“Trust is like love. Both parties have to feel it before it really exists.”
~ Simon Sinek
I want to share with you 5 pieces of mainstream sales advice that seriously bug the hell out of me. I’m pretty sure you’ll recognise most of these and maybe you already sense that they’re not exactly ethical, but in this piece, I want to illustrate why they won’t work for your kinds of clients and what to do instead.
Typically the type of business owner I work with is what I call a conscious changemaker. Somebody who wants to make a difference in the world, who runs a purpose-driven business that helps people. They are typically (although not always) introverted and identify as highly sensitive, not surprisingly, just like me. It follows then that their clients have similar traits and characteristics. Like attracts like and all that. It also follows that mainstream, manipulative and aggressive sales and marketing tactics don’t sit well with these sorts of people, which is why it’s so important to understand the damage that they do to your business and your reputation.
1. Hide Your Price
Oh my goodness, this makes top of the list, not only because it infuriates me so much, but because I genuinely don’t understand how this can help you make more sales. The advice goes, don’t put your price on your sales page and have people “apply” or enquire about signing up for your service. You must have seen it, a ridiculously long sales page with tons of testimonials and details on every single aspect of the service and no price, it particularly gets me when they even have a FAQ section and yet there is no “how much does it cost?” question. No, to ask that question, you have to enquire or get on a call with the person, talk about manipulative!
Why I don’t think this works. Personally, if I don’t know the price of something I am not going to go through the effort of applying or reaching out or getting on a call with someone only to have to back out if I can’t afford it. Nobody wants to have to admit that they can’t afford something after they’ve already told you they want it. It can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing and for that reason, I think many people just don’t bother. Also, in my experience, the people who typically employ this tactic charge high prices and so it follows that when people see this, the assumption is that it’s going to be too expensive. I once had a new client come to me who was using this tactic and her prices were great — affordable and accessible — I wonder how many people she lost because they assumed no price meant high ticket.
It also flies in the face of one of my most dearly-held values, which is transparency. Transparency fosters trust and trust is the foundation for a more meaningful and, in the context of transformational work, impactful relationship. Who wants to be coached by someone who hides something as important as price? Not me.
The ethical alternative. Display your price prominently. My awesome copywriter and long-standing client Lauren Van Mullem suggests a “need to know” section at the top of the page with all the most important details so you don’t have to scroll to find them. What a breath of fresh air — to see an example from one of her sales pages head here. Making people scroll for the price and putting it after a ton of testimonials is also a form of manipulation so make it easy for people to find.
2. Charge premium prices
Closely linked to the last point (because why would you need to hide your prices unless they are extortionate?) is the advice to charge premium prices. This advice isn’t linked to years in business, skillset or qualifications, in fact, it’s blanket advice for all coaches, even those fresh out of training.
Why I don’t think this works
First of all, not all services are premium. This obsession in the online business world with premium and high ticket offerings is, in my opinion, unhealthy and unhelpful for most business owners. To charge premium pricing, people expect a premium offering. What pains me is when I see business owners, with little experience, a DIY’d brand and image charging the same as the six-figure marketing coaches they hope to emulate.
It also goes without saying that the more expensive you price yourself, the less accessible you make your service and the harder it becomes to get the sale.
To charge premium pricing as a beginner in business is a dangerous trap to fall into, both for the service provider and the client. If you, as a business owner don’t believe in your price, you’ll never enrol clients at that price. There has to be alignment and integrity when we state our prices. We have to believe that it’s truly a sound investment for the person before us if they are to believe it too.
My advice. Don’t charge premium prices unless you feel ready to and you want to position yourself as a premium service. And remember, not all online services have to be premium or only be accessible to those who can afford them. You can still offer high value services and charge more accessible pricing (and make a good income to boot!).
The ethical alternative: Charge less and make your service more accessible or if you want to offer a premium service, increase your prices in line with your increased experience and expertise and be sure that what you offer is in fact premium. To read more on my thoughts around pricing head here.
3. Charge for discovery calls
Yes, unbelievably this is a thing. There are business coaches out there who will encourage you to charge a fee for people to get on a call to find out more about your paid service. I’m lost for words on this one to be honest. I’ve heard the argument, from coaches who use this strategy, that it’s so that their time doesn’t get wasted by people who aren’t serious about working with them but I don’t buy it (excuse the pun). My hunch is that this is just another way to create a sense of exclusivity and that feeling of “if it costs money, then it must be valuable” or “if I pay for it then I must be committed” neither of which I think is necessarily true.
Why I don’t think this works
I would imagine that it’s pretty obvious why this wouldn’t work. Of course, if you have a six-figure coach who employs the full range of manipulative tactics out there and has got people to a place of serious fomo, then people in their audience may well feel that “getting to” speak to this coach is worth paying money for, even if there is nothing of value being exchanged, in fact, what’s typically happening is that you are paying to be sold to. But for the newbie coach with a fledgling audience, the chances of people paying to get on a sales call with you are slim to none, making this one of the worst pieces of sales I’ve come across over the years.
The ethical alternative: what I suggest is the complete opposite of this tactic and that is to offer a whole gift session to people interested in working with you, with no pitch and no obligation to buy. It’s been my experience and that of many of my clients that when we operate with this kind of generosity and a deep desire to serve rather than simply get the sale, people really notice and as a result, sales are in fact much more likely.
4. Overcoming objections in sales calls
The idea behind this is that when people say that they can’t buy from you for reasons such as affordability or it not being the right time, you overcome those objections essentially by helping them see things differently. If you google “overcoming objections in sales calls” you’ll find plenty more examples of objections and how to overcome them.
Why I don’t think this works
In my experience when people raise objections about working together it’s because they just don’t want to do it, whatever the reason. Perhaps the reason is that they don’t feel like it’s a fit but find that hard to say. Maybe there’s something about us that they don’t quite gel with but would never dream of saying that to our face. “I can’t afford it right now” is a great way to say no, without saying anything that might offend. So if we start to try and coach that person on their money mindset, it can start to get deeply uncomfortable for all involved very quickly.
Having coached hundreds of people, I can safely say that the people who are what I call a “hell yes!” are the clients who show up with the greatest levels of commitment and enthusiasm for the work. If I have to convince someone to say yes, it’s a sign to me that they’re not a fit.
I remember a year or so ago, someone on a work together call said to me, I’m not totally sure I want to do this. To which I replied, me neither. She seemed quite taken aback until I explained that one of my key criteria for fit (yes I am checking that potential clients are a fit for me) is that they are 100% sure they want to move forward. Anything less and I don’t believe the coaching relationship will be powerful enough to weather the inevitable ups and downs of the business growth journey.
The ethical alternative: Slow down the sale. I give people as much time and space as possible to make the right decision. I would never dream of trying to overcome an objection, but I will give people the time they need to get to a place of certainty about working together themselves. Offering a gift session to potential clients is the best way I know to give someone as much information as you can about what it would be like to work together, thus allowing them to make a truly informed decision. For more on slowing down the sale head here.
5. Give people a false deadline
We’ve all seen this one. We’re asked to make a decision by some arbitrary date or face a much higher price. I’ve seen this for group programs and 1:1 services and it just feels downright icky. The tactic plays on our fear of missing out on a good deal but here’s the thing, the discounted price is the one they want to charge you anyway. The inflated post-deadline price is there just to manipulate you into saying yes.
Why I don’t think this works
Simply put, it feels gross. These days most buyers are on to this tactic and even though it still works on many, the result is the undermining of trust. I can’t tell you how many people have signed up for pricey programs that promise big results only to seek me out months or years later feeling tricked and ashamed of themselves for falling for dishonest tactics. They never got the results they were promised and feel betrayed by the whole process. It makes me so sad.
When I first started to see this tactic for what it was and understood the manipulation involved, I started to identify how it felt in my body when it was happening to me so I could become more conscious in my own purchasing decisions. These days whenever I see something for sale and I feel anxious or torn about buying it and I feel pressure to buy because of a deadline, I know that I’m being manipulated and I can now breathe through it and move on.
The ethical alternative: Only use real deadlines, like when there is an actual start date for a live program. If there is limited availability or you need to use a deadline, then let people know when or if you might be offering it again. Do what you can to put people at ease around their purchasing decision rather than have them buy out of anxiety or fear.
So there you have it, 5 tactics you may have experienced or even employed (there is no judgement here) and why I don’t use them and what you might consider using instead. In essence, I believe that these tactics eradicate trust between you and your would-be client, my hope is that the alternatives provided show you a new way to foster greater levels of trust between you and your clients.
I hope you found them useful. I’d love to know, is there anything you would add to this list? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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