If You Can’t Sell, You Can’t Coach 1

Note: Part 2 of this post on selling can be found here.

I sent out a newsletter last week asking life coaches how I could help them.

About 25 people e-mailed me back with questions covering a whole gamut of coaching related topics.

I answered all via e-mail, but one had me shaking my head somewhat.

Not the question itself because it was excellent, but the fact that I can only ever remember being asked about the sales aspect of coaching once before.

It’s almost as though most coaches seem to think they’re not salespeople.

Or possibly more accurately, it may be that most coaches simply don’t stop to think that they are in the sales business.

Well here’s a news flash: You’re a salesperson

Therefore, you can learn the basics and exponentially improve the likelihood of converting prospects into paying clients.

Or you can ignore it and watch the coaches who can sell and who also understand marketing, take your clients from under your nose.

If You Can’t Sell, You Can’t Coach

Let’s face it, sales is a dirty word to a great many people, maybe even you?

It conjures up images of fat, sweaty men in ill fitting suits trying to convince you that they’re actually about to lose money on the car you’re interested in buying because you’re driving such a hard bargain. 

Or door-to-door salespeople using high pressure sales tactics whilst adopting slimy smiles and refusing to take no for an answer.

Or store assistants who would ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ about how gorgeous you looked in the purple and yellow trash bag and the pair of oversized orange clown shoes you’ve just slipped into.

And if the reputation of salespeople wasn’t bad enough, the Internet has bred an entirely new type of salesperson/online marketer, operating from a keyboard and often in anonymity.

Sales Tactics

They often know how to write sales copy that can make you want to buy stuff that you probably have no need for.

They know how to employ scarcity and time-limited tactics to get you to want something you would never normally want.

They use pop-ups, auto-play videos and will even embed code that stops you from closing the page down before a message pops up telling you that you’re a special snowflake and you just qualified for a further 25% discount.

And they can track your every move online and batter you with advertising messages based upon items you may have previously viewed.

Oh, and the last group isn’t necessarily some spotty 17-year-old kid in his bedroom trying to sell you a worthless ebook on making money online for $47.

Amazon and Facebook already do that with the latter at the point now where they don’t even need cookies to do so. Frightening eh?

So it’s no wonder that people have a distrust of the entire sales industry and don’t want to be associated with it.

Hell, I worked in sales for 20 years and I’m often left shaking my head in disbelief at the greed, the lack of integrity and the downright dishonesty of many salespeople who obviously care about one thing, and one thing only.

Separating you from your money.

You’re a Sales Person – Whether You Like It Or Not

The problem is, however, that no matter how much you may wish to think otherwise, you’re already a salesperson.

You’re constantly selling something. Whether it’s the value of a well-deserved vacation to a spouse, the importance that your kids eat their greens, or your ideas when you debate a friend on some topic you don’t see eye to eye on.

At this very moment, I’m selling you the idea that you’re a salesperson. And I’m about to sell you on the principle that if you’re selling anyway, you may as well learn how to do it properly and effectively.

Let’s clear up a couple of points before we move on.

Selling is not about trying to force people to buy products and services they neither need, nor want, nor can afford.

The moment you do that, you’re no longer a salesperson, but a manipulator and confidence trickster hiding being the pretence that you’re just doing your job.

Professional sales is about creating win/win situations where both parties benefit.

It is not a zero-sum game and the moment you take somebodies money for something that you know will not provide value for them, you’re a thief.

Too harsh?

Well maybe, but I’m honestly not sure how else to look at it.

I spent 20 years in sales and underwent literally hundreds of hours of sales training and I know that it’s possible to operate with integrity….even if your employer doesn’t.

I worked for 3 multinational, multibillion-dollar sales organizations and even though none were particularly ethical, that was rarely an issue for me.

And do you know why?

Do You Believe In What You Sell?

Because I was selling some of the best products and services on the market.

As such I could sell ethically and know that for the most part, I was helping my customers run their businesses more effectively.

Sales is difficult, selling something you don’t believe in I would imagine is close to impossible unless you’re highly unethical and don’t give a shit about how you earn your money.

As a Life Coach the starting point is truly believing that you can help the person who is inquiring about your services either directly via a phone call or indirectly at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or something similar..

If you doubt your own ability and worth as a coach, then you have a problem bigger than not being able to sell.

If that is the case, then do one of two things, or maybe even both.

Keep going with the pro bono coaching and building your skill set.

in other words, practice, practice, practice.

And/or hire a coach who can help you deal with such issues.

But before you do any of those things check whether the expectations you have of yourself are realistic.

Being able to add value does not mean having to be the best coach in the world.

It does not mean you have to have mastered your craft because coaching is a practice and you will never get to the point where you have every aspect nailed on.

And it does not mean you need to think you can help every prospective client who crosses your path.

You will be a better coach in a year than you are now presuming you’re still doing it. And you will be even better still in 5 years.

I was nothing like the coach 10 years ago as I am now, but I was still able to offer value and never had any client complaints.

In other words, you’re probably a better coach than you give yourself credit for.

I’m going to presume that you think of yourself as a competent Life Coach who is sensibly looking to improve on an ongoing basis.

Therefore, you have a strong belief that you can help any person who approaches you other than those obviously not suited to Life Caching, and those who don’t fit your skill set (I would never take on a client looking for help time management issues because I’m not very good at it).

Good Salespeople Solve Problems

Sales is all about problem solving, either imaginary, superficial or very real.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to sell a Snickers bar, a cosmetic dental crown or a Cruise liner, you’re trying to solve a problem for your customer, patient or client.

In the above examples, somebody either feels hungry, is worried about their appearance, or believes they have a demand for vacations that they cannot satisfy with their current fleet of ships.

It really doesn’t matter what it is, there is a problem to be solved and it’s the job of the salesperson (you) to be the solution, or offer a solution.

The difficulty with sales is that sometimes the person you are trying to sell to may not even know they have a problem that they would benefit from solving.

Therefore, when you try and bring it to the surface you can look like you’re being manipulative or scaremongering if you’re not careful.

I  used to sell payroll and HR outsourcing for the largest payroll company in the world.

I would often sit down with CFO’s to discuss their payroll requirements and very often companies with close to 1,000 employees would have one person in charge of payroll.

Now that’s what I call a hostage to fortune, even if the CFO’s frequently hadn’t even thought about it.

I would ask what happened when Ethel in payroll went on vacation and I was nearly always told that the CFO would take over for a few days.

Then I would ask what would happen if Ethel stepped under a bus, got sick or won the lottery and decided not to come into work.

Again I would be told the CFO would do it until a replacement could be found – which by the way could often take several weeks.

What Is The Cost Of Not Buying?

I then asked the CFO what he or she earned.

I wasn’t expecting an answer, although quite often I’d get one, but I knew it was never less than 4 or 5 times what they paid the payroll administrator and often closer to 10 times as much.

I’d ask something like this:

“How long can your business survive with one of its most important components wrapped up in relatively mundane jobs as opposed to working on long-term financial strategy and business growth?

Not only that, how cost effective is it to be paying the payroll person $250k per annum?”

These were intelligent people, yet rarely had they thought about something that was if not inevitable, then very likely to happen at some stage.

Suddenly I had exposed a genuine problem and was in a far better position to offer a solution.

Notice I didn’t contrive or invent a potential issue, I just allowed them to see one that was already there, just out of sight.

When somebody approaches you with an eye on hiring you to be their Life Coach, they probably know there is a problem of some description (and I use the term broadly), but they are not sure who to turn to to help them.

That’s when sales skills come to the fore and here are two possible role-play scenarios to show you what I mean.

And let’s presume this is a prospective client who has called your phone because you’re a smart coach wise enough to have your number on your home page so people can contact you easily.

Note: For brevity’s sake I’m cutting straight to the chase when in reality I may take a few moments to build rapport with the client first.

Take One:

You: Hi this is Super Life Coach

Prospect: Hi I was calling to inquire about Life Coaching

You: Sure, how can I help you?

Prospect: I’m not really sure, but I’m fairly unhappy with my job

You: Cool I can help you with that, let me tell you a bit about me and how I work

Prospect: Er……ok

You: I have been coaching for 5 years and have worked with clients all over the world….blah, blah, blah…….I’m awesome…..blah,blah, blah….I trained with this company who you’ve never heard of….blah,blah, blah……I once had my photo taken with Oprah…..blah, blah, blah…….I love dolphins……blah, blah, blah……..My blog was featured in a list of 100 top Life Coaching blogs on some website you’ve never heard of……blah, blah, blah.

Prospect: Click

You: Hello? Hello? Are you there? I haven’t told you about Boris, my pet beaver yet!

Ok, so we both know that’s totally over the top and nobody would really drone on and on like that….hopefully.

Or would they?

Yeh, they would actually and I have heard similar conversations.

Often Life Coaches want to throw as much information at prospects as possible in case something they say sticks.

But the reality is the prospect actually doesn’t really care about you per se. They are way more interested in knowing that you can help them and that you are listening to them.

On a consult like this the client should be talking 75% of the time. UNLESS that is they ask you to tell them about your certifications,  background, beaver handling skills etc.

If they do, then fine, tell them, but keep it on track and relevant, your degree in civil engineering, kitting or oceanography are not relevant.

On the other hand, a degree in psychology may be worth dropping into the conversation.

In the next post, I’ll explain how that conversation could have gone a lot more smoothly and exponentially increased your chances of ending up with a client rather than an empty phone line.

Read part 2 here.

Image Courtesy of Don Harder

2 thoughts on “If You Can’t Sell, You Can’t Coach 1”

  1. Two points:
    1. Several of the really effective and successful coaches I have met and worked with – all had sales background, which I considered their advantage.
    2. Pro bono work is invaluable for the reason Tim mentions – practice, practice, practice. I have heard coaches complaining about their pro bono clients not doing their homework, which could be frustrating but not as much frustrating as sitting by the phone waiting for a potential client to call.

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