How can I sell a coaching programme – as that’s not coaching?

A question I’ve been asked several times over the past couple of weeks is, “How can I sell a coaching programme – as that’s not coaching?”

I completely get this internal struggle, as we learn in coach training that the client always sets the agenda. So how can we sell them something that’s directive and against all of the rules?!

It’s something that holds many people back from actually being able to do that coaching, as there is a huge difference between the skill we know and how to actually sell it.

In this article, I unpack the idea of pure coaching.

Many of us during our coach training were introduced to the concept of coaching as being purely client driven and client directed – asking the right questions, guiding discovery, letting the client lead.

While this is a beautiful transformational approach, it often presents us with a real challenge when we try to market our services.

Most of us start out by saying, “Come and have some coaching, it’s changed my life!”

Often, this approach doesn’t work. But why?

Because selling something intangible and abstract can be tricky.

The market’s desire for tangibility

When a potential client is looking for a solution, they’re often drawn to what they can see, or touch, or at least visualise. They want to know that there is a clear roadmap or path to that desired transformation. It gives them confidence in the process and in you as a coach.

They need a structure, a tangible offering. They need to see that if they follow your steps they would be more likely to reach their goal.

So, it’s not about diluting the coaching process, it’s about enhancing it.

Because, if you hone your niche, you will get really good at what you do.

If they are looking for a career change, you will know that they first need to identify and understand their values and their strengths. I had never heard of values when I was an employee before I became a coach.

Now I’m a coach, I talk about values all day long! But that’s often not the case for most people. I wouldn’t have been able to direct my own career session if someone hadn’t asked me, and hadn’t explored my values and my strengths with me. I would have probably just gone round in circles.

I do appreciate that there are different approaches. Maybe for career change coaching you need a more structured approach than if you are doing leadership coaching, where your client wants to bring whatever challenges are going on for them at that time.

It’s not a one size fits all approach.

But, if you are parting with money, most people will want to know that they’re going to get the results we want.

For example, we don’t just want to book a holiday, we want to know where we’re going to be staying, what the rooms are like, the view, the food. What is in the local area, where the beach is.

We want to be able to visualise what the holiday will look and feel like before we decide to buy it.

It’s the same with clients and coaching. If you are just selling coaching as a concept, they’re not going to see how it’s going to help them feel the way they want to feel.

We’re motivated to buy to feel a certain way, so that is what we want to promote in our marketing.

Before we delve further into that, let’s look at the essence of coaching.

The essence of coaching

At its core, coaching is about empowerment, discovery, transformation. And,  guess what, these principles can be integrated into a structured programme.

It’s about guiding your clients through a journey. Giving them the tools and strategies

they need while also still allowing that space for personal reflection and growth.

For example, when my niche was career coaching,  I sold it as a programme. I had no worksheets, no videos. I was literally just showing up doing a normal coaching call when they were in the ‘front door’.

I call it my Front Door Niche Navigator – what they actually want. That’s what we need to first focus on. When they’re through the front door, we can show them the back door, which will be looking at their mindset, their confidence, all the things we know they need to tackle to achieve their goal.

You don’t need a lot of fancy tools, you just need to show up, look at your plan, acknowledge that you’re due to cover your client’s strengths that day, but then ask what’s going on for them right now.

This could mean your session taking a completely different path. They might say they have an interview tomorrow and they need to cover that. And then you can run a coaching session based on their needs and wants at that moment.

Always remember that you have designed this with their goal in mind. You’re not forcing someone to look at their strengths for no reason. They’ve come to you because they want that career change, and knowing their strengths is a logical step to successfully changing their career.

Crafting a marketable programme

How do we craft a programme that resonates? Clarity is key.

We need to be specific about the outcome that your clients can expect. And then we want to ensure that your programme speaks directly to those needs and desires.

Again, this is all with them in mind; it’s not dictated by you. You are just helping them to achieve their goal and getting them to where they want to go.

That’s why they have signed up with you. It’s still self-directed because they have signed up because they want some support to reach that goal.

It’s not about a one size fits all approach. It’s about providing a roadmap that can be tailored to each individual.

You are not going to force somebody to discuss something if they don’t want to. You are just giving them some logical steps that you have seen work for other clients, that could help them to reach their goal, but you are going to blend your approach with that personal coaching, to whatever that client wants at the time.

This is especially easy when you are doing one-to-one coaching.

When you are doing group coaching, you may need to think about a different approach. But certainly, for one-to-one coaching, you will be allowing them to lead the way for what’s going on for them.

Balancing structure with flexibility

This is the secret sauce – creating a programme that offers a clear structure, while remaining adaptable to individual client needs.

It’s worth saying that, when someone comes to join you, yes they might want to change career at that time but then things can change and they may not change career after all.

I had a message from an amazing client yesterday who has finally changed jobs after our career change programme, which was two years ago.

He’s still grateful for my support and delighted that he finally got the job of his dreams. But sometimes things take longer than we think. He had two children to support and needed stability. He got a promotion and changed roles within his current company.

There were lots of reasons why he didn’t change career in the short timescale that he thought he wanted to when he signed up with me.

It comes back to remembering that this is the front door. People come to us because they have a problem they want to fix. But life is not linear and circumstances will change.

Your job is to guide them along their journey. Reminding them of their goal and checking in on where they are at with achieving that goal. Working with them where they are. So, essentially, it is coaching.

And what they think their goal is isn’t always the goal after all. For example, someone might join a gym to get fit. But, actually, they were just lonely and they needed to get out of the house and meet people.

So maybe they’ll make friends rather than get fit from joining that gym. And that’s fine because, actually, the goal isn’t always the goal we think it is, and the problem they think they’ve got isn’t always the problem they have.

All you need to do is take them along their journey, guiding them to their desired results using your amazing coaching skills.

Don’t worry if they don’t get the result that they originally thought they wanted, because the result that they want might change. That person going to the gym didn’t realise that they needed friendship more than they needed to get fit.

I have never had anybody that has worked with me complain, even if they don’t get the result they came to me for.

The client who took two years to reach his goal of getting his dream job wasn’t frustrated with me that it took so long. He understood that he was on a journey, and I went with him on that journey every week, meeting him where he was at.

In another example, I had a card from someone in my Business of Coaching programme, who wanted to say that they knew they weren’t getting lots of clients compared to others in the programme, but that it had been a life-changing process for them, and that joining my programme had helped them to discover who they are.

They had overcome so many limiting beliefs and learned so much, and met amazing people in our community.

She’s now gained several corporate clients. It wasn’t in the timescale that she’d thought it would be, when she first came in that front door, because she didn’t know that she had a lot of blocks about visibility, and money mindset and everything else that came up along her journey.

We just need to realise that we can support people where they are at. Most people are reasonable, and know that if they haven’t reached their goal it’s probably because something has happened in their life that is currently hindering that progress. And you will be helping them and guiding them every step of the way.

Selling your programme with confidence

If you are feeling a twinge of guilt or resistance about moving away from pure coaching, please don’t.

It is essential to believe in the value and transformation of your programme offers. When you are confident in your offer, the energy is palpable. And it makes selling so much

easier.

Remember, it’s about facilitating a profound transformation. And, if a structured programme helps your client to see the benefit of signing up to coaching with you, then it’s a win-win.

The coaching industry, like every other industry, is constantly evolving.

We are seeing a rise of hybrid coaching models, that blend traditional methods with new approaches, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s really exciting.

It’s about adapting and innovating to meet the changing needs of our clients.

Someone I was just talking to used to be an actor so she knows a lot about communicating. She wants to bring that experience of public speaking skills into her coaching, but she’s holding back because she thinks she needs to do exactly what she learned at coach training school.

When I did my ILM Level 7 in executive coaching and mentoring, I found it interesting to note that there wasn’t much difference in the mentoring section.

It was basically a coaching session, after allowing the person to explore at the beginning of the session.

At the end, you might say, “Would you like me to share my experience?” and go on to do so, but you’ve still allowed that person to explore where they’re at – encouraging them to make their own decisions whilst guiding their way.

If calling it coaching makes you feel uncomfortable, maybe calling it a mentoring programme sits better.

That’s what mine definitely is. I’m filling a knowledge gap – there’s no point in me trying to help someone explore how they could market their coaching if they’ve got no idea how to market coaching.

You might want to create a mentorship programme, or you might want to innovate in some way to ensure that your clients get what they came for.

And finally…

I want you to reflect on your unique strengths and how you can package them into a saleable programme. The ultimate goal remains the same – facilitating profound transformations in your clients’ lives.

Whether that is through pure coaching or a structured programme, it doesn’t matter. What is important is that you choose the path that allows you to do the work that you are here for and that you are passionate about. Enjoy!

Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you grow your coaching business:

1. Love coaching, but struggling to get clients? Download the 12 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Clients now.

2. Want to learn from valuable insights and actionable advice so you succeed in the coaching arena? Listen to my podcast Women in the Coaching Arena here.

3. Interested to know more about the Business of Coaching programme? Click here.

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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.