Changing the default – Moving clients from ‘no’ to ‘yes’

We’re often told to say ‘no’ more often – from life coaches to productivity experts, there’s no shortage of people telling us that ‘no’ is a good answer to give. But it’s not always a good answer to get… not when you and your business are looking for a ‘yes’.

If you’re a coach (or any other business for that matter) marketing your services to potential clients, however you’re pitching your offer, you’re basically asking, “Do you want this?”

And the default answer is often, “No.” Especially (perversely, even) if they need it.

This can be disheartening. After all, you’re trying to sell them a service you think has real benefits for them. You can see those benefits clearly; why can’t they?

First of all, most people have a learned distrust of marketing and advertising (we justify this by telling ourselves it makes us more savvy customers). Either we we’re looking to find fault with the ‘marketingspeak’ or we tell ourselves an offer is too good to be true. That’s a barrier to getting a ‘yes’, right there.

Secondly, most people have absorbed a number of what we could call sales-defeating messages. Even if the offer is good and we need the service, there’s still a learned mental script at work. It’s that little voice in the back of the head saying, “I mustn’t,” “I shouldn’t,” “I can’t.”

The good news is most of us like to buy. We just need to convince ourselves first that we should. As a coach seeking out new clients, your focus is on getting from “I can’t,” to “I will.”

YES on a post it note

Why does getting a ‘yes’ feel so hard?

When what you’re selling isn’t tangible, it can feel harder to sell. Coaching services aren’t something you can hold up and demonstrate to a potential client. You can’t point out the sleek design or provide it in a wide range of colours. There’s a real danger that what you’re offering feels vague and insubstantial to the client. How do you overcome that?

The answer is, you don’t need to. In reality, people don’t buy things (even when they’re buying a thing).

People buy outcomes.

Nobody goes to the gym just for the barbells or the rowing machine – you can have your own barbells or exercise machines at home. People go to the gym to lose weight, or to get tighter abs, or to be able to walk upstairs without feeling out of breath. People go to the gym to access the motivation, advice and encouragement to achieve those goals (and barbells and rowing machines, etc. are just what they use once they’re there).

People will pay for a service that gives them the outcomes they want.

In other words, if you’re selling your coaching services, you’re selling the wrong thing. For a client, your services are just the means to an end.

Start of a journey

#1 – Focus on what’s in it for them

Back to your pitch. The features of your service (e.g. the coaching model you use, the number of sessions you offer…) aren’t where you start. Instead, start with the potential client:

  • Listen to the client.
  • Show you understand where they are now and where they need to be.
  • Explain how you can help them make that journey…
  • …including how you have helped others make their own, similar journeys.

Don’t focus on the how (i.e. the tools & techniques of your trade), focus on the what (the results, the feelings, the lifestyle that the client will achieve).

Feet stood on step

#2 – Emphasise the first step

People don’t just like results, they like to see quick results.

Imagine the journey a client will undertake as you coach them. Break that journey down into 3-4 milestones. These are NOT the stages of your coaching process, they are the outcomes that a client will get along the way. 

Make your offer easy to understand and simple to buy. Keep it simple. Keep it short. (By all means, keep it sexy!) And keep your focus on the first milestone. For example, that milestone may be agreeing their coaching objectives.

A coaching objective is a handful of words.

But it’s also clarity, a destination, a laser focus that will keep the whole coaching process and relationship on track.

Arrows pointing to a circle

A couple more ‘NO to YES’ tips

It’s easy to give up when you hear a ‘no’. It’s easy to stop selling. After all, maybe the next prospect will be a bit keener. Maybe you don’t want to be pushy. But you’re not aiming to be pushy; you’re just there to listen, and explain what the outcomes will be if they take your offer. So, remember:

  • Don’t be put off by an initial ‘no’.
  • If you get a ‘no’, ask why. A reason tells you about their needs, and gives you something to work with. It may simply be a misconception that you can correct, or it may lead you to offer a different (more suitable) service
  • Ask them what their plan is if they don’t choose you. This can help you see if they have misunderstood what you’re offering or if in fact, they are looking for something you can’t help with. Either way, it’s another opportunity to get their perspective on the outcome they’re looking for. Sometimes in explaining what they plan to do they will convince themselves that the plan isn’t that good and they should in fact go with you.

If you identify common objections, common reasons to say ‘no’, focus part of your outcome-driven pitch on those reasons; e.g. if people are worried about dealing with you because you’re a lone freelancer, bring it up first as a positive: I find I can offer a more individualised approach than larger consultancies with their standard packages.

Why change

But… I’ve gotten some good clients in the past, why should I change my approach now?

Fair enough, the ‘luck and persistence’ method can work – and maybe it’s worked okay for you so far. But if your focus has been on the service you’re offering rather than the outcomes, the chances are it takes time and effort to win over each client.

By focusing on what the client wants to achieve gets you more clients, and more quickly because they see your interest in what’s important to them.

One last point: if every lead or potential client becomes an actual client then your prices are too low.

If the outcome you want is to earn more and sell less, then creating an outcome-focused offer is the only way to do it.

Remember: what’s in it for them?

Focusing on the outcomes the client is searching for makes for an easier sale and a better start to each new client relationship. It also allows you to charge more for the value you deliver. Not to mention attract clients who really want what you’re selling.

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