I work with many coaches helping them grow their businesses organically from the inside out; and I’m surprised how often I see them shying away from having sales conversations.
When I dig a little deeper and ask what the worry is, they often reply, “I just don’t want to be pushy”.
There is a lot unspoken in that statement, which if we give it a voice might sound like:
- They won’t want me
- I don’t know how to sell
- I will be rejected
- What if I don’t deliver?
- I’m not good enough
- Why would anyone pay me?
- I’m not an expert in my field yet
- Selling will damage the relationship
- I can’t take money for just listening to someone
- I’ve not been coaching long enough to be credible
Introducing an exchange of money for your services instantly adds another dimension to the relationship. It’s a different dynamic to selling a physical product, the risk feels greater in coaching because you are the ‘product.’
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In coaching you are selling your skills and your capability. You are selling your ability to help another person navigate their way through change, with no way of being able to prove from the outset what results they personally will achieve. You are selling an intangible outcome, a hope and a promise that an aspect (or multiple aspects) of their life will be better as a result of time spent with you. I get it! I totally understand why you would find selling your services tough.
The key to successful sales
I wanted to share with you some of what I’ve learned in the past 15 years about selling. There are three key components I believe need to be blended together to successfully sell. Each of these could fill a day’s training in itself, here they are:
1. Functional sales tools
2. Mindset and belief
3. Heartfelt approach
Let’s look at each of these in turn:
- Functional sales tools
These are the practical aspects of managing sales in your business, including forecasting, budgets, pipeline, sales process, invoicing and so on. These tools create a container which sales, and therefore money, can flow into. They don’t need to be complex systems, in fact the best ones I know are simple. What matters is that they work and that you use them regularly. Functional sales tools won’t generate income passively, you need to be close to your numbers every week and then use the information to make decisions about how you respond in your business.
- Mindset and belief
Selling skills are really useful, but equally essential is your mindset and your belief in yourself. After all if you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?
When I talk to coaches about selling, I ask them what skills they know they need to be a brilliant coach. They can easily tell me, rapport building, empathy, listening, powerful questions. Then we turn to selling, and when I ask them about the skills needed to sell the penny drops – it’s the same skills. There are some additional skills I believe you need to close a sale, but at the heart of it if you can coach you can sell your coaching services.
Selling a product or service based on you is all about building relationships. It requires you to listen to the other person’s needs, get curious about their challenges and their desires. Selling is about understanding what the other person needs, and then checking if what you do would be beneficial to them. Selling is also about not being afraid to say you are not the best fit for that person. Getting out gracefully is as much a skill as closing the sale is.
Here’s an example of my own from a recent sales meeting. The client, a owner of a successful, fast growing SME, wanted to purchase coaching for a director in his team. We spoke for a long time and as we talked the solution wasn’t evident to me. So we kept talking. I asked questions, listened, took time to understand him and the circumstances more fully. Then almost out of nowhere I simply asked him, “what do you want?” He shared and in that moment I understood – the right solution was for me to coach him. The other director would benefit from coaching, but the most powerful solution would be for me to coach the CEO to create a strategic step change in his business.
It took courage to suggest this.
It wasn’t the intention of our meeting. Neither of us expected this to be how the conversation would shake down. Yet here we were. Excited, energised, engaged. That, to me, is why coaching is so similar to selling.
- Heartfelt approach
There is an aspect to selling that can be easy to miss if you get too caught up in a ‘sales process’. A heartfelt approach will set you apart from people who are needy and desperate to make a sale, and prevents you from being pushy. It’s an energetic experience as well as a literal one. Energetically you maintain an open heart and compassion during the sales process, staying connected to the needs and desires of the other person allowing them space to change their position.
When you sell your services from a place that is an invitation, then the other person has permission to accept or decline your invitation. It’s not coercive, demanding or out of integrity. At the same time there is an energy which sits behind the conversation that is solid. It’s implied that you are ready, willing and available to offer yourself and your support to serve the individual’s needs to your highest ability. In the invitation you’re steady, open, strong, available and ready. Your potential client can feel the strength of your support and then choose if they want it.
At the heart of it you, and your way of being, are they key to unlocking sales in your business.