“A salesperson’s ethics and values contribute more to sales success than do techniques or strategies.”
~ Ron Willingham
Let me start by sharing the fact that I’ve built both my current and former businesses without ever “asking” for the sale inside of a conversation with a potential client.
I started my life coaching business back in 2014, following the 4-step approach laid out in a book called The Prosperous Coach by Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin. That approach looks like this:
Step 1 – Connect – Who would I love to speak to?
Step 2 – Invite – Would you like to experience a powerful coaching conversation?
Step 3 – Create – Serve them so powerfully they never forget your conversation for the rest of their life.
Step 4 – Propose – Are you in? Hell yeah or no?
As a strategy for creating clients, I loved it. This approach allowed me to coach people regularly even before I had many clients and, in doing so, spend most of my “business” time doing what I most loved to do – helping people to create the transformation they were seeking in their life.
I had absolutely no problem with step 1 – connecting with people, in fact outreach was and still is one of the favourite parts of my work. Nor did I struggle with step 2 – because being able to offer the gift of coaching to people who can really benefit is a wonderful way to practice true generosity in business, which feels wonderful to me! In terms of step 3 – I’m not sure if all of my complimentary coaching sessions will be remembered forever by those that have had one BUT giving my all to each and every session never failed to leave me with a feeling of deep fulfilment.
Where I struggled and where many of the people I work with struggle was with step 4 – making the proposal, i.e. asking for the sale or inviting someone to consider or discuss working together. For me it felt so out of alignment with my values. Offering someone the gift of a complimentary session and then trying to ask for the sale. Bringing up working together after a deep coaching session just felt off, so I refused to do it. Despite the fact that I was paying $15,000 for a 6 month apprenticeship with a coach who was teaching me this very approach!
Rather than trying to force myself to learn how to ask for the sale and or get better at making the proposal, I worked on everything else that would support the outcome of working together. I worked on:
1. My inner game. Getting myself to a place where I could genuinely show up in service to the person in front of me without feeling needy for the sale AND at the same time being completely open for a sale to occur, should it be a fit for both parties.
2. My service. Making the coaching session (as well as the set up and aftercare) as professional, powerful and impactful as possible.
3. My paid for offering. Getting clear on how someone could work with me should they want to and making my offering clear and easy to find. I’ve worked hard to refine this over the years.
4. My content. Showing up consistently with content that shares my best strategies, methodology and point of view so that the people I’m having gift sessions with already know a lot about the problem I solve, who I solve it for and how I solve it.
Instead of asking for the sale, I would get to the end of my gift session and I would simply say: “is there anything else I can support you with?” and with time something magical started to happen.
People started to consistently ask me what it could look like to work together at the end of the complimentary coaching session. I genuinely don’t recall the last time someone didn’t ask me about working together at the end of a free session with me.
Given that I don’t ask for the sale and my 1:1 practice is still full with a sizable wait list, I know that it’s possible to build a thriving business without becoming an expert at asking for the sale. I have no doubt that putting my attention on all of the above has been far more fruitful for my business than focusing on how to get better at asking for the sale.
If you are giving complimentary sessions in your business and people are not asking you about working together at the end of them, then consider the four areas I outline above and ask yourself which needs working on.
Are you showing up in the right energy or do you feel needy about getting the sale? Something I have found useful to remember over the years is that whilst I might need or want a new client, I don’t need THIS particular person to be that client. That always allowed me to lean back into trusting the process and knowing that the right next client will come.
Are you showing up powerfully to the coaching session and giving your best? If not, consider what you would change in the set up or delivery of your calls if you were to treat this person as if they were already your highest paying client.
Are your offerings clear? A big mistake I see is when service providers have a lot of services on offer without clarity on the difference between them. If someone has taken up your offer of a free session, then it’s highly likely that they’ve checked out your website first, if your services are confusing. absent (you’d be surprised how common this is!) or simply not aligned with what your people need then it doesn’t matter how powerful the session was, a confused mind says no.
Are you creating and sharing content consistently? When people come to your site, are there recent and relevant articles that demonstrate your expertise and speak to the struggles your ideal clients have and the solutions to those struggles? If not, then you are missing a huge opportunity to generate interest in working on you outside of the sales call or free session.
The opportunity to enroll a new client doesn’t simply happen at the end of a free session or discovery call. You could be a master at making the ask and still fall flat if you haven’t taken the time to work on these fundamental pieces.