The 6 most difficult coaching-shaped services to sell (and how to tackle them).

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Do you find your selling your coaching services or consulting packages a bit tricky sometimes?

Could it be that you’ve picked one of the top six most tricky types of coaching-shaped services to sell…?

I’ve worked with a tonne of coaching-shaped people and, while it is a challenge for any coach or consultant to stand out in the crowd, these people have a particularly tough job on their hands.

But fear not, I’ve compiled some practical advice for each scenario to help you on the way to a more profitable and enjoyable coaching business.

Let’s do it!

1. Book coaching

I’ve worked with several book coaches and this is a common theme amongst their audiences:

“Ooh, I’ve been meaning to write a book.”

“Well that’s lucky- I happen to be a book coach!”

“Er… I don’t have time now, but deffo in the next 6 months.”

6 months later >>> NOTHING

The fact of the matter is that writing a book feels very big.

Even for people who are managing to bash out a blog plus a few dozen social media posts a week.

ESPECIALLY if they’re doing that.

There are so many moving parts in a person’s life. It feels like all the stars need to align before they’ll feel ready to commit to writing a book let alone for them to take action.

In reality, this is one of those things where there’s never a good time. 

And then you add into the mix ‘should I try and get a publisher?’ and ‘can’t I just write it myself without help?’ and ‘I’ll just ask my author mate what she did…’

So many big questions and it’s not in your interest to chivvy people along and get them to buy before they’re ready. (I’ve seen someone do that before and the results weren’t pretty.)

The most difficult type of book coaching to sell is probably serving fiction writers because it’s perceived as more of a nice-to-have. At least with non-fiction writing the book could be a business building asset or a career defining moment.

How to tackle this:

  1. Keep going! People can take years to take the plunge on something like this. If you can be present; guiding them to the point when it’s right for them, you’ll be front of mind when the time comes.
  2. Collaborate with business coaches and other people who serve wannabe authors. Get on their stages, podcasts and video shows. And be prepared to reciprocate.
  3. Sell other writing-based offers or things that are complimentary to what you do so that people in your world have something to buy while they’re gearing up to write that book.

Interesting things I’ve seen from Book Coaches:

I’ve seen book coaching offers for people who are writing their second book. This is ingenius because those people tackling their second book will know how involved the planning, writing and publishing is and they might be more willing to invest in support.

Vicky Quinn-Fraser has created a nifty proposition with her micro-book coaching. Aim to write a shorter book and it feels less onerous!

N.B. Don’t be disheartened if not all of your clients finish writing their books with you.

Anecdotal feedback from some book coaches I know is that, on average, about half their clients go on to finish their books. (Depending on who they’re working with)

Confession time: I was one of these people.

I paid to join a book writing group coaching programme and it was excellent.

I didn’t finish my book.

I got halfway through then realised it was the wrong book at the wrong time.

But it enabled me to see what I needed to do with my business next. It brought me valuable clarity! So although I didn’t get ‘a book’ at the end of it, I more than got my money’s worth.

2. Coaching, consultancy or mentoring for anyone on a limited income

If you’re aiming your services at people with a limited income such as teachers, nurses or newly graduated students then I commend your altruistic nature but I question whether this alone will bring you the income that you need to make a go of your coaching practice or consultancy.

If people can’t afford to pay you much, you’re going to have to go for volume.

This means moving further away from the kind of high-touch attention that helps people the most e.g. DIY courses, memberships or large group programmes.

This is often what happens when faced with the conundrum of people needing their coaching or consulting but not having much money – they offer something smaller with less support so that it can be cheaper.

I feel silly even writing this, but I’m going to anyway just to make it absolutely clear:

Just because people have less money doesn’t mean that they need less support. 

I mean, you know that otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to help them, would you! 

Some money mindset coaches would say that if the prospective client really needs and wants your thing then they should work on their mindset to find the money, invest and then that’ll help them effect the change they want in their life.

This is getting into dangerous waters.

I saw a post the other day about investing big in your business- it asked ‘what would you do if you wanted a programme but couldn’t afford it?’. 

Someone (a high ticket coach) piped up ‘I’d find the money and buy it- I back myself and I know I’d make the investment back’.

Now, there is some truth to that. 

If you’re really invested you probably will work extra hard to make that programme work for you! It’s part of the magic of selling services that cost thousands of pounds not tens of pounds.

But I’ve also been in the position when I’ve thrown money at a problem and it hasn’t worked out. 

The business coach I invested in when my mindset was in the gutter and I had two toddlers at home with no childcare. 

The automations expert I paid the best part of £10k but I subsequently changed my niche and all that hard work went down the pan. 

In short- people have to be RIGHT and they have to be READY for what you have to offer.

And having the money to pay you without going into debt is a major part of that.

How to tackle this:

Unless you have a massive audience with a healthy revenue or a chunky investment so that you can set up a charity or CIC, I heartily recommend that you aim your main offers at people who have the money to pay you.

You can then do a variety of things to help people who need you but who don’t have much dosh, for example:

  • Offer a certain amount of slots a year at a reduced rate or pro bono for people who you know you can help. These people need to be in a position to commit to your work together even though they’re not financially invested. 
  • You could form a network of colleagues who could join you in this work and expand its reach.
  • You could look for funding to set up a charity or CIC (social enterprise).
  • And yes you can create free resources e.g. books, courses, podcasts but do this after your main target market is established otherwise it’ll muddy your messaging. 

Whatever you do, make sure you’re aiming your marketing and sales efforts towards people who can pay you decent money for the transformation you can bring into their lives.

3. Leadership coaching for middle management or lower

Four words sum this up:

Huge need, little appetite.

If self-funded then your prospects won’t have much spare cash and will be unused to investing in themselves in this way.

If your services are to be funded by the company, they don’t tend to prioritise this kind of leadership development. The lion’s share goes to the C-suite and prospective C-suite members.

I used to work in corporate and, as an employee, I experienced a wide variety of management styles- many of which were… how shall I put it… questionable. 

These people had never been taught how to lead effectively or get the most out of their employees. I’d barely even heard of the term ‘coaching’ when I exited c. 2011 despite the dire need for it at all levels.

How to tackle this:

  • It’s easier to ‘sell down’ if you can work with the higher levels of management in some capacity, once you’re on the approved suppliers list you can pitch to coach middle management employees and below.
  • Running group-based coaching and facilitation might be more palatable for bigger businesses when serving more junior members of staff. 
  • Use your network! Ask anyone you know with links to the kinds of companies you want to work with for an intro.
  • Bolster this up with a professional (not dry) website and thought leadership content on your favourite social media platform.
  • Find out who your key purchase decision makers are in the organisations you’d love to work with and create content that appeals to their specific pinch points.

As with everything in business, if you can prove that your coaching or consulting will add zeros to the bottom line and that you’re solving high priority problems it’ll be more difficult for them to say no. Make sure you’re selling what they WANT and not purely what you know they need. 

I go into this more in my blog The Ultimate Guide to Creating and Selling Coaching Offers.

Something to look out for if you’re selling into corporates

I’ve had quite a few clients who sell their services into big organisations and they never fail to be dispirited by the low interactions and reach of their social media posts. 

I’ll tell you what I tell them; your ideal clients aren’t trawling LinkedIn every day! And they’re less likely to interact when they’re in work mode.

Your job is to turn up regularly with authority building content and make connections with:

  • People who might be able to refer you
  • Decision makers when they do venture online
  • Gatekeepers such as HR professionals

Of course, sometimes people in the HR department are the decision makers!

4. New concept coaches

What do I mean by this? Anyone who’s selling something that’s new to market and not understood yet.

Like when money mindset stuff first came out. Or NLP. Or coaching itself! It’s only been a well-known, accepted resource for businesses in the UK for the last decade or two. 

My best client example of this is the fabulous Louise Miller who is a kind of productivity mentor.

Oh the many conversations we’ve had about how that title doesn’t fit her well!

Because when people see ‘productivity’ they think planners, time blocking and hacks. 

Whereas she’s more about pausing, gaining perspective and carving out a calm place of quiet that’s conducive to more of the right ‘doing’ for her clients. 

Since what she does doesn’t have a universally approved label it’s trickier for people to realise they need her. 

I’ve seen people do similar things to her who call themselves ‘time magician’ or ‘fractional COO’.

I don’t think those are particularly descriptive either! 

It’s exciting to ride the crest of a wave of something new but that does mean that you’ll need to do more educating than other types of coach-shaped-people.

How to tackle this:

  • Make sure you are weaving in plenty of content that explains what you do, how you do it and what the benefits are.
  • Use analogies and metaphors that liken what you do to things people are familiar with e.g. Louise describes her Make It Happen Club as a treehouse. A calm place that takes you out of the weeds so you can gain perspective and work out what you need to do best. One of her clients cried when she explained this to her- she resonated so hard with it! 
  • Lots and lots and lots of testimonials. I mean, testimonials are always good, but they’re particularly important when you’re doing something a bit unusual. 

It feels riskier to potential clients to invest in an unknown entity like this, so anything you can do to reduce that perceived risk is important.

5. Business services aimed at pivoters

Are you aiming your services at people pivoting their business or are you considering pivoting your business?

Whether pivoting from one ‘niche’ to another e.g. from consulting for CEOs of blue chips to CEOs of start-ups.

Moving from offering done-for-you services like copywriting, design and admin to done-with-you services like coaching, mentoring and consulting.

Or perhaps moving from offering your services from individuals to corporations.

Pivoting your business is a testing time and it’s logical that these people will need mucho de support.

But beware: Here be dragons! 

Every so often I see someone change their LinkedIn headline to ‘helping pivoters’. Within a few months they’ve changed it back again.

I’ve helped a fair few pivoters in my time. 

It’s so satisfying to help people form a nearly-new business that they’re going to bring them greater joy and freedom. And potential income! 

But it goes back to the issues mentioned for book coaches, there are so many moving parts.

Here’s a list of the common stumbling blocks pivoters have to navigate:

  • A reset of their audience numbers. They might have been well known in their old niche, but not necessarily in their new one. Even if they appear to be selling different services to similar profiles of people, it still takes a while and a lot of effort to reposition yourself in their eyes.
  • A rather pungent breed of mindset gremlins come out to play when you pivot. ‘Who do you think you are making massive changes for yourself? What about your old clients, don’t you want to help them any more? People will see right through you…’ How lovely! A seasoned coach should have no issue with all this, but it does slow progress and that can be frustrating for the coachee. 
  • There’s also the really fun bit when the pivoter has been thrashing it out for months and months and then they question whether it’s even worth it or whether they’re on the right track after all. Did I say fun? I meant sh*t.

The conundrum here is that they’re probably pivoting their business for more earnings and/ or an easier, funner life, but pivoting makes things harder for a while, less fun while possibly taking a hit on income.

People don’t generally tend to want to shell out good money for something that leaves them feeling like crap and that they won’t see the ROI on for 18 months plus.

I niched down a while ago, so severely that it felt like a total pivot. I had to simultaneously build an audience, serve my current clients and get into the swing of adapting all my messaging to my new target market. EXHAUSTING. In the end it was worth it, but at the time I thought I’d never see the benefit of all that hard work.

A classic example of a business pivot is people retraining to be a coach. 

Let me paint a scenario for you:

  • Person running a business gets some coaching.
  • Coaching changes their life profoundly.
  • Person decides to become a coach.
  • To make this change as quickly as possible and to make sure they have all the tools they need to help clients they get a coaching qualification.
  • Newly qualified coach thinks ‘once I get this certificate I will be a coach and people will be able to work with me. 

The coaching accreditation feels like an end place.

But then the real business of actually running your coaching practice starts.

  • Getting visible. 
  • Articulating why people should work with you.
  • Standing out among the dozens of other recently qualified coaches. (And the coaches with decades of experience under their belt…)
  • Working out how to charge enough so that you’re actually earning a decent income.

This is my heartland by the way. Helping coaches and consultants get visible, attract more ideal clients and charge enough so they can earn a decent income. 

But I do prefer to work with people who’ve had enough clients to know who they like working with and who they don’t.

If that sounds like you, book a call with me and I’ll give you some more info about what I do

How to tackle this:

The thing to do here is to be absolutely transparent about the likely results that people can get from your services and the real ramifications of pivoting. 

And to place the focus of your services on non-monetary things for example:

  • Therapy or coaching to supporting their mental health as they go through the rocky phase.
  • Coaching to help gain clarity on their next steps.
  • Consulting around getting their systems ready so the switch over is as smooth as possible getting through the pivot efficiently.

6. Wellbeing services aimed at people pleasers

The sad fact is that people in the most dire need of help of any description probably don’t think it’s an option for them. Their sense of self or what ‘people like me’ do won’t allow them to take action. 

This can be seen very clearly with people who, for their whole lives, have put other people before themselves.

The mother whose health is a wreck because she can’t (won’t) prioritise her own nutrition, exercise or mental health.

The burned-out exec who has forever striven to deliver for the company and has spent every last grain of energy they have to the point of mental and bodily collapse.

The neurodivergent creative who has bent themselves so out of shape to fit into society’s boxes all their lives that they don’t know who they are or what they want any more.

These people will say they don’t have time or money for your coaching or consulting.

But what they’re really saying is ‘I can’t prioritise this for me’. Other people are more important.

You simply can’t argue with this logic! 

And neither should you.

How to tackle this:

Connecting with resonant messaging is absolutely key here.

In fact, if this category sounds like you, chances are that your messaging already is calling to the right people since people serving this sector are often empaths.

These people might already be circling you. Finding reassurance in your words.

But they don’t take action.

Am I right?

I’ve worked with many clients who sit in this pot- targeting people who don’t prioritise their help (in fact that’s probably WHY they came to work with me) and this is what helped:

  • Personal communications with people- to connect with them on an individual level but also to get feedback on what they’re finding most challenging about taking the next step.
  • Adjust your approach based on that feedback- do they hate booking a call directly into the calendar? Would they prefer to DM you instead? Knowing your audience’s foibles is key.
  • Break down the sales process into tiny little baby steps. Slow the whole thing down.

Advice when selling all types of coaching-shaped services

The following is a list of advice that will help any type of coach or consultant to sell more easily while remaining true to your values. I thought I’d stick it here so I didn’t have to repeat it for each type of coach!

  1. Have a well defined target market so you can stand out from the crowd. If all of your offers serve one group of people it’ll be easier to establish yourself as an expert in that area (niching), but it’s not essential. You could have a range of offers that serve different customer types. That’s why I love helping people with their offers so much- it avoids the annoying ‘shall I, shan’t I niche’ conundrum! 
  2. Make sure you have at least one really robust ‘easy yes’ offer in your stable that you know your favourite types of clients really, really want. 
  3. Price your offers for the value they deliver and not based on what you think people will pay or what you think you’re worth.
  4. Sell more than you feel comfortable with. If you’re doing a launch your aim should be to get everyone in your network to know what you’re offering at the mo. I promise you will not manage it! Nobody sees all of your messages. 
  5. Set aside some time every week to get in front of new people (your favourite types of clients) in whatever way feels most natural to you.

Want to stick a rocket up your sales results? Sign up for me free Coaching Sales Jetpack mini-course by clicking here or the graphic below.