosed what was going on for them.
You may also offer that you choose to work with those who are willing to decide to shift, so they may not be a fit.
Let them know they can choose to coach with someone less decisive, but you choose to coach with decisive people because you know they get way better results.
You say, “I don’t want to see you stay like this. You said you would like to make a move from this. I would like to see that as well. Let’s make that happen together. Here’s the date. Are there any questions about this? Does the date work for you? Are there any questions about how you access the program? Would you like to join us?”
It’s important to understand the difference between yes, no, and a question.
When you ask a question that should get a yes or no answer, your expectation is that you get a yes or a no.
And this can feel challenging at first.
Many people are not used to that level of clarity.
They want to be polite or think they should accept whatever the client asks.
But this isn’t building empathy, it is absolving them of the responsibility of their own thoughts and what it takes to get the result they want.
If you’re going to make offers successfully, especially on calls, you need to make sure you manage that point of clarity by asking the question again.
The answer that you get is not sufficient unless it is a yes or no when the question begs for a yes or a no.
“Does that date work for you?”
“I don’t know. What’s the price?”
“If the date doesn’t work for you, the price of the event is irrelevant. You can skip it altogether if the date doesn’t work. Let’s just look back at that calendar and see if the date works.”
Once you get that, you can share with them the details of what’s going on.
You can say, “We’re going to get about 12 people together. We’re going to go through all of this. We’re going to answer all of the challenges you’ve just observed. It’s going to solve this problem that you said is massive. Is this something you would like to be involved in?”
They may say, “I need to know what the investment is.”
I’m not asking them if it’s something they want to invest in.
I’m asking them if it’s something they want to be involved in.
Remember, take your steps slowly through agreement and make sure that if there is going to be a situation where they are making objection based on price, that you’ve removed every other possible reason for that objection – and you then know it is price and only price.
You have it down to the point where you can just discuss the investment once you get to that point.
You don’t want to have to distract yourself by thinking you need to convince them or dive into further objection-handling at the point where they should agree to join your program.
We want to make sure we can remove them considering anything other than price.
Then we can prevent ourselves from even making the offer.
That opens up the possibility that they will invest with us in the future because they haven’t heard the most valuable thing about the sales conversation for them, which is how much we’re charging.
Having the clarity of their yes and no goes beyond price resistance.
But as you seek the clarity of yes and no, there’s a common mistake when you accept that there’s a third answer, which is maybe.
Maybe will not move any conversation forward and it serves neither you nor your prospective clients.
If successful, a conversation using this empathic selling approach will result in a yes or a no.
The definition of a sales conversation results in getting a clear yes, with an investment, or a clear no from someone with the power to have said yes.
What do you do when you get someone on who can’t invest the money? You sell something else – a VIP session or a self-study option.
We have a yes and we have a no. We don’t have a maybe. Many people think that the absence of a no is a maybe.
The absence of no is never a maybe. The absence of a yes with payment is a clear no.
If you treat it as such and move your energy on to the next call, you will preserve your energy and make more sales faster, hopefully removing your resistance to having more of these kinds of conversations and also getting more motivated clients who get better results too.
I hope you’ve got some insights from this approach and I’m sure by embracing Empathic Selling you will get way better outcomes from your conversations.
Want to see how you could create an online client pipeline that leads to more connected conversations? Take a look at my latest class here.