I’ve built a profitable coaching business since 2013 based on my brand of honesty and integrity.
Naturally, in the beginning, this caused me some conflict and ethical dilemmas when it came to sales. The marketing tactics and strategies I was taught often conflicted with my values.
I was told to create scarcity even when there was abundance. I was pressured to give time constraints even when there was plenty of time. I was advised to dig into my client’s pain points when they were already suffering enough.
“Surely there’s a way to sell my coaching and products without selling my soul! There must be a way to make my sales targets without being salesy, or pushy, or manipulating in a harmful deceitful way.”
Thankfully, there is.
Selling doesn’t have to include manipulation, game play, seduction, lies, pressure, neediness, cut n paste tactics, focus on money, or selling something you don’t fully believe in.
In this article, I’m going to give you my top tips on how to sell through value-based and relationship-based methods that ensure your client always gets a good deal and you’re honest and transparent throughout the entire process.
Not only is this good for your soul, it’s actually super effective in creating trust-based long term relationships with clients who never feel buyers-remorse, never feel pressured or tricked, and always come out of it better than they went in.
Generate leads one at a time by giving value freely
Despite what everyone told me, I’ve never really needed to go “bulk” with my sales approach. Partly this is because I sell a high-ticket service that requires personal relationship building, but also you only need to go bulk when you’re applying a strategy that has a low conversion rate.
Building intimate personal relationships without the use of templates and funnels and clickbait means you get a much greater rate of engagement.
How do you build these relationships?
Using whatever information available to you, find something that you can do specifically for this one potential lead that will improve their life.
If they’re an artist, compliment their work and send them a screenshot of your promoting it on your social media.
If they’re in IT, connect them with a high profile agency that’s looking for new talent.
If they seem to have confidence issues, send them a video of you sharing your thoughts on their latest Facebook post and identifying the hidden strengths they have that they’re not aware of.
If they’re a leader, mail them a copy of your favourite leadership book with a note saying “Give me a call when you’re done and let me know what you thought of it”.
These are just random examples to open your eyes on how to blow someone’s mind with the power of your first approach.
Ensure every step of the interaction benefits the prospect
Before making contact with or responding to any of your leads, prospects or clients, always stop and ask yourself, “How do I make sure this improves their life?”
Make this your primary motive for all interactions, even more so than “getting the sale”.
From something as simple and effortless as emailing them a link to a study that they’d be interested in, to something as intensive as writing a full report on the performance of their website with tips on how to improve it, just make sure they always look forward to opening your message or answering your call.
This will also put you in a permanently Giving Mindset, which is a powerful frame for sales that completely changes it from getting something from them to creating something with them.
They will feel the difference.
Allow them to guide you on what they need
Rather than trying to convince them to buy a specific service or product that you already have in mind, you should focus on exploring what would improve their life.
Of course, you’ll be keeping your particular product in mind, but stay open to really exploring their issues, goals, dreams and preferences.
If you’re selling a range of education courses, for example, any “sales call” should essentially be them telling you which course would be best for them, through careful investigation of what education would be best for their long-term goals.
Remember: it might be that serving them now means referring them onto something or someone else that you don’t get a commission on. That’s fine.
If you want both sales and your integrity, think long term. They might not buy from you right now, but they’ll remember you as the guy who always looks out for their best interests.
Patience is the key.
If it’s not the product/service, give it away for free
A mistake especially made by entrepreneurs is they try to monetize everything.
I see coaches trying to sell courses, and putting ads on their YouTube videos, and trying to upsell coaching with books.
Get really clear on the ONE thing you sell. Then give anything else that’s valuable away for free.
If you interact with me (firstname.lastname@example.org), you can get my courses, videos, books, blog posts, podcast episodes, and anything else for free, even if it’s listed for sale somewhere.
Your first coaching session is even free. It’s only long-term coaching that I charge money for.
You want to not only stay in a Giving Mindset, but also make sure they’re saying to themselves, “If they give this awesome stuff away for free, imagine how amazing their [insert product/service] must be!”
Put yourself in their shoes
Sales reps and entrepreneurs and marketers often forget what it’s like to be on the receiving end.
Do you ever get a spam email trying to cold-sell you something and just think, “Did you really think I’d respond to this?!”
You might be shocked at how your leads feel about your reach outs and emails and cold calls.
Record and review your conversations. Put yourself in the receiving position and ask yourself, “How would I feel if this happened to me?”
If the answer is not respected, served, and excited to know more, then you’re doing it wrong.
Be transparent about your goals
I hate when a sales person pretends that selling isn’t happening, or is evasive about things like prices and their motives. Do they think I’m stupid? I know what’s happening here, so why hide it?
I once had a guy call me about a potential book collaboration, only to discover 45 mins into the call that he was actually giving me a sales pitch. What a waste of my time!
And the crazy thing was that the service he was selling was actually pretty decent. Had he just come at me direct, starting with serving me in a unique personal way, he probably would have got the sale.
It’s actually preferably to your prospects when you say something like,
“Full disclosure, I get a good commission if you buy this TV, but what’s more important to me is that you go home super happy with whatever purchase you make today, so let’s not get distracted by what I want for myself!”
I always tell my coaching prospects how I feel about our potential for working together for paid coaching; I always have my prices listed nice and clear on my website; and I even let them know if I’m particularly needy about money at the moment.
You don’t need to hide what you get out of this arrangement. They probably have guessed it already anyway, so now at least they know you don’t have hidden agendas. They relax when they know all cards are on the table, and it makes them better able to make a good decision (which is good for long term relationships).
Statements > questions
Questions can be a helpful tool in exploring things with your leads and prospects, but they also have a manipulative feel to them, and can lead to pressuring someone to buy in a way they later regret.
It’s amazing how easy it is to turn a question into a statement, and this forces you to increase your integrity while giving the prospect a sense of freedom and safety.
“What are you working on these days?” easily becomes, “I’d love to know how I could support you with your current goals.”
“Which of our products are you most interested in?” becomes, “If you tell me more about your needs, I can identify which product might suit you the best.”
“What are your frustrations with your current phone service?” turns into, “My main aim today is to provide you with something valuable that makes your office communications 10x easier, so I’m open to what you think that would be.”
Make a statement and then leave them to reply as they see fit. It takes all the pressure off and stops them from getting that feeling like you’re dragging them to some hidden pre-planned conclusion that only benefits you.
Take your time
Rushing to make a sale (which may even be something your manager or boss demands) is actually counterproductive to conversion rates in the long term. Many people say No just because they’re forced to make a quick high-pressure decision.
I know, I know! If people are left to think about things on their own for too long – especially high ticket items – then they tend to have a half-life motivation issue and lose interest and courage to purchase something they were previously excited about.
There’s a solution to this problem: Never let a sales call or contact end on a “Maybe”.
Always end it on a “No for now”, with some kind of follow up set in motion.
If someone isn’t enthusiastic about buying right now (after you’ve explored what they need and openly discussed how this relates to what you’re selling), understand that it isn’t over yet.
Many No’s are really just a “Not yet”.
If someone isn’t sure about signing up to coaching with me, I explore why they feel hesitant or unenthusiastic. If it’s a financial problem and my payment plans aren’t enough of a solution, I know that they don’t see it as valuable enough (yet) or they genuinely don’t have the money for this kind of luxury item.
In that case, I’ll either give them another trial session to see if that changes their mind, or I’ll support them online to help them improve their financial situation with a collaborative goal of getting them to a point where they can afford coaching.
Or I’ll recognise that we’re a bad fit for each other and move onto someone who appreciates my value more.
But don’t let people end on any form of “I’ll think about it.” However, rather than pushing for a Yes, you make it a No and give them a next step that’s a lesser commitment.
Collaborate on solutions
Assume your lead knows what’s best for themselves, and understand that if they co-create the solution they’re far more likely to purchase.
You might have a preferred package or service that you sell, but where possible be open to a modified version of it that suits this particular person.
Maybe it’s shorter and more intense. Maybe you start with a lower quantity as a taster. Maybe you offer a unique payment plan.
Get them to tell you what would need to happen for them to be excited about buying this thing (if that’s possible), and work with them to make it happen.
This does not include giving discounts just because the client is pushy about trying to pay less. If they genuinely have a finance issue, then payment plans are the only solution. Don’t degrade what you’re selling just because they’re a cheapo. If they really value it, they’ll pay full price one way or another.
Slow down on a Yes, respect a No
There’s a good reason a huge amount of online automated sales die at the “Checkout” stage, leaving virtual items forever trapped in virtual shopping carts.
People get excited about purchasing something new and valuable… until it comes time to part with their cash.
Nothing’s more heartbreaking for a service provider to have people asking to quit before starting and requesting refunds. This buyer’s remorse is often the result of a salesperson rushing a Yes and not making sure the person is totally ok with following through.
If someone says Yes, the next part of your conversation should be something along the lines of, “Let’s make sure you won’t regret this.”
Explore potential barriers or changes of heart that might happen later. Ensure that they have the support needed when panic sets in later (especially prevalent in high ticket sales). Make sure where possible they get a chance to really play with the thing or experience the service before they consider refunds and mind changes. Check to see if they fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into here.
You’d be amazed at how many people say Yes despite knowing that their partner has to OK it too. You might need to offer to speak with the partner.
Delay gratification and focus on long term relationships
Continuing on from the last point, a short-term Yes now might actually cost you in the long run.
Almost any successful business owner will confirm: real revenue comes from repeat business. The aim should be to create lifetime clients. This requires a patient mindset.
I’ll have a first time trial coaching session with a Uni student who doesn’t even know what he wants and can’t afford me. That’s OK, because with my ongoing service I’m going to be the only coach he thinks of 5 years from now when he is ready.
Make sure the main outcome in all interactions is that they feel powerfully served by you. Surprise them with your willingness to wait and meet them where they currently are. Stay focused on what’s best for them right now rather than your sales target.
In the long term, they’ll come to you again, and again.
When one of my clients nervously tells me that he’s ready to stop coaching for a while and try things on his own, I don’t try to convince him to keep going (I used to hate when my coaches did that with me – as if coaching is always appropriate right now).
Instead, I congratulate him on graduating and I genuinely mean it. I thank him for our work together and remind him that my door is open to him in the future. I ask him to keep me updated on his journey and to come to me for trouble-shooting any time he stumbles.
When my clients know they’re free to leave, they’re more likely to come back. I don’t look at them as a one-time sale. I look at them as my lifetime friend and client. I’m in it for the long run, and I love coming in and out of their lives at different stages.
Some of my former clients attended my wedding. And a couple of them have since hired me for more coaching work. This kind of Friend/Client relationship removes any need for tactics or techniques. I just serve people I love, and sometimes they pay me for my more intensive stuff.
Be direct when your product is the next step for them
While many of these steps might sound a bit like holding back on making the sale, it’s as important that you sell directly and firmly when it is the best thing for your client.
I don’t hesitate to tell someone, “I’ll be straight with you, with the goals you’re talking about it sounds like we should start our coaching work right now to get the best results. There’s nothing left to wait for.”
But only if it’s true.
I guess something important to mention is that all of this is really hard to do if you don’t believe in what you’re selling.
If you have sales skills but hate your current product, look around for a different job where you can sell something you believe is valuable, something you’d recommend to a friend or buy for yourself. Sales people are always in high demand, you don’t have to settle for selling shit.
The best arrangement is when you’re selling something that is the best way to support someone. My videos and courses etc. are helpful, but none of it improves someone’s life like my 1:1 coaching does, so it’s actually genuine for me to say that paid coaching is the best way for me to help someone.
When it’s like that, you’ll have no ethical issues escalating quickly to the main product. You only stop escalating when information comes up saying this is not the right time or the right thing for this person.
Stay in touch
It’s bizarre how many sales people focus their efforts on new leads.
A majority of your work should be repeat contact. First, contact people who are already clients. Remember, repeat business is best, so current and ex-clients should constantly be surprised by your ability to stay in touch and continuously add value, even when they’re not currently paying.
Next up is highly engaged people. Just because you didn’t make a sale on the first call doesn’t mean you dismiss the person. Keep serving them. Stay in the Giving Mindset.
Reaching out to new leads should only occur when you’re sure that there’s no one you’re closer to that you can serve today.
Last year a client paid me $18K for a coaching service, and he was an absolute delight to work with. This is the first time he’s paid for anything… I first met him 6 years ago, and have been in contact ever since. It was worth the wait.
Whether they’ve just purchased your product, or simply been in conversation with you, regularly ask for feedback. Aim to constantly become more valuable to your target audience.
Not only is this good for sales, but it keeps you in the Giving Mindset and shows them that you give a shit about what they want, need and dislike.
I once pumped out a series of templated emails (reluctantly) as part of a marketing course I was trying. A couple of my former clients reached out and said they were disappointed to see me suddenly acting like “all the other scammy coaches out there”. Ouch! But fair point.
So I stopped doing that.
Let your audience constantly improve you, and if you’re also the product designer or service provider as well as the seller, always consult your audience in the design phase.
If I’m designing a new course or coaching service, I go to my audience and say, “What do you want this to be?” And they always design it for me!
Which brings me to my final point…
Want to 10x your sales and your integrity this year?
I’m currently designing a group training mentorship program for sales reps, direct marketers, entrepreneurs, consultants and business owners who want to increase their sales and income without decreasing their values and integrity.
This program will teach anyone involved directly in sales:
- How to approach and connect with new leads personally in a unique valuable way that eliminates your competition for their attention while ethically bypassing their mental spam filters
- How to attract interested prospects who genuinely want to connect with you through easy-to-create high impact content marketing so that you feel completely certain that they’re keen for what you sell, feel in control of lead generation, and you have fun with the process
- How to encouage an honest and unique conversation that escalates quickly towards either sales or a long term relationship that you both find highly valuable
- How to sell without using any sales techniques, just serving, showing merit through proof, and building trust ethically
- How to maintain long term connections with clients and prospects that feel more like friendships so that the sales side of your work is also the most emotionally rewarding and gives you a sense of human connection
- And how to become the only person they ever think of when it comes to your product or service, ensuring that there is no competition for you, and complete clarity and security for them
I haven’t fleshed out all the details yet, but it will involve a combination of training discussions about principles and techniques mixed with live 1:1 coaching on specific real life sales and relationship issues that will benefit everyone in the group.
You’ll be able to bring current sales situations to the group and myself and get laser-focused feedback on the best approach, while carefully ensuring it all aligns with your values so that whether you make the sale or not, you sleep well at night!
If you’re keen for that, get in touch email@example.com with your feedback on what this course would need to be highly valuable to you, and I’ll keep you posted on the developments.
P.S. For a deeper dive into all this, check out my 1 hour podcast on authentic sales techniques and strategies here: