In 20+ years of coaching and training other coaches, there are few phrases I’ve heard more than the cry of “I don’t like having to sell myself.” While I empathize with those who voice this concern, I also detest it. You see, this is the refrain of the under-utilized coaches, the motto of those with plenty of openings on their schedule, and the theme song of the self-fulfilling pessimists.
Any coach who thinks getting a new client is a form of “selling myself” probably doesn’t have many clients because if that were true, no decent person would ever even try to get a client. Fortunately, it’s not true. However, it is a widely believed misconception. So how do we break free from this untruth and exercise our sales muscles effectively? Here are six ideas.
1. Cozy up to selling. You have to make friends with the art and act of selling. Think of selling as a stranger whom you’ve stereotyped. You want to get over your bias and reluctance by getting to really know selling instead of judging it with little to no experience of it.
The problem with selling isn’t selling itself, it’s the perspective we often bring to the table. In other words, we are the problem, not selling. The more time we spend selling, the more familiar we get with it, the more we drop our guard and lower our defenses, the more likely we are to befriend selling and to see it as an ally instead of an enemy or necessary evil.
2. Focus on the other person. The act of selling creates discomfort for many folks, and whenever we humans are uncomfortable, we can get a bit too hyper-focused on how we feel and on what it will take to remove the discomfort. A remedy for this debilitating dynamic is to put more focus on the other person.
Good salespeople give the other person their full attention. Great salespeople do this because they genuinely are interested in the other person. Either way, the focus is not on the person doing the selling but on the person receiving the selling. When we shift our focus and make the other person the important party in the conversation, we slowly start ignoring our discomfort to the point that we barely notice it and we are not hindered by it.
3. Objectify yourself. A great freedom comes when I realize that none of this is really about me. Sometimes I like to imagine that I am watching myself in the sales conversation. I go from being a piece on the chessboard to being the chess player who has several options, including options related to the chess piece that is me.
From this observer’s position, I am far less wrapped up in the perspective of a coach looking to make a sale. Instead, I can notice that making the sale and not making the sale are both viable options for moving forward in the game (that is, the conversation). I want the conversation to serve the client and set up what is best for the client to win. I tend to think that working with me is in the best interest of the client, but if the conversation unfolds to prove otherwise, I can understand that and not be nearly as emotionally bound to losing the sale.
4. Don’t equate sales with conflict. My favorite definition of conflict comes from the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument: those situations in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible.
If I go into the sales conversation with the assumption that my concerns and those of the potential client are incompatible, then I will tend to use one of the five conflict modes to handle the conflict. Unfortunately, only one of those modes (collaboration) belongs in a sales conversation. The other four (accommodation, competition, avoidance, and even compromise) do not serve the interests and concerns of both parties to the fullest.
Sales is not a conflict because my concerns and the concerns of the would-be client are not incompatible. More than likely, they are very compatible. They want to move forward and I want to help them move forward. Incompatibility might present itself when we talk about the cost, but that’s only one concern, not the entirety of both parties’ concerns. Maybe we do not and cannot agree on a rate that works for the client and for me, the coach. That happens sometimes, but it’s not conflict with a winner and a loser. Instead, it’s a discovery for two people who are both seeking the same thing.
5. Recognize the virtue of exchange. The free market is a beautiful thing. It allows parties to exchange goods and/or services for a cost. And it’s the cost that makes the goods and services so available.
Without cost, there would be no exchange because there would be nothing to exchange. Imagine if your local supermarket stopped selling eggs, cheese, bread, and twenty other staple items because they didn’t want to make people pay for them. But we have to recognize a simple truth: the options are NOT charge for them or give them away for free. No, the options are charge for them or don’t have them available. Price allows for availability.
6. Think like a winner. Don’t beg for business. If you are even a halfway decent coach, people will be fortunate to work with you. You will bring value and that value will be worth a certain price. The sooner you realize the value you bring to the table, the sooner you will have the presence that attracts clients.
This idea of “think like a winner” is not haughty, arrogant, or delusional. After all, would you want your client to work with a loser? Of course not. You are a good coach, so get comfortable with that truth. And if you’re not a good coach, improve to the point that you are worth what you charge.
One more thing. It’s a terrible shame how much valuable coaching goes unrealized. It’s like a great ribeye steak going bad or a cargo ship of medicine sinking to the ocean floor. What a waste! Fear and reluctance about selling results in way too much coaching going to waste. If you could have coached 10 hours this week but you only coached one or two because you didn’t have enough clients, that is a crying shame!!
Each of us stewards what God has given us. The coaching you can do should be invested to produce a return, not get buried in the ground. Your coaching potential needs to be realized, not wasted. So get out there and sell some coaching so you can do some coaching!